Guggenheim Bilbao

This week we’re staying in Bilbao, in the north of Spain, at a nice Holiday Inn hotel for free. We’re just here for three nights, and I wasn’t able to find anyone to do a home exchange for the dates we wanted (even offering my home for a week or two in exchange). Fortunately I’ve saved up points on a number of hotel programs. Having a few options turned out to be important because Bilbao doesn’t have any hotels from some of the major American chains. They do have some IHG hotels and I was able to book this one at a pretty reasonable (points) rate just a few weeks before the trip.Holiday Inn Bilbao

Sometimes you can’t find free lodging through the sharing economy. Maybe there’s no home exchange or couchsurfing or volunteer opportunity where you want to go. Or maybe you just want to take an overnight trip to a nearby sight while doing a house swap. Regardless of the reason, this is when hotel points come in handy.

If you live in the United States you can earn these by signing up for credit card deals that give you a chunk of points for meeting a minimum spend requirement in the first few months of card ownership. Often these deals are entirely free, and it’s easy enough to meet the requirements. For instance, this link to the IHG Chase card is currently offering 60,000 points for spending just $1000 on the card. I got a better deal when I signed up, but this is still pretty good. (I don’t get any commission for people clicking that link).

There’s a whole science to points collection and manufacturing spend to meet minimum spending requirements on credit cards. I’m definitely not an expert but I’ve been doing this for about a year now and have learned a lot by following some blogs from people who work at this full time. You can find a list of some of these blogs here.