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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.

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards

The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card offers cash back on every purchase and a 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers. Plus there’s a sign-up bonus, which is a nice boost to your travel fund.

Chase Freedom

The Chase Freedom 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 high cash back on your purchases.

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 lucrative sign-up bonus and the ability to earn points on every purchase.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 cash back from the Chase Freedom 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 cash back 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?

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