What is the Best Hotel Credit Card Free Night Certificate?

Good morning everyone, happy Friday!  I was listening to the Frequent Miler On The Air podcast recently and they were discussing free night certificates.  As I mentioned in my Ask Me Anything (AMA): Hotel Edition post, I have quite a few hotel credit cards that come with free night certificates.  I wanted to compare the free night certificates and separate the standouts from the duds.  I used Frequent Miler’s Reasonable Redemption Values (RRV) for the hotel point values.  Some of these credit cards are available for new members, while some are no longer available (NLA), but you may be able to convert to them if you have the correct credit card.

I looked at the credit card’s annual fee and the category cap that the free night certificate is good for.  I also included Radisson Rewards anniversary points, even though they are points and not free night certificates.  I did not take into account any addition benefits other than the free night certificate (like elite status or the ability to earn an extra free night certificate).

This is how I read the chart: the Chase Marriott Bonvoy Premier Credit Card (NLA) has an $85 annual fee and comes with a free night certificate worth up to 25,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points.  Each Marriott Bonvoy Point is worth 0.72 cents per point (CPP), so the free night certificate has a value of $180.  When I subtract the $95 annual fee, the credit card provides $95 in value on top of the annual fee.

Hotel Credit Card Name
(NLA = No Longer Available)
Annual
Fee
Category
Cap
RRV
CPP
Free Night Value True Value
(FNV – AF)
Marriott Credit Cards
Chase Marriott Bonvoy Premier (NLA) $85.00 25,000 0.72 $180.00 $95.00
Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless $99.00 35,000 0.72 $252.00 $153.00
Chase Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Biz (NLA) $99.00 35,000 0.72 $252.00 $153.00
American Express Marriott Bonvoy Biz $125.00 35,000 0.72 $252.00 $127.00
American Express Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant $450.00 50,000 0.72 $360.00 -$90.00
JPMorgan Chase Ritz Carlton (NLA) $450.00 50,000 0.72 $360.00 -$90.00
Radisson Rewards Credit Cards
US Bank Radisson Rewards (NLA) $50.00 25,000 0.38 $95.00 $45.00
US Bank Radisson Rewards Biz (NLA) $60.00 40,000 0.38 $152.00 $92.00
US Bank Radisson Rewards Premier $75.00 40,000 0.38 $152.00 $77.00
Hyatt Credit Cards
Chase Hyatt Hotels (NLA) $75.00 15,000 1.50 $225.00 $150.00
Chase World of Hyatt $95.00 15,000 1.50 $225.00 $130.00
IHG Credit Cards
Chase IHG Rewards Select (NLA) $49.00 40,000 0.57 $228.00 $179.00
Chase IHG Rewards Premier $89.00 40,000 0.57 $228.00 $139.00
Hilton Credit Cards
American Express Hilton Honors Aspire $450.00 95,000 0.45 $427.50 -$22.50
American Express Hilton Honors Aspire $450.00 120,000 0.45 $540.00 $90.00

I grouped the various hotel credit cards by the hotel chain of the free night certificate.  As you can see, there are winners and losers in each grouping of credit cards.  Most of the time, the NLA credit card provides more value than the currently available credit card (usually due to the lower annual fee).  The 3 premium cards show negative values based on this chart, but all 3 come with a few other perks, such as:

  • American Express Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant comes with a $300 Marriott credit
  • JPMorgan Chase Ritz Carlton comes with a $300 airline fee credit
  • American Express Hilton Honors Aspire comes with a $250 airline fee credit

The ideal use for free night certificates is when you can book a hotel room at the very top of the category cap and when the paid rate of the room exceeds the Free Night Value.  For example, Marriott ABC costs 25,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points and the paid rate is $250.  In this example, you would be saving $250 by using your Marriott free night certificate, which only cost you $85 (the annual fee).

There are many gray areas in terms of redeeming your free night certificate.  For one, the hotel you want to stay at may not be at the top of the category cap or the paid rate might not be very expensive, compared to the free night value.  For example, let’s say Marriott XYZ only cost 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points and the paid rate is only $100.  In this case, since the paid rate ($100) is still more expensive than the annual fee ($85), you would only come out $15 ahead.  In my opinion, it is better to get bad value from the free night certificate than no value (when the free night certificate expires).  I try hard to prioritize my hotel stays to use the free night certificates as soon as I can.  If you need help keeping track of your free night certificates, read Track Hotel Free Night Certificates & Credit Card Annual Fees with my Spreadsheet.

