The Best Credit Cards to Use For Any Hotel Stay (Including Airbnb)

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best credi cards for the hotel stay

It’s satisfying when you can book a hotel room with points. There are literally thousands of hotels around the world where you can use points from hotel cards and other travel cards to stay for free.

But sometimes those aren’t the places that you want to stay. What do you do in this situation? If you use the right credit cards, you can still stay for free or receive significant discounts to reduce the cost of your hotel reservations.

How to Get a Free Vacation With Hotel Points

If you’re familiar with travel rewards, you know that you can use hotel points to get free nights at hotel chains like Hyatt, Marriott, IHG and Hilton. Each of these chains has co-branded credit cards that offer benefits like annual free nights, bonus points when paying for rooms or food at their properties, and upgraded loyalty status.

hotel credit cards
But there are plenty of amazing hotels around the world that aren’t affiliated with these major hotel chains. And most of these smaller hotel chains and boutique hotels don’t have their own co-branded credit card.

So, what should you do to earn rewards to reduce the cost of staying at these hotels that don’t have their own credit card?

Best Credit Cards for Free Stays at Non-Chain Hotels and Airbnb

Here are some of the best credit cards for free stays at non-chain hotels. There are generally two ways to approach this. You can earn cash back from credit cards from your daily expenses, then save that money in a “travel fund,” or you can earn flexible bank points that can be redeemed toward travel. Either way, this strategy can help you stay for free at the hotel of your choice.

Cashback Credit Cards

In the world of travel rewards, cashback credit cards are often overlooked, but they can offer significant value to your rewards strategy. The trick is to set aside the cash back earned into a “travel fund” so that it isn’t commingled with your other money and frittered away on daily expenses or other bills.

Below are a few cashback cards with no annual fees that you should consider adding to your wallet.

Citi Double Cash

I’ve been using the Citi Double Cash credit card for years because it offers 1% cash back when I use it on purchases and another 1% cash back when I make a payment. Because I pay off my credit card in full in each month, I earn 2% cash back on every purchase. For new applicants, you will receive a $100 sign-up bonus after spending $500 within the first 3 months.

INTRO APR on Purchases
N/A
INTRO apr on Balance Transfer
0% 18 months on Balance Transfers
Regular APR
15.49% to 25.49% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$0
Rewards Program
Citi® Double Cash Reward Program
Bonuses & Rewards
  • Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.49% - 25.49% based on your creditworthiness
  • Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases
  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • + No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee
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Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards

The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card offers 1.5% cash back on every purchase and a 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers the first 15 months. Plus there’s a $150 sign-up bonus after spending $500 within the first 3 months, which is a nice boost to your travel fund.

INTRO APR on Purchases
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
INTRO apr on Balance Transfer
0% intro on balance transfers for 15 months
Regular APR
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$0
Rewards Program
Capital One® Cash Back Rewards
Bonuses & Rewards
  • % Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
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Discover it

The Discover it card is another one that I’ve owned for years. I like this one because each quarter there are rotating categories where you can earn 5% cash back on your purchases. When you factor in that the first year’s earnings are doubled, you can earn up to 10% cash back in year one.

Discover it® Miles Card
How to apply
To apply for this offer please contact
Discover Bank
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INTRO APR on Purchases
0% (14 months)
INTRO apr on Balance Transfer
0% (14 months)
Regular APR
13.99% - 24.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$0
Rewards Program
Cashback Bonus®
Bonuses & Rewards
  • + cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • + Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • + Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • + Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • No annual fee.
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Discover it Miles

The Discover it Miles card is the sister product to the Discover it. Instead of offering 1% on everything and 5% on rotating categories, Discover simplified the earning structure on the Discover it Miles so you’ll earn 1.5% cash back on everything. And, just like the original Discover it card, your first year’s earnings are doubled, allowing you to earn 3% cash back on every purchase for 12 months.

Discover it® Miles Card
How to apply
To apply for this offer please contact
Discover Bank
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INTRO APR on Purchases
0% (14 months)
INTRO apr on Balance Transfer
10.99% (14 months)
Regular APR
13.99% - 24.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$0
Rewards Program
Discover it® Miles Rewards
Bonuses & Rewards
  • + Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases all with no annual fee.
  • + No Blackout Dates - fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
  • + Redeem your Miles as a statement credit towards travel purchases.
  • + Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles. That's $600 towards travel!
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Discover Match™ details & other information.
  • No Annual Fee
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Flexible Bank Points Credit Cards

The programs below allow you to redeem points for a wide variety of travel purchases, including hotels. They’re extremely flexible and the points you earn with their credit cards are easy to use.

Capital One Venture Rewards

What’s in your wallet? We’ve all heard this credit card’s commercial at some point. And the Capital One Venture Rewards card is popular because of its 50,000-point sign-up bonus and the ability to earn 2 points per dollar on every purchase.

INTRO APR on Purchases
N/A
INTRO apr on Balance Transfer
N/A
Regular APR
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Rewards Program
Venture® Rewards
Bonuses & Rewards
  • + Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • + Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
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Consumers like redeeming these points for travel expenses like hotel reservations because it is a straightforward process via Capital One’s online portal. Simply pay for your hotel with the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card, then redeem your points to pay for the purchase.

Citi ThankYou Points

Citibank’s flexible points program is called ThankYou Points. These points can be used to purchase flights and hotel reservations at a value of 1.25 cents per point. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 in travel. You can also transfer these points to one of 15 airline transfer partners if you decide not to book a hotel reservation.

There are 3 personal credit cards that earn these points. The Citi ThankYou Preferred is a no annual fee credit card that has a 20,000 bonus point offer and earns 2x on dining and entertainment.

