Finding free hotel rooms might seem like an impossible task. You know they’re out there, you’ve heard how others use them, but you can’t figure out how to earn them for yourself. It might seem a bit like hunting for unicorns, and it can be frustrating for the traveler who can’t track them down.
Lucky for you, free hotel stays aren’t mysterious legends or figments of your imagination. They’re quite real, I promise you. You just need to know where to look.
I was once like you. I’d heard glorious tales of free nights in Paris and week long stays in the Caribbean. I searched high and low but still couldn’t understand how to take advantage of these ridiculous deals. “Surely these free hotel rooms must be a myth,” I rationalized, feeling my search was nothing more than an exercise in banging my head against a wall.
Then, it happened. I cracked the code and haven’t looked back.
Since that time, I’ve earned (and used) dozens of free and discounted hotel rooms all around the world. From free nights in London to Jamaica, I’ve found oodles of hotels just waiting to compete for my business. I’ve also learned that earning free hotel rooms isn’t that difficult. And, so you don’t have to go through the same frustrations I did, I’m here to help you learn some tricks of the trade. But, shhhhhhhhhh! Don’t tell your friends. It’s a secret!
4 Ways to Earn Free Hotel Rooms
Getting free hotel rooms isn’t impossible. You just have to know where to look. Here are 4 tips to get you started.
Join Hotel Loyalty Programs
Did you know that you can earn points toward free hotel rooms each time you stay at a major hotel? It’s true…and the points really work!
By joining hotel loyalty programs, you can earn points toward free hotels stays at hotels under the same brand anywhere in the world. Additionally, you may receive additional perks and upgrades – like free WiFi or upgraded rooms – once you reach certain levels. Since loyalty programs are almost always free to join, there’s no reason not to sign up.
Who It’s Good For: Hotel loyalty programs are great for people who prefer staying with a particular brand of hotels. If you’ve come to enjoy and expect certain amenities from your favorite hotel brands, it pays to sign up for their loyalty program. These programs are especially handy for frequent travelers, like those who travel regularly for business. Individual travelers can earn loyalty points for themselves even if their company is paying the bill.
Get a Co-Branded Credit Card
If you’re looking for an easy way to earn free hotel stays, look no further than co-branded hotel credit cards. These cards earn you bucket loads of points just for signing up while automatically enrolling you in the hotel’s loyalty program. Plus, you’ll almost always be considered a “preferred” member, entitling you to additional perks and benefits.
The IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card is one of our favorite co-branded cards. We’ve used the points to stay at several different hotels, including the Holiday Inn All-Inclusive Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. With the current offer, you’ll get a 60,000 point signup bonus for spending just $1,000 in the first 3 months. You’ll also earn 5X points per dollar spent at IHG Hotels; 2X points spent at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants; and 1X points on everything else. But that’s not even the best part! You’ll earn one free night at IHG hotels around the world every year you are a card member. There is an annual fee of $49, but it is waived the first year.
Who It’s Good For: Co-branded credit cards are a great way to earn free hotel rooms for anybody with good credit. These cards appeal to new clients and brand junkies alike. Co-branded cards are perfect for quickly earning lots of loyalty points to your favorite hotel chain. If you want to try a new chain, use the card to earn a bunch of points and book your first stay for free!
Use a Flexible Rewards Credit Card
Flexible rewards cards are another great way to earn points toward free hotel rooms. These cards work a little differently than co-branded cards. Rather than earning points and being locked in to using them with a particular hotel brand, flexible rewards credit cards allow you to earn points that can be transferred to multiple brands. You can even use them to book flights or (sometimes) redeem them for gift cards.
Our all-time favorite rewards card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Right now, you’ll get 50,000 bonus points just for signing up and spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. That translates into $500 in gift cards or $625 in travel credit when booked through the Chase portal. Plus, Chase Ultimate Rewards® Points are über flexible, transferring at a 1:1 ratio to top hotel loyalty programs like Hyatt, Marriott, IHG, and Ritz-Carlton. You can also transfer points to airline partners like United, Southwest, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and more. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year, so the card is a no-brainer if you’re looking to save on travel costs.
Feeling intimidated by using points or aren’t eligible for any more Chase cards? The Discover it® Miles Card is another good option. You won’t earn a giant signup bonus with this card, but you will earn big points for everyday spending. With the card, you’ll earn 1.5X miles per dollar spent. Even better, Discover doubles your miles at the end of your first year, so you’re effectively earning a 3X miles! And, you don’t have to worry about transferring points or blackout dates because since you simply redeem your miles for a travel statement credit. Learn More Here.
Who It’s Good For: Flexible rewards cards are a wonderful tool for any traveler. These cards can be used as a way to try several different hotel brands or act as a supplement to earn more points for the loyalty programs you already use. And, since you can redeem them for more than just hotels, what’s not to love?
Take Advantage of “Best Price Gurantees”
The internet has made shopping for cheap hotel rooms easier than ever. Dozens of websites are competing to bring you the best room rates and airfares available. Some are so confident in their ability to help you save, they guarantee you won’t find a better rate.
For example, take Expedia’s “Best Price Guarantee.” After booking a room through Expedia, you’ll get a $50 travel coupon if you find your room for cheaper up until 2 days before your stay. Plus, they’ll refund you the difference of the room. Just find a better rate a few times, pile up the $50 travel coupons, and you’ll have enough to get some free hotel stays!
Who It’s Good For: If you enjoy searching for cheap hotel rooms, you can use these rate guarantees to your benefit. I spend a lot of time researching the best rates because searching for free travel is a hobby of mine. If I’ve already booked a room, you better believe I’m claiming my gift card if I find a better rate!
Quick Tips for Getting More Free Hotel Stays
Now that you know the basics of earning free hotel rooms, here are a few quick tips for making your points go even further.
- Always use your loyalty number for paid stays. – If you’re a member of a hotel loyalty program, make sure to use your loyalty number each time you pay for a stay. This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget. Remember, the more money you spend, the more points you earn. Plus, you usually earn bonus points for spending at the hotel. This is also a great way to earn points for personal use while traveling for work and paying with the company dime.
- Shop through credit card portals to earn additional points. – You can earn additional points when you use credit card shopping portals. For example, use the Chase portal to do your Christmas shopping and earn extra Chase Ultimate Rewards® Points. Transfer those points to Chase partners – like Hyatt, IHG, and Marriott – to earn free hotel rooms.
- Take advantage of free nights by booking multiple “stays” on one trip. – Certain credit cards and loyalty programs offer free nights that can be added on to the end of your trip. Others offer free nights each year. Book multiple reservations on the same trip if you and a spouse both have free nights to burn. For instance, because Holly and I both have the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card, we each get a free night annually. So, if we make 2 separate – back-to-back – reservations for the same trip, we can get two nights free at the same hotel during the same visit.
- Always pay your balance on time. – If you choose to use a credit card rewards program to earn free hotel stays, make sure to pay your balance on time. Paying interest on the things you buy is going to cost you more than the free hotel rooms.
- Don’t spend more to meet spending requirements. – Don’t spend more than you otherwise would just to earn extra points or meet minimum spending requirements. Your goal is to get rooms for free, not spend more for a free room!
Getting Free Hotel Rooms
Earning free hotel rooms is a real thing, and it can happen to you! These days, you don’t have to blow thousands in a casino or know the owner to get comped. By taking advantage of the best rewards cards and loyalty programs, you too can earn free stays and see the world in style!
Have you ever earned free hotel rooms? How do you earn your free stays? Let us know in the comments below!