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Hotel credit cards aren't the most flexible when it comes to your rewards. If you want any kind of value, you have to use your points to book free hotel stays. And even then, some hotel programs give you as low as half a cent per point in value.
But I still have co-branded credit cards with almost every major hotel brand for one reason: anniversary nights.
Here are the Best Hotel Loyalty Programs, Memberships & Rewards Rates
How I Get Several Free Hotel Nights Every Year
If you aren't loyal to any one hotel brand, you might wonder if you should consider getting a hotel credit card. But in my experience, these are among the only travel rewards credit cards that make up for their annual fees every year without you needing to do anything.
Many of these cards offer a free anniversary night when you renew your card membership. While some require you spend a certain amount during the year to qualify for the award stay, most don't.
So all I have to do is pay the annual fee each year and the free night certificate or bonus points are deposited directly into my loyalty program account.
Here are the cards I use to make it happen:
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: This card charges a steep $450 annual fee but also comes with a $100 annual property credit when you book a 2-night minimum stay at participating properties.
- IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: This one offers a fourth night free when you redeem 3 nights. I just received my first anniversary night on this card and have found properties that charge a nightly rate that's more than double the card's $99 annual fee.
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card: The card charges a $95 annual fee and gives me a free anniversary night worth up to 35,000 points. Last year, I used it at the Residence Inn New York Manhattan/Times Square for a night that would've cost me $450.
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card: Another premium credit card, this one charges a $650 annual fee, which is easily compensated by a $300 annual statement credit on eligible purchases at Marriott hotels and a free anniversary night.
Keep in mind that while I do use these cards now and then, I don't have to use them at all to take advantage of this valuable perk.
Other Hotel Credit Cards That Offer Free Anniversary Nights
In addition to the cards I've been using, here are some other hotel credit cards that offer free anniversary nights or annual bonus points that are worth enough to book at least one night:
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: You get a free weekend night award every year good for most Hilton properties but only if you spend $15,000 during the calendar year. The card's annual fee is $95.
- Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card: The card offers one free anniversary night with no spending requirement and a second when you spend $60,000 in a calendar year. Both are worth up to 35,000 points and the annual fee is $125.
- World of Hyatt Credit Card: Get a free night when you pay the $95 annual fee and a second when you spend $15,000 or more during the anniversary year. Both are good at any Category 1-4 property.
Should You Get a Hotel Credit Card for the Free Anniversary Night?
Of all the credit card benefits I've used over the years, free anniversary nights are my favorite. They don't require a lot of work and, in most instances, they're automatic. But they work for me only because I travel enough that I'd be paying for all those hotel stays anyway.
Best Travel Credit CardsVisit the Marketplace
If you don't travel much, getting one hotel credit card with a free annual stay may be worth it. But avoid going overboard, especially if you think you'll end up allowing your free nights to go unused. You can also check you're getting the absolute best deals on your trips with Travelocity Promo Codes and status-based discounts. Booking.com also offers loyalty programs that can help you save more. Booking.com promo codes can help you earn points and miles for your next trip.
If you're interested in comparing the terms, benefits and sign-up bonuses of popular cards in the Slickdeals community, visit our credit card hub to learn more. Also, if you're new to credit card rewards and not sure if being a cardholder is right for you, our beginner's guide to credit cards will help you decide if being a cardholder is right for you.