For Newbies: What Do Credit Cards Have To Do With Hotels Besides Paying For Them?

HELLO POINTS & MILES AND TRAVEL NEWBIES! First off and most important – I am one of you and you are my people! Joe is the guru about ALL THE THINGS POINTS AND MILES and I’m like, “Yeah, OK. Whatever.” Don’t get me wrong – I certainly LIKE getting the occasional free flights and plane/hotel upgrades because of his hobby but really, except for the little bit of info that’s gotten into my brain that gives me the ability to tell off people touting credit cards at airports, I really don’t have a clue.

So in order to have a better idea of what he’s talking about, I did a little studying. Not much, because I’m still like, “Whatever.” But just enough to have a clue. And now, because I’m a giver, I share this info with you.

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Besides reserving and paying hotel rooms with them, what do credit cards have to do with hotels?

Funny you should ask! Basically, you have to have particular credit cards to get whatever particular benefits you’re looking for. Some will give you cash back, some will give you points, some will give you free nights in hotel rooms, some will do more than one of those, and the list goes on. They all have different requirements, too. So when you’re applying for these credit cards to earn cool stuff, keep that in mind – A Costco credit card may be free and you may be able to get cash rewards with it, but there may be another credit card out there that could give you benefits that, in the long run, are worth significantly more.

In general, here are the more important things these cards can do:

You can get free night award certificates!

Besides racking up hotel points by paying for your hotel nights, with some hotel co-branded credit cards, you can also earn free nights just for having the credit card (and sometimes do some minimal spending).

If you have the any of the following cards:

You get a free night (in a hotel that charges 35,000 points or less a night) every year after your account anniversary.

If you have the IHG Premier card, you can get a free night in hotels under the IHG brand for rooms costing 40,000 points or less.

If you have The World of Hyatt Credit Card from Chase ($95 annual fee), you get a free night after your cardmember anniversary at any Category 1-4 hotel or resort.

You can stay an extra night at your hotel for free!

That isn’t the same as getting a free night award certificate. With those, you can pick any hotel you want and stay for 1 night for free. With this, you can stay at your hotel for 3 nights (or 4 nights…depends on the credit card) and your 4th (or 5th) night will be free! We’ve done this with our Marriott and Citi Prestige cards,

You can get Elite status!

With Elite status, you may be able to get bonus points, priority service, room upgrades, lounge access and free breakfast (if the latter is a big deal to you. As you can read here, it’s not to us.). Sometimes you don’t have to pay the resort fee. It’s kinda cool.

You can get reimbursed for Global Entry for PreCheck fees!

Not directly hotel related, but if you’re planning on going overseas, or just do a lot of traveling (especially out of really busy airports like MCO, EWR, LAX, etc.), Global Entry can save you a good 30 to 60 minutes per visit to the TSA checkpoint, which means you don’t have to stand behind the people like this, who don’t know what they’re doing.

Anyway, Global Entry costs $100 (and it includes TSA Pre-Check) or TSA Pre-Check costs $85 on its own. But with credit cards like these, you can be reimbursed for paying that.

You can get bonus points up the ying-yang!

If you have a Mariott credit card, Marriott wants you to spend as much as you can especially at Marriott, using said credit card. So if you make purchases at or reservations for their hotel using their card, you can get lots of bonus points that you may not get if you use your Citi Double Cash for the same purchase.

The same thing goes for minimum spending. About a year and a half ago, I earned 80,000 IHG points for spending $2000 on purchases within the first 3 months of having the account. And having more points = being able to stay in more hotels for free. 🙂

So how do you decide what rewards credit card to sign up for?

Joe wrote about that not all that long ago – hopefully, it’ll help get you started.

Y’all, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there is SO MUCH to know about credit cards and hotels and points and miles….this post really just scratched the surface. But keep reading Joe’s posts – again, he’s the points and miles guru in the family – I’m usually just here for the fun articles. Good luck and happy learning!

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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