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How to make the most of your hotel points

Credit card rewards can get overwhelming, but CNBC Select offers four ways you can maximize your hotel points to save on your next overnight stay.

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Maximizing your hotel points can mean a more luxurious overnight stay on your next adventure.

Co-branded hotel credit cards offer points that can be redeemed for stays at a variety of properties in a specific hotel chain's portfolio. Meanwhile, general travel credit cards offer flexibility to stay at different hotels.

Below, CNBC Select reviews five ways you can maximize your hotel rewards.

How to make the most of your hotel points

  1. Choose the right card
  2. Review reward transfer ratios and travel portals
  3. Take advantage of free nights and other hotel offers
  4. Be flexible with travel dates and hotels
  5. Don't let your points go to waste

1. Choose the right card

If you're loyal to a particular hotel chain, using a hotel-specific card can earn you increased rewards, free stays and complimentary room upgrades at a variety of properties. In addition, many hotel cards offer annual statement credits on resort purchases, free lounge access, complimentary loyalty membership and travel protections. All of these hotel perks usually come with a high annual fee, yet it can be worthwhile for frequent travelers.

But even if you favor one hotel chain versus another, a travel credit card may be a better choice than a hotel-specific card. With a travel card, you can earn the same number of rewards on all hotel purchases, regardless of whether you stay at a Marriott or a Hilton, and you can also benefit from general travel discounts, such as annual travel credits, travel insurance and no foreign transaction fees.

"Pick a hotel card that's currently spiking in its offer and that also aligns with the brand of hotels at which you'd actually want to stay," Erin Lowry, founder of Broke Millennial, tells CNBC Select. "You also don't have to focus on a hotel-branded credit card in order to get points that can be used for hotel stays. Plenty of cards offer points that can be used to book airfare or toward hotels, which gives you more flexibility."

For example, with the no-annual-fee Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card, you can earn 5X miles on any hotel booked through Capital One Travel℠.

2. Review reward transfer ratios and travel portals

General travel credit cards often let you transfer points to book certain hotels. The value of one point varies, but the card issuer discloses the transfer rate on its website. The best travel cards offer at least a 1:1 ratio. That means if you have 1,000 points it's worth 1,000 partner hotel points. If your card has a transfer ratio less than the 1:1 rate, consider paying upfront for your hotel stay and using your rewards for other things.

If you have a Chase credit card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® or Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you'll benefit from a 1:1 transfer ratio on leading airline and hotel loyalty programs. But the value of points increases 25% to 50%, respectively, when you redeem for travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. As a result, it may make more sense to book hotel stays through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

Chase cardmembers also have access to the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection (LHRC) to book rooms and take advantage of upgrades upon arrival, complimentary meals, flexible check-in times, extra amenities and special discounts.

American Express has its own luxury hotel program, Fine Hotels & Resorts, where Platinum Card® members receive a suite of benefits at over 1,000 properties worldwide.

With the Amex travel portal, American Express® Gold cardholders get up to $100 in hotel credits when booking rooms through The Hotel Collection with American Express Travel. In addition to the point rewards, there are also special travel perks, such as room upgrades at specific hotels and special travel discounts and amenities for those who enroll with The Travel Collection by Travel Leaders Group at no extra cost.

3. Take advantage of free nights and other hotel offers

Some hotel cards offer a complimentary night stay on top of an extensive suite of perks for loyal guests.

"Before you book, check the special offers," Ramit Sethi, personal finance coach and best-selling author of "I Will Teach You To Be Rich," tells CNBC Select. "I recently stayed at a hotel for three nights and got a fourth night free."

A card like the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card offers premium travel benefits at Marriott properties as well as competitive rewards. The card comes with a steep $450 annual fee, but the benefits help to offset that cost. Every year, cardholders receive a $300 statement credit toward incidentals, including charges at restaurants, spas and other establishments within Marriott Bonvoy hotels. This is a great way to cover the cost of room service, a massage or other perks during your hotel stay. And guests staying two nights or more at the Ritz-Carlton® or St. Regis® properties get an additional $100 property credit.

Learn more: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex Card review: Score a free night and other luxury hotel perks

4. Be flexible with travel dates and hotels

When it comes to booking your next trip, make your reservations well in advance to lock in a better redemption rate. If you can, avoid peak times, such as holidays, and be flexible with your travel dates to have more redemption options.

Of course, your points will go a lot further at less fancy hotels, and when traveling to big cities or popular tourist destinations, you often have a wealth of options to choose from. For example, if you're booking a getaway trip to New Orleans, rather than using the points you earned with your Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express to stay at The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, use your points at the Homewood Suites by Hilton, which is actually closer to the French Quarter. Not only will this translate to spending less points per night, but that means you can probably stay a night or two longer for the same cost.

5. Don't let your points go to waste

Just because you just haven't racked up enough points to score any redemptions, don't let the points you have earned go to waste. There are a number of hotel-specific cards that allow you to combine points with another cardholder.

If you frequent Hyatt hotels and want to benefit from enhanced loyalty membership, you might want to consider The World of Hyatt Credit Card. With Hyatt, you can combine points with any other World of Hyatt member at no additional cost. Two members are eligible to combine points to redeem an award. Keep in mind, members can only transfer or receive points once every 30 days.

Learn more: The World Of Hyatt Credit Card review: A low annual fee hotel card with elite status and free nights

For those looking to book a big trip with their significant other, hotel cards that combine points could be a good route. And it doesn't hurt to ask for more. "If you're traveling for a special occasion like an anniversary, email the manager ahead of time," Sethi says. "They'll often give you a special amenity. And remember, the goal is not to accumulate points — it's to create meaningful experiences. Sometimes it's worth saving points up to spend them on something absolutely amazing that you wouldn't ordinarily go for."

Information about the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card and Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the cards prior to publication.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.