Hotel Rewards Cards for People Who Hate Hotels

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Hotel credit cards let you earn points for free hotel stays, room upgrades, and more. With the right card, you could even book a week-long vacation without paying a single cent out of your own pocket, which is pretty amazing if you ask me.

Unfortunately, there is a catch. Like it or not, the points you earn through hotel cards can be extremely difficult to use. Not only do you have to search for “award availability” to book a free room, but you may also need to navigate other exclusions or jump through additional hoops along the way.

Plus, hotel points are generally only good for staying at one specific hotel chain – or a number of properties that fall under one hotel group. And, what if you don’t happen to like any of them? Or, what if you want to stay in a specific destination, and your hotel card doesn’t have any properties there?

And finally, what if you just hate hotels and would rather stay in a condo, beach house, or vacation rental apartment – or camp out under the stars in the most beautiful outdoor spot you can find?

In that case, you could end up stuck with a whole lot of hotel points you can’t use. The crazy thing is, this actually happens all the time.

Hotel Cards for People Who Hate Hotels

At the end of the day, hotel cards are perfect for people who are loyal to a specific hotel brand and extremely flexible as far as dates go — but not that great for everyone else.

hotel hallway

If you find the monotonous sterility of a chain hotel a bit depressing, you can use rewards points to book local vacation rentals, bed and breakfasts, or campgrounds. Photo: Hernán Piñera

Fortunately, a handful of flexible cards offer rewards you can use to break up the monotony and stay any crazy place you can dream up. Here are a few travel cards that could easily be used as hotel cards if you know how to use the perks:

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® doles out points that are redeemable for any type of travel, including hotel stays, motel stays, certain types of rental condos, train tickets, and more. With this card, you’ll earn two points per dollar spent on all purchases, plus an epic signup bonus worth a ton of free travel on its own.

The best part about this card’s rewards is that you don’t have to commit to a specific hotel chain or loyalty program. Simply sign up for the card and redeem your points for any type of travel – even travel booked through sites like Expedia or Travelocity. Better yet, the $89 annual fee is waived the first year, meaning you can check out the rewards for a full 12 months before making a commitment.

And yes, you can totally use the “miles” earned with this card to book alternative lodging options through Airbnb, campgrounds, and more. If you’re interested, here are some additional details to ponder:

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®


  • Enjoy 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days - that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made while traveling abroad
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 17.24%, 21.24% or 24.24%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • There is a fee for balance transfers.

Capital One® Venture℠ Rewards Credit Card

Much like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® mentioned above, the Capital One® Venture℠ Rewards Credit Card lets you earn flexible travel credit without a commitment. You’ll also earn an unlimited two miles per dollar spent on all purchases – and all without keeping track of special categories or rotating bonuses.

Fly with any airline and stay in any hotel or lodging option of your choosing – and do it all without worrying about blackout dates or exclusions. Simply shop around for the best price and book the hotel, motel, condo, or vacation rental that fits your travel goals – even if your travel goals involve getting as far away from hotels as possible. It’s as simple as that. Better yet, this card also comes with a signup bonus that can help you get started.

And if you’re not a fan of traditional lodging options like hotels and motels, this card will put you in a good spot. As long as your purchase is coded as “travel,” you can use Capital One’s “purchase eraser” to redeem your points – paying off your HomeAway vacation rental or bed and breakfast stay. That means you can use your points for a broader range of options than you’d be able to with a traditional hotel card, and that you’ll ultimately have more flexibility.

More details:

Capital One® Venture℠ Rewards Credit Card


  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • New! Earn unlimited 10x miles on hotels when you pay with your Venture card at
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Consistently applauded as the nation’s top rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers utmost flexibility. Cardholders earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. Further, the points you earn belong in the valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards program, which means you can use them to book any hotel or lodging option at a 20% discount, transfer them to a slew of popular hotel and airline loyalty programs, or redeem them for straight-up cash back at one cent apiece.

And since it’s easy to redeem Chase points for cash back, you can use them for any travel scenario you can dream up. Use your points to pay for a tent and camping space for a week this summer, or rent a Winnebago and criss-cross the country. With cash back, the options are virtually limitless.

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®
  • 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 airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises 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

Final Thoughts

While these cards make it easy to use your points to stay off the beaten path, plenty of other cards will do the trick as well. American Express now has a partnership with Airbnb, for example, which means you can use your Membership Rewards points to book directly on the site.

And any regular ol’ cash-back card will work for flexible lodging options as well. Because, with cash back, you can book anything you want – with no worry of exclusions, “award availability,” or fine print.

At the end of the day, the right rewards credit card will be different for everyone. But if you absolutely abhor hotels, it’s good to know there are plenty of other options to consider to score free lodging on your next trip. You may just need to think outside the box.

Have you ever had a hotel credit card? Or, do you prefer flexible rewards?

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