Best Hotel Credit Cards for Free Nights

Ariana Arghandewal
By Ariana Arghandewal 
Updated
Edited by Mary M. Flory

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Editor's note: Radisson is now part of the Choice Privileges loyalty program. This content is being updated to reflect this change. In the meantime, read more about this news here.


Most of us apply for hotel credit cards based on welcome bonuses that get us lots of free nights. These bonuses are great for helping us meet short-term travel goals, but what about beyond that? We’ll take a look at the best hotel credit cards for earning free nights, with a focus on category bonuses and annual free nights.

How many points for a free night?

Before breaking down the best hotel credit cards for free nights, we need to review the number of points required for a standard award night:

Free nights via credit card spending

When it comes to earning free nights via non-bonus credit card spending, the Radisson Rewards™ Premier Visa Signature® Card takes the cake. You’d have to spend just $1,800 - $14,000 on this card at 5 points per $1 to earn a free night.

Free nights via category bonuses

When it comes to category bonuses, the Hilton cards come out ahead again. Thanks to generous bonuses in common spending categories, these cards make earning free nights even more attainable:

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card earns 7x points at U.S. restaurants, rental car companies and flights booked directly with airlines or AmExTravel.com. Terms apply. That means you need to spend a combined $715 - $13,572 in these categories to earn enough for a free night award.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card earns 6x points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations. Terms apply. This puts a free night award within the $834 - $15,834 spending range.

Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card

Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card
NerdWallet rating 

The Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card offers 4x points in some useful categories: U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. purchases for shipping. Terms apply.

To earn enough points for a free Marriott night, you’ll need to spend $1,250 - $25,000 in these categories on the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card. Terms apply.

You will also earn one Free Night Award every year after your card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your card in a calendar year. Terms apply.

Free nights via hotel chain bonuses

If you want a rewards card that offers maximum return on spending with a specific hotel chain, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card offers the most bang for your buck. At 14x points per $1 spent at Hilton hotels and resorts, you’ll need to spend just $358 - $6,786 to earn a free night.

Considering this card gets you Hilton Honors™ Diamond Status, you’ll also earn 20 points per $1 spent through Hilton Honors. Throw in one of Hilton’s frequent double points promos, and you’ll be racking up free nights even faster. Terms apply.

The Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature® Card comes in second, thanks to 10x earnings on Radisson hotel stays. This means you need to spend just $900 - $7,000 to earn a free night.

At 4x points, World of Hyatt Credit Card also offers a good return on your Hyatt spending, especially for lower category redemptions. Earning a free night takes just $875 - $11,250 worth of Hyatt spending on this card.

The IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card gets an honorable mention here. While the card earns just 10 points per $1 spent at IHG hotels, you’ll also earn 6x points through IHG for having Platinum status (an automatic card benefit). Factor in the 10x points you’ll earn through the IHG One Rewards program, and you’ll need just $400 - $2,800 worth of paid IHG stays to score an award night.

Annual free nights

Annual free nights are one of the best features of hotel credit cards. All you have to do is renew your card every year by paying the annual fee and you’ll get a free night. But not all hotel credit cards are equal in terms of this benefit.

For example, World of Hyatt Credit Card restricts annual free nights to Category 1 - 4 hotels, and the Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature® Card offers 40,000 bonus points every year, which is equally limiting since a top-tier award night requires 70,000 points.

The winners are really the IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, both of which offer annual free nights that can be used at any of their respective hotels with no category restrictions. Put the annual free Hilton night to use at a property like the Waldorf Astoria Maldives, and you could get over $1,800 worth of value out of your redemption.

The bottom line

When it comes to earning free nights, the Hilton and Radisson branded credit cards offer the most bang for your buck. Especially when paired with an already generous rewards program.

However, credit cards like the IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card, World of Hyatt Credit Card and Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card shouldn’t be discounted, since each of them has valuable features that make earning free nights easier.

To view rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® 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.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

Travel Cards from Our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1.5%-5%

Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Cashback

Intro offer

Up to $300

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
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