I realize it’s a total #firstworldproblem to be complaining about having too many free night certificates. But I just can’t ignore the fact that by the end of the year, Sharon and I will be getting eight free nights from the various hotel credit cards that we have. When we had one, two or even three of these certificates a year, it was easy to burn them on a quick weekend getaway, like when I used one during my visit to New Jersey for my class reunion.
So I’m starting to wonder if I need to pare back my hotel credit cards. I mean, if the only reason I’m keeping a card is for a free night and I can’t use the free night, the card isn’t worth it anymore. Not to mention that if I’m limiting myself to a specific hotel chain to use a free night certificate, I might be missing out on staying at a better location because I don’t want to waste a free night. That’s the reason I don’t care about loyalty – I don’t want to be hooked to a specific brand because of a credit card certificate.
Here’s a list of the cards I have that provide a yearly free night certificate as a benefit:
Sharon and I both have this card, which provides a free night certificate at any IHG hotel redeemable for up to 40,000 points. The annual fee for this card is only $49. This is definitely one card that we’ll both be keeping because even if I use the free night at a roadside hotel, we’ll end up ahead. The problem is that it’s getting harder to find IHG hotels that charge less than 40K points. Fortunately, we were able to use one of these free nights at the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport in Singapore.
This card is part of my collection of discontinued cards that I continue to keep.
Sharon and I also both have an IHG Rewards Premier Mastercard by Chase which replaced the Select. It also offers a free night certificate but comes with an $89 annual fee. The big difference with the free nights is that you are able to add points to the free night from the Premier card to use at any hotel. This means that you’re buying 40,000 points for $89, which is a great deal.
The World of Hyatt card gives you a free night certificate good at any category 1-4 Hyatt every year at your card anniversary when you pay your $95 annual fee. You can earn an additional free night by spending $15,000 on the card between card anniversary dates.
I’ve redeemed Hyatt free night certificates for over $400, so it’s a no-brainer to keep this card for $95/year.
Various Marriott credit cards offer free nights at different point levels. Each card allows Marriott Bonvoy members to add up to 15,000 points to make a free night reservation.
Cards Offering A Free Night Up To 35,000 Points
We have two cards that provide a free night at a hotel, redeemable for up to 35,000 points.
- Marriott Bonvoy American Express card – $95 Annual Fee
- Marriott Bonvoy Business from Chase – $99 Annual Fee
Both the Bonvoy AMEX card and the Bonvoy Business Chase card are no longer available to new applicants.
A card offering A Free Night of Up To 85,000 Points
The Ritz-Carlton Card provides a free night worth up to 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy points every year. That free night doesn’t come cheap as the card has a $450 annual fee. However, the card also provides a $300 annual travel credit which takes some of the sting of the annual fee.
By the end of the year, I’ll have paid $1015 out of pocket in annual fees. For that, I’ll receive eight free night certificates across three hotel chains. In 2022, we stayed in hotels for 30 nights. If that is the same for 2023, I’d have to use these free nights for 26% of our stays. Is planning for that a possibility? Of course, it is. Is that something I want to do? Not really.
I’m prepaying for 8 nights of hotels but limiting myself to specific hotel chains and lower-category hotels while being at the mercy of award availability. While there are cards, like the IHG Select, where the annual fee is small compared to the value you get from the free night, other cards, like the Hyatt and Marriott offerings, charge $100 annual fees for a capped free night. I’ll be looking closely at how I’m using these certificates and whether it’s worth it for our travel style to keep them all.
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