I realize it’s a total #firstworldproblem to be complaining about having too many hotel free night certificates. But I just can’t ignore the fact that by the end of the year, Sharon and I will be getting seven free nights from the various hotel credit cards that we have. When we had one, two or even three of these certificates a year, it was easy to burn them on a quick weekend getaway, like when I used one during my visit New Jersey for my class reunion.
So I’m starting to wonder if I need to pare back my hotel credit cards. I mean, if the only reason I’m keeping a card is for a free night and I can’t use the free night, the card isn’t worth it anymore. Not to mention that if I’m limiting myself to a specific hotel chain to use a free night certificate, I might be missing out on staying at a better location because I don’t want to waste a free night. That’s the reason I don’t care about loyalty – I don’t want to be hooked to a specific brand because of a credit card certificate.
Here’s a list of the cards I have that provide a yearly free night certificate as a benefit:
Sharon and I both have this card which provides a free night certificate at any IHG hotel redeemable for up to 40,000 points. The annual fee for this card is only $49. This is definitely one card that we’ll both be keeping because even if I use the free night at a roadside hotel or our favorite Candlewood Suites, we’ll end up ahead.
This card is part of my collection of discontinued cards that I continue to keep. The new IHG Premier card, which replaced the Select, also offers a free night certificate but comes with an $89 annual fee.
The World of Hyatt card gives you a free night certificate good at any category 1-4 Hyatt every year at your card anniversary when you pay your $95 annual fee. You can earn an additional free night by spending $15,000 on the card between card anniversary dates.
I’m still in my first year with the card so I haven’t earned a free night with this one yet. I’m undecided if I’m going to spend the $15,000 on the card for the extra night since I’ve already spent $6,000 to get the signup bonus.
Earning a free night with your Marriott credit card is a new benefit that was added when American Express and Chase consolidated the offerings between the two banks.
While the redemption of free nights from the two cards above is pretty straightforward, using the Marriott certificates will be a bit harder to plan. Sometime in the future, Marriott will be introducing Off Peak and Peak award pricing. That means you may only be able to redeem a free night at a certain property during specific times of the year when rooms would be available at Standard or Off-Peak prices.
For reference, here’s the point chart for when discussing the various cards offering free nights as a yearly benefit:
Cards Offering A Free Night Up To 35,000 Points
We have three cards that provide a free night at a hotel, redeemable for up to 35,000 points. Right now, that would be a Standard redemption at a category 5 hotel.
- Marriott Bonvoy American Express card – $95 Annual Fee
- Marriott Bonvoy Business from Chase – $99 Annual Fee
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless from Chase – $95 Annual Fee
Both the Bonvoy AMEX card and the Bonvoy Business Chase card are no longer available to new applicants.
Card offering A Free Night Up To 50,000 Points
We also have the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card, It offers a free night at a hotel redeemable for up to 50,000 points, which would be a Category 6 hotel standard rate redemption. This card has a $450 annual fee but also has a $300 Marriott Credit (that’s easier to use than a typical American Express credit so I’ll say it’s worth $300). Figure the relative cost of this card per year is $150.
I’m not sure how we’re going to use all of the 35K Marriott certificates. I’d just put them on the chopping block when the annual fees are due but my problem with canceling these cards is that Chase and American Express have made signing up for their Marriott cards more and more difficult. Besides Chase’s 5/24 restriction on new card applications and American Express’ once in a lifetime language, these cards also have restrictions about not being able to apply for a card from Chase if you have/had the AMEX version of a similar card and vice versa. So if I ditch one of these cards, it’s doubtful I’ll be able to get a replacement.
By the end of the year, I’ll have paid $632 out of pocket in annual fees ($932 if you don’t take the Brilliant’s Marriott credit into account). For that, I’ll receive seven free night certificates across three hotel chains. In 2018, we stayed in hotels for 37 nights. If that is the same for 2019, I’d have to use these free nights for 20% of our stays. Is planning for that a possibility? Of course, it is. Is that something I want to do? Not really.
I’m prepaying $632 for 7 nights of hotels but limiting myself to specific hotel chains and lower category hotels while being at the mercy of award availability. While there are cards, like the IHG Select, where the annual fee is small compared to the value you get from the free night, other cards, like the Hyatt and Marriott offerings, charge $100 annual fees for a capped free night. I’ll be looking closely at how I’m using these certificates and whether it’s worth it for our travel style to keep them all.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary