How to Earn Free Hotel Rooms - picture of back of couple with rolling suitcases entering front doors of hotel
Budget Travel

How to Earn Free Hotel Rooms

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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 Premier 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 80,000 point signup bonus for spending just $2,000 in the first 3 months. You’ll also earn 10X 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 $89, 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 80,000 bonus points just for signing up and spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. That translates into $1,000 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. There is a $95 annual fee, but we still think 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? Compare more of the best travel rewards cards here!

Take Advantage of “Best Price Guarantees”

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. (Editor’s note: This card is no longer available.) 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!

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23 Comments

  1. A lot of people forget how quickly hotel rooms add up! I know I was guilty of this when I was constantly working toward the Southwest Companion Pass. Finally sticking with one hotel chain helped me start racking up points for a free place to stay on my trips, too!

    1. Yeah, if you really like a certain hotel brand, loyalty programs for that particular brand are great! That’s especially true if work sends you out of town a lot to the same hotels or if you don’t have a ton of points from somewhere else that transfer. We tend to carry a ton of flexible rewards points, so we bounce around from brand to brand. But for somebody with brand loyalty, those programs are fantastic!

  2. Thanks for the info, Greg. Is it possible for me to use a co-branded CC to book a room through hotels.com (I use their loyalty program) and then upon check-in at the hotel present my loyalty program number?

    It’s kind of like double dipping I suppose, but I’ve heard that you can also get more loyalty points by booking directly through the hotel’s website?

    1. Great question Ty! Generally speaking, you can’t earn free hotel rooms or loyalty points when you book through third-party sites like Expedia. You may be able to add your loyalty number to get certain upgrades and statuses, but generally you don’t get points credit for the stay.

      You can, however, book through the hotel with your card and get additional points per dollar spent. For instance, the IHG Rewards Club Select card offers 5X points per dollars spent at IHG hotels. You could also use a flexible card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and get 2X points.

      Hope that helps!

  3. I love this info! I am so bad at focusing on hotel stays. I direct more of my energy towards flights. No reason to not do both! I’ll be bookmarking this and revisiting this week 🙂

    1. Glad to help! Flights and hotels are both important. They are almost always the two biggest costs associated with travel, so it make sense to try and find breaks in both places.

      1. Actually I’m the opposite! I often focus on hotel stays because for some reason, I often find that when I try to redeem points for flights, they often require a layover. I wouldn’t mind if I didn’t have a toddler in tow but who wants a 3 hour flight turned into a 6 hour flight? And with another on the way, we might focus more on road trips so the free hotel stays will be a great plus.

        1. Yeah, layovers can be a pain, but they are usually dependent upon where you’re leaving from and where you plan to go. On the other hand, free hotel rooms are great whether you’re driving or flying. So, if you can get there by car, you’ll save even more with a free night 🙂

  4. These are all great tips! While we hardly ever pay for hotels now that we RV full-time, sometimes the occasion does come up.

  5. We do a fair number of these things for our traveling to get free, or greatly reduced, rooms. We do the multiple stays trick a lot when we travel to stretch the savings even further. Hotel stays can really add up quickly, so there’s no sense to not try a few of these to maximize your travel budget.

    1. Yeah, booking multiple stays can be a pain, but it certainly pays off. If you’re staying for 5 nights and can get 2 free, you’ve just saved around 40%! That adds up fast!

  6. These are very valuable tips since hotel stays are one of the most expensive parts of traveling. I have the IHG Rewards card and my husband and I used it to book out honeymoon, only the offer was for 65,000 bonus points at the time. I think it’s best to plan your trips in advance as much as possible if you can because it’s nice to be able to wait until a really good offer presents itself.

    1. Definitely! Planning ahead is a great way to save money on all types of travel expenses.

  7. We don’t stay in hotels much, except when I go to FinCon and Tim for a night or two while he’s visiting friends in Seattle each year. So I like the Sapphire card, since we can choose to use them for hotels or airfare or rental cars — or some combination thereof. But Revanche was just extolling the virtues of her Starwoods credit card, which gets her great benefits despite the annual fee, so hotel credit cards are definitely great for some people!

    1. The SPG card is another good option for co-branded hotel cards. We’ve carried that card before and have redeemed points all over the world, including our trip to London!

  8. Aside from IHG, I also love the Chase Hyatt card that gives you two free nights at any Hyatt hotel on your first year (after the spending requirement), and then you get one free night per year at any Category 4 ( or lower) Hyatt hotel after that. This card, however, has an annual fee of $75 (waived on the first year), but it’s totally worth it if you ask me. These credit card rewards work even better if you have a spouse/partner that can get the same card, and double the free nights.

    1. Yeah, there are a lot of good branded cards out there – most of them with some sort of free room upgrade. Unfortunately, I didn’t have room to mention them all. You’re right on the spousal benefit, though. We sign up for the same cards often and combine those points or free nights.

  9. No. And, I think I will be able to get free hotel rooms after I read your post, Greg. Simple strategies but they can enable me to get such privileges.

  10. This has got me thinking what opportunities are available in Canada. I’m just getting into the whole idea of travel hacking. Love this post. Thanks for opening my eyes to this opportunity!

  11. I went to easy click travel to get the comparison between them and expedia but I can’t find it anywhere. How do you get the nice little comparison example that you shared?

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