Plan your hotel credit card applications for free nights

Even if you travel infrequently, there are many reasons why you should get a hotel credit card with your favorite brand. Although there are no-annual-fee hotel credit cards, you’ll usually get more value from hotel credit cards that come with an annual free night. After all, the annual free night can potentially provide significantly more value than the card’s annual fee each year.

But if you plan to use the free night to stay at a hotel you wouldn’t otherwise splurge on and want to stay more than just one night, it’s useful to have multiple free nights. So, whether you plan to get multiple hotel credit cards with free nights or prefer to get a travel companion to sign up for the same card and join you on your trip, you’ll want to plan your credit card applications carefully.

Related: The 12 best Marriott beach hotels in the United States

Beach villa at Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa. KATIE GENTER/THE POINTS GUY

When you apply for a card with an annual free night, it usually comes shortly after your account anniversary. So, if you time your applications carefully, you could get multiple free nights around the same time each year with similar expiration windows (generally 12 months from the date of issuance). The longer these overlap, the more time you have to combine them at a single property rather than being forced to use them for multiple one-night stays.

My husband and I used three Hilton free night certificates at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island in 2021 and two at the Hilton Maldives Amingiri Resort & Spa earlier this year. It wouldn’t have made sense to use just one free night at either Maldives resort, and even standard award nights are expensive at these properties if you redeem Hilton Honors points. Hilton free night certificates are particularly valuable because you can use them at almost any Hilton property regardless of the award night cost as long as there’s standard award availability.

Related: Best Hilton hotels and resorts on the beach, from the US to the Maldives

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Beach villa at the Hilton Maldives Amingiri Resort & Spa. KATIE GENTER/THE POINTS GUY

Multiple Marriott Bonvoy credit cards also offer the ability to earn free night awards. So, even if you prefer solo travel, you could time your applications such that you earn multiple free night awards around the same time each year.

For example, suppose you have the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card. In that case, you’d get one free night valid for a one-night hotel stay at a property with a redemption level of up to 35,000 points after each card’s account anniversary (certain hotels have resort fees). We’ve used multiple Marriott free night awards for multinight stays at several hotels we wouldn’t have booked with cash, including Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa.

Finally, there’s the World of Hyatt Credit Card, which includes a free night valid at Category 1-4 properties upon renewal. You can also earn another one when you spend $15,000 in a calendar year. If you time your purchases on the card to hit the $15,000 mark around your cardmember anniversary, your free nights can be combined for a two-night stay.

Related: Why I aim to spend $15K on my World of Hyatt Credit Card each year

Many hotel credit cards with annual fees under $100 offer an annual free night, so consider the hotel credit cards you already have before applying for a new card. Or, find your favorite travel companion and either apply for new cards at the same time or send them a link to your favorite hotel credit card the next time your annual fee comes due. Either way, you’ll enjoy having multiple free night awards with similar expiration dates as you plan trips for years to come.

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