While most people think of credit card rewards as a way to pursue international travel on a budget, it’s important to note that the same programs offer plenty of opportunities for domestic travel as well. Even if you have no desire to travel outside of the U.S., you can find plenty of value all over the country — even within driving distance of your home.
And sometimes, that can be a huge relief. We all know how stressful flying a family of four or five across the country – or out of the country – can be. Not only do you have to pack essentials like passports, but you have to haul around suitcases, travel bags, and enough activities to keep everyone happy until who knows when.
Sometimes, traveling a little bit closer to home can solve those problems, which is the reason I decided to write this post on the best rewards credit cards for free hotel stays in the U.S. Not everyone has the desire to go on a huge international trip across the world; sometimes, a quiet trip to a local destination is all one needs to recharge and relax. In that spirit, here are a few of the best credit cards to score free hotel stays in the United States:
IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card
With hotels in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, the IHG Rewards program is perfect for anyone who wants to earn free nights within driving distance of their homes. The sign-up bonus from the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card alone can be worth as much as four free nights at InterContinental Hotel Group properties — which include Holiday Inns and other brands such as Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza, Candlewood Suites, and Staybridge Suites.
Even better, this card awards you with a free night at any InterContinental Hotel Group property each year of card membership. Browse properties in the U.S. by clicking here.
Please Note: IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card is currently unavailable through our site.
Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card
With over 5,700 locations, the Marriott Rewards® program offers the broadest range of options for free domestic hotel stays. From the mountains of Alaska to the white beaches of Marco Island, Florida, you are sure to find a property that will work within your point range and the dates you desire.
In addition to the sign-up bonus, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card also signing up gets you a free stay at a Category 1-5 property. You can browse every American Marriott property here if you want to get an idea of what’s available.
Please note: The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card is currently unavailable.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
With hundreds of properties across the U.S., the Starwood Preferred Guest® program offers immeasurable value for anyone interested in staying in some of the nation’s most interesting towns and cities. Personally, I am using points from the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express for free nights in Beaver Creek, Colo., and Denver this year. With redemption levels that start at only 2,000 points per night for Category 1 properties, plus extra perks like your fifth night free when you book with points and their Nights & Flights program, it’s easy to see why starpoints are one of the most valuable travel currencies out there.
Please Note: The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is currently unavailable.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Last but not least is what many people would call the best travel rewards card out there – the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. When it comes to hotel stays, this card offers the most flexibility in where you travel – and when. That’s because, unlike other hotel credit cards, the points you earn can be used to book travel at any hotel chain through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal – and with 25% more value and no fear of blackout dates or capacity controls.
Further, if you prefer a specific hotel loyalty program, Ultimate Rewards points transfer out to a ton of hotel programs including IHG, Marriott, Ritz Carlton, and Hyatt at a 1:1 transfer ratio. If you decide not to travel, you also have other options, including redeeming your points for cash back, gift cards, or merchandise.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Credit card rewards shouldn’t be just for aspirational, international travel; points also work extremely well for domestic travel, quick weekend getaways, and family vacations in all the beautiful destinations America has to offer. Meanwhile, the best rewards cards even offer hidden benefits that can further cut down on the costs of your vacation, including things like trip cancellation insurance, emergency travel assistance, primary auto rental coverage, and more.
To get the most out of them, you simply need to make sure you’re doing what you can to use credit responsibly – pay your bill in full each month, don’t use credit as an excuse to overspend, and never, ever pay interest or late fees.
Once you learn to master those skills, you’ll be on your way to earning free hotel stays — whether near home or across the country — in no time.
What’s your favorite rewards program for domestic travel? What’s your favorite hotel in the United States?
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