Credit Cards

Three Credit Cards to Avoid!

That is, until you have definite travel plans within the year of application. 🙂

Let me be clear up front – I think each of these cards present amazing bonuses and should definitely be a part of your credit card application strategy. However, as a person applies for more and more credit cards, the field of available great card bonuses rapidly shrinks. As a result, people tend to turn their attention to other cards that they want to get just because it has a cool bonus. However, these three cards I am going to write about here will each see that very valuable bonus expire in a year after the award certificates have been earned. If you want to get the maximum personal value from these cards, make sure you read through here. Otherwise, you may find yourself staying at a local, low category hotel 1 week before the certificates expire because you never planned the trip to use them.

Three Credit Cards to Avoid! 

At least until you have plans for them!

Disclosure: I do not receive a commission for any of these cards. 

Fairmont Hotel Credit Card from Chase

Fairmont Hotel Credit Card

I wrote about this great card last year and it still exists as having a very attractive bonus offer – two nights at any Fairmont Hotel in the world! Fairmont Hotels exist as more upscale hotels (if you are familiar with the Plaza Hotel in NYC, you have an idea of the type of luxury that Fairmont has throughout their hotel system). This card awards two free nights (with breakfast) to any Fairmont Hotel after spending $1,000 on the card in the first 3 months of having the card. Given the fact that many of the Fairmont Hotels can cost at least $300 a night and figure another $50 for breakfast, that puts this card’s actual value at a minimum of around $650! That is a very nice return on a card that requires such low spending requirements to achieve the bonus.

Application Link – Fairmont Hotel Credit Card – 2 Free Nights after spending $1,000 in 3 months

Here are some of the details about this card:

  • 2 Free Nights at any Fairmont Hotel after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months of card membership
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee ($95) waived for the first year
  • 1 Free Night ever year that you spend $12,000 or more on the card (I really like this as that 1 night can be at any Fairmont Hotel – even those that cost over $500 a night!)

However, this card’s free nights expire one year from the date the free night certificates were issued. So, if you were to apply for the card today (January 15) and meet your spending requirements March 1, your free nights will expire March 1, 2015 (probably a couple of days later, depending on when the actual spending threshold was posted to the account). The certificates should be electronically issued and will be issued from the date that the spending totals were met.

Hilton Reserve Credit Card from Citibank

Hilton Reserve Credit card

This is another really good hotel card. As I have written about before, Hilton probably offers the most ways to accrue hotel points (and good thing too since their devaluation). Almost all of their cards (and partners that allow transfer into Hilton points) are all point based – they do not offer free nights. All of them, except the Hilton Reserve card. This card’s worth shot up through the devaluation as the top-tier Hilton hotels went up over 90% in required points – yet this card continues to offer 2 free weekend nights at almost any Hilton Hotel (so where the bonus was worth no more than 100,000 points, it is now worth 190,000 points). Another high-point of this card is the Hilton HHonors Gold status that it grants you as long as you hold the card. This status is the only hotel mid-tier status that allows you to have free breakfast. In addition, this is the only hotel credit card that allows you to achieve top-tier status by spending (you receive Hilton Diamond status after spending $40,000 in a year).

Application Link – Hilton Reserve Credit Card – 2 Free Weekend Nights after spending $2,500 in 4 months

Here are some of the details about this card:

  • 2 Free Weekend Nights at eligible Hilton Hotels
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee ($95) not waived
  • Free anniversary night after spending $10,000 in a calendar year
  • Hilton HHonors Gold status as long as you hold the card

2 free weekend nights is one thing that makes this a great card for a marathoner. Obviously, most marathons are on a weekend and that you get two weekend nights allows you to use this for any upcoming race. However, these free nights also expire after 1 year of being issued. So, if you do not have a good way of using these certificates, you may find yourself burning these certificates (that can easily fetch you over $600 in value) at some Hilton that only costs $80 a night.

Hyatt Hotel Credit Card from Chase

Hyatt Hotel credit card

Here is another fantastic credit card. This card also gives 2 free nights at any Hyatt hotel after meeting the spending requirements – $1,000 in 3 months. My wife and I have each received this card and we actually used them at the same hotel (Andaz 5th Ave in Manhattan). The nights for the time we were there were going for $400 each night. That made the value of the two free nights we used to be pegged at $800 for our bonus from this card. In addition to that, you receive Hyatt Platinum status (mid-tier) as long as you hold the card. While upgrades to a different room category is not a published benefit of Platinum status, we have received upgrades both times we stayed there – and they were upgrades to really large suites! This card’s bonus is equivalent to 60,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points (which can be transferred from Ultimate Rewards) if redeemed at the top-tier category 7 (each night at a category 7 is 30,000 points). With the recent Hyatt devaluation, this card’s value has climbed even higher in its comparison to points redeemed.

Another high point of this card is the anniversary night. You do not have to do any spending to receive this night – it comes around the same time you get your annual fee. This night is good at any Hyatt hotel up to a category 4. That gives you a nice list of hotels available and is a great bargain (even with the annual fee).

