Should You Put Spend On Hotel Credit Cards To Earn Extra Free Nights?

by joeheg

Hotel co-brand credit cards often award a free night on your account anniversary as a cardholder perk (after you pay your annual fee). For many of these cards, the value you’ll get from the free night covers the cost of the annual fee. Of course, there are downsides to having a free night sitting in your account, like having to pick a hotel just because it’s part of a chain instead of the best property for your stay. And then there’s the issue of holding onto a free night, hoping for the perfect use, only to end up scrambling around to use it anywhere before it expires.

We have several cards that award free nights. Sometimes I think we have too many free night certificates.  But that didn’t keep me from putting $15K on my World of Hyatt Visa to earn an additional category 1-4 free night certificate.

After getting 1/2 way to $15K, I couldn’t deal with not meeting the goal, even if I was rethinking if it was a good idea. Now that the totals will reset at the beginning of the year, it’s time to think about whether I will do it all over again. And if not with Hyatt, then maybe I should try to get a Hilton free night certificate instead.

World of Hyatt Visa

With the World of Hyatt card, you receive a free night certificate good at any category 1-4 hotel every year after your cardmember anniversary.

You can also earn an additional free night at any category 1-4 hotel if you spend $15,000 during your cardmember anniversary year.

Most top-level properties in the Americas are out of reach since they’re category 5 or higher. There are some nice places you can stay including the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando and the Hyatt Residence Club Sedona, Piñon Pointe. In fact, you’ll be able to find a category 4 hotel anywhere except a large city like New York, Miami or San Francisco.

However, if you’re traveling to Southeast Asia, the Park Hyatt hotels in Saigon and Siem Reap are category 4 or lower.

I’ll have to see how useful these free nights are before I’ll commit to putting another $15,000 on the Hyatt card in 2023.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card

The Hilton Honors AMEX Surpass co-brand card doesn’t provide a free night as a perk on renewal. Instead, you can earn a free night reward after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases in a calendar year (This is a recent change as the free night used to be only good for weekends).

Unlike the Hyatt free night, the Hilton Honors award is good at any Hilton hotel, with a small list of exceptions. We already have a good amount of Hilton Honors points. Besides the bonus earned for Hilton stays, the Surpass AMEX earns:

  • 6 points per $1 spent on:
    • U.S. restaurants (including take out and delivery)
    • U.S. gas stations
    • U.S. supermarkets
  • 3 points per $1 spent on all other purchases

With a minimum of 3 points per dollar, that’s a minimum of 45,000 additional points earned on meeting the spending threshold (even more points when using the card for dining, gas stations and supermarkets). We’d be able to put together a nice stay at a Hilton resort with those points + a free night.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant AMEX

For thoroughness sake, I have to mention that the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant AMEX added the opportunity to earn an additional free night at a hotel charging up to 85,000 Bonvoy points if you spend $60,000 in a calendar year.

There’s no chance I’m putting 60K on this card for a free night. I’m probably not keeping it at all.

Other Cards That Allow You To Spend For A Free Night

Both the Marriott Bonvoy Bevy and the Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful cards award a 50K point free night award after spending $15,000 in a calendar year.

The Hilton Honors Business card awards a free night at $15K and another at $60K of spending each year. The Hilton Honors Aspire awards a free night every year and an additional free night with $60K of spending.

Final Thoughts

I went for the Hyatt extra free night this year after we stayed at Gild Hall in New York with our free night certificates. Now Hyatt moved the hotel from category 4 to category 5, leaving no Manhattan hotels accessible to free night certificates.

I’ll have to see how difficult it is to get value from a Category 1-4 free night based on our travel patterns. I’m thinking of spending $15K on the Hilton card this year instead. Well, unless there are some great sign-up offers where I’ll be able to get a boatload of points for the same $15,000 in credit card spending.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Christian December 21, 2022 - 2:50 pm

I love the category 1-4 Hyatt night after spending $15,000 but I use my card for business expenses to pave my way toward Globalist status so it’s more of an incidental benefit.

On a side note, I’m not sure it matters a lot but both the Hyatt Regency Miami and the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables are category 3 hotels so staying in a well located quality place at a good price in Miami is actually pretty easy.

joeheg December 21, 2022 - 9:57 pm

Darn my shoddy research!! I checked SF and knew about Manhattan. I figured the same would be true in Miami.

JohnB December 22, 2022 - 5:49 pm

My household has 2 IHG cards that give a free night annually and the Amex Marriott legacy card that offers the same. I do not put spend on these cards to earn extra nights. I would rather put $15K of spend to earning a SUB. The only spend I put on hotel CCs, is for that hotel brand. Unless they offer a promo that earns more points or cash-back. Which Chase and Amex do thru their offers on their websites. I just did an offer on my Hilton Amex that gave $80 credit for purchasing shades from SelectBlinds. It amounted to 20% discount on something we had to purchase.

But I repeat, putting $15K of spend on hotel card is something I would never do. Now, if a person uses their hotel CC for business spend, by using other people’s money, go for it.


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