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Earn a Free Night Every Year With These 4 Hotel Credit Cards

By Eric Rosen

Jun 2, 2021

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Carrying a Hilton credit card could be your key to a free night each year at memorable resorts like the Conrad Bali.

Courtesy of Hilton

Carrying a Hilton credit card could be your key to a free night each year at memorable resorts like the Conrad Bali.

Credit cards from Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, and Marriott all include annual free nights among their other benefits.

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AFAR partners with CreditCards.com and may receive a commission from card issuers. Our coverage is independent and objective, and has not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are entirely those of the AFAR editorial team.

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more. 

As travel begins to rebound, airfares and hotel rates are already starting to rise. That’s why it might be time to consider a credit card that helps save you money on hotel stays. Among other benefits like automatic elite status, on-property credits, and introductory bonuses north of 100,000 points, several of the best hotel credit cards include an annual free night reward that cardholders can take advantage of at properties around the world.

This type of perk varies from card to card, even within the same loyalty program. Some hotel credit cards automatically deposit a free night award in your loyalty account every year after you pay the annual fee. Others make you spend your way to one. Some free night rewards are redeemable only on certain days of the week, or at hotels where award nights cost up to a specific number of points. By maximizing your hotel credit card’s free night reward, though, you can usually save hundreds of dollars a year and help offset most if not all of a credit card’s annual fee. 

Here are four of the best hotel credit cards that offer an annual free night award and how to make the most of them. 

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Annual free night benefit

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One of the best benefits offered by any hotel credit card, the Hilton Honors Aspire awards cardholders with one weekend night reward each year after renewal that’s redeemable for Friday to Sunday nights at nearly any Hilton property around the world.

That includes expensive luxury resorts like the Conrad Bora Bora Nui in French Polynesia, or the popular Grand Wailea Maui, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, where room rates can top $1,000 per night. 

Annual fee

$450 (see rates and fees)

Current welcome offer

Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within your first three months of card membership.

Additional perks

Sure, this card’s annual fee is high, but keep in mind that it confers several value-added perks to make up for it. They include:

  • Up to $250 back in statement credits on purchases at Hilton Resorts, specifically, each year
  • Up to $250 back in statement credits for airline incidental charges such as baggage or seat selection fees with a U.S. airline the cardholder designates each year
  • Up to $100 in statement credits toward on-property charges on stays of two nights or more at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad hotels booked through a dedicated site
  • Top-tier Hilton Diamond status, including bonus points and dining credits on stays
  • Priority Pass Select membership for access to over 1,200 airport lounges around the world

Enrollment is required for select benefits. Terms apply. The information for the Hilton Aspire card has been collected independently by AFAR. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Alternative

If the Hilton Honors Aspire is beyond your budget, you might want to consider either the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (see rates and fees) or the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (see rates and fees), both of which carry $95 annual fees.

The Surpass is offering up to 180,000 bonus points—130,000 after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months and an additional 50,000 after spending a total of $10,000 on purchases in the first six months. The Hilton Business Amex is offering 130,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.

While neither offers an annual free night outright, you can earn one with either (or both) cards by spending $15,000 or more on purchases in a calendar year, and it’s subject to the same redemption terms as the Hilton Aspire’s reward (terms apply).

Read more: Earn up to 180,000 Hilton Honors Points With These New Credit Card Offers

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

Annual free night benefit

Each year after their account anniversary, cardholders receive a free night award redeemable for up to 50,000 points.

While that won’t get you into some of Marriott’s highest-category hotels, it is enough for a night at some solid options like the Ritz-Carlton, Cancún for much of the year and even some limited off-peak dates at stunners like the recently opened West Hollywood Edition.

Annual fee

$450 (see rates and fees)

Current welcome offer

Earn 75,000 points when you spend $3,000 on purchases the first three months. Plus, earn up to $200 in statement credits on eligible purchases using your card at U.S. restaurants in the first six months.

Additional perks

This card is another expensive proposition, but it offers many advantages, too.

  • Up to $300 in statement credits toward Marriott purchases, including stays and on-property charges, each year
  • Up to $100 on-property credits when booking a special cardmember rate for stays of two nights or more at Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis properties
  • Enrollment in Priority Pass Select membership for access to over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide 
  • Up to $100 back in statement credits for either a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application once every four years (4.5 for PreCheck)
  • Automatic Marriott Bonvoy Gold elite status with perks like earning bonus points on stays and a decent shot at room upgrades

Enrollment is required for select benefits. Terms apply.

Alternative

If you just can’t swallow that $450 annual fee, consider the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card from Chase instead. It’s currently offering 100,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening and only charges a $95 annual fee.

For that, you also get an annual free night award, but it’s only worth up to 35,000 points. That’s still enough for a night at most times of year at unique properties like the historic St. Anthony, a Luxury Collection Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. 

Read more: The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex Benefits That Make It Among the Best Travel Cards

World of Hyatt Credit Card

Annual free night benefit

The annual free night that Hyatt credit cardholders receive each year after their account anniversary is good for one night at a Category 1–4 (out of eight) Hyatt hotel or resort, so it’s worth up to 15,000 points. That rules out the chain’s fanciest properties, like the Park Hyatt St. Kitts Christophe Harbour. However, you can still redeem it at world-class hotels like the palatial Park Hyatt Saigon in Vietnam.

Annual fee

$95

Current welcome offer

Earn up to 60,000 bonus points—30,000 after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening, plus up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning two per dollar in the first six months on up to $15,000 spending in categories that normally earn just one per dollar. 

Additional perks

Truth be told, this card’s anniversary free night alone makes it worth getting since you can redeem it for stays that would otherwise cost hundreds of dollars. Other than that, automatic Discoverist elite status (the first tier, which normally requires staying five nights or earning 12,500 base points per calendar year) along with perks like bonus earning on stays and room upgrades is pretty nice.

On the downside, the current bonus terms are confusing. The card earns four bonus points per dollar at Hyatt hotels and two points per dollar at restaurants, on gym and fitness club memberships, local transit and commuting, and on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline. It earns one point per dollar on everything else—and that’s the spending you’ve got to leverage in the first six months to earn its full bonus potential, so the effort might not be worth it for some.

Read more: Why You Should Get the New Hyatt Credit Card Bonus With up to 60,000 Points

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card 

Annual free night benefit

After renewal (and paying the annual fee) each year, cardholders are issued a certificate for a free night redeemable at IHG hotels costing up to 40,000 points per night. That precludes a lot of Intercontinental and even Kimpton and Hotel Indigo locations. However, you can still find some great values, like the trendy Kimpton De Witt in Amsterdam.

Annual fee

$89

Current welcome offer

Earn 150,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Additional perks

This is one of the few cards with an annual fee of under $100 that includes a statement credit for either a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application once every four years worth up to $100. It also bestows automatic IHG Platinum elite status for special treatment like room upgrades and late checkout during stays.

Read more: These Credit Cards Currently Offer 100,000 Points or More

One of the absolute best benefits any hotel credit card can offer is a free night reward each year worth hundreds of dollars toward a stay. Before you sign up for every hotel card that includes such a perk, though, make sure that you will actually be able to use it each year according to any stipulations to which it might be subject. After all, it’s no good paying for a credit card whose main benefit you don’t use.

While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time, and may have changed or may no longer be available.

>> Next: The Best Rewards Credit Cards for International Travel

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