There are different ways to score free hotel stays, which can help you save money or use it for more travel. If you want to find ways to save money on your travel, here are a few different options for snagging a hotel stay for free.
The price of travel has skyrocketed in recent years, thanks to inflation, ongoing airline challenges, climbing fuel costs and other economic factors. And, the costs for hotels and lodging has increased in tandem, with the average hotel room costing $100 or more per night in major cities and resort towns. Plus, you can easily pay $200 or more per night for hotels in more expensive regions of the country or in major metropolitan areas.
In turn, it can be tough to carve out the cash necessary in order to book your hotel accommodations, whether you’re taking a road trip, hopping on a flight to a wedding, jetting away on an elaborate vacation or something else entirely. Luckily, you don’t necessarily have to be flush with extra money to pull it off. There are different ways to score free hotel stays, which can help you save money or use it for more travel. If you want to find ways to save money on your travel, here are a few different options for snagging a hotel stay for free.
1. Sign up for hotel loyalty programs
Every major hotel brand has a rewards program that gives you credit when you stay at properties within the brand. For example, the World of Hyatt program awards you 5 points per dollar spent at participating hotels, and free nights start at 5,000 points.
This means that if you have one five-night stay in a Hyatt hotel with an average price of $200 per night, you’ll earn enough points for one free night. Also, some rewards programs, including Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors (requires silver elite status or higher), will give you a fifth free night if you book a certain number of nights with points.
Of course, it can take a while and a lot of money to earn enough points for a longer stay. But when you combine loyalty program earnings with other ways to get free hotel stays, you’ll reach your goal more quickly.
You can also take advantage of other rewards programs to get free nights. For example, for every 10 nights you book through Hotels.com, you’ll receive one for free.
2. Earn credit card rewards
Many major hotel chains have one or more co-branded credit cards that allow you to earn loyalty points with the brand just for using it on everyday purchases. These cards also often provide introductory offers to make it easier to rack up rewards quickly.
One example is the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card, which offers a generous bonus of up to 125,000 points. You’ll get 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first six months. On top of that, you can earn 50,000 points when you stay six eligible nights (paid with cash, not rewards) at a participating Marriott Bonvoy hotel through January 2024. This sign-up bonus is one of the highest bonuses available right now.
For many people, credit card rewards are the fastest way to earn free hotel stays. Depending on how much you spend, using a hotel credit card to rack up points can give you several free hotel nights every year.
3. Snag credit card anniversary nights
In addition to a rewards program, several hotel credit cards also offer a free anniversary night’s stay every year when you pay your annual fee. Many cards don’t require you to spend any money to get this perk, but some, including the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, do require you to meet a spending requirement.
Others, including World of Hyatt Credit Card, give you one anniversary night’s stay automatically and a second after you meet a spending requirement. Getting just one free night once a year may not be enough for most trips, but it can allow you to extend a stay that you’re paying for with points or out of pocket.
4. Stack rewards
Some hotels offer dining programs and online shopping portals that make it possible to earn hotel points you can use toward free stays, and this is on top of the rewards you’re already earning with your credit card on the purchase.
For example, with the IHG One Rewards dining program, you’ll earn up to 8 points per dollar, and there is usually a point incentive to join the club. Hilton is the other major hotel chain that has a dining program.
“When eating out at home and while traveling, I always look for [partner] restaurants,” says Schroeder. “You’ll be surprised at how many restaurants participate.”
If you shop a lot online, Choice Privileges has an online shopping mall that gives you bonus points when you shop with partner retailers. Just visit the hotel’s shopping portal first and click through to the retailer of your choice, then complete your purchase as normal.
If you’re not loyal to either of those hotel programs, websites like Swagbucks use the same approach, but allow you to use your rewards earned to buy Hotels.com gift cards. This approach can give you more flexibility with your hotel stays — and again, the rewards you earn are on top of what you’re getting with your rewards credit card.
Unfortunately, one drawback with online shopping portals is you typically can’t add outside coupons or discounts. But you may be able to stack a portal offer with a card-linked offer program by paying with an eligible card.
5. Use your phone
If you have a little free time now and then, a handful of mobile apps allow you to earn rewards that you can turn into free hotel stays.
“I earn Hotels.com gift cards by using several apps on my phone,” Melissa Nance, author of The Penny Pinching Globetrotter, said. “I play games like rolling dice and trivia. I also take surveys, some that are just one question and others that are longer. I scan receipts from the grocery store, gas station and various other places into apps to earn more. I even watch movie trailers.”
In total, Nance has seven such apps and usually spends 10 to 15 minutes per day using them. Some of the apps she uses include Fetch Rewards, Shopkick, Verydice and Ibotta.
