How To Get Free Hotel Upgrades In 2016

Your credit card is by far one of the easiest ways to get a room upgrade at no additional cost.

The beauty of hotel-branded credit cards is that they often provide either automatic or an upon-request upgrade benefit. But a little-known fact is that many non-hotel cards also offer perks and room upgrades for free!

Here are 3 tips for how to score a better room using your credit card…

Tip #1: Take advantage of Visa Signature’s built-in upgrade benefit

There’s a good chance you already have a Visa Signature (the highest tier of Visa) in your wallet right now. Over the past few years, banks have largely transitioned away from Visa Platinum and instead, converted their cards to Visa Signature.

Did they do this out of the goodness of their hearts? I highly doubt that. Rather, the reason banks love handing out Signature tier cards is probably because they cost merchants more to process (retailers pay a slightly higher percentage for fees on these cards). For that reason, the banks make more money off this level of card.

As a cardmember, you get to use the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection. What is that? It’s a network of 800+ high-end hotels around the world. Whenever you stay at these hotels and book thru Visa Signature you will get the following benefits for free:

  • When available, an automatic room upgrade at check-in
  • Best available rate guarantee
  • Continental breakfast
  • $25 food or beverage voucher
  • Free valet parking or in-room internet
  • 3 pm late check-out, if available

I did a search in the Los Angeles area and there were several that participated:

Visa Signature hotels in Los Angeles

The above example – The W Hotel – I know normally doesn’t give you any of those perks for free, so to get them thru Visa will save you a lot of money.

When you book the room, I would recommend selecting the cheapest one and then hopefully that will be upgraded at check-in. There’s no guarantees though since the free upgrade is based on availability, but if you’re a gambling man/woman give it a shot. And if the receptionist at check in forgets about this upgrade perk, kindly remind them.

The only drawback to this program is that you will mainly find the participating hotels in major cities and tourist destinations. If you’re traveling to some rural place, it’s unlikely you’ll find one.

My favorite Visa Signature cards are:

Tip #2: Consider the AmEx Platinum for high-end hotels

With an annual fee of $450 smackeroos per year (and it’s NEVER waived the first year) the Platinum Card from American Express (a advertising partner) isn’t appropriate for everyone. In fact, for the vast majority of the people it would make absolutely no sense.

On the other hand, if you are an upper-income American who likes to travel in style and enjoy the finer things in life, then keep reading! Because if that’s you, then this card is worth its weight in platinum!

Fine Hotels and Resorts directory LAThere are too many benefits to list here, but I’ll talk about the most relevant one: Fine Hotels & Resorts Program. As a Platinum Cardmember, you get $450 in complimentary benefits when you book through Fine Hotels & Resorts:

  • Room upgrade upon arrival, when available
  • Noon early check-in, when available
  • 4 pm guaranteed late checkout
  • Daily continental breakfast for two people
  • Additional hotel benefit

There are over 700 hotels participating around the world. However, understand that these are usually very high-end properties; places like The Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, and St. Regis. As an example, the list on the right shows the LA area properties from the 2014 directory.

If that’s a little too rich for your taste, then the Visa Signature will be a better idea because it features many hotels in the under $300 range. Of course the drawback is that Visa isn’t giving as good of perks as AmEx.

Go here to learn more about the Platinum Card

Tip #3: Get a co-branded hotel credit card

Okay, as I said at the top this, particular strategy certainly isn’t a secret. Regardless, it’s still worth mentioning, because it’s one of the easiest ways of how to get a hotel room upgrade.

Some co-branded hotel cards will automatically upgrade you at check-in if there’s a better room available. Or if you don’t get a free room upgrade, some give cardmembers extra perks. For example, Ritz-Carlton allows cardmembers to upgrade 3x annually to the Club Level (this is a level of the hotel, usually near the top, where you get to take part in complimentary food and beverage presentations throughout the day).

And what if your favorite hotel’s card doesn’t give upgrades as a benefit? Well, you can always use a sweet signup bonus to simply buy a better room yourself!

Here are my favorite hotel card offers for 2016

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