Sometimes, in between all the number crunching and efforts to build a super-efficient points portfolio, a little simplicity is a breath of fresh air. That’s why hotel credit cards–the type that offer free anniversary nights–are some of my favorite deals. In fact, next month my wife and I will be heading out to Albuquerque for the first time, using free anniversary nights as part of our trip.
Note: this article makes reference to an old American Express credit card product that is no longer available.
While these cards have annual fees, they pay for themselves quickly, and provide a nice, simple perk that you can easily plan a vacation or weekend getaway around each year. Today, I’ll explain why I like these cards, and share an example of a card that offers this type of deal. If you want, you can jump to the card I’m talking about here.
So first off, keep in mind that all hotel cards don’t work this way, but some do. If you want to get a sense of which deals are currently available, check out our hotel cards page. But in general, cards with the free anniversary night usually work like this:
- Pretty standard minimum spending requirement (a few thousand dollars in the first three months)
- Generous bonus so you can take a trip right away, often at the finest properties in the chain
- Reasonable annual fee
- Free night each year (or sometimes only after the first year), which is eligible for a specific list of properties
A Few Reasons to Love these Cards
Again, I love these cards for a variety of reasons, but if I had to summarize it–I’d say that they provide a nice package of convenience, predictability, and value. But here are some more specifics:
1) They pay for themselves quickly.
Lots of folks don’t like annual fees, but these cards pay for themselves very quickly. If the annual fee is waived the first year, then you’re getting an even more insanely valuable sign up bonus/welcome offer (see below). But even if you ignore the bonus and include the annual fee, for a very brief thought experiment, the math is pretty simple. You’ll be paying less than $100 in an annual fee, and most likely getting a free night that’s worth more than double.
In fact, you could conceivably use your free night to get a room worth around $1,000. If you made the night part of a bigger trip to, say, a resort abroad you might find huge value. But even at higher-end domestic properties, chances are you’ll book a room of $200-$300+, which means you’re still getting an incredible deal.
2) The welcome offers are amazing, especially with a spouse.
While I really love the perk of anniversary nights, even the initial welcome offers are generous. If you and your partner can both take advantage, then even better. Let’s imagine that you and your spouse both open the
Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express under its current promotion of 100,000 points. You’d have at least 218,000 Hilton points after meeting the minimum spend, which could literally be redeemed for 51 nights (43 nights redeemed at a cost of 5,000 points, plus 8 uses of “5th night free”). Of course, that’s assuming redemptions at a lower-end, category 1 property, but it’s still amazing to think how far you could stretch these points.
3) You can start a new tradition.
One fun thing about anniversary nights is that in some cases (
note: not with the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express), you receive them literally every single year. That means, like clockwork, you’ll be given a new free award night every 12 months. Especially if you’re coordinating with a spouse, or even if you’re going solo, this is a great way to plan for a new tradition. Find a new spot that you love to visit, and you can use this freebie to go back every year.
4) Or, mix it up.
On the other hand, maybe you like to go new places every chance you get. That’s another great perk with these cards. You can seek out properties in new destinations–cities or countries you’ve always wanted to visit–and plan your stay around your free nights.
Last year, my wife and I used an anniversary night to watch team USA play in the COPA America soccer tournament in Philadelphia. It was great to have the night in our back pocket.
5) They’re great for on-the-fly travel.
These nights can also be great for spontaneous travel. Maybe you get invited to a wedding out of town, or have some other spur-of-the-moment travel bug. Often, this is when you end up paying more out of pocket, because you haven’t had time to plan for using points. Again, these free nights can come in handy, assuming availability. I’ve booked several anniversary nights on less than 48-hour’s notice at nice properties, but your mileage may vary.
6) Other perks are included.
This will vary by program, but you’ll find that these cards often give you hotel status of some kind. This might mean that upgrades are easier to come by, or in the case of the Hilton Honors™ Surpass®, you’ll get free breakfast at some properties, plus you’ll be eligible for “5th night free.”
7) They’re low maintenance.
At the end of the day, this is a biggie. There’s not too much to keep up with once you know how your particular card(s) and program(s) works. Just remember to use your awards before they expire, and that’s pretty much it!
This card is no longer available.
One card that gets you a generous welcome offer plus a free night is the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express. Here are some details:
- Receive a free weekend night award after your first anniversary
- Earn 12x points on purchases at Hilton properties; earn 6x points for purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas station; Earn 3x on all other purchases
- Get automatic gold status which includes free breakfast at some properties, 5th night free (on award bookings of 5 consecutive nights or more, up to 20), and free upgrades when available
The points on this card can be stretch a long ways at low-tier properties. And, of course, there are many luxury properties where you might use your points and awards instead. When you factor in the earnings potential, plus the perks like free breakfast, this card can be a solid option.
At the end of the day, cards with anniversary nights can offer great value. What do you think? Do you have a favorite hotel card?
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