Hotel Credit Card Free Night Certificate Comparison Table

Good morning everyone!  With the impending demise of the “old” US Bank Club Carlson Credit Card, I thought it would be a good idea to compare the “new” Club Carlson free night certificate with other free night certificates from other co-brand hotel credit cards.  Here is the table comparing Intercontinental, Hyatt, Marriott, Club Carlson, Hilton, Fairmont, and Starwood:

I added Starwood as a reminder that this is one of the few co-brand hotel credit cards that does not offer a free night certificate.  Maybe someday AMEX and Starwood will add that benefit.

This table is in order from best free night certificate to worst free night certificate based on the co-brand hotel credit card’s annual fee, annual spending, and category restriction.  As always, the Chase Intercontinental (IHG) Credit Card has the best free night certificate, since you can stay at any IHG hotel anywhere in the world just for paying the $49 annual fee.  That benefit simply cannot be beat!

Coming in at silver and bronze are the Chase Hyatt Credit Card and the Chase Marriott Rewards (personal and business) Credit Card which also offer free night certificates after paying the annual fee ($75 – $99 depending on the credit card).  Unfortunately, both of these free night certificates have category restrictions, meaning you cannot stay at any top tier hotels.  The Marriott free night certificate is only valid for 6 months.  Apparently when I pay the *annual fee,* I am only offered a *semi-annual* free night certificate.  If you do not use your certificate before the 6 month period, call Marriott / Ritz Carlton to have them extend the certificate for another 6 months (see link for more details).  I hope Marriott gets their act together and starts to issue annual free night certificates like all the other hotels on this list.

Up next, we have the “new” Club Carlson free night certificate which you can earn each year you spend $10,000 or more on US Bank Club Carlson (personal or business) Credit Card.  The drawback to this free night certificate is that the certificate can only be redeemed at US hotels.  I hope Club Carlson changes this benefit to include all hotels, but until then, the certificate can only be redeemed for domestic hotels.

Up next, we have the Hilton free night certificate which you can earn each year you spend $10,000 or more on the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Credit Card.  The drawback to this free night certificate is that the certificate can only be redeemed on weekends.  I’m not sure if I should switch the order with the “new” Club Carlson credit card.  Which certificate is worse: only using the certificate on the weekend or only using the certificate in the US?

Last but not least, we have the Fairmont free night certificate which you can earn each year you spend $12,000 or more on the Chase Fairmont Credit Card.  This free night certificate requires a bit more spending than the “new” Club Carlson and Hilton free night certificates, but there are no category restrictions for using the credit card.  Since I do not have this credit card and have never stayed at a Fairmont, should I move this card up the list above the “new” Club Carlson free night certificate?

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.  Have a great day everyone!

36 thoughts on “Hotel Credit Card Free Night Certificate Comparison Table

  1. Dan

    Thanks for the comparison! Keep in mind, however, that there are no 70,000 point Club Carlson properties in the US, so the point value is really 50,000 max

    Reply
      1. Dan

        That is a very good point! Though hopefully the end of the Bonus Award Night for credit card holders will be the only significant devaluation we see this year.

        Reply
  2. Vicente

    A few years ago I could stay at the Marriott Gateway in ATL with certificates and it was a great value. Given the chart inflation, I find it impossible this year to find any Cat5 anywhere that I want to stay. I value these certs as WORTHLESS now. I may find a use for them by booking a stay for a relative, then calling in to add the relative to the reservation so they can “check in before me” (wink).

    Reply
    1. Grant

      I’ve done that too. I would use those certificates at the first Cat 4-5 hotel I plan to stay at, regardless of the going rate. Better to play it safe than try to get the most value out of the certificates.

      Reply
    2. Andrew

      I see the Marriott certificate as next to worthless too. It was almost impossible for me to use. What it became was a “Hey, want to stay at the Marriott near the airport instead of driving 40 minutes there in the morning?” certificate. The Hyatt one on the other hand got me a night in SF.

      Reply
  3. Jeff

    Grant – may be good to show the value of what you earn with the spend (e.g., what additional benefit in terms of hotel nights – if any – that you would get for $12k in spend on the Farimont card, or the value of the spend based on your current value/point analysis

    Reply
    1. Grant

      I could do earning rates but that depends on the category bonus and point values are super subjective. This table is really just for quick comparisons of the free night certificates and not to compare hotel credit cards.

      Reply
      1. Jeff

        Makes sense. Thanks. This is a great summary table. I am still on the fence on whether to go out of my way to spend the $10k required with the updated Carlson rules – as this would earn the free night in the US plus another nice one globally – though I suspect my US night credit would lapse due to non-use like most of my Marriott nights have done. And thanks for the reminder on the Starwood Card. Maybe now they use this themselves to see how they are non-competitive.