So what is the best hotel credit card free night certificate?  That is a complicated question.  Since I am not loyal to just 1 hotel loyalty program, I say get as many of the hotel credit cards as you can, as long as you can redeem the free night certificates every year before they expire.  If you travel with your spouse or best friend often, have them get the same hotel credit cards, so you can book back to back nights at the same hotel.  I love all my free night certificates, but if I had to pick my absolute favorite, I would have to go with the Hilton free weekend night certificate.  Yes, it can only be used for Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night, but those are my favorite days to travel.  Plus, there is no category cap, so you could use your free night certificate at the highest category (currently 125,000 Hilton Points).

What is your favorite hotel free night certificate?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below.  If you have any questions about any of these hotel credit cards, please leave a comment below.  Have a great weekend everyone!

19 thoughts on “What is the Best Hotel Credit Card Free Night Certificate?

  1. Christian

    Your calculation only takes into account the actual free night value vs the annual fee on the card. We all know that most of the cards also include other benefits that change the above valuation. Based on the above it look like the Marriott cards that offer a 35k free night are a better value than the HH Aspire but we all know there are a ton of other benefits on the HH card like an airline credit, Priority Pass, etc. etc.

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      Yes, you are very right. I didn’t know how to accurately value all the other credit card benefits and the value of each benefit will vary by the person.

      Reply
      1. Christian

        It’s hard to value unless you use the face value and assume you can use all the benefits. If you do that with the HH Aspire you have a card that costs $450 less $250 Airline credit and if you can use the resort credit of $250 you essentially have a free night at -$50…which is a way better deal than the crappy Marriott cards.

        Reply
  2. Mary Mary

    I recently used a Hilton Weekend cert at Hilton Aruba for a $400 retail. I also used a Ritz Carlton 50,000 certificate at the Ritz Carlton Aruba (category 6 but lowered to 50,000) for $800 retail. I guess the Ritz Carlton 50,000 certificate is great because it’s unrestricted on when I could use it. Hilton must be used on a weekend only. Hilton can be used at most hotels, there are a few exceptions though.

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      Those are both great uses of your free night certificates. I haven’t used my Ritz Carlton Free Night Certificate yet, but I hope I get as much value out of it as you did :)

      Reply
  3. Robert

    Great post, Grant. I’ve been holding out hope Chase would relent and allow one to have the old Hyatt and new WOH card, like the IHG cards, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      That is a great question and I apologize for not explaining that in the post. The very top of the Hilton award chart is 125,000 HH points, but I think there are only a handful of hotels that charge that price. The most common top tier category price is 95,000 HH points.

      Reply
  4. Pam

    I have recently used my 2 Bonvoy 50k certs at RC rooms retailing for $800 night ($1k+ by the time I’m upgraded). Same with the Hilton Free Nights BUT they are restricted to the weekends so Marriott wins.

    I have never gotten more than $200-$300 value from the Hyatt 1-4 certs, so it is a distant 3rd place.

    My fav of all time, tho, were those sweet (now defunct) Fairmont CC FNs. Best ever, RIP…

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      Hi Pam, sounds like you have gotten some great hotel stays with your free night certificates. I never got around to getting a Chase Fairmont CC, but I have heard many great stories about their hotels.

      Reply
  5. Judy Jones

    I have to chime in. For me this week is Marriott. I am going to. Daytona for the races next week and they jack up rates everywhere (Motel 6 $432, Hampton Inn over $900). No one had rooms, I was going to sleep behind a dumpster somewhere when suddenly someone cancelled at the Fairfield right across from the track. I used my free night both from the Chase and Amex Biz Bonvoy and saved $732 a night plus taxes! I am psyched!

    Reply
      1. Judy Jones

        It was either that or the ancient roach, hooker, and meth filled motels further away that were still over $200 a night…. Love the Truck racing the most, watched the Championship race in Homestead in Nov atop the pit box with the crew chief and Jen Jo Cobb’s team. Was awesome!

        Reply

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