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I get it – the word “free” is a magic word.  I’m reminded of the Freakonomics episode that talked about how people overwhelmingly picked a “free” Hershey Kiss over a heavily discounted piece of gourmet chocolate, just because it was FREE!

I actually think that there is somewhat of a psychological difference between using points for a hotel stay (which you might think of as a “free night”) and the free hotel nights that come from different credit cards.  I’ve signed up for several of the cards that give free hotel nights and I think I am not alone in trying to go for the most expensive hotels possible with those free nights, right?  It’s the reason I suggest signing up for 2 IHG credit cards at the same time, and the reason we used one of our free Hyatt hotel nights at the Hyatt Regency Nice Palais De La Méditerranée on our stay in Monaco (pictured below)

Hyatt Regency Nice

Hyatt Regency Nice

Now, some might argue that we “wasted” our free IHG nights when we were in London by using them on a hotel that “only” cost 35,000 IHG points but who’s counting?

The downside of free hotel nights

So while free is great, here is my problem with free hotel stays.  Unless you have top tier status, I find you just end up with a basic (crappy) room and end up getting charged for every little thing that the hotel can think of.  There’s a reason my basic rule of thumb is that so-called “budget” hotels DESTROY nice ones.

While free travel is always nice, I've got a BIG problem with free hotel stays

Take our recent stay at the Hyatt Regency in Nice, France. We have mid-tier Hyatt Platinum status, but we got no free breakfast, no free wi-fi, and if we’d had a car, they’d have charged us to park it there!  They also did charge us a city tax on our “free” night but at least there were no resort fees, which I count as one of the biggest hotel scams out there

(SEE ALSO: 3 things that drive me crazy about hotels)

Our current free hotel night dilemma

We are heading on a round the world trip shortly, and are trying to settle on our hotel options.  We need 1 night in Hong Kong, 4 nights in Singapore and 1 night in Dubai.  I recently signed up for the Citi Hilton Reserve card, which gives 2 free weekend hotel nights upon meeting the minimum spend, which we plan to use at the Hilton in Singapore.  I do have top-tier Hilton Diamond status, so I am hopeful to get something nice there.

I have 1 of my 2 free nights from the Hyatt credit card left, and I also have 2 free Club Carlson nights from complaining when they removed the Bonus Night feature on their credit card.  In Dubai there are a few Radissons, as well as a Park Hyatt and Grand Hyatt.  I wouldn’t mind using one of my Hyatt nights there, but it would really be nice to get club / lounge access, but it doesn’t look like Platinums are guaranteed that.  Does anyone have any luck getting lounge access as a Hyatt Platinum?  I could go with the Radisson in Dubai, since there aren’t any Club Carlson hotels in either Hong Kong or Singapore.  If I don’t use it there, I may end up “wasting” it at a Country Inn and Suites for an upcoming stay!?!? 😛

Got any good suggestions for how to best use our free hotel nights?

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