Stay at a hotel for free every year

This has nothing to do with redeeming points for award bookings. No, this post’s all about credit cards that’ll give a free hotel night every year – just for having the card!

Disclaimer: If you sign-up for a free Audible Audiobooks trial on Amazon (either through this link or the one below), I make a few bucks. I do not, however, make anything from credit card affiliate relationships. If this ever changes, I’ll edit this disclaimer and you’ll all know I’ve finally made it in this world.

It’s almost time to pay the annual fee for my IHG Rewards Club Select card from Chase, and I was debating whether it was worth keeping a card I literally never use for $49 a year. I got the card with a 80,000 point sign-up bonus last summer, which easily covered over $600 in Holiday Inn stays for my move (read: drive) across the country.

As an aside, have you ever stayed at the Holiday Inn in different states for 6 nights in a row? They all kind of look the same, especially the newer ones of the “Express & Suites” variation. After every long day’s drive, it never really hit me that I was 600 miles away from where I was the night before. I’d often find myself myself settling into the same desk chair every night, wondering whether I was in Omaha or Fort Collins or Naperville – or if I’d just taken a very wrong turn into a world of endless trail mix welcome kits and re-constituted breakfast scrambles.

Nobody knows where this is.

Pro tip: If you’re going to drive across the country by yourself and stay in identical-looking Holiday Inn Express hotels, you better have a good audiobook to keep you sane.

Anyways, I decided to keep the IHG card. My last charge may’ve been at a Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Pittsburgh (almost to New York!), but the card comes with a free night at any IHG property around the world, including the ritzier Intercontinental hotels. In my book, this annual free hotel night makes the card worth much more than the relatively small $49 annual fee.

But the IHG Rewards Club Select isn’t the only card that’ll put you up in a hotel every year for paying its annual fee. Here’re some others:

Card Offer Details Annual Fee
IHG Rewards Club Select 1 free night at any IHG property around the world, including the Intercontinental, every year after the first year $49, waived first year
Marriott Rewards Premier 1 free night at a Category 1-4 hotel after account opening, and one free night at a Category 1-5 hotel every year after your first year $85, waived first year
Hyatt 1 free night at any Category 1-4 hotel every year after your first year $75, waived first year
Hilton HHonors Reserve 1 free weekend night every year after your first year, with some exclusions $95
Fairmont Visa Signature 1 free night at any Fairmont hotel if you spend $12,000+ on the card in one year $95
RUMORED: Club Carlson Visa 1 free night at a Club Carlson property if you spend $10,000+ on the card in one year, possibly effective June 1, 2015. $75

For the Marriott and Hyatt cards, you should note that the Category restrictions effectively leave only mid-to-low tier hotels eligible for a free night in the United States – along the lines of Regencies and Double-trees. Not surprisingly, these free night deals are also only good for the most basic “standard” room, though some hotels let you combine them with upgrade certificates. This can all still be a good value, of course.

But if you look beyond the border, you’ll find that you free night certificate might be your free pass into some of the grander properties of the world:

Park Hyatt Hamburg, Category 4

park hyatt hamburg lobby
Park Hyatt Hamburg, free night with the Hyatt Visa card

JW Marriott Beijing, Category 5

jw marriott beijing
JW Marriott Beijing, free night with the Marriott Premier Rewards card

Keep in mind that these free night certificates aren’t really “free.” Except for the Marriott Rewards Premier card, which gives you a freebie before it’s time to pay the annual fee, every card makes you cough up $49-$95 in annual fees for your free night. But depending on your current travel patterns and how much you value a stay in some of the higher-end participating hotels, an annual free night certificate alone could make the credit card’s annual fee worth it. Most of these cards come with fringe benefits like elite status and expanded redemption opportunities, which is just icing on the cake.

I’m not sure where I’ll redeem my free night certificate from IHG. It probably won’t be at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Elko (no offense Nevada, I’m sure it’s a beautiful place). I know I’ve been trying to piece together a trip to South Korea sometime in the next few months, and the Intercontinental COEX sounds like a fine place to start!

intercontinental coex seoul standard room

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