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Hotel credit cards can, of course, earn you points to put toward complimentary stays. But some of the best products in this category go further, offering an automatic free night each year to cardholders, separate from any points you've earned.
Or, in lieu of an outright free night award, other cards may offer "paths" to this annual perk — say, a spending threshold you can hit to earn the benefit, or bonus anniversary points that may be enough to cover a stay, or some combination of the two.
To be clear, "free" is not actually completely free. All of these cards come with annual fees that must be paid before you can enjoy the perk. But in most cases, the value of that free night can more than make up for the yearly cost of carrying the card.
Here are some top hotel cards that offer free stays — or a way to snag them — every year.
Hotel credit cards with free anniversary nights (or a path to one)
Automatic free night outright
Free night if you spend enough
Anniversary points to use toward a free night
Cards that offer a free night certificate outright every year usually require that you pay your annual fee first. Typically, you'll get an email once the free night is ready for use, along with details about when and where it can be used and when it expires.
World of Hyatt Credit Card
Key benefit: Annual free night certificate, good at any Hyatt hotel up to Category 4. Plus, it offers the chance to earn a second free night when you spend $15,000 in a year, also good up to Category 4. Terms apply.
Annual fee: $95.
Bonus: Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent.
Why we like it: For multiple years running, the World of Hyatt Credit Card has won NerdWallet’s Best Hotel Credit Card award thanks to its slew of perks, including its annual category 1 to 4 free night certificate. Though Hyatt's footprint of hotels isn’t as large as some competitors like Marriott and Hilton, you can still find plenty of unique properties in popular locations around the world to use the certificate. You'll be hard-pressed to find a hotel room for under $95, making the annual fee worth it if you'll use the certificate.
Holders of the World of Hyatt Credit Card can earn an additional free night certificate after spending $15,000 in purchases over the calendar year, instead of the cardholder anniversary year.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card
Key benefit: Annual free night certificate, good for a Marriott hotel stay up to 35,000 points.
Annual fee: $95.
Bonus: Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card.
Why we like it: The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card offers elevated rewards at Marriott properties and on everyday spending, and given the chain's size, you'll have no trouble finding a Marriott near you to use your annual free night certificate. It's good for a Marriott hotel stay of up to 35,000 points, and while Marriott did away with its award chart, it shouldn't be hard to find a points redemption that more than makes up for the annual fee.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card
Key benefit: Annual free night award, valued up to 85,000 points. Terms apply (see rates and fees).
Annual fee: $650.
Bonus: Earn 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
Why we like it: Yes, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card carries a massive annual fee. But for a Marriott enthusiast who stays with the chain even just a few times a year, the card's rich rewards and luxurious perks can more than outweigh that fee. Each year you hold the card, you’ll receive a free night award valued up to 85,000 points, plus you'll get automatic Platinum Elite status that comes loaded with perks. Terms apply. Plus, you'll also get up to $300 in statement credits per year, up to $25 per month) for eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide. Terms apply.
IHG® One Rewards Premier Credit Card
Key benefit: Anniversary night each year you renew the card, good for up to 40,000 points. Plus, you can earn bonus points each account anniversary year by hitting spending thresholds. Terms apply.
Annual fee: $99.
Bonus: Earn 140,000 Bonus Points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Why we like it: If you frequent IHG brands liks Holiday Inn, InterContinental, Kimpton and more, the IHG® One Rewards Premier Credit Card can offer a lot of value for a moderate annual fee, including an anniversary night each year. Award prices fluctuate for the IHG Rewards Club program, so the room you can score for 40,000 points will depend on location and season. But cardholders also have the ability to add points from their account to the 40,000 point certificate in order to book a swankier hotel. If, for example, the room you're looking to book costs 55,000 points, you could redeem your 40,000-point anniversary award plus 15,000 IHG points. In addition to the annual free night and the chance to earn bonus anniversary points, you’ll also get a unique perk: Pay for three nights using your points and every fourth night at the same hotel will automatically be free.
Unless you're a brand loyalist, it may not make sense to try to chase a spending target for a free night award. Often, hotel cards earn great rewards on purchases made within that hotel brand, but poor rewards in other categories. You may be better off using a brand-agnostic general travel card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, which earns 2 miles per $1 on most purchases.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Key benefit: Complimentary weekend night reward each year. You also have the chance to earn two additional nights: one after you spend $30,000 on purchases on the card in a calendar year and another after you spend $60,000 on purchases in a calendar year. Terms apply (see rates and fees).
