The Hipmunk Guide to Free Hotel Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi has become an amenity that guests expect from the hotels where they choose to stay. We asked our Twitter fans what they think of free Wi-Fi and they spoke loud and clear. Perhaps Susan Breslow ?(@susanbreslow) said it best: ‘Hotel wi-fi is essential. Free wins loyalty and cred.’ But according to a review of Hipmunk’s hotel database, only 70 percent of U.S. hotels offer free Wi-Fi. Another 27 percent don’t offer Wi-Fi at all (what?!?!). And the last 3 percent offer Wi-Fi for a fee.

So how do you ensure you always have Wi-Fi free of charge? Easy. Read the Hipmunk guide to free Wi-Fi below.

Know Where to Go
We tapped our hotels database to identify the U.S. cities with the highest percentage of free Wi-Fi.

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Avoid Luxury Hotels
Believe it or not, you really don’t get what you pay for when it comes to expected amenities at luxury hotels. According to our data, more expensive hotels are much more likely to charge for Wi-Fi than moderate and budget hotels (this is also true of other amenities like free breakfast). True, the reasoning is that the fewer users on a server, the higher the quality (read: speed) of WiFi a luxury hotel is able to offer their guests. The problem is that as free Wi-Fi becomes ubiquitous in American society, having to pay for it as an amenity at a luxury hotel seems ridiculous. “Paid WiFi is like asking to pay for towels,” said @Made_By_Hugo. “(I) don’t like to be nickel-and-dimed; just want a simple price.”

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Use the Best Search Tools
When you search for hotels on Hipmunk, hotels offering free Wi-Fi are clearly marked with a “free Wi-Fi” icon.

Join Loyalty Programs
While free Wi-Fi may earn a guest’s loyalty, hotel management has ironically discovered that they can withhold free Wi-Fi and other amenities to encourage travelers to join their loyalty programs. Here’s a cheat sheet of some popular hotel chains offering free Wi-Fi as part of their rewards programs and what level you need to attain to get the perk.

Hotel Group Level
Omni Gold
Starwood Preferred
Marriott (participating hotels when you book direct) Member
Hilton (participating hotels when you book direct) Diamond (premium Wi-Fi)Blue, Silver, Gold (standard Wi-Fi)
Kimpton Member
Intercontinental Club
Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond, Platinum (premium Wi-Fi)All guests (standard)
Accor Silver
Fairmont Platinum
Loews All guests


Sign Up for a Credit Card That Offers Wi-Fi Perks
Right now American Express dominates this area. Here’s the rundown on which American Express cards offer Wi-Fi perks.

American Express Credit Card Wi-Fi Perks
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express Free in-room Wi-Fi at participating Starwood Hotels when booked directly
Free unlimited Wi-Fi at more than a million Boingo hotspots around the world
American Express Platinum Free in-room Wi-Fi at participating Fine Hotels
Free unlimited Wi-Fi at more than a million Boingo hotspots around the world
Hilton HHonors Card from American Express Spend $20,000 in eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn HHonors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year. Gold status gets you complimentary in-room hi-speed Wi-Fi at participating Hilton hotels among other perks.
Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express This card gives you automatic Hilton Gold status, which offers free hi-speed Wi-Fi and participating Hilton hotels

The Starwood Preferred Guest card offers complimentary in-room premium internet access while staying in participating SPG hotels and free unlimited Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than a million Boingo hotspots around the world (after enrollment).

Make the Best of a Bad Situation
If you find yourself at a hotel that charges for Wi-Fi, take a look at the other available networks in your Wi-Fi settings. If you’re in a business district or touristy area full of hotels, you just might find an open and free Wi-Fi network to connect to.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on August 19, 2015.