Getting there is half of the fun, but staying somewhere for free is pretty awesome too.
Figuring out what hotel chain you want to stay with is the big decision you need to make before you start applying for hotel credit cards. What are the major hotel chains to choose from?
- Club Carlson
Picking a hotel chain comes down to your style. Do you prefer to stay in a fancy boutique in the city or would you rather stay somewhere family friendly with a kitchenette? My preferred hotel chain would either be Marriott or Starwood. Marriott has a hotel in pretty much any city and Starwood has higher end hotels that are in desirable destinations.
There are thousands of hotels, how am I supposed to know where they all are and what parent company they are under?
Fortunately, there is a website that will help you find hotels based on the parent company and how many points it takes for a free night. Check out awardmapper.com
As you can see on award mapper, there are a lot of hotel options, so which ones are the best deal? Marriott uses a point system that requires anywhere from 7,500 to 45,000 points per night. The nicer the hotel and location, the higher the category, simple enough. A category 1 Marriott property would likely be a simple TownPlace Suites, whereas a category 9 property would be a Marriott Marquis in Manhattan. Also, high and low season can cause the points per night to fluctuate.
Starwood also uses a point system, but the hotels need far fewer points to reedem. The Starwood credit card only gives you 25k points upon sign up, with the Marriott card you can get 50k points when you sign up. Low level Starwood properties like Four Points or Sheraton can cost as few as 3k points per night. Yes, you could stay 8 nights at a Four Points hotel for signing up for a credit card! The best part is that you don’t pay any fees or taxes to redeem your points!
Alright, so what are some good hotel redemption options?
This of course depends on where you like to travel, but let me give you my thoughts. You can stay at a Starwood Sheraton Suites in Fort Lauderdale as few as 3,000 points per night. This isn’t beach front (about a 10 min drive), but hey, you are in South Florida. Another good option is the Aloft in Cancun, this is also a Starwood property. It is only 3,500 points per night and you are a 5 minute walk from the beach in CANCUN! You could stay about 7 nights in Cancun for getting one credit card, too easy.
Some good Marriott redemption options are in Southern California. The Courtyard in Irvine can be as much as $300 a night, but only costs 20k points. If you get 50k to sign up, that gives you two free nights plus another 10k left over for a night at a category 2 hotel. Just the two nights alone would be $600+ in free nights (plus you pay no taxes).
Another good option would be the Residence Inn in Silver Spring MD (Washington DC). It is only 15k points per night and right now the cash price is $239 per night. That means you can get 3 free nights worth $720 in free hotel stays. This Residence Inn includes a pullout sofa bed in every room so you can bring some kids or friends with you and everyone will have somewhere to sleep.
So you want $600 + in free hotel stays, who wouldn’t?
Here are the current offers for the Marriott (Chase) and Starwood (Amex) cards. The Marriott card only requires $1,000 in spend to receive your 50k points. The Starwood card requires $3,000 in spend to get your points. The main reason I like Starwood is because most of the W and Sheraton properties allow pets to stay for free. Almost all the Marriott properties require a $25-$75 fee per stay.
Some of the other credit card offers out there, Hyatt for example, offer two free nights at any location. No points involved with this offer, just pick any hotel in their portfolio and book! This can work great if you want to stay at the very high-end New York Park Hyatt. I wouldn’t recommend getting this card just to stay at a basic Hyatt Place property that is normally $100 per night. The Hyatt card also grants you “Platinum” status as long as you keep the card. Status is a very nice thing to have when traveling, room upgrades and late check out are the main perks.
Another cool trick is that Marriott allows you to do “Points + Cash”, this works great if you are running low on points. Cash price could be $149 a night for a hotel but they will also offer $50 + 7,000 points. You will have to do the math to see if this works good for you. Not all hotels provide the points plus cash option.
Let me know what city you are wanting to visit and I will tell you a good redemption option!