The Best Way to Join U.S. News’ Top Hotel Rewards Programs

Advertiser Disclosure

This page includes analysis of our favorite cards from Money360's advertisers and the marketplace. Visit our advertiser disclosure to learn more.

While no hotel rewards program is perfect for every traveler, certain ones tend to stand out among the rest. To highlight the best programs for both domestic and international travel, U.S. News and World Report recently released their annual list of .

Top 5 Hotel Programs for 2015-16

You might be thinking you need to travel often in order to take advantage of the top hotel programs, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of the time, signing up for a co-branded hotel loyalty card is all you need to do to rack up points good for free hotel stays, room upgrades, and other ways to improve your trip when you do travel.

Here are some cards to consider if you hope to earn free hotel stays in the United States or abroad using the best hotel loyalty programs out there:

No. 1: Marriott Rewards

Taking the top spot this year for both leisure and business travelers is the Marriott Rewards program. Top benefits offered include no blackout dates when redeeming free nights on standard rooms, at 5,700 locations in 70 different countries, the ability to use points toward free nights at Ritz Carlton properties, and points that can be used for airfare and rental cars, too.

If you’re interested in joining the Marriott Rewards program, consider getting the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card (currently unavailable) as your first step.

No. 2: Wyndham Rewards

Due a huge rebranding that took place earlier this year, the Wyndham Rewards program has improved enough to earn the second spot on this list. Top benefits offered through this program include the ability to book at 7,500 properties worldwide, the ability to redeem points for all-inclusive properties, and points that are good for airfare and car rentals in addition to hotel stays.

Even better, all Wyndham properties – including top tier resorts – can be booked for just 15,000 points per night. If you want to join the Wyndham Rewards program and earn a few free nights, the hotel chain currently offers .

No. 3: Best Western Rewards

Although the Best Western Rewards program is geared to budget-conscious travelers, it offers a ton of value for those who take advantage of it. Top benefits include easy point redemptions — for hotels, airfare, and even gift cards — points that never expire, and more than 5,700 properties in more than 100 countries to choose from.

As an affordable option for families, Best Western Rewards also offers a lot of value when it comes to redeeming your points for free nights or other perks. If you want to learn more, read up on the

No. 4: Club Carlson

With more than 1,000 Radisson, Radisson Blu, Park Inn by Radisson, Park Plaza or Country Inns & Suites By Carlson properties around the world, Club Carlson caters to both leisure and business travelers. Top benefits include points that are easy to earn and redeem, access to both luxury and budget properties, and free nights with the co-branded credit card.

Free nights also start at just 9,000 points per night for Category 1 properties, which can help you stretch your stash of points. If you want to earn a hefty sign-up bonus and join this program in one fell swoop, get the Club Carlson℠ Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card. Here are some important details to consider:

Club Carlson℠ Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Highlights:

  • Earn 50,000 Gold Points after your first purchase, 35,000 points once you spend $2,500 on your card within the first 90 days - that's up to 9 Free Award Nights at Category 1 hotels
  • 10 points per $1 spent in eligible net purchases at participating Carlson Rezidor hotels worldwide
  • Earn one free night when you charge $10,000 then renew your Card.
  • 5 points per $1 spent in eligible net purchases everywhere else
  • Club Carlson Gold Status is yours after you activate and use your card
  • Please see terms and conditions for complete details
  • Net purchases are purchases minus credits and returns
  • Subject to credit approval

No. 5: IHG Rewards Club

By offering points that are easy to earn and redeem, the IHG Rewards Club lets you earn a free night each year of card membership at over 5,200 properties within IHG’s extensive network of hotels, including InterContinental® Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts and Holiday Inn® properties. Top benefits include the ability to redeem points for all-inclusive properties, no blackout dates, and a huge selection of high-end and low-end properties to choose from.

In addition to points you can use to book free nights, the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card also offers a free night each year of card membership at any property worldwide.

Please Note: IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card is currently unavailable through our site.

The Bottom Line

You don’t have to travel extensively to earn free hotel nights with any of the top hotel rewards programs. Just by getting a co-branded hotel credit card and meeting its terms and conditions, including any minimum spending requirements, you can often earn several free nights a slew of other benefits. And if you start earning now, you could be on the beach, in the mountains, or exploring your favorite city in no time.

Related Articles:

What is your favorite hotel loyalty program? Do you agree with U.S. News & World Report’s analysis?

Editorial Note: Compensation does not influence our rankings and recommendations. However, we may earn a commission on sales from the companies featured in this post. To view a list of partners, click here. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers. Reasonable efforts are made to present accurate info, however all information is presented without warranty. Consult our advertiser's page for terms & conditions.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.