Annual fee: $550.
Bonus: Earn 180,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $6,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership. Offer Ends 1/17/2024.
Why we like it: The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is a premium travel card with a premium annual price tag, but it's loaded with rich benefits, including a free night certificate. Hilton properties are easy to find, and unlike Hyatt and Marriott certificates, a Hilton free night certificate can be used at any available property, no matter the category or going cash rate. Terms apply. Among many other perks, there's also a $200 semi-annual Hilton resort credit and a $100 on-property credit. Terms apply.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Key feature: Complimentary weekend reward night when you spend $15,000 in a calendar year. Terms apply (see rates and fees).
Annual fee: $150.
Bonus: Earn 170,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
Why we like it: The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card comes with a lower annual fee than its premium cousin above, but also unlike that luxury card, this one doesn't offer a free weekend reward night automatically. It does, however, allow you to spend your way to a complimentary night. Terms apply. As you spend, you'll rack up a nice pile of Hilton points, too, as the card earns generously in several everyday spending categories.
Anniversary points can prove to be more flexible than annual free night certificates. Anniversary points aren’t usually bound by category restrictions; you can use them any day of the week, and they typically have much longer expiration periods than do certificates.
Wyndham Rewards Earner® Plus Card
Key feature: 7,500 points each anniversary.
Annual fee: $75.
Bonus: Earn 45,000 bonus points, enough for up to 6 free nights after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
Why we like it: It may not be as well-known as hotel giants like Marriott or Hilton, but Wyndham has a large network of more than 9,000 hotels, including brands like Days Inn, Howard Johnson, La Quinta, Ramada, Super 8 and more. And if you have the Wyndham Rewards Earner® Plus Card, you'll automatically earn 7,500 anniversary points every year. That just so happens to be the base rate for Wyndham's lowest-tier properties. (Free nights with Wyndham cost 7,500, 15,000 or 30,000 points per bedroom.) You can also use a mixture of cash and points to book, meaning those yearly bonus rewards could instead be put toward a more expensive hotel redemption. NerdWallet values Wyndham points at 1.2 cents each. That means the 7,500 anniversary bonus points are worth roughly $82.50, which easily covers the annual fee.
There's a $0-annual-fee version of this product called the Wyndham Rewards Earner® Card. And while this non-"Plus" version can also snag you 7,500 anniversary points each year, it's not automatic. You have to spend $15,000 in a year first.
Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard®
Key feature: 40,000 points when you spend $5,000 every 12 billing cycles.
Annual fee: $89.
Bonus: Earn 120,000 bonus points for up to 7 free nights- 80,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 billing cycles after the account is opened and 40,000 points when you spend $5,000 every 12 billing cycles.
Why we like it: Best known for its flagship low-frills hotels, Best Western has thousands of properties spanning more than 100 countries and including more upscale options. The chain's premium co-branded credit card, the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard®, offers 40,000 bonus points annually when you spend $5,000 on the card in 12 billing cycles. How far those anniversary points will go toward a free stay can vary. Best Western doesn’t publish an award chart, so the price of rewards nights will vary by hotel and by the level of demand. Many times you can find a free night for between 20,000 and 30,000 points, and sometimes less.
This card also has a $0-annual-fee sibling, the Best Western Rewards® Mastercard®. This non-"Premium" version also awards bonus points each year when you spend $5,000 on it — a rarity for a no-annual-fee card — but it's smaller at 20,000 points.
Choice Privileges® Select Mastercard®
Key feature: 30,000 points every cardmember anniversary year.
Annual fee: $95.
Bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months - enough to redeem for up to 7 rewards nights at select Choice Hotels® properties.
Why we like it: You can earn a lot of Choice points fast with the Wells Fargo-issued Choice Privileges® Select Mastercard®. One way is through the 30,000-point anniversary bonus cardholders receive each year they pay the annual fee. The Choice Privileges program includes redemption options at over 7,000 properties throughout the world, with stays ranging from 8,000 to 35,000 points per night. A night at most hotels will cost more than $95, making the annual fee a good value as long as you’ll use the points.
To view rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, see this page. All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet. To view rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, see this page.