A common perk on many hotel rewards cards is the free “anniversary” night, which you can use to book a free night at an eligible property after you pay your card’s annual fee.
We asked seven rewards bloggers for their most memorable experiences using their annual free night. While some went big with luxury hotels, others saved theirs for a literal rainy day.
Disaster relief – Brian Karimzad, director of MileCards.com.
The anniversary night on Karimzad’s Hyatt Credit Card saved him more than $400 when Hurricane Sally hit and he couldn’t stay in his home.
“The hotel was going for over double the usual rate because of all the demand from the storm,” he says.
This year, he’s using his anniversary night for something a bit more aspirational – the Andaz in Savannah (cost saved: $350 per night).
“Another I’m looking forward to is the Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica, which costs $300 to $500 a night,” Karimzad says.
Winery get-away – Liz from Points Miles and More
In the past, Liz has used free anniversary nights for less-glamorous things like overnight layovers, due to the category restrictions some hotel cards place on their free annual nights.
“Never anything fun and aspirational,” she says.
That’s about to change for her upcoming trip to Sonoma County, as she’ll be staying at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa, where rates exceed $300 per night on popular weekends
“Santa Rosa is in the heart of Sonoma County and will provide the perfect base for wine tasting around the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast,” she says.
A New Year’s Eve mishap – Jeff with The Reward Boss
Jeff’s most memorable free-anniversary-night experience wasn’t a good one. Because pricey Intercontinental properties allow him to get the most value out of his annual free night, he booked the Intercontinental Geneva for New Year’s Eve.
His troubles began when he booked his free night just before it expired local time but too late based on local hotel time, per IHG.
“After fighting with IHG, they allowed me to use it,” Jeff says.
When Jeff arrived at the airport for his flight (the last departing that night), he encountered even more trouble – his flight had been cancelled without notification.
“There were no other flights available for several days,” he says. “Everything was closed so we couldn’t even get a car rental.”
Despite his best attempts (including a last-minute train ride), Jeff failed to reach Geneva in time.
“After all the hassle, the free anniversary hotel stay went unused,” he says.
A night away from the kids – Alexi Zemsky, co-founder of Travel Miles 101
IHG’s credit card has been rewarding to Zemsky over the years.
“The IHG rewards card is the one hotel card I would never think about parting with for two reasons,” he says. “The first is that its yearly fee is quite affordable at $49 per year. And the second is that I can always get great value using my yearly free-stay credit for IHG hotels.”
Zemsky’s annual free night usually goes toward a stay at the ANA Intercontinental Hotel in Tokyo during his family’s yearly visit to Japan to see his in-laws, who live in Kyoto.
“Every year, my wife and I try to sneak away from the kids and grandparents to spend a night or two in Tokyo where we first met,” he says.
The hotel is centrally located, modern, accessible to mass transit, he says.
“And at $250 to $300 a night, we always feel giddy when we book our room for the amazing price of $49 that we get our free night certificate for, simply by keeping our IHG card open and paying the annual fee,” Zemsky says.
Exotic escape – Jeff Sauer, co-founder of Jeffsetter Travel
In 2015, Sauer and his wife, Amanda, each redeemed their IHG card’s free night for a stay at the Intercontinental Thalasso over-water bungalow in Bora Bora.
“Man, what a memorable experience,” Sauer says. “…The bungalow was HUGE and had direct access to the lagoon below. The hotel was flawlessly designed and the entire experience was top notch.”
An overwater bungalow at this property usually costs $1,000+ a night, making the cards’ $49 annual fees a worthy investment.
“[It was] one of the five nicest hotels we’ve stayed in since becoming full-time digital nomads,” Sauer says. “And we have stayed in some nice places.”
5-star luxury on a budget – Kathy Kass, founder of Will Run for Miles
During a Thanksgiving trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Kass and her boyfriend found a luxury oasis at the Park Hyatt Saigon.
“We each used our Chase Hyatt Visa anniversary night so that 2 of our 4 nights at this amazing 5-star hotel were complimentary,” she says.
Thanks to her Hyatt status, Kass was able to upgrade to a suite (with a kitchen and living area) overlooking the pool. A night at this property would normally cost upwards of $500 a night, justifying the Hyatt Credit Card’s $75 annual fee.
High season in Rome – Danny, from Danny the Deal Guru
Hotel rooms in Rome during the summer travel season don’t come cheap. So Danny used his IHG card’s free anniversary night at the now-closed Intercontinental in Rome while on his way to a family event in Naples.
“Before heading down south, we made use of that free night and enjoyed a great mini-vacation in Rome,” he says.
Rooms in the hotel were otherwise going for $400 a night.
“The hotel was in a great location that really lets you experience this majestic city,” Danny says. “This was about five years ago, and it really got me addicted to chase more and more of these experiences.”