        Reply
  4. cj

    Grant I just woke up in Indonesia and may still be asleep – with club Carlson you get 40,000 points each ann year and if you count 10,000 spend to get another free night in usa then you have 90,000 points and a free night in usa
    I think it would be #1 using that math no ?
    #2 if you go by 75.00 ann fee for 40,000 ( I stayed in a 500.00 room in london last for 38,000 ) maybe it was 44,000 lol but still a great deal for 75.00

    Love your blog

    Reply
    1. Grant

      I didn’t want to include spending to meet the requirement for the annual free night certificate. The table will get very complicated if I start adding more information.

      Reply
  5. raj

    Should you take into consideration the 40K club Carlson bonus also at each year renewal. No other card gives that.

    Reply
  6. Peter S

    The only one I don’t agree on is Marriott being #3, it’s way too high. If you live in any major city in the US, their category 5 certificate can’t get you in any of their hotels. Those hotels are all more than Category 5. I only find the Marriott Cert good for oversea. However, the cert is only good for 6 months (yeah, you can call to extend it but that is not a garanteed), it makes it very hard to use. I used to keep IHG, Hyatt, and Marriott cards and pay the annual fees every year. I have since gotten rid of the Marriott card.

    Reply
    1. Grant

      I totally agree. The Marriott card is definitely over rated and the free night certificate is difficult to use. You can get some good deals on international hotels though.

      Reply
  7. AB

    The tough thing about CC is that 90% of their domestic hotels are run down. So the 40k points is worth more than that certificate. But then again, a weekend overseas Hilton stay trumps that too.

    Finally, “free” or not, that Marriott certificate is only good in the suburbs at a Fairfield most of the time. That would be amongst my last choices.

    Reply
  8. phil

    In my opinion you have greatly undervalued the Fairmont card. You earn at least “1” Fairmont point for each dollar spent. So on top of the “free night” earning for the 12k spent you are earning $120 in gc to the Fairmont or other places. Not to mention the presidents club certificates you are getting. These reset in February and at a minimum include $50 in dining credit, a suite upgrade, 3rd night free, and a room upgrade. If you travel to Fairmont destinations and are comfortable with some out of pocket cost these certs can be combined into tremendous value.

    Reply
    1. Grant

      For people who stay at Fairmont, the credit card can save you a ton of money. I would never pay for a stay at Fairmont so most of those benefits would not be of value to me. With that said, I might get that credit card soon.

      Reply
      1. Michael

        +1 for Phil’s comments about the Fairmont card.

        Grant – Don’t forget that most hotels will allow you to use the suite upgrade certificate with the free nights you get with the card, so the free nights can be in a suite. This applies for the annual free nights as well.

        Thanks for putting this comparison together.

        Reply
      2. Rob T

        I think I read soemwhere that miles/points are actually more valuable for people with money as they would have paid the retail cost anyway!

        that being said, people like us are unlikely to put 12k on the fairmont card. I’d rather use it on sign up bonuses and for high category bonus MS

        Reply
        1. Grant

          It’s hard to say who benefits more. People that have a lot of money will usually save a ton of money using miles and points. People that don’t have a lot of money rely almost solely on miles and points to travel, otherwise a majority of us would not be able to afford to travel as often. Either way, miles and points are awesome and I can’t imagine life without them. (4am in DFW)

          Reply
  9. S

    Thanks Grant, I was so glad to see this chart this morning when I cruised over here. Club Carlson has been my main hotel program, with 3 cards between us. I am still fairly new at hotel points (I’ve been focusing on airline points), but, as much as I hate to say it, the Club Carlson program is still not bad. It DOES give a worldwide free night in MOST hotels with the 40K points renewal, plus a US free night. There are many hotels that are 28K points, and we’ve seen them in Eastern Europe for 9K. So that makes that 40K upon renewal worth more than one free night in many cases. It’s nothing like the sweet deal before the devaluation last week, but it’s still a couple of free nights, and could be easily considered one free US night and points enough for many hotels worldwide.

    I’m wondering what kind of expiry the free US night will have? One year from issue date? That could suck, too.

    Reply
    1. Grant

      If the Club Carlson free night certificate is similar to other certificates, you will probably have 1 year from issue to redeem the free night. Like most devaluations, the great deals end but there are still a few good deals left.

      Reply
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  12. Marvin

    Thanks! Great story Grant! An additional column I’d like to see is the amount of non-bonus spend required on each card to get the equivalent value of the bonus night. That would quickly tell me which card gives the most oomph.

    Reply

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