Vijay loves enjoying two short vacations of one week each with his family every year. He explores different cities and stays at 3 star and 5 star hotel properties. However, Vijay doesn't pay for hotel accommodation from his pocket. His credit card benefits/reward points take care of the hotel accommodation. Would you also like your credit card benefits/reward points to sponsor your stays at luxury hotels?
Here are some credit card benefits that can help you get free hotel accommodation at some of the best hotel properties.
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Hotel loyalty programs
Various hotel groups in India offer loyalty programs through which they provide various benefits to their members. Some of these include:
- Marriott Bonvoy: The hotel loyalty program that provides access to 8000+ hotels worldwide.
- NeuPass: Earlier known as Taj Innercircle, the Tata group loyalty program got merged into Neupass. It includes access to Taj Hotels and other brands within the Tata group.
- Club ITC: The loyalty program by ITC Group Hotels.
Apart from the above, there are other hotel loyalty programs like Accor Live Limitless (ALL), IHG One Rewards, etc. All these hotel loyalty programs allow you to either:
- Transfer your credit card reward points to the hotel loyalty program and then redeem the loyalty points for hotel stays, or
- Redeem credit card reward points for purchasing hotel chain gift vouchers and then redeem the vouchers for hotel stays.
Now that we have an idea of the various hotel loyalty programs let us understand how credit card benefits can help you earn hotel gift vouchers or reward points that can be transferred to hotel loyalty programs.
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Credit card benefits: Hotel gift vouchers or reward points
Annual spend-based milestones
Some credit cards have annual spend-based milestones, which, when achieved, reward the cardholder with either hotel gift vouchers or bonus reward points. You can use the reward points to purchase hotel gift vouchers or transfer them to a hotel loyalty program.
For example, the American Express Platinum Travel Credit Card provides 15,000 bonus reward points on spending Rs. 1.9 lakhs in a year. When the cardholder spends Rs. 4 lakhs in the same year, they get an additional 25,000 bonus reward points plus an Rs. 10,000 Taj Hotels gift voucher.
In the above scenario, the 40,000 bonus reward points can be redeemed for Taj Hotels gift vouchers worth Rs. 20,000 or transferred to the Marriott Bonvoy hotel loyalty program. You can then use the Taj Hotel gift vouchers to settle stay bills during Check-out, or Marriott Bonvoy points to book hotel accommodation for your vacation.
The SimplyCLICK SBI Card provides Rs. 2,000 Cleartrip vouchers on annual online spends of Rs. 1 lakh and an additional Rs. 2,000 Cleartrip vouchers on annual online spends of Rs. 2 lakhs. You can use the Rs. 4,000 vouchers to book a hotel of your choice through Cleartrip.
Regular spend-based offers
Some credit cards provide regular spend-based offers (spanning over a month or two) from time to time. Cardholders are given specific spending targets against which they get specified gift vouchers or reward points.
For example, an American Express spend-based offer may read: Spend a total of Rs. 400,000 or more between 15th February and 15th April 2023 to receive a Taj Hotels gift voucher worth Rs. 12,000.
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Booking accommodation and paying with reward points
Credit cards, such as IDFC FIRST Bank and American Express, allow you to pay for your online transactions with credit card reward points. So, you can book hotel accommodation directly on the hotel website or an online travel aggregator (OTA) website and pay with your credit card reward points. Most cards will give you a redemption value of Rs. 0.25 per reward point.
Redeeming reward points for booking hotel accommodation directly on the bank portal
Some banks provide you with portals for booking hotel accommodation. For example, HDFC Bank provides the SmartBuy portal for booking flights, hotel accommodation, and buying other products by redeeming reward points. You can book hotel accommodation on the SmartBuy portal and pay with your credit card reward points. When you book through a premium credit card, such as HDFC Infinia, you get a redemption rate of Rs. 1.00 per reward point.
Redeeming reward points for hotel or OTA gift vouchers
In the above section, we saw how you could use the SmartBuy portal for booking hotel accommodation using your HDFC Bank credit card. If you don't have an HDFC Bank credit card, you need not worry. You can redeem your credit card reward points to buy gift vouchers of the hotel brand or an OTA. You can then use the gift voucher to book your hotel accommodation.
Transferring reward points to hotel loyalty programs
In the first section of this article, we saw the various hotel loyalty programs offered by different hotel groups. You can use your reward points to either:
- Convert them into gift vouchers of specific hotel brands or
- Transfer them to the hotel loyalty program.
Various banks have tied up with hotel loyalty programs to allow their cardholders to use their reward points.
- HDFC Bank allows you to transfer reward points to Accor Live Limitless (ALL), IHG One Rewards, Wyndham Rewards.
- Axis Bank allows the transfer of reward points to Marriott Bonvoy, Club ITC, and IHG One Rewards.
- American Express allows the transfer of reward points to Marriott Bonvoy.
You can then use the hotel gift vouchers or hotel loyalty points to book hotel stays. You can transfer credit card reward points to a hotel loyalty program like Marriott Bonvoy at a specified ratio.
For example, you can transfer American Express reward points to Marriott Bonvoy in a 1:1 ratio. So, for every 1 American Express reward point transferred, you will get 1 Marriott Bonvoy point.
While booking a Marriott group hotel using loyalty points, the number of points required for per night stay is specified. The value per point is usually in the Rs. 0.50 to Rs. 2.00 range. In some rare cases, the value may go beyond this range.
Let credit card spends take care of your hotel stays
Are you a travel freak? Also, do you use credit cards regularly for monthly spends? If you answer yes to both questions, consider a credit card that will reward you with free hotel stays. After all, why spend from your pocket for hotel stays when your credit card benefits/reward points can provide you with the same, free of cost!
Gopal Gidwani is a freelance personal finance content writer with 15+ years of experience. He can be reached at LinkedIn