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 CardSign-up BonusSpending RequirementAnnual FeeLowest Reward Night PriceMaximum # of Free Nights (after min spend)Notes
Totals705,000 points + 12 free nights + $200 statement credits$31,250$1,431164 free nights (182 including PointBreaks)
Citi® Hilton HHonors Reserve Card2 free nights + $100 statement credit$2,500 in 4 months$953
Citi® Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card40,000 points + $50 statement credit$05,0008
Hilton HHonorsTM Surpass Card from American Express50,000 points$3,000 in 90 days$755,00011
American Express Hilton HHonors50,000 points$750 in 3 months$05,00010
Club Carlson Visa (personal)85,000 points$2,500 in 3 months$759,000212 for 1 Bonus Award Nights
Club Carlson Visa (business)85,000 points$2,500 in 3 months$609,000212 for 1 Bonus Award Nights
Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card70,000 points + 1 free night (cat 1-4)$1000 in 3 months$856000 (PointSaver Reward)14Redeem 4 Nights, get the 5th night free.
Marriott Rewards Credit Card30,000 points + 2 free nights (cat 1-4)$1000 in 3 months$456000 (PointSaver Reward)8Redeem 4 Nights, get the 5th night free.
Marriott Rewards Business Card30,000 points + 2 free nights (cat 1-4)$1000 in 3 months$456000 (PointSaver Reward)8Redeem 4 Nights, get the 5th night free.
Fairmont Visa Signature2 free nights w/ breakfast$1000 in 3 months$952
The Hyatt Credit Card2 free nights + $50 statement credit$1000 in 3 months$752
IHG Rewards Club Visa80,000 points$1000 in 3 months$4910,000 (5,000 w/ PointBreaks)816 free nights during PointBreaks
IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card60,000 points$1000 in 3 months$4910,000 (5,000 w/ PointBreaks)612 free nights during PointBreaks
The Ritz Carlton Rewards Credit Card1 free night$2000 in 3 months$3951
Amex Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card25,000 points$5000 in 6 months$653,000 weekday / 2,000 weekend1015 free weekend nights
Amex Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card25,000 points$5000 in 6 months$653,000 weekday / 2,000 weekend1015 free weekend nights
Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature Card30,000 pointsFirst purchase$695,5005
Best Western Rewards MasterCard15,000 pointsFirst purchase$08,0002

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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6 Comments

  • Wait did you seriously just delete what that guy said about your calcs being wrong? Comeon dog.

  • the list you have there is ideal at best, yes they are real and factual but to maximize its potential is near impossible or unrealistic. nobody will goes out of their way to stay at 5k HH or 3k SPG locations just because of its low price. besides most of the destinations rarely have these low pts redemption unless its IHG pt break or one can get lucky at the right time and place.

    • They are ideal (I think getting the maximum value from anything is ideal) and most people will not go out of the way to stay at a hotel just because of its low price. Many people disagree with using hotels points at properties solely based on the value as well. As I mentioned in the post the value and best use for any type of reward travel will vary for everyone and will be dependent on each persons’ travel goals.

      With that said for people that are flexible or find the right property there can be some good deals. I know in the past when I have been on 3-6 month backpacking trips I could plan a part of my itinerary around staying at some category 1 hotels.

  • What card is best for quantity of nights based on ongoing spend? (ie, after the sign up bonus is done, what ones are best to put actual day to day spend on when you just want lots of nights rather than miles?). I recently asked that question of another blogger (after spending a ton of time coming up with my own calculations) but would love to hear your thoughts.

    • It really comes down to where you want to stay, what hotel brand, and taking the spending bonus categories into account. Without running number for every spending scenario I don’t think you can go wrong with the Club Carlson Visa, SPG Amex cards, or the IHG Rewards Club Visa. Some of the Hilton cards also have good spending categories, but to get the highest quantity of nights you will have to find Cat 1 hotels you can stay at.