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There aren’t many more things to look forward to than a mini-break away. It could be even more exciting if you managed to get your hotel nights for free. If the thought of a free getaway sounds really appealing or just having to hand a collection of points big enough to surprise your partner or friend to a weekend away, then this article is just for you.
We’ll look at the best ways to stay for free at hotels within the UK and also how to earn free hotel nights worldwide.
Here are 11 ways to stay for free at hotels:
- Stay 10 nights at Hotels .com
- Take out the IHG Rewards Club Credit Card
- Redeem Avios Points for free hotel nights
- Take out the Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card
- Spend your Virgin Points at Virgin Hotels
- Join the IHG Intercontinental Ambassador Club
- Collect enough Avios with the BA Amex Premium Card
- Collect IHG Reward points with stays
- Take out the Virgin Atlantic Plus Card
- Upgrade your Barclays Premier account to a Barclays Avios account
- Convert Tesco Clubcard points for a free night with Hotels.com
We’ll explore each of these in a little more detail so you can see just how to take advantage of the tactic and how to book your free hotel night.
#1 Stay 10 Nights at Hotels.com For a Free Night
Although the Hotels .com free reward night program has been diluted in recent years, it’s still one of the better schemes on the market to collect free hotel nights. Stay 10 nights with bookings made on Hotels .com (you have to ensure you are logged in to your account when booking) and you’ll earn a free hotel night.
The value of your free night is equal to the average nightly spend for your previous ten night stays. This is all calculated for you within the Rewards section of your account. If the cost of the hotel you would like to stay in for your ‘free’ night is more than your reward value, you can simply put the extra costs towards it.
For example, if your reward night is for £140 but the hotel you would like to stay in costs £180 a night, you can simply pay the £40 difference in cash. However, if you choose to stay your free night in a hotel where the cost of the hotel room is less than the reward value, you lose the remaining amount.
For example, if your reward night has a value of £160 but the hotel you want to stay in only costs £110 – you lose the £50 additional credit remaining. It’s always best to use your reward night for a hotel room worth equal to or more than your reward night. Joining the Hotels.com reward program is absolutely free – and the best-recommended way to earn free hotel nights that can be redeemed worldwide.
Next step: Join the Hotels.com Rewards Programme
#2 Take out the IHG Rewards Club Credit Card
If your point collecting focus is directed towards hotel night redemptions, then the IHG Rewards Club Credit Card is definitely a card you should consider having in your purse or wallet. You’ll be rewarded with 10,000 IHG Reward points as a bonus if your application is successful – and you spend £200 on your card in the first three months.
10,000 IHG Rewards is just enough to exchange for a free hotel night in the lowest category number of hotels. If not, and you need more points for your stay, you could either collect more points by spending on your IHG card (1 point for every £1 spent), or you could put the 10,000 reward points towards a higher redemption category hotel and pay the difference in cash.
Your IHG Reward card also grants you an immediate Gold Elite status tier which gives you extended check-out until 2 pm each stay, as well as 10% more IHG points per stay than normal. You’d normally expect there to be an annual fee with the benefits on offer, but there’s no annual fee either. A bonus.
#3 Redeem Avios Points for Free Hotel Nights
If you are collecting Avios Points, or have been before we all went into lockdown, and have no immediate plans to use these for a flight, you could put them towards a free hotel night instead. We’ve found hotel redemptions for as low as 10,000 Avios Points, so shouldn’t take too long to be able to reach the level of a free hotel night.
There are lots of ways of building up your Avios Points through the BA Shopping Portal or even by automatically converting your Nectar Points to Avios (see tip #11). Once you have enough points simply log in to your BA Executive Club and look for the Avios Hotels link in the Hotels section. Search for a hotel using the location and date you wish to stay for an Avios Point quote for a free night.
Next step: Log in to your BA Executive Club to find out how many Avios Points you’ll need for your stay
#4 Take out the Marriott UK Amex Bonvoy Credit Card
If you prefer to stay at the Marriott chain of hotels, rather than the IHG chain of hotels, this credit card may be right up your street. Upon a successful application, you’re awarded 20,000 Bonvoy Points, as long as you spend £3,000 on your card within three months of your account opening.
This is enough for a free night at some of the Marriott hotels worldwide.
If you are someone that would spend £25,000 in a single year on your credit card, you’ll also be awarded a free hotel night. This can be redeemed for any hotel with a 25,000 point per night redemption price.
As well as all these points and free night bonuses, you’ll also be given immediate Silver Elite status, which would be upgraded to Gold Elite status if you spend more than £15,000 in a single year.
The Bonvoy credit card comes with lots of great bonuses but does come with a £75 annual fee – so you will need to bear this in mind if you are only using to collect enough points for one free hotel night.