Application Link – Hyatt Hotel Credit Card – 2 Free Nights after spending $1,000 in 3 months

Here are some of the details about this card:

  • Annual Fee – $75  waived the first year)
  • 2 Free Nights after spending $1,000 in 3 months
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Hyatt Gold Platinum Membership for as long as you hold the card
  • One Free Night at a category 1-4 hotel every year on the card anniversary

Again, just like the other cards, this card’s free nights expire one year after issue. So, if you applied for this just to get these awesome nights and you all of a sudden realize they expire next month, you may find yourself forced to use the local Hyatt as your getaway – not that it is bad (they are still free!), but my local Hyatt back home is a category 2 making my certificates receive that much less value.

So are these cards bad?

ABSOLUTELY NOT! These are each tremendous cards and ones that I believe have exceptional value – probably some of the best hotel cards available! My point with them, however, is to no apply for them just for the sake of getting more cards. These cards require some forethought as to where you may have an interest in using them and when. If you live in a city with great options from the hotel chain you are considering, then you could still get great value from them even if you stay in town. But if you think there may be a time down the road that you might want to really enjoy those free nights someplace different, then wait until then to apply.

Some Questions

What if these offers are not around when I finally apply?

I cannot say for sure, obviously, but I seriously doubt that we will see these offers going anywhere over the next couple of years. These offers are great for the banks and the hotels (remember, the hotel is banking that you may want to spend more than 2 nights on your visit or that you will like the hotel so much you come back and pay the next time) and there is no reason to pull them. The only thing that has changed with the Hyatt offer, for instance, was the minimum spending. It used to be you would receive the free nights after first purchase – now there is a $1,000 spending threshold required.

What if my credit score has changed when I am ready to apply?

Chase and Citi are very good about shifting credit lines from existing accounts with them to allow for a new card. If the issue is too many applications or too many open accounts or two much credit already offered, you can fix that by offering to move some credit from one card or canceling a card outright. The things that can make it difficult to get one is if you are carrying high balances, having balances on too many cards (even if you pay them off each month), or if you are late on your payments. So continue to be responsible with your credit and you should not have a problem.

I already applied and my certificates are expiring in 4 months! What do I do?

First of all, do not spend a ton of money (or worse, money you do not have) to get to someplace where you can utilize the certificates at their greatest potential (like the Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris). You might be trying to get the best value, but spending $1,700 to use free certificates is not the way to realized the best value. You would receive better value by staying at a category 1 then spending too much money just to use them. Instead, check your upcoming races and look for the proper hotels in the area. Failing that, many great hotels for both chains are within driving distances of most of the country – plan a short road trip to a nice Hyatt/Hilton/Fairmont hotel.

Ok, I know when and where I want to use them – when should I apply for the card?

If the date is within the next year, do it right away! This will make sure that you can secure that award availability while it exists.

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Nice post however I disagree with the Hilton card unless your job requires stays at Hilton often. Oh and IHG card give you top tier status automatically without the spend. Although it might not mean as much with that brand.

    • With the IHG Plat, probably the best thing that is good for would be leveraging it for status matches :). The IHG card does not come with any bonuses that have to be used within a certain time, that’s why I didn’t include it in this post. I did have a writeup about that one yesterday.

  • This blog is so tedious. Far more than any other boardingarea blog, it exists solely to push credit cards with mundane analysis. Hopefully it meets a timely end soon.

    • Thanks for stopping by. My target audience is the traveling runner, many of whom are just getting into traveling on miles and points. Obviously, I disagree with your assessment of the blogs existence. I think you will find that the amount of credit card posts are a lot less than other posts. Take care.

  • Are these three cards churnable? I used to have the Marriott Visa from Chase years ago. When reapply last December, I did receive the sign-on points, but not the one free night certificate.

  • Thanks for your message. I agree that Hilton is one of the easiest programs to get points on (and probably the most devalued points as well).

    For families, I’d say these cards are less attractive, only because at least in my experience, kids don’t care about “fancy” hotels. Still, those kinds of nights are good for a getaway.

    I do disagree with the earlier poster talking about the blog existing only to push credit cards, unless the disclosure at the top of the page that says he doesn’t get commission for these cards is wrong?

    • Thanks for the comment. Nope, the disclosure is correct – I do not receive anything for these cards. I always make it clear when and what cards pay me a commission. Thanks!

    • My kid has been going to Fairmont hotels since she was 9. She is now 15 and it is her favorite chain. My 4 year old nephew loves the 4 Seasons because the staff remembers his name and spoil him. Kids love nice hotels

  • How is your claim that these cards are less attractive any different than saying “oh these mileage bonus cards are not a good deal if you don’t fly and use your points on the skymall”
    I would hope people getting these cards know the value of a free hotel night.

    • Not quite sure of your point – I point out many times in the post that these cards have extremely high value and they are attractive bonuses. I just caution people to not apply without some sense of how they may best utilize the free nights. Believe, I love free nights that I can use at a top tier hotel instead of having to burn quite a bit of points to do the same thing.