For anyone using points and miles for travel there is a happy medium between using them on luxury travel vs. maximizing the amount of travel—basically it comes down to the quantity vs quality argument. It’s always nice to post up in a 5 star hotel, but there’s also something to be said about maximizing reward travel.
As I’ve said before, the best use for miles and points is very traveler-specific depending what kind of travel you want and how much time you have for a trip each year. If you can only spend two weeks a year traveling you may lean towards maximum travel quality, but if you’re on a multi-month trip around the world you may want to maximize travel quantity to help stretch your rewards travel budget.
As I’m gearing up to travel semi full-time starting in June my best use of points has started to shift towards maximizing my miles and points. For anyone that has ever planned a multi-month long trip you’ll know the first thing to look at is your budget. How and where can I travel on $x,xxx? How much per day should I spend? With that said, I wanted to run a comparison of the top hotel credit cards to see the maximum number of free nights the sign-up bonus could be worth.
I always find it fun running numbers and looking into how much travel is possible from miles and points, so I’ve totaled the number of free nights one can get from all major hotel credit cards.
|Credit Card||Sign-up Bonus||Spending Requirement||Annual Fee||Lowest Reward Night Price||Maximum # of Free Nights (after min spend)||Notes|
|Totals||705,000 points + 12 free nights + $200 statement credits||$31,250||$1,431||164 free nights (182 including PointBreaks)|
|Citi® Hilton HHonors Reserve Card||2 free nights + $100 statement credit||$2,500 in 4 months||$95||3|
|Citi® Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card||40,000 points + $50 statement credit||$0||5,000||8|
|Hilton HHonorsTM Surpass Card from American Express||50,000 points||$3,000 in 90 days||$75||5,000||11|
|American Express Hilton HHonors||50,000 points||$750 in 3 months||$0||5,000||10|
|Club Carlson Visa (personal)||85,000 points||$2,500 in 3 months||$75||9,000||21||2 for 1 Bonus Award Nights|
|Club Carlson Visa (business)||85,000 points||$2,500 in 3 months||$60||9,000||21||2 for 1 Bonus Award Nights|
|Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card||70,000 points + 1 free night (cat 1-4)||$1000 in 3 months||$85||6000 (PointSaver Reward)||14||Redeem 4 Nights, get the 5th night free.|
|Marriott Rewards Credit Card||30,000 points + 2 free nights (cat 1-4)||$1000 in 3 months||$45||6000 (PointSaver Reward)||8||Redeem 4 Nights, get the 5th night free.|
|Marriott Rewards Business Card||30,000 points + 2 free nights (cat 1-4)||$1000 in 3 months||$45||6000 (PointSaver Reward)||8||Redeem 4 Nights, get the 5th night free.|
|Fairmont Visa Signature||2 free nights w/ breakfast||$1000 in 3 months||$95||2|
|The Hyatt Credit Card||2 free nights + $50 statement credit||$1000 in 3 months||$75||2|
|IHG Rewards Club Visa||80,000 points||$1000 in 3 months||$49||10,000 (5,000 w/ PointBreaks)||8||16 free nights during PointBreaks|
|IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card||60,000 points||$1000 in 3 months||$49||10,000 (5,000 w/ PointBreaks)||6||12 free nights during PointBreaks|
|The Ritz Carlton Rewards Credit Card||1 free night||$2000 in 3 months||$395||1|
|Amex Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card||25,000 points||$5000 in 6 months||$65||3,000 weekday / 2,000 weekend||10||15 free weekend nights|
|Amex Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card||25,000 points||$5000 in 6 months||$65||3,000 weekday / 2,000 weekend||10||15 free weekend nights|
|Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature Card||30,000 points||First purchase||$69||5,500||5|
|Best Western Rewards MasterCard||15,000 points||First purchase||$0||8,000||2|
The Bottom Line
The ~150 nights that could be earned from all of the major hotel credit cards is certainly nothing to sneeze at. For anyone wanting to maximize the number of free nights, undoubtedly the Club Carlson Visa takes the win with 21 free nights. Taking the number of hotels available in the lowest category and destinations I would also consider Club Carlson points the most valuable points for lowest category reward redemption.
The bottom line is free night certificates are best used for stays at more expensive hotels whereas if you want to maximize the quantity of hotel stays you should focus on using hotel points at category 1-2 hotels.
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