#5 Spend your Virgin Points at Virgin Partner Hotels
If you’re a Virgin Points collector and have collected – or plan to collect – a number of Virgin Points you could choose to swap these for a free hotel night instead of a free flight. For some strange reason, you can’t spend your Virgin points at Virgin Hotels. You can collect points at Virgin brand-owned hotels but not spend them.
You can though spend your hard-earned Virgin Points on some of the Virgin partner hotels, which include:
- Hilton Worldwide
- IHG – including Holiday Inn, Intercontinental, etc…
- Best Western
This often means swapping your Virgin Points for the hotel chains point system. Please note though, although you may decide to swap your Virgin points to a hotel brand points system, you may not be able to change them back if you change your mind. Using IHG as an example you can exchange at a rate of 1 Virgin point for 1 IHG Reward point. You will though need a minimum of 10,000 Virgin points for the exchange – which goes up in increments of 5,000 points.
You can redeem a free hotel night with IHG from 10,000 reward points. Given that you can collect 15,000 Virgin Points by taking out the Virgin Atlantic Plus Credit Card (see #9), and making any purchase within 3 months, this could be a really good way to get enough points for a free hotel night.
A caveat though is this card comes with an annual fee of £160, so isn’t worthwhile just to get a free hotel night but if you plan to build up Virgin Points anyway this may be a good way to go.
Top Tip: If your plan is to use an airline credit card to build up enough points for free hotel nights, you may find the hotel portal from British Airways gives you a lot more hotel choices to spend your points on.
Next step: Log in to your Virgin Flying Club account, and the preferred hotels website, to see out how many Virgin Points and partner hotel points you’ll need for a free hotel night
#6 Join the Intercontinental Ambassador Club
Unlike almost all hotel tier levels, the Intercontinental Ambassador tier level is a paid-for program. It’s not worth joining the IHG Ambassador club just for the free weekend reward night offered, but if the other member incentives are worthwhile to you, the free night may be a great added bonus.
The cost to join the program costs US$200 per year (approx. £165) and comes with the following benefits:
- Free weekend hotel night per year
- Instant upgrade to Platinum Elite status on IHG
- Category room upgrade with every stay
- Complimentary Premium WiFi
- $20 food and drink voucher for every stay
- Guaranteed check-out time of 4 pm
For those in the UK, you may be more familiar with the more commonly distributed Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express hotels. Unfortunately, the Ambassador Club and benefits are only limited to Intercontinental brand hotels – you can’t use the benefits with Holiday Inn or Holiday Inn Express hotel bookings (even though they are all part of the IHG group).
The Ambassador Club hasn’t been too popular with UK travelers because there are only three Intercontinental hotels in the UK. One in Edinburgh and two in London.
That said there are 180 Intercontinental Hotels worldwide so if you travel overseas often or for business and the luxury Intercontinental hotels are your brand of choice, it becomes a real no-brainer. On the other hand, the Ambassador club gives you access to benefits for UK travelers too with an immediate upgrade to Platinum Elite status at IHG – which includes the Holiday Inn chain of hotels.
The benefits of Platinum Elite (over entry-level Club membership) for IHG are as follows:
- Extended check-out until 2 pm
- Points will not expire
- Priority check-in
- 50% extra IHG points per booking above a base level
- Complimentary room upgrade per booking
For a UK resident, you may find Ambassador Club worth it if you plan to visit and stay in either London or Edinburgh to redeem your free weekend night and regularly stay at IHG hotels to take advantage of the benefits Platinum Elite status brings. On the other hand, if none of this sounds attractive for a $200 yearly fee, I’d recommend looking at the IHG Rewards Club Credit card (see option #2).
#7 Collect Enough Avios with the BA Amex Premium Card
The BA Amex Premium Credit Card is one of the best ways to collect Avios Points fast for all sorts of rewards. British Airways have an extensive hotel network that allows you to spend your Avios points in thousands and thousands of hotels worldwide – from small B&Bs to boutique hotels and some larger brands.
There is certainly a huge choice, and you’re not limited to a particular hotel brand either. The BA Amex Premium Card gives a huge 25,000 Avios Points on successful application, as long as you spend £3,000 on your card in the first 3 months. This is enough for a free night in some hotels.
The caveat is the BA Amex Premium card comes with a premium £195 per year annual fee, so isn’t worth taking out just for a free hotel night – but if you’ve decided that Avios Points are your focus, and you want to reach rewards faster, this may be the card for you. As well as the 25,000 sign-up bonus points, you’ll also earn 1.5 Avios points for every £1 spent almost anywhere.
Spend £1,000 a month and in the first year, along with your signup bonus, you’ll have collected 37,000 Avios Points.
