How You Can Earn Free Hotel Stays: The Secret to Combining Loyalty Programs to Get More Rewards

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Admit it: You’re a deal junkie. You scour travel sites, subscribe to more newsletters than you care to own up to, and are a member of every airline, hotel, and café loyalty club you can find. You have a wallet full of rewards credit cards, and you know off the top of your head which one gives you the best rewards for travel, which one for restaurants, and which one for groceries. You check in daily at Points.com. You even have a FiveStars card.

But when it comes to hotels, you can do better. By combining rewards programs, you can maximize both your savings and your earnings on every booking. Here is a three-step strategy for ensuring your Master Points Fiend status.

3 Steps to Becoming a Hotel Points Boss

Step 1: Pay using a travel rewards credit card

Since you are booking on Hotel Engine rather than direct with the hotel, use a bank travel rewards credit card rather than a hotel-branded credit card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is at the top of many travelers’ lists for its generous sign-up bonus (equivalent to $500 if you spend $3,000 in the first three months), 2X points on travel and dining, and no foreign transaction fees. They also have partnerships with several airlines, hotel chains, and Amtrak for flexible redemptions.

Another great option is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, which has a sign-up bonus equivalent to $440, awards 2.2% back on all purchases if you redeem on travel, and has no foreign transaction fees.

Use Walla.by to help you decide which credit card will give you the maximum rewards for every purchase.

Step 2: Call the hotel and ask for loyalty points, or ask at check-in

Most hotels have a policy against awarding loyalty points for bookings made via third-party sites. But most hotels also know the value of a repeat customer, particularly one who is a member of their loyalty program. So, while they won’t do it automatically, and they might not do it every time, they will often award points for bookings made on other sites if you ask. Either call the hotel directly after making your reservation or request your points at check-in.

The Results

Let’s break down how this strategy can lead to you getting oodles of rewards on every booking by taking a hypothetical three-night trip to Chicago, checking in on September 18th and out on the 21st. We’ll look at one higher-end hotel and one budget-friendly hotel.

Step 3: Book with a Online Travel Site that Offers Rewards, like Hotel Engine

Hotel Engine is a new hotel booking site that offers rooms at the same rate as online travel agent powerhouses, but has an impressive loyalty program. All members currently earn between 5% and 10% on every booking (no elite status required) in the form of money that can be applied to another reservation immediately after check-out. But smart travelers can hunt for the special 10% (2X) deals on the site and quickly earn some serious rewards.

For the luxury traveler: Hotel Felix

Hotel Felix is an independent boutique hotel in Chicago with good reviews and a Walk Score of 98. For our dates, a queen room is available on Hotel Engine for about $308 per night, which includes free wi-fi and free parking (normally $55 per night). The cost of the room before taxes and fees is $925.82, and since this hotel is eligible for double rewards, upon checkout we will get $92.50 back from Hotel Engine to spend on the next trip.

Now, let’s say we book using the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. Here we can calculate the rewards based on the total cost of the room including taxes and fees, which is $1,054.12. So our 2.2% back from the credit card is worth $23.19.

Hotel Felix is a member of the Stash Rewards program for independent and boutique hotels and it awards 5 points per dollar. We are spending $925 (base price), so we will earn 4,625 points, which is more than one-third of the 12,312 points necessary for a free night at the hotel.

Total spend: $1,054.12
Total rewards: $92.50 (Hotel Engine) + $23.19 (credit card) = $115.69 +4,625 Stash points

For the budget-conscious traveler: Travelodge Chicago

That $115.69 in savings is nearly enough to cover the cost of a night at our budget-friendly hotel, the Travelodge Chicago, which also has good reviews and a Walk Score of 98. For our dates, a king room is available on Hotel Engine for about $162 per night, which includes free wi-fi. Before taxes, the room cost is $487.00, and since this hotel is also eligible for double rewards, we will get $48.70 back.

This time, let’s book using the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card. This card isn’t specifically a travel credit card, but it is one of the most rewarding cash back cards available. Rewards are based on categories, like gas and groceries, and every quarter, you get to pick two categories to earn 5% back. If we pick hotels as one of our categories, we will earn $28.34 back on this booking (based on $566.87 including tax).

Travelodge is a member of the Wyndham Hotels Group, which also includes Ramada, Days Inn, and Super 8. For every dollar spent at Travelodge, Wyndham Rewards members earn 10 points, so our stay will net 4,870 points, which is again just about one-third of the 14,000 points necessary for a free night at the least expensive Wyndham hotel in Chicago.

Total spend: $566.87
Total rewards: $48.70 (Hotel Engine) + $28.34 (credit card) = $77.04 +4,870 Stash points

On the high-end hotel we saved nearly 11%, and on the budget-friendly hotel we saved almost 14%, plus we earned loyalty points. Beat that!

It’s easy to save double-digits on every hotel stay by selecting Hotel Engine’s 2X rewards hotels and booking using a rewards credit card. The loyalty points from the hotel itself aren’t guaranteed, but, just like asking for a free upgrade, it never hurts to try.