6. Leverage your social media following
Hotel properties often rely on word-of-mouth advertising to attract guests, and travel bloggers often take advantage of that fact to convince managers to give them free stays in exchange for coverage.
But you don’t need to be a travel blogger to do this, according to Christina Cindrich, a two-time Emmy Award-winning travel TV producer and host.
“If somebody has any kind of following on social media, it’s not difficult to get free hotel stays,” she said. “I’ve done it before when I’m not even working; I’ve just gone to Bali and reached out to hotels, and we’ve done a collaboration for free hotel nights.”
Of course, your experience can vary based on where you’re going and the properties you reach out to, and there’s no guarantee a sizable Twitter or Instagram follower list will be enough.
Best credit cards for free hotel nights
Which credit cards should you consider if you’re hoping to earn hotel loyalty points for free stays or angling to earn a free anniversary night? Here are some of the best options available:
IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card: Best bonus offer available right now
- Earning rate: Up to 26X points on IHG hotel stays, 5X points on travel, gas station and restaurant purchases, and 3X points on other purchases
- Welcome bonus: 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
- Annual fee: $99
- Anniversary night: One free night award each year on your cardmember anniversary
Hilton Honors American Express Card: Best Hilton option with no annual fee
- Earning rate: 7X points on Hilton purchases; 5X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations; 3X points on other purchases (Terms apply)
- Welcome bonus: 70,000 Hilton Honors points and a free night award after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first three months of card membership
- Annual fee: $0
- Anniversary night: N/A
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Best for infrequent travelers
- Earning rate: 12X points on Hilton purchases; 6X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations; 3X points on other purchases (Terms apply)
- Welcome bonus: 130,000 Hilton Honors points and a free night reward after you spend $2,000 in purchases in the first three months of card membership
- Annual fee: $95
- Anniversary night: One free night reward when you spend $15,000 on your card within a calendar year
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card*: Best for true Hilton loyalists
- Earning rate: 14X points on Hilton purchases; 7X points on flights booked with airlines or with AmexTravel.com, car rentals booked with select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants; 3X points on other purchases (Terms apply)
- Welcome bonus: 150,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months
- Annual fee: $450
- Anniversary night: One free night reward each year you have the card and an additional free night when you spend $60,000 on your card within a calendar year
Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card: Best Marriott option with no annual fee
- Earning rate: 3X points on Marriott hotel stays, 2X points on other travel and 1X points on other purchases
- Welcome bonus: 30,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first six months
- Annual fee: $0
- Anniversary night: N/A
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card: Best for infrequent Marriott guests
- Earning rate: 6X points on Marriott hotel stays, 3X points on grocery stores, gas stations and dining (on up to $6,000 in purchases); 2X points on other purchases
- Welcome bonus: Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from your account opening
- Annual fee: $95
- Anniversary night: One free night (worth up to 35,000 points) each year on your cardmember anniversary
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Best for luxury stays with Marriott
- Earning rate: 6X points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program; 3X points at restaurants worldwide and on flights booked with airlines; 2X points on all other eligible purchases (Terms apply)
- Welcome bonus: Earn two 85K Free Night Awards after you spend $6,000 in purchases in your first six months (one night redemption level for each award at or under 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy (certain hotels have resort fees). Offer ends 11/1/2023.
- Annual fee: $650
- Anniversary night: One free night reward (worth up to 85,000 points) each year on your cardmember anniversary at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program (certain hotels have resort fees)
World of Hyatt Credit Card*: Best for Hyatt enthusiasts
- Earning rate: 4X points on Hyatt hotel purchases (plus 5X base points earned by regular World of Hyatt members); 2X points on dining out, gym memberships, transit, commuting and flights; 1X points on other purchases
- Welcome bonus: 30,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening and up to 30,000 more points (at 2X points in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1X point), on up to $15,000 in purchases
- Annual fee: $95
- Anniversary night: One free night in Category 1 to 4 property on your cardmember anniversary each year and an additional free night in a Category 1 to 4 property when you spend $15,000 on your card within a calendar year
If you’re looking for ways to get free hotel stays, the best way to achieve your goal is typically through hotel credit cards. Earning rewards on your everyday purchases and getting a free anniversary night every year may be enough to cover multiple vacations. It may also benefit you to consider other travel rewards credit cards.
But if you’re not sure you want to get a rewards credit card or you’re looking for opportunities to supplement your credit card rewards earning, there are plenty of other ways to get free nights in your favorite destinations. While it can take time to figure things out, the effort can be well worth it.
*Information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card and World of Hyatt Credit Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.