Hotel Rewards Programs

Hotel Points: Free Lodging When House Swapping isn’t Possible

hotel points

While I’d like to arrange a house swap everywhere I go, sometimes this isn’t possible. It can be difficult to find a home exchange for exact dates to a specific location if you can’t be flexible. And some destinations just don’t have many people participating in home exchange. In addition, if you want to wander around seeing different places, home exchange might not work. For all these reasons I collect hotel points on a variety of programs.

The main way to earn hotel points is through co-branded credit cards. This is mostly geared towards the American audience. These cards periodically offer large sign up bonuses. You can get lots of points just for putting your household spend on the card for a few months. And many of these cards come with a free night after you pay your annual fee. If that fee is, say $89 (the Chase IHG card), and you can stay for free in most of the hotel chain’s locations, you could potentially be getting a really good deal. Need lodging in NYC over New Years Eve? Use that free night for a room that would otherwise cost $$$.

These credit cards sometimes come with other useful benefits. This includes things like status with the hotel brand and a fourth night booking for free. Just beware: these cards are not useful for everyday spending. Relative to your other options, they just don’t earn enough points to be useful once you earn the sign up bonus. I stick them in a binder and keep track of the benefits to decide if it’s worth paying the annual fee.

On a recent trip to Florida I left a few nights without a lodging plan because we weren’t entirely sure how long we’d want to spend in the Everglades. Having hotel points to use gave us the flexibility to decide last minute to spend a night in Key Largo (avoiding a very long drive back after a day exploring the Keys) without worrying about how much we’d spend on a hotel in the Keys.

Hotel points are great for those one or two day trip. Most people aren’t excited about hosting home exchange guests for such a short period. But maybe you want to spend 1 night in London before heading to a swap in the countryside. I’ve used hotel points to deal with unexpected layovers. And they’re great when you have a super early flight and your home exchange is hours from the airport.

To get started, think about where you might want to use hotel points. And then research which hotel chains are big in those areas. Then take a look at the current credit card offers for the chains that best meet your needs.

I recommend the Doctor of Credit website to learn about the latest best offers for credit card sign up bonuses. They have a handy table of the latest offers that also tells you if it’s relatively good compared to other recent offers. Don’t sign up without doing some research! It used to be easy to churn cards (sign up, get the bonus, cancel the card, sign up again). But nowadays you need to be more thoughtful about credit your card sign up strategy.