How To Use Points and Miles at Hotels With No Rewards Program How To Use Points and Miles at Hotels With No Rewards Program

How To Use Points and Miles at Hotels With No Rewards Program

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In theory, using points and miles for hotel stays is a straightforward affair. Determine your destination, plan out the points and miles needed, design and execute a card application and spending strategy to acquire the points, and then book your free night award.

But what happens if your destination has no hotels affiliated with a rewards program? Are you stuck paying cash? Or is there still a way of using rewards points to score free accommodations when the hotels don't have their own loyalty program (or lack one that's worth using)?

Earn and Redeem Points, Miles & Cash Back for Accommodations

Unless you’re traveling to a monastery in some remote and forgotten land, there is likely some accommodation you can book using a rewards-earning credit card. This could be a vacation rental such as an Airbnb, a budget hostel, inn, or motel, an independent hotel booked via an OTA (Online Travel Agency — sites like Expedia or Kayak), or simply booking directly with a boutique hotel or chalet not associated with any rewards program. This means there are still ways of using your hard-earned points and miles when the destination has no rewards-affiliated hotels.

Not all methods offer top value, and there will be times you're better off maximizing the rewards earned on your stay instead of redeeming rewards, but almost every destination will offer an opportunity to use points, miles, or cash back to offset the cost of your travel.

In short, you likely think of earning points with Marriott Bonvoy or World of Hyatt to redeem for hotel stays, but it's possible to use points and miles for hotels that aren't in a rewards program. Your strategy here will be different, obviously.

Redeem Fixed-Value Rewards and Cash Back Cards for Hotels & Airbnb

One solution to redeeming points when you can’t utilize your branded hotel points is using fixed-value bank rewards. These include points earned with the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card or Capital One miles from the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. How do these rewards work? Pay for your accommodation using the card, then you can redeem your rewards against the cost of the stay as a statement credit.

There are a few restrictions. With the Capital One Venture, the purchase needs to code as travel to qualify for the statement credit. Otherwise, you'll need to redeem your rewards as cash back (which yields less value). With the Bank of America Premium Rewards Card, you'll choose to redeem your points as cash via statement credit or a direct deposit to an eligible Bank of America account.

Other options for fixed-value rewards exist, such as the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card, or using a card that earns cash back.

Stack Cash Back Portals, Offer Codes, Travel Credits & OTAs

There are plenty of destinations where chain hotels are not available. Santorini, for example, only has a small selection of rewards-affiliated properties. Bali has plenty of chain hotels in the south of the island, plus a handful in the center (mostly around Ubud). But what if you want to visit the western part of the island?

colored dots on a map of Bali indicate locations of rewards-affiliated hotels
Credit: Award Mapper

In addition to a variety of vacation rentals like Airbnb and VRBO, what these locations have in the hundreds are smaller, boutique hotels you can book via OTAs like, Expedia, and Orbitz.

Related: Does OneKeyCash (Expedia,, and Vrbo) Expire?

You can choose to book these hotels on a card like the Capital One Venture and redeem your miles as a statement credit. Or reduce the nightly cost through cash-back portals, coupon offers, and taking advantage of OTA loyalty programs, and then pay for your stay with a points-earning card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® to collect 3x Ultimate Rewards points on the purchase — points you can put toward another holiday.

We’ll run through a simple example of how you could potentially stack a stay booked via

The gift card approach

It's also worth looking for discounted gift cards for these OTAs. For example, if you find a $100 gift card on sale for $90 at your local supermarket, you could buy it with a credit card that earns extra rewards at grocery stores (such as the American Express® Gold Card). On top of earning points from your purchase, you'd get $10 off and still could follow the strategies above to tack on extra rewards or discounts when booking online.

Extra points with other programs

It's also possible to “double dip” by earning rewards in more than one program during your stay. For example, you can earn British Airways Avios on Airbnb stays and earn United miles on Vrbo stays. You need to book stays through a specific website to qualify. That means these may not trigger the portal bonuses mentioned above, but they present another option for earning extra.

