How to Stay for Free in Hotels: Hotel Rewards Basics

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Published on September 24, 2019 by Chris

Many people ask me how I can afford to travel so much, and the answer is I stay in hotels for free by redeeming hotel rewards points. While many people focus on Airline miles, hotel programs and hotel points are often overlooked by infrequent travelers. Hotels can be a really expensive part of your trip. We just spent 7 nights in London at a Renaissance by Marriott hotel all on points. It would have been 400 pounds per night otherwise! In this video I’ll share with you how to maximize the number of points you earn so you can stay in more hotels for free!

1 – Major Rewards Programs

2 – Hotel Rewards Programs Basics

Simply: Earn points… get free hotel room nights.

Generally you earn points based on room spend. But also from credit cards.

When you redeem points the rooms are generally in “categories” that roughly equate to price and popularity.

But so much more!

Elite Status: Free breakfast, room upgrades, early check in, late check-out, and more!
Higher elite status, the more points you earn.

Elite status is typically based on nights stayed per year. But can also have a dollar threshold.

3 – Earning points

By staying at hotels:
Some amount of points per dollar spent per stay
Usually also applies to food and other resort services
Typically doesn’t apply to parking
And definitely not tax

Tips: Look for promotions, globally, and at the hotel
Marriott does a promotion every quarter
Megabonus… extra points after 5 stays… double points on all stays

With Credit Cards:
The easiest way
Either the hotel cards
Or cards that transfer to the hotel, like the Chase Sapphire card.
Sign-up Bonus, and spend to earn points.
Referral bonus too.

One of my favorite ways is with the Chase Sapphire Preferred: https://youtu.be/93dYBPE976w

Shopping Portals:
Only Choice and Wyndham

4 – Redeeming Points

From the hotel website, usually a little box to search for points.

Always check what the cash rate is first. It might not make sense to redeem points.

Usually the highest category hotels aren’t worth it. Useful to google the value of a point.
Pay attention to Peak & Off-Peak. Search random dates, see if the rates fluctuate.

Find the sweet spot for your program… Marriott you get the 5th night free.

Not all rooms and all days. Just “standard” rooms. Watch out for “premium rooms” or “upgraded rooms”

Sometimes minimum night stays… Andaz in Maui can be 5-7 nights

You can often use points to “upgrade” to a suite, or club level room.

Redeem points for a “travel package” — Marriott offers a 7-night stay in cat 1-4 and 50,000 airline miles starting at 255,000 points.

DO NOT redeem points for merchandise… that’s always a bad deal.

5 – Elite Status

Typically based on number of nights stayed per year.

You can often get low to mid-tier status via credit cards. Or even high tier status with some credit cards with high annual fees. Amex Hilton Aspire for $450 annual fee gets Hilton Diamond.

Credit card spend can also earn nights toward elite status.

Benefits:

Extra points per dollar spent. Marriott titanium has a 75% bonus.
Room upgrades
Suite Upgrades
Free Breakfast
Not all created equal.. Contintental, to full cooked to order breakfast
Lounge Access
Welcome Gift
Late Check-out
Early Check-in

Lifetime Elite Status

Shortcuts to elite status — status matches

6 – Promotions

Sign-up or the promotions for every hotel chain you regularly stay in… if you wait you’ll forget.

Sometimes promotions are for more points, other times they are for free nights.

You can also get free nights from some credit cards. Marriott & Hyatt cards give you free nights just for holding the cards.

7 – Pro Tips

Don’t treat your hotel points like a real currency. Earn and burn. Hotels constantly devalue their points.

Book early with points… points rooms often fill up quick… and typically there’s no penalty for canceling/changing points reservations up to a couple days before your stay.

Use Awardwallet to track your points. Sign up here: https://awardwallet.com/?refCode=hnumfhtwyz

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