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Plenty of credit cards offer bonuses with either free points or a free night certificate, but do you know which cards offer a bonus each year available to cardmembers that keep their account active? Some of these annual perks come just by being a cardmember, where others require a minimum spend to receive a bonus. Regardless, your cost, other than the annual fee and meeting those spend requirements is zero. We've summarized the offers available and will break each one down to cover the value they provide.
|Credit Card||Annual Bonus||Annual Fee|
|IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card||One free night at any IHG property worldwide costing 40,000 points or less per night. As long as there is a standard room available you're able to use this free night. The IHG Free Night Certificate must be booked and redeemed within 12 months from the date of issue. You can find a list of excluded hotels on the IHG website.||$89|
|Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card||One free night at any Marriott Category 1 through 5 property worldwide. Marriott has a huge footprint, but this certificate is limited to lower category redemptions only. Take a look at some Marriott value/budget redemption options as ways to get a solid value from this certificate.||$85|
|The Hyatt Credit Card||One free night at any Hyatt Category 1 through 4 property worldwide. While Hyatt limits this certificate redemption to its lowest 4 tiers, there are some fantastic properties in those tiers. If you can find a Hyatt property for your desired location, there is great value to be had here.||$75|
|Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card||One Weekend Free Night Certificate each year on your account anniversary, plus a second Weekend Free Night Certificate when you spend $60,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year. While there are some exclusions, almost all of Hilton's massive global portfolio is available for redemption.||$450|
|Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express||One Weekend Free Night Certificate when you spend $15,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year. While there are some exclusions, almost all of Hilton's massive global portfolio is available for redemption.||$95|
|Hilton Honors Business Card from American Express||One Weekend Free Night Certificate when you spend $15,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year, plus a second Weekend Free Night Certificate when you spend $60,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year. While there are some exclusions, almost all of Hilton's massive global portfolio is available for redemption.||$95|
|Club Carlson℠ Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card||One free night at a Club Carlson property in the United States when you charge $10,000 then renew your card by paying the Annual fee. Additionally, you receive 40,000 renewal bonus points each year when you renew your card by paying the Annual fee. This card is a double-whammy. If you spend $10,000 on the card you'll earn a free night good at any property in the US and on that $10,000 in spend you'll also earn 50,000 Club Carlson points (5 points per dollar). When you pay the $75 annual fee you'll also receive a bonus 40,000 points as well. The biggest challenge with Club Carlson is that they have limited aspirational properties in the United States, however, if you're looking for more value-based redemptions and want to rack up a ton of points, this is a solid deal.||$75|
How We'd Use These Free Nights
Each of these free nights has a different potential value. The free night from the IHG Rewards Premier Card, while in the past considered the best free night certificate available when issued with IHG's old co-brand card, is now on par with those offered by Marriott and Hyatt at best. The free nights earned from the Club Carlson Premier Visa are a perfect example of how you could get great value from an airport hotel. This is what we'd do with each of the options:
IHG Rewards Free Night
This is a great free night to pair with a significant other or travel buddy to get a weekend away. The free night is limited to hotels costing less than 40,000 points per night, which still leaves close to 5,000 properties within the IHG portfolio available. The free night certificate must be booked and redeemed within 12 months from the date of issue.
Marriott Rewards Free Night
The Category 1-5 limitation on this free night can make it a challenge if you want to stay in a large city. Our best advice for this one is cash it in at a smaller city, or perhaps a high-end Marriott in Southeast Asia like the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa.
World of Hyatt Free Night
Hyatt has some Category 4 gems that make this free night valuable. Pair it with a buddy, and you've got a nice weekend getaway.
Hilton Honors Free Night
While the Hilton free nights are acquired via different spend requirements (annual fee vs. annual spend), the biggest barrier to entry is the out of pocket expense with all three cards, particularly the $60K threshold. Given that these free nights do not come without some associated effort, we'd encourage you to think aspirational. Perhaps a Waldorf or high-end Hilton property in New York or San Francisco where rates would easily top $300/night.
Club Carlson Free Night
This is the wild-card in the bunch. While you'll net 40,000 bonus points each year just by paying the annual fee on the card, if you spend $10,000 you'll get a free night at any property in the US, and of course you'll earn 50,000 points on that $10,000 spend. The spend + points earning + bonus points each year keep this interesting.
While there are few Club Carlson aspirational properties in the US, the Radisson Martinique on Broadway in New York and the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago are two top-notch places if you're looking to visit either city. Alternatively, save your Club Carlson rewards for those nights you need at an airport hotel or smaller cities where you can redeem for as little as 9,000 points/night ($1,800 of credit card spend).
Which is Best?
Your goals will dictate which free night(s) work for you, but we still think the IHG Rewards Premier Card and its free night certificate offer the most value, if only by a small margin. Which of these is your favorite?
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