Pay for a Hotel Using Points Through Bank Travel Portals

Another alternative is to find a hotel you can book directly through American Express Travel or the Chase Travel Portal. Both portals allow you to book hotels, rental cars, flights, and more using your points.

Depending on what cards you hold and the type of travel you're booking, points can provide a fixed value of up to 1.54¢ per point. But if you have a stockpile of points, using them in this way means you're not using cash. And it means you're using points to pay for a hotel where most people assume you can't book a night with points.

Moreover, credit card issuers have all launched hotel programs. Booking with a program like Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts or the Capital One Lifestyle Collection means you could pay with your credit card rewards and potentially tack on extra benefits like room upgrades, on-property spending credits, and more. And in the case of The Platinum Card® from American Express, you could use up to $200 per year toward certain prepaid hotel reservations through Amex Travel. Enrollment is required for select Amex benefits.

Related: How To Receive Elite Hotel Benefits Without Elite Status

Final Thoughts

Just because there isn’t a selection of chain hotels at your chosen destination doesn’t mean you can't pay for your hotel with points. You can still use points, miles, and cash back to offset the cost of hotels and other accommodation, making hard-to-reach or unique locations that much more affordable and well within the range of most travelers. Rather than redeeming points at the time of booking, you'll need rewards that you can redeem after the fact, paying with your card and then applying credit to reduce or eliminate these charges from your credit card statement.

If you have any stories to share or tried and true hacks when there are no rewards-affiliated hotels available, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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  • Rob Nelson says:

    This article mentions using credit cards with chip + pin in other countries. I don’t ever do that here in the USA, just put the card in the slot (chip) and then sign the screen. a lot of places you don’t even have to sign if under $100 like at Costco.

    I’m going to Greece in 3 months. Is entering a PIN a common practice? If so, I need to dig up what my pin is.

    • You’ll only use the PIN if it is required, such as a train station or gas station when traveling internationally. US terminals don’t require it, so you’ll continue to sign (or not based on the dollar amount)

  • This would let me get inexpensive rooms, taking advantage of other offers at a lower end or not brand name hotel for a relatively low redemption.

  • rodney ross says:

    I have placed this info as a Favorite to visit in the future. Very helpful for me

  • Great info. Arrival card was better with lower redemption and 10% back on cash in. For me capital one has my loyalty. They have your back. They once worked out dispute outside US with rental car. Most CC take merchants side behind closed doors

  • For the Hotels.Com example, I don’t believe you can stack a coupon AND get those nights credited towards the ‘collect 10 nights get 1 free’ offer. You have to choose one or the other. I have never been able to stack a coupon and get those nights credited to the offer. This is why it’s better to only use a coupon when they give you at least 10% off. For a coupon less than that, it makes more sense just to get the night credited towards a free night.

  • jason picker says:

    Great idea about airBnB, thanks OP

  • There are also some chains (I know for sure IHG with hotelsanywhere) which allow you to book many other hotels, not only the hotels of the chain.
    This is a very good bonus with IHG.
    What do you think?

  • Never thought about using airbnb. But will now look into this as an alternative if unable to use points in certain cities. Thanks for breaking down the cards eligible too.

  • Appreciate the ideas here. Especially useful link to Awardmapper! Didn’t know about it previously.

  • This article is so helpful… Didn’t know about “portals” but glad to find out that you could “double dip” and earn additional cashback. Thank you very much!

  • I’m still creeped out about going thru Air BnB. I’d just much rather stay at a hotel than someone’s house/apt, etc.
    I love the info on how to stack! Since my kids are getting older, my hubby and I are finally able to start traveling more. Any info is welcomed to store away for use later. My dreams have been filled with beaches, hotels, and adventures.

