Free Hotel Night Certificates – Anniversary Gifts from Credit Cards

Numerous credit cards offer a gift for your card anniversary. Some of those gifts are more flexible than others, but it really depends on the card. Two credit cards I have which offer 1 free night certificate are the Hyatt and IHG credit cards from Chase. However, these certificates are not equal, aside from being for different hotel groups.

The certificate from Hyatt allows for 1 night at any hotel from Categories 1-4, versus the sign-up bonus of 2 nights at any hotel (even the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome). IHG, on the other hand, allows any hotel, regardless of Category level.

What doesn’t make sense with this difference is the annual fee for the IHG credit card is about half that of the Hyatt card.

My anniversary certificates posted to my accounts earlier this year and they came in handy during my vacation to Europe. I used my Hyatt cert at the Hyatt Regency Cologne which was an exception hotel and room.

For IHG, I booked a night at a Holiday Inn Express in Queens for the night between landing in JFK and leaving from LGA to go home.

What to do When Annual Fees Post

Many credit cards with annual fees waive the annual fee the first twelve months. Twelve months have passed since I got my first credit cards with an annual fees (AFs) so my twelve months of waived annual fees have ended. This means I have to decide what to do with these cards.

My three options are:

  1. Cancel the card and not pay the annual fee;
  2. Keep the card and pay the annual fee; or
  3. Keep the card, but product change the card to a no-AF version

Keeping a budget for the entire year has meant I budgeted enough money each month to be able to pay any annual fees (AF) once it came time to pay up. However, a year of use has helped me learn more about my spending habits, and how much I value each of the cards I have acquired.

So what am I doing with these cards?

The biggest reason I’m okay with signing up for credit cards is knowing I am building credit history, so I prioritize options 2 and 3 from above.

Now, I could cancel all of my cards and the accounts would continue to increase my Age of Credit History for 10 years until they fall off my credit report (10 years from now), but I’d rather keep them forever and have 30+ year old accounts. Plus, keeping as many accounts open helps me build a relationship with banks.

Product Changing

I wrote about flying to Hawaii using points from the United MileagePlus Explorer card and flying to the east coast to visit family using American Airlines miles from the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card last year. And I decided to product change these two cards instead of canceling or paying the AFs.

By product changing (PCing) these cards within 30 days of the AF posting, the $95 annual fees were refunded to my accounts. If the cards did not have fee-free versions, I would have canceled the cards and still been refunded the annual fees.

Canceling

Another card mentioned in the post about flying to Hawaii was the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card. I am still unsure of what to do with this card because it offers good category bonuses, but I’m not sure if I would benefit from earning Membership Reward points since I don’t spend enough to accumulate enough for a full trip. Fortunately, I have a couple more months to decide whether I will cancel the card or pay the AF.

A third card I used during my Hawaii trip was the Barclaycard ArrivalPlus. This card allowed me to redeem points to zero out the cost of the GoCity Card I bought to hit all the tourist attractions. These points are very flexible, but the ArrivalPlus requires a minimum of 10,000 points ($100) to redeem against a travel expense. I could have changed the card to the no-AF version, but I had too much trouble with the card so I ended up canceling it.

Keeping and Paying the Annual Fee

At the other end of the spectrum, I am planning to keep the Hyatt and IHG credit cards from Chase and pay the annual fees because I get a free 1-night stay from each card every anniversary. The Hyatt certificate restricts use to category 1-4 hotels. However, the IHG annual certificate has no restrictions on hotel categories, so I could spend the night in Times Square for the $49 annual fee on the card.

A (Hypothetical) Weekend in Seattle

I want to visit Seattle for a variety of reasons, a small one being the chance to visit The Centurion Studio at the SEA airport on my flight out. Since I have Hyatt, IHG, and Hilton credit cards I wanted to find out which hotel I would earn the most points from.

All 3 hotels offer their lowest redemption at 5,000 points, but the number of hotels at the bottom tier and availability to book these rooms is where there is going to be a difference. Regardless, let me look at how many points I can earn during a weekend visit to Seattle.

First, I’ll look at Hilton.

Earning Hilton Points

Most Hilton properties earn 10 points/$ on room rates and other charges, Hampton Inn & Homewood Suites only earn those points on the room rate. I don’t expect to use the room phone or get room service so these exceptions don’t bother me.

10x points on the room rate, plus another 50% for being Diamond (15% for Silver, 25% Gold) brings me up to 15 points/$. Choosing to earn Points + Points gets another 5 points/$ on room rate bringing my total up to 20 points/$. Adding in my American Express Hilton HHonors card means my final points earning up to 27x + 1,000 bonus points (Silver is 23.5x, Gold is 24.5x) by choosing my welcome amenity as Points. I could book a 2x points package and increase this up to 37x, throw in a promotion or Hilton card with an annual fee and I could easily break 40 points/$.

There’s a Homewood Suites for $170/night, which means a 2 night stay would net me 10,180 HHonors points, enough for 2 nights at a Category 1 hotel or 1 night at a Category 2 hotel.

Hyatt Earnings

Hyatt stays earn 5 points/$ on the room rate.  Being Platinum from the Hyatt credit card gives me a bonus of 15%, and owning the credit card earns 3x points/$. This brings the total to 8.75 points/$ on the room rate.

Hyatt has either the Grand Hyatt or the Hyatt Place for $198/night bringing my points earned to 3465. This would be 1535 points shy of earning 1 night stay at the lowest category hotel from this weekend visit.

Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG)

Last but not least, IHG. Like Hilton, IHG stays earn 10x points and my status of Platinum from the IHG credit card gives me a 50% bonus for 15 points/$. The IHG credit card also earns 5x points at IHG properties bringing the total points earned to 20 points/$, just shy of the 27x points I would earn at Hilton.

Staying at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites would cost $147/night and I would end up earning 5880 points, enough for 1 night stay in a Points Break hotel stay.

Final Decision

Let me recap:

  • Hilton
    • 27 points/$ as Diamond with the no-annual fee Amex HHonors credit card
    • 10,180 HHonors points from 2 nights in the Homewood Suites
  • Hyatt
    • 8.75 points/$ w/ Platinum and Hyatt credit card
    • 3,465 Gold Passport points for 2 nights in a Grand Hyatt or Hyatt Place
  • IHG
    • 20 points/$ with Platinum and the IHG credit card
    • 5,880 IHG points from 2 nights at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites

IHG wins this time around because I am just shy of 90,000 IHG points so a trip to Seattle would get me up to and over 90,000 points. I have plans for using my IHG points, whereas I have no plans for my Hilton points in the near future which makes IHG points more valuable at this time.