#8 Collect IHG Reward Points with Stays
With the number of Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express hotels in the UK, you will find one in many popular tourist locations and towns across the UK. Staying loyal to a brand allows you to build up points faster which can be redeemed for upgrades and free hotel nights.
You earn 10 IHG Points for every $1 spent at an IHG hotel. These IHG Reward points can be redeemed for free hotel nights either in full or part payment in IHG Reward Points and part in cash. 10 hotel night stays per year at $130 (£100 a night) could see you collect 13,000 IHG Points. Considering a free hotel night starts from 10,000 IHG Reward points you could find you have enough points for a free night after 9-10 stays.
Joining the IHG Reward program is fast and free, so it’s worth joining today.
#9 Take Out the Virgin Atlantic Plus Card
The Virgin Atlantic Plus Credit Card is the premium offering from Virgin Money. The rewards are bigger, and so is the annual fee. If your goal is to earn enough Virgin Points for a free flight in Business Class (Upper Class on Virgin), then this card will make the journey to that goal much faster.
The Virgin Plus Card will award you 15,000 bonus Virgin Points with your first spend within 3 months of opening your account. You could move 10,000 of those Virgin Points to IHG Points and have enough for the cheapest redeemable free hotel night in the IHG hotel group.
This will still leave you 5,000 Virgin Points as a starting bundle to work your way up to your free flight. The annual fee for this credit card is £160, so I wouldn’t apply for this card just for the free hotel night – but as I mentioned, if Virgin Points are your target then the 1.5 Virgin Points for every £1 spent on your card will also help you meet your targets.
Spend £1,000 a month on your card and along with the signup bonus (minus the free hotel night conversion to IHG) you’ll have 17,000 Virgin Points – and that’s without other point building tactics such as automatically converting Tesco Clubcard points to Virgin Points (which could give you another 6,000-10,000 extra points).
#10 Upgrade Your Barclays Premier Account to a Barclays Avios Account
If you already have a Barclays Premier Account, I would seriously consider switching over to the Barclays Avios Bank Account. It’s a relatively new offering from Barclays but one that comes with 18,000 bonus Avios Points every single year. If you’re new to Barclays, have a gross income of £75,000 or more, and are prepared to switch your income payments as well as your DDs to the switching service, you’ll be given a bonus of 25,000 Avios Points – this is on top of the 18,000 yearly Avios bonus.
If you were really serious about Avios Point collecting and not only applied for the BA Amex Premium Card as well as the Barclays Avios Account – and spent £1,000 on your card per month – by the end of year one you’d have 80,000 Avios Points!
This is enough for a Premium Economy return fare to New York, or two Upper-Class upgrades from Premium Economy. Of course, this is about free hotels (I digressed) but with all these bonus Avios literally flying about the place you can use some towards a free hotel night through either Avios Hotels or one of the partner hotel chains.
#11 Convert Tesco Clubcard Points for a Free Night with Hotels.com
This method may take the longest but if you already shop and fill up your petrol tank at Tesco, it can be a lucrative way to use your Tesco Clubcard Points. For every £5 in Tesco Vouchers you have, you can convert these to £15 of Hotels .com vouchers. With the cheapest hotels on Hotels .com starting at around £35 per night it doesn’t take long to build up enough Clubcard points for your free night away.
This is where looking out for special bonus point offers can become very lucrative indeed. Once you have enough Tesco vouchers just log in to your Tesco Clubcard account online and request the exchange for Hotels .com vouchers.
You’ll be on your way to earning your free night in no time at all!
Next Step: Visit the Tesco to Hotels.com exchange page
Question: What’s the best way to stay for free at a hotel?
Answer: It’s really difficult to answer which is best because it truly depends on your goals and point-earning focus. The fastest way to earn a free hotel night is to take out one of the credit cards mentioned. These usually offer you enough bonus points alone for a free night stay.
On the other hand, if you don’t want to apply for a credit card then I would recommend option #1 (stay at Hotels .com), option #8 (stay at IHG), and option #11 (convert Tesco Clubcard to Hotels .com vouchers). All three of these methods will help you earn a free hotel night without applying for a credit card and spending no more than you do right now.
Question: What’s the fastest way to earn a free hotel night?
Answer: The fastest way would be to use Hotels .com or IHG to stay for a 10 night holiday. Both of these methods should give you enough hotel loyalty points for a free night.
The other fast ways are through bonus credit card points – although this can still take 12-16 weeks.
Stay for Free at Hotels – The Insider’s Notes
Each of these 11 methods for a free night stay do work but you need to decide which method, or methods, are right for you. Staying loyal to one brand builds momentum in your point-building activities, so if Avios is your goal then stick with Avios. Tesco Clubcard Point exchange for Hotels .com vouchers can be a really good way to make use of your Tesco vouchers. The exchange is fast and you’ll literally have thousands of hotels worldwide to choose your free night from.