    • You are creeped out by staying in someone’s house, but not by staying at a hotel, in a room that hundreds or thousands of people have slept in? I still haven’t tried AirBNB because I have a ton of hotel points, but I think it is a cool option, and often can save lots of money versus paid hotel stays.

  • great tips for those who want to stay outside of chain hotels!

  • Most online travel agencies (Expedia, I’m thinking of you) charge the property owners up to 24% commission. Nothing is free in this industry.

  • There are some interesting options put forward in the article. Whilst not all the options are especially good value for money, sometimes you just want to save the cash and use points anyway.

  • Fixed rewards has been an awesome alternative to miles and points!

  • Good point about Airbnb. Thanks.

  • And you can usually buy GC’s for 20% off

  • Are there any sites like google flights that show all place to stay options?

  • Booking through Airbnb and then getting a credit back on the Barclays Arrival card is a great idea. I’m putting that card on my list of to-do’s, even though I have heard the card isn’t as good as it used to be.

  • I always have been driven crazy by that part of my route (yes, I plan every single day) for vacation without a chain hotel. This year I had good luck using a deal from but, in the past, I have had bad stays “off the beaten path”. At least with a chain you can voice your displeasure on usually be compensated. At the smaller operations your recourse is very limited.

  • I don’t know the guys behind Awardmapper, but I’m sure they’d appreciate a shout out for your use of their map.

  • Great advice here. There are some truly amazing hotels out there that are not affiliated with a chain. Thanks for the tips provided!

  • It’s always much harder to redeem points/miles than it is to earn them. I guess that’s what the companies prefer!

    • Perhaps for airlines, but for hotels, not true at all. The only time I’ve *ever* had difficulty making any hotel award booking was when trying to find space at the IC Thalasso Bora Bora.

  • Got to admit that using some of the new hotel booking sites where you regularly get 10% off and your reward stays count towards a free night are starting to make very good value rather than using points for the entire stay.

  • Nice guide. I wish I could do airbnb

  • Very helpful, interesting and cool ways to ean and spend for travel. I need to work more on stacking. Thank you!

  • Also make sure if you are overseas that your credit card doesn’t charge a fee for using it out of your home country.

  • Thats an interesting Story – I didn’t think of it, but will keep that in Mind!! Always thought, these “no-Points”-Programs are useless, but now I know different!

  • Edward Monrad says:

    These are fantastic tips – very helpful. Thanks!

  • thanks for sharing these alternate options – I have used the coupon codes before for great deals.

  • I wish the Barclays Arrival Plus didn’t raise the redemption minimum from $25 to $100. Since I don’t travel outside of the U.S. often, I’d prefer to just use a Citi Double Cash for nonbonus spend – no annual fee, no limit to what you can use the 2% cash back for, and you can start using it at $25 instead of $100.

    • I got this Arrival Plus and the Venture for these exact reasons last year. I downgraded the Arrival Plus to an Arrival which starts its redemption’s at $25, still no FTF. sitting on 89k points.

      Cap One was kind enough to waive the AF and I used it going to Cancun recently. $167 worth of airport parking and airport transfers.
      Still have 80K Venture miles.

      And the Venture card is now metal, as heavy as the Amex Platinum which are both heavier than the CSP.

  • Cash always offers flexibility even if its not the best use for points (such as UR) which is part of why I find them so useful

    • I just wish I could let myself ignore the opportunity cost of that kind of thing and just be happy for a saving but cash never stacks up for me. I appreciate your point of view though.

  • excellent information

  • Also nowadays and other sites allow you to earn miles on any hotel stay booked with them.

  • Good piece. I don’t feel like great value is there often with these redemptions, but you have given me some ideas to change that possibly.

  • This is what I like an article to help me wring out every point possible,

  • Bertrand Say says:

    There are now a lot of choices and not just the regular hotels.

  • Thank you for some great ideas on how to maximize earnings at hotels without a Loyalty Program.