The Best Credit Cards for Hotel Deals and Rewards
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Using points to find free award nights at hotels is just as important as redeeming miles for airline travel, since lodging expenses can represent a large portion of your vacation budget. Therefore, those who prefer to travel on rewards earned from their credit cards are sure to carry around at least one card co-branded with a hotel chain. Frugal travelers must seek out the best credit cards for awards at hotels. (See also: 40 Most Useful Travel Websites That Can Save You a Fortune)
What Makes a Good Hotel Credit Card
First, look beyond the name of the parent company, as most large hotel chains offer properties under many different brand names. For example, the Marriott hotels contain luxury brands such as the Ritz-Carlton, as well as budget properties like Fairfield Inn. Next, compare the number of points earned from credit card spending with the minimum amount required for a free night award. Finally, look at other features the credit card may offer such as a generous sign up bonus or the ability to transfer points to airline miles.
Best Credit Cards for Staying at Hotels
After considering their bonuses, point accrual, usability, and other factors, these are my favorite hotel cards currently available.
Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card
The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card offers new customers 40,000 Hilton HHonors bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 4 months. Earn 6 bonus points for every $1 spent on hotel stays within the HHonors portfolio, 3 bonus points for every $1 spent at supermarkets, drugstores, and gas stations, and 2 bonus points for every $1 spent on all other purchases. The extra bonus points for purchases at supermarkets, drugstores, and gas stations gives this card a leg up on other hotel branded credit cards, that usually only offer bonus points on hotel stays. Hotels within the HHonors portfolio include DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hampton, Contrad, and more. There is no annual fee for this card.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Although the Starwood line of properties may be well known for their high-end Westin and mid-range Sheratons, they also feature less expensive brands such as Four Points and Aloft. The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express offers a 10,000 Starpoints sign-up bonus after the first purchase and an additional 15,000 Starpoints after $5,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. Considering that their award nights start at only 2,000 points for a weekend stay, and 3,000 for a weekday night, the sign-up bonus alone can go very far. Furthermore, there are no blackout dates or capacity controls, and members receive their fifth night free when they book an award for four nights. Earn up to 5 Starpoints for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with participating hotels and resorts. Earn 1 Starpoint for each dollar of other eligible purchases. This card has an annual fee of $65 that is waived the first year.
- Earn up to 25,000 bonus Starpoints®
- Earn 10,000 Starpoints after your first purchase on the Card and an additional 15,000 Starpoints after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 6 months.
- Redeem Starpoints for free nights at over 1,100 hotels & resorts in nearly 100 countries and for free flights on over 150 airlines with SPG Flights - all with no blackout dates.
- Some hotels may have mandatory service and resort charges.
- Starpoints stay active as long as you continue to spend on your Card.
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $65.
- Terms and Restrictions apply.
Priceline Rewards™ Visa® Card
The Priceline Rewards™ Visa® Card is great for those who use Priceline to book all their travel needs, including hotels. It offers 5,000 bonus points after the first purchase and an additional 5,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days (that's enough for a $100 statement credit). Earn 5x points on priceline.com purchases and 1 point on everything else. Points act like cash — redeem them for statement purchases. There is no annual fee for this card.
Choice Privileges® Visa® Card
The Choice Privileges® Visa® Card offers new cardholders 8,000 points after their first purchase, and another 24,000 points when they use the card for a hotel stay at a Choice Privileges® location (32,000 points is enough for up to 4 free nights!). Earn 15 points per eligible $1 spent at over 4,200 Choice Privileges locations and 2 points per dollar spent on everyday purchases. Cardmembers also get automatic Elite Gold Status, which allows members to get a 10% point bonus for eligible stays. Although Choice Hotels is known for budget properties in the United States such as the Comfort Inn, they also have some fairly nice urban hotels in major European capitals that could make for some incredible award stays. There is no annual fee for this card.
Wyndham Rewards® Visa Signature® Card
The Wyndham Rewards® Visa Signature® Card offers new customers a 12,000 point sign-up bonus after the first purchase (enough for 2 free nights). Earn 3 points per $1 spent on participating hotel stays and 2 points per $1 spent everywhere else. Participating hotels include Travelodge, Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Ramada, and more. There is no annual fee for this card.
There is value in credit card rewards for hotels, but savvy cardholders must closely examine each card’s terms in order to find the true deals.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.