Getting 3+ Nights at High End Properties From a Single Credit Card Sign up Bonus
Updated: Jan 6, 2022
While it's possible to book free nights at properties that cost many more points than category 1 properties, which are the lowest tier of properties, you'll find that there are many well rated options even among category 1. By focusing on category 1 here, it's beneficial for anyone who has a low travel budget, wants to travel for awhile, and wants to stay at some decent to nice properties.
Sometimes, you can get a number of nights for a relatively small spending requirement on a credit card at a higher tier property, like the 5 free nights up to 50k points each with Marriott after spending $5k within 3 months of signing up, but deals like that one aren't always available. While I took advantage of that one, and still haven't redeemed the nights, that deal isn't going any more at the moment & was the highest option ever for that card.
(my free night certificates available at the moment, most of which are from the 5 50k certificates received from the sign up bonus; Image courtesy Marriott.com)
As a point of comparison, the Marriott chart has category 1 standard rooms at 7500 points:
With 50000 points being enough for an off peak category 7 property, that's enough for some rooms that would go for >$800/night, like these examples:
Even at the 35k level, there are still strong options for getting high value, like this one:
Images above courtesy Marriott.com
The Ritz Carlton Tysons Corner, a drivable destination for me, in the DC area, is also category 5 where standard season runs at only 35k points per night, while I've seen $ rates over $600/night. I've stayed there with 35k free night certificates & am definitely a fan. That said, keep in mind that with Ritz properties, status doesn't go as far, and since I have platinum status at this point, I'd prefer to avoid Ritz's for now, with other luxury brands like St. Regis & J.W. Marriott being a better alternative due to their solid treatment of those with status.
Chase Ultimate Rewards has a number of cards with current sign up bonuses that could get you 3-5 nights at lux properties, mentioned in more detail in my hotel points basics post. When I took advantage of the Chase Sapphire Reserve's sign up bonus, it was for 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards. It's never been higher than it was then.
The Citi Premier's 80k bonus after spending $4k in the first 3 months can be transferred 1:2 to Choice hotels for 160k points. With properties starting at 8k points/night, that's up to 20 nights at Choice Hotels. It carries a $95 annual fee with great options to downgrade to no annual fee cards if you are not getting value from it after the 1st year.
While there are many other possibilities, those are just a few that are strong options for helping your stay at hotels. Other strong possibilities include:
1. The Venture X (currently a 100k sign up bonus after meeting minimum spending, which could be transferred to hotel partners including Wyndham at a 1:1 ratio or typically more lucrative airline partners)
2. The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless (3 free night awards up to 50k points each after meeting minimum spending requirements)
3. The IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (125k points + a free night up to 40k points after spending $3k on purchases in the first 3 months, as well as every 4th reward night free by holding the card)
4. The Hilton Honor Surpass (130k pts after spending $2k in first 3 months w/ option for even higher bonus)
For more points, there are some very high end properties going for a high value per point that are within easy reach with credit card sign up/spending bonuses, like this one in CA for 9.1 cents per Chase Ultimate Reward (TPG valuation of Chase UR is only 2 cents per point) when transferred at a 1:1 ratio to Hyatt:
With that example, you could get the Chase Sapphire Preferred's 60k bonus points after spending $4k in the first 3 months on things that you would already be spending on (i.e. gas, utilities, property taxes, groceries, business expenses, etc.), and get more then $4k in value from the fact that you were holding onto that credit card and using it for those expenses while doing it. There are other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards you could add to the equation or you and your spouse or partner could both get the same cards if you wanted more than just 2 nights. I have around 10 credit cards with Chase and my wife has around 4.
The brand within the hotel group is something that I typically didn't weed out, with the notable exception of China, where I weeded out over 500 low-end to mid-tier Wyndham properties based on the brand. It's also important to note that the further the dollar can go in a country, the nicer the hotel possibilities are for a low # of points. The dollar can go farther in Russia than it can in Western Europe, & further in Vietnam than it can in Russia. Also, hotels in the middle of densely populated cities in the same country are typically going to go for more than hotels in more rural locations.
In this map, I am defining category 1 properties as:
Choice Hotels 8k-12k (starting prices, limited cities added, but the 2nd most hotels on this chart of any other brand)
Hyatt Category 1 (3500-6500/night; $+ points are rarely effective, with some exceptions)
Hilton 5k-15k (starting prices, and often dependent on the season; limited, but likely most cities added)
IHG hotels 5k-15k (starting prices, and often dependent on the season; limited cities added, but the most hotels on this chart of any other brand)
Marriott Category 1 as of 12/21 (4000-10000 points per night, although the award chart is planned to be removed in 2022; for $+points rates, the cost is $55 + 1500-4500 pts per night)
Radisson Category 1 (10k-15k/night, with reduced rates mostly limited to the night of to around 2 months out)
Wyndham Category 1 (7500/night $+points stays are more often effective than Hyatt, though typically ineffective)
Especially if you want to use IHG & Choice hotels points, it's important to note that there are hundreds if not thousands of category 1 additional properties not currently on this map among those 2 brands alone.
Keep in mind that these change over time and that I will not be able to keep up with the changes due to my other work and the limited use by others of this map.
Ways to reduce the # of points above:
If you have the Wyndham Business Earner card, you get a 10% reduction on the number of points required on points only stays.
If you have the (discontinued) IHG legacy annual fee incurring card & the current highest annual fee incurring card, you can stack a 10% rebate on points from the legacy card with the 4th night free on points with the current card.
Marriott & Hilton provides 5th nights free on points for every 5 nights in a row (i.e. 5, 10 or 15 nights), although to get that with Hilton, you need some form of status, but even their no annual fee variety credit card provides silver status.
Some properties are better than others about not charging fees. Marriott will sometimes pass fees on, like resort fees, even on a fully points stay. Typically if a hotel charges for parking on a typical stay, it will pass onto you unless you have status to eliminate that (only available w certain brands like Hyatt for globalists and guests of honor).
Some brands within hotel brands are better than others about providing free meals. Typically if anything is provided, it's breakfast. There are some exceptions though. For instance, in Northern Europe, many Choice Hotels brand Clarion Collection hotels provide both complimentary breakfast and dinner. Status also can help you attain breakfast and in some cases in properties with club lounges, other meals.
2+ bedroom suites:
Some Choice properties have 2-3 bedroom suites bookable at the same rate as a 1 bedroom. I am not aware of any tier 1 properties where that's available, but I wouldn't rule it out). With 2+ bedroom suites with Wyndham, you pay per bedroom.
Ways to attain higher value:
There are many credit cards that can provide status, whether by holding onto the card itself or after meeting a certain spending threshold. Status benefits vary by brand, but can include free club lounge access at certain brands within the hotel group (i.e. Hilton Diamond, Marriott Platinum or Hyatt Globalist), free breakfast when the hotel typically doesn't provide it, upgrades up to standard suites at certain brands within the hotel group (i.e. Hyatt Globalist, Marriott Platinum or higher, Hilton Diamond, etc.), etc.
One of the easiest paths to status is the Wyndham Business Earner card, which provides free Diamond status, 15k points per year, an excellent earning structure, & has an annual fee of only $95/yr.
Keep in mind that #'s mentioned above and offerings are current as of the date of this publication but it is still best to consult the hotel and issuing bank websites for the most up to date information.