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.
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.
Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers cardholders 5 points for every $1 spent at any one of the 4,000 Marriott Hotels located around the world, which includes the luxurious Ritz-Carlton line of hotels as well. They'll also earn 2 points for every $1 spent at restaurants, car rental agencies, and on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline. They'll earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases. There's no limit to how many points cardholders can earn. In addition, cardholders will receive a free night stay at a category 1-5 location each year after their account anniversary. Get 15 Elite Credits guaranteeing Silver Elite Status or better, which includes free Wi-Fi, 20% bonus points, and 10% discount on regular rates for weekend night stays (at participating locations). Marriott points can be converted to partner airline miles. The transfer rate varies (5:1, 10:1.5, 10:1) but there is a way to get 1:1 conversion by using Marriott's Air + Hotel package redemption option. There are no foreign transaction fees on the card. This card has an annual fee of $85 that is waived the first year.
Sign up offer: 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 within the first 3 months.
IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card
If you're a frequent visitor to hotels that include the Intercontinental, the Crowne Plaza, or the Holiday Inn, then the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card may be just the card for you. Cardholders can earn 5 points for each dollar spent on stays at any of the hotels under the Intercontinental Hotels Group brand. They can also earn 2 points for each dollar spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants, along with 1 point for each dollar spent on all other purchases.
Cardholders will also receive a free night stay at any IHG hotel around the world each year of cardmembership, and they will receive a 10% rebate on their IHG Rewards Club point redemptions as well. Additionally, cardholders will get to enjoy all of the benefits of the Platinum Elite status, which includes free internet, priority check-in, free upgrades, and 50% bonus points. IHG points can be converted to airline partner miles at a 5:1 ratio. There are no foreign transaction fees on the card. This card has an annual fee of $49 that is waived for the first year.
Sign up offer: Earn 70,000 points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
Hilton HHonors™ Card from American Express
The Hilton HHonors™ Card from American Express offers 7 bonus points for each $1 spent at any participating hotel within the Hilton Portfolio, 5 bonus points for every $1 spent at U.S. supermarkets, at U.S. restaurants, and at U.S. gas stations, and 3 bonus points for every $1 spent on all other purchases. Plus, you get to enjoy the benefits of the Hilton HHonors™ Silver status as long as you are a cardmember, which gets you 15% bonus points, 5th night free on Standard Room Reward stays of 5 nights or more, late check-out, and more. You can also quickly upgrade yourself to Gold status after four stays within the first 90 days of account opening or after making $20,000 or more in purchases in a calendar year. Terms and limitations apply.
Hotels within the Hilton Portfolio include DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hampton, Contrad, and more. You can also transfer points to airline partners, at a 10:1 ratio for most airlines. There is no annual fee for this card.
Sign up offer: Get 75,000 Hilton HHonors™ Bonus Points after you spend $71,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. (Offer ends May 4, 2016.) Terms and limitations apply.
Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card
The Club Carlson℠ Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card offers 10 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at participating Carlson Rezidor hotels, and 5 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases everywhere else. Additionally, get 40,000 bonus points each year when you renew. You'll also have Club Carlson℠ Gold Elite status once you use your card, which includes benefits like early check-in and late checkout, 35% bonus points, free upgrades, free internet, and more. Participating hotels include Country Inn & Suites, Radisson, Park Plaza, and more. You can also choose to transfer your Club Carlson points to their airline partners at a 10 points to 1 mile rate. The card has an annual fee of $75.
Sign up offer: 50,000 points after the first purchase plus 35,000 points after spending $2,500 within the first 90 days — worth up to 9 free award nights.
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. In fact, there are over 1,200 hotels & resorts in nearly 100 countries under their program. With the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, you can earn up to 5 Starpoints® on purchases at participating SPG hotels. (That's 2 Starpoints for which you may be eligible as a Card Member, plus the 2 or 3 Starpoints for which you may be eligible as an SPG member.) Earn 1 Starpoint for each dollar of other eligible purchases. What makes this card popular among frequent travelers is the 1:1 ratio you can get when transferring points to partner airline miles. This card has an annual fee of $95 that is waived the first year.
Sign up offer: Get 25,000 bonus Starpoints after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms and conditions apply.
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 bank, card issuer, airline or hotel chain.