Hotel Credit Cards That Come With a Free Night
Hotel credit cards are popular because they offer useful perks like free stays, room upgrades, late checkouts, free Wi-Fi and more—all goodies that even infrequent flyers can likely use at least once or twice a year. But the state of hotel co-branded credit cards in Canada is sadly lackluster.
American travellers are totally spoiled when it comes to hotel credit cards. But Canadians have a grand total of two such cards that provide free nights: The Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card and the Best Western Mastercard® credit card. The cards have differing features and are designed for two separate types of travellers, so we’ve put each under close scrutiny to help you decide which best accommodates your needs.
In This Article:
Free Night vs. Annual Free Night
Let’s start by looking at what many cardholders would say is a hotel credit card’s most important benefit: a free stay. In Canada, there are three main ways credit cards offer free hotel nights:
- An annual complimentary night just for being a cardholder (Bonvoy);
- A one-time-only sign-up point bonus that allows for one free night (Best Western) or multiple free nights (Bonvoy again);
- Accumulating enough points through regular spending to redeem for free nights (both Best Western and Bonvoy cards).
The Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card is presently the only card in Canada that offers an automatic annual free night (more on that below). While the Best Western Mastercard® credit card has a generous sign-up bonus of 20,000 points that will net you at least one free night, it’s not an annual benefit that automatically resets every year.
The Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card
Free Nights with Bonvoy
With The Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card, your annual free night award received every year after your first anniversary (valid for 12 months and includes taxes but not any eligible resort fee) lets you to stay in any category 1 to 5 hotel up to a value of 35,000 points. It’s worth noting that the annual certificate is only good for a single night; you can’t, for example, break it down into 5,000-point amounts and use if for multiple stays.
Generally speaking, it can be very hard to calculate an exact dollar value of any hotel point program, as they can vary so much based on location, time of year and intangible elements like a hotel’s exclusivity. Overall, Marriott Bonvoy® points are valued at approximately $0.01 each; so a category 5 hotel stay could be worth $350 or more.
Maximizing Your Free Night
To get the most value from your bonus, you’ll want to stay at the highest category of hotel (hence the highest monetary value) possible.
Marriott recently introduced peak and off-peak redemption rates so you’ll also need to consider what time of year to redeem your annual stay—a category 5 hotel will actually be 40,000 points during peak season, outside the 35,000-point value cap of your annual free night. Check out the new chart rankings below:
If all this talk of categories and point value leaves you with a bit of a headache, you can always check the up-to-date, real-world value of your points by comparing what it would cost you to pay for a hotel night in cash versus redeeming points for the exact same stay. So, for example, if you did a search for a Marriott property and found a great sale that got you a Category 5 hotel room for say $250 (instead of $350), it would be better to pay cash and save your annual free night certificate.
Other Key Features
In addition to its annual free night award, The Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card has a number of other very attractive features, despite a lack of competition from other hotel credit cards in Canada. Here are its main offerings:
- Points can be redeemed and earned at upwards of 7,000 of the world’s most desired hotels around the world with no blackout dates.
- One-time sign-up offer of 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points after you charge $1,500 in purchases to your Card in your first three months of Cardmembership. Subject to change at any time. Terms and conditions apply.
- 5 points for every $1 in eligible Card purchases at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®
- 2 points for every $1 spent in all other Card purchases
- Automatic Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status membership
- Each year, when you reach $30,000 in purchases, you’ll get an automatic upgrade to Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status (Gold Elite has attractive benefits like 25% extra points at Marriott properties, late checkout, eligibility for room upgrades and more)
- Receive 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year with your Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card. These can be used towards attaining the next level of Elite status in the Marriott Bonvoy program
- Points can be transferred (most at a 3:1 transfer ratio) to more than 40 airline partners
- Includes a range of insurance coverage, like travel accident, car rental, flight delay, baggage delay/theft and hotel/motel burglary insurance. (Note: it has travel emergency assistance but no actual travel emergency medical insurance)
- $120 annual fee
You can learn more by reading our complete Marriott BonvoyTM American Express® Card Review.
Best Western Mastercard® credit card
This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For residents of Quebec, please click here.
– Purchase interest rate: 19.99%
– Balance transfer interest rate: 22.99%
– Cash advance interest rate: 22.99%
– No Annual Fee
Free Nights with Best Western
Unlike the Bonvoy card, the no annual fee Best Western Mastercard® credit card doesn’t grant its cardholders an annual free night. But its one-time bonus offer of 20,000 points is enough for one or more free nights, and you can always redeem any points you earn on the card for a complimentary stay as well.
Maximizing Your Free Night(s)
The value of a Best Western point is approximately .009 for a hotel stay, giving the sign-up bonus about a $180 value (but remember what I said above about how hard it can be to ascribe a precise value to hotel points). Best Western properties are categorized in eight tiers, so its 20,000-point bonus gives you a variety of single or two-night stay options. Below are the amount of points needed for one night in each property tier.
|Tier 1||8,000 points|
|Tier 2||12,000 points|
|Tier 3||16,000 points|
|Tier 4||20,000 points|
|Tier 5||24,000 points|
|Tier 6||28,000 points|
|Tier 7||32,000 points|
|Tier 8||36,000 points|
The tier Best Western ascribes to a property is based not only on its level of amenities but also its location, so saving your points for a less commonly travelled location is another way to make them go further.
Let’s stop a minute and reiterate that the Best Western Mastercard® credit card doesn’t charge an annual fee—a critical difference to keep in mind when comparing the Bonvoy and Best Western cards. So, all the benefits we list below come at no cost to the cardholder.
- Earn 5 points per dollar spent at Best Western properties
- Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
- 20,000 bonus points (good for a one or two-night stay at a Best Western affiliated hotel)
- Upon first use of your credit card you will be awarded Gold status. Gold status gives you an extra 10% in Best Western Rewards when used at a Best Western hotel, as well as possible free room upgrades.
- Obtain Diamond status when you spend $10,000 in eligible purchases on the card within one year (you can earn 30% more points for stays at Best Western hotels).
- Car rental insurance, lost luggage assistance, purchase assurance and extended warranty
- Flexible redemption for hotel nights, gift certificates, donations, merchandise and more
You can learn more by reading our complete Best Western Mastercard® credit card review.
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To Sum Up
Clearly both cards have some impressive features. Here’s a chart that summarizes the main differences:
|Marriott BonvoyTM American Express® Card||Best Western Mastercard® credit card|
|Annual Free Night||Yes||One-off free night|
|Welcome Bonus||50,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points (conditions apply)||20,000 pts|
With its lucrative bonus, repeating annual free night, huge spectrum of properties, perks like airline transfers and wide-ranging insurance benefits, The Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card is Canada’s best hotel credit card with free nights.
That said, let’s give credit where credit is due. The Best Western Mastercard® credit card offers great value for a no annual fee card. Our only regret is that there aren’t more hotel cards in the market to give Canadian travellers more rewards for what they spend on lodging.
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Recommended read: Best Hotels to Stay at in Canada