INTRO APR on Purchases
0% 15 months on Purchases
INTRO apr on Balance Transfer
0% 15 months on Balance Transfers
Regular APR
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$0
Rewards Program
ThankYou®
Bonuses & Rewards
  • + Earn 2X Points on Dining Out & Entertainment
  • + Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases
  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR on purchases for 15 months from date of account opening and 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months from date of first transfer; after that, the variable APR will be 15.49% - 25.49% based upon your creditworthiness
  • Points are redeemable for gift cards to popular retailers, restaurants, and department and home stores. 2,500 ThankYou® Points can be redeemed for a $25 gift card at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No annual fee
  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • + There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
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The Citi ThankYou Premier offers 50,000 bonus points while earning 3x on travel and gas, 2x on dining and entertainment, and 1x on everything else.

INTRO APR on Purchases
N/A
INTRO apr on Balance Transfer
N/A
Regular APR
16.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$0 first year, then $95
Rewards Program
ThankYou®
Bonuses & Rewards
  • + Earn 3X Points on Travel, Including Gas Stations
  • + Earn 2X Points on Dining Out & Entertainment
  • + Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases
  • Earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • 50,000 Points are redeemable for $625 in airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou® Travel Center, or $500 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
  • No Foreign Transaction Fee
  • + Points Transfer allows you to transfer points to participating airline loyalty programs
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The premium ThankYou point card is the Citi Prestige, which currently doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus but provides an annual $250 airline credit, a 4th night free on hotel reservations, and earns 3x on air & hotels and 2x on dining and entertainment.

Discover it® Miles Card
How to apply
To apply for this offer please contact
Citibank
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INTRO APR on Purchases
N/A
INTRO apr on Balance Transfer
N/A
Regular APR
17.24% to 25.24% Variable±
Annual Fee
$450
Rewards Program
ThankYou®
Bonuses & Rewards
  • 3x Points on Airfare and Hotels
  • 2x Points on Dining and Entertainment
  • 1x Points on Gas
  • 1x Points on All Other Purchases
  • Complimentary 4th night stay at any hotel of your choice after a minimum 4-consecutive night booking through ThankYou.com
  • $100 Global Entry fee credit every 5 years
  • $250 air travel credit
  • No Foreign Transaction Fee
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Barclays Arrival Plus

The Barclays Arrival Plus card offers 2 points on every dollar spent that can be used towards travel purchases you’ve made on the card. What I really like about this credit card is the 5% rebate every time you redeem points and that you can make a purchase today and have 90 days to earn additional points to offset that purchase.

The 60,000-point sign-up offer is worth $630 in travel when you factor in the 5% rebate.

INTRO APR on Purchases
N/A
INTRO apr on Balance Transfer
0% (first 12 billing cycles following each balance transfer that posts to your account within 45 days of account opening)
Regular APR
17.99%, 21.99% or 24.99% variable based on your creditworthiness
Annual Fee
$89 (waived first year)
Rewards Program
Barclaycard Arrival Rewards
Bonuses & Rewards
  • + Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase
  • Enjoy 60,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days
  • Book travel your way—no airline, seat or hotel restrictions—and redeem your miles for travel statement credits
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • International Chip and PIN for use at self-service chip terminals around the world
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • + Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
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How to Receive Big Discounts at Non-Chain Hotels

Even if you can’t offset the entire cost of your hotel stay, there are some ways that you can dramatically reduce the price of your hotel reservations.

4th Night Free From Citi Prestige

The Citi Prestige credit card has been one of my favorites for several years. This card earns Citi ThankYou Points which can be used for travel reservations at 1.25 cents per point and cash back, or they can be transferred to one of 13 hotel and airline partners.

4th Night Free From Citi Prestige

You’ll receive 3x points on flights and hotels, 2x points on dining and entertainment and 1 point for everything else.

But the real value of the Citi Prestige card comes when you book a hotel reservation through their Concierge or online portal. With the 4th Night Free benefit, your fourth nights will be free on hotel reservations of four nights or more (exclusive of taxes and fees).

This benefit could save you approximately 25% on your hotel stays. Best of all, you can stack this benefit with hotel promotions and conference/corporate discount codes.

Sign Up for Hotel Newsletters and Promotions

When you sign up for hotel newsletters, they’ll send you offers and promotions on a regular basis. Even if I have no current plans to stay at the hotel, I’ll always register for promotions because you never know when your plans will change. And the promotions they send you can really add up.

For example, Great Wolf Lodge regularly emails promotions offering 30% to 40% discounts for their hotel and water park. To stack that discount, take the promo code that they email you, then call your Citi Prestige Concierge and have them book your reservation using that promo code. Now you’re saving 30% to 40% on your daily rate PLUS your 4th night is free!

Conference and Corporate Discount Codes

If you’re attending a conference or if the company you work for has a relationship with the hotel of your choice, there will most likely be a discount code you can use when booking your reservation. These discount codes can add up to serious savings during your stay.

Another option is to use AAA or AARP discount codes when researching hotel rates. AAA membership offers a lot of benefits to the regular traveler. AARP membership is open to everyone, regardless of age, and you’ll probably save more than the membership fee of $16 the first time you use a discount code.

Which Credit Card Is Best for You?

For the first year, it is hard to beat the 3% cash back from the Discover it Miles card. With no annual fee and no cap on earnings, you have the opportunity to earn a lot of cash back to pay for your upcoming vacations.

On an ongoing basis, the Capital One Venture card would be my favorite credit card dedicated to booking flights and hotel reservations. It earns 2% toward travel on every purchase and the points are incredibly easy to redeem.

What’s your favorite tip to save money at hotels that aren’t part of a big chain?