Internet access is more and more important with all the online services that people expect to use on a daily basis. So while I don’t particularly care if my hotel has shared or restricted resources like a business center or boarding pass kiosk, I do care quite a bit if there is Internet access in my room to satisfy whatever needs I have. That’s the point of the Internet: it’s a dumb pipe, and by golly it better be fast.
There are four basic approaches I use or recommend for obtaining free Internet access at hotels, and I admit a few have trade-offs. But I hope this list helps you as there have been some changes in the past year since I first created another version of this post.
Free, or Free with Membership
- Fairmont – Membership to the Presidents Club loyalty program is free and includes free Internet access.
- Joie de Vivre – Most properties have free Internet already, but membership to the Joy of Life Club is free and includes free Internet access.
- Kimpton – Membership to InTouch is free and includes free Internet access. You’ll receive a prompt to join when you first connect to the network. (Tip: sign-up in advance and InTouch members also receive a $10 raid-the-minibar credit on every stay.)
- Omni – Membership to the Select Guest loyalty program is free and includes free Internet access.
- Wyndham – Membership to the ByRequest loyalty program is free and includes free Internet access.
- IHG Rewards — All members now receive free Internet access, even when not staying at the hotel. This benefit is still in the roll-out phase and will be offered at European properties sometime in 2014.
- Club Carlson — Membership to Club Carlson is free and includes free Internet access.
- Loews — Free WiFi for all guests, with no membership required (not available in meeting spaces).
- Group Rates – Special rates for members of AAA, certain corporations, and other groups sometimes include free WiFi in the rate description.
Free with Elite Status
Although elite status may be required to get free Internet access at these properties, in many cases there are free or easy ways to get that status. I’ve included a few suggested techniques.
- Hyatt – Free Internet for Platinum members of the Gold Passport program, which takes 15 nights or 5 stays. You can get “free” Platinum status with a United MileagePlus Club credit card or Hyatt Credit Card from Chase.
- Hilton – Free Internet for Gold members of Hilton HHonors, which takes 36 nights or 16 stays. You can get “free” Gold status with a variety of Hilton credit cards from Citi.
- Starwood – Free Internet for Platinum members of Starwood Preferred Guest, which takes 50 nights or 25 stays. Gold members can elect free Internet from a menu of check-in benefits, which takes 25 nights or 10 stays. You can get “free” Gold status with the Platinum Card or Business Platinum Card from American Express, or if you spend $30,000 each year with the SPG American Express card. And finally, Platinum and Diamond members with Delta SkyMiles can get free Internet and other benefits when they register for Crossover Rewards.
- Marriott – Free Internet for Gold members of Marriott Rewards or Ritz-Carlton Rewards, which takes 50 nights for either program. You can get “free” Gold status with Ritz-Carlton for the first year with the Ritz-Carlton Rewards credit card from Chase. United’s RewardsPlus partnership is temporarily closed but should re-open soon and give some United elites access to Marriott Gold status.
Free at Budget Properties
In almost all cases, low-end properties offer more free benefits. Why? I’m not really sure except they probably realize they are fighting a losing battle with their target customers. Budget properties also seem to have more competition with few ways to differentiate themselves. Providing basic free Internet — even if it’s slow — is better than paying to maintain a high-speed service that can justify $9.95 per night.
“Free” with a Mobile Hotspot
More people have smart phones that are capable of turning into mobile hotspots, and newer contracts often include the feature for free — though it does drain your data plan. It can be better than nothing and is as easy as pulling out my phone and flipping a switch. Since I limit most of my Internet use to simple web pages and email, I usually find that I have ample data remaining at the end of each month. Leave the Netflix marathons for home. This is also a good solution at properties where the WiFi is already free but so maddeningly slow it isn’t actually useable.