If you read some of the more popular travel blogs, you can find many ways to get free hotel nights. It seems that every blogger is looking for that aspirational redemption, using credit card reward points to stay in some of the most luxurious and expensive hotels in the world for pennies on the dollar. I certainly can appreciate that. After all, we recently returned from a visit to the Grand Hyatt Kauai.
However, most of us aren’t frequent travelers. We don’t have international trips planned every other month, and we don’t necessarily value luxury amenities like heated toilet seats and valet parking. In other words, we are looking for decent places to sleep that are close to our destination. We also don’t want to tip out the wazoo for someone to carry our bags and park our car. One of the workhorse hotel chains my family uses is the Choice hotel company. For those of you who are looking into free or reduced cost hotel stays, the Choice hotel credit card might be a good fit for your travel plans.
Choice Hotel Family
Choice hotels have a ton of properties all over the world. Their brand includes Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Clarion, Sleep Inn, Quality Inns and Suites, Cambria Suites, Mainstay Suites, Surburban, Econo Lodge, Rodeway Inn, and the higher end Ascent Collection. Just about any town that has a hotel probably has at least one of these choices. While they don’t scream luxury for the most part, there are some pretty decent properties in some handy places.
Jim had a few very early flights this past year out of Durango, which is an hour from our home. Instead of leaving at 3AM, he stayed at the Comfort Inn close to the airport for around $60 and also got to leave his car there, which saved $8/day in parking fees at the airport.
The other nice thing about Choice Hotels is that most of the properties we’ve stayed at offer free breakfast, free internet, have a pool, and some sort of fitness center. They aren’t fancy, but clean, comfortable, convenient, and affordable might as well be my middle names when it comes to hotel stays.
Why Get the Choice Hotel Credit Card?
The Choice Privileges Visa from Barclay is a pretty easy card to churn. There is no annual fee, and you get 8000 Choice points after your first purchase. Then, after one paid stay at a Choice Hotel in the United States, you get an additional 24,000 points for a total of 32,000 points.
The card offer is a bit misleading because it is made to sound like you get an additional 15 points per dollar spent at Choice properties, but you already get 10 points per dollar by being in the hotel’s loyalty program. The card offers an additional 5 points at most Choice hotels. It pays 2 points per dollar for all other purchases.
You also get Elite Gold status at Choice hotels, which really doesn’t offer much. It gives an extra 10% point bonus and the ability to book award stays 50 days out instead of the normal 30 days.
What can 32,000 Choice Points Get?
You could use the points for 4 nights at a budget property. The Clarion Hotel and Casino Near Las Vegas Strip or the Quality Inn and Suites Universal Studios Orlando look like outstanding redemptions.
Another great use of these points would be for hotels in expensive cities. We are planning a trip to Europe next summer and need a night in Boston before catching a flight. Boston is pretty expensive, with the Comfort Inns going for around $200 a night. There are also Choice properties in New York, San Francisco, London, Paris, and most European cities that can go for $200-$300 per night. With this card, we probably would only be able to get one night in an expensive city, but if Jim and I both got one, that’s 2 nights for free! If we get free breakfast too, that’s icing on the cake.
Combining Points With Cash Back For Travel
Another great way to use these points for an expensive hotel would be to get the free night from the Choice Visa, then use a card like the Barclay Arrival Mastercard, which gives $440 toward any travel expense after spending $3000 in the first three months after being approved for the card. That way, you could easily get three nights in almost any Choice property in the world for very low cost.
While Choice hotels might not be the luxury traveler’s dream, they do offer a decent product for budget minded travelers. Added perks like free breakfast and free internet at many of their properties make Choice hotels a good deal, especially when traveling with families. Because this card has no annual fee and gives the bonus points after one cheap hotel stay, the Choice Privileges Visa could be a good option if you need several nights at a budget hotel or one night in a really expensive city.
As with all credit cards, please don’t apply if you aren’t able to use them responsibly and pay off your balances in full each month. No bonus is worth going into debt!
How do you feel about budget hotel chains? Where would you use a free night in a hotel if you had one to burn?