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Many hotel co-brand credit cards offer a free night each year so that you make the decision to keep the card in your wallet. But programs that cap the value of those nights undermine that objective.
Both the Hyatt and Marriott credit cards offer annual free nights… that are capped in category. You can redeem them at hotels in category one through four. That means it is a benefit that gets less and less valuable year after year.
Hotel chains increase the number of points required by:
- adding new higher redemption categories
- moving hotels upward from one category to one that requires more points.
With Marriott there has been so much upward shifting of hotels into higher categories I would be hard pressed to use a category 5 night.
The category 4 and 5 caps need to be indexed. At Hyatt it needs to go up to category 5. At Marriott to 6 at least.
In contrast the annual free night benefit on the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card is a free weekend night after $10,000 spend at almost any Hilton property in the world. (And the card, which gives you Hilton HHonors Gold status, also has a limited-time offer right now of a $100 statement credit when you spend $100+ on your first Hilton stay within 3 months of account opening.)
The best annual free night belongs to the IHG Rewards Club card. It is a free night at any participating property any day reward nights are available, just for having the card. That is a winner, and while I don’t love the earn on the card it makes the card worth keeping year after year.