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 of account opening. Earn 6 bonus points for each $1 spent at any participating hotel within the Hilton 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, which means you can rack up points to redeem for free stays quicker. Plus, you get to enjoy the benefits of HHonors Silver status as long as you are a cardmember. Hotels within the Hilton 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. In fact, there are over 1,100 hotels & resorts in nearly 100 countries under their program. With the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card you can 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. What makes this card special is that not only can you redeem points for stays at SPG hotels, you can use AMEX's Membership Rewards to transfer points to airline partner loyalty programs. Use your points for hotel stays as well as airfare. This card has an annual fee of $65 that is waived the first year.
Sign up offer: 10,000 Starpoints after the first purchase and an additional 15,000 Starpoints after $5,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. Annual fee of $65 is waived for 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.
Club Carlson℠ Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card
The Club Carlson℠ Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card has plenty of rewards to offer to its loyal cardholders. To start off, new cardmembers can receive up to 85,000 bonus points, which can be used to redeem up to 9 free award nights at any of the Carlson Rezidor hotels worldwide, which include the Radisson, the Park Plaza, and the Country Inn. They'll receive 50,000 bonus points after their first purchase, and then they'll receive an additional 35,000 bonus points after they spend $2,500 on the card within the first 90 days from their account opening. Cardholders can earn 10 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at participating Carlson Rezidor hotels, along with 5 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases everywhere else.
Cardholders will also be awarded with 40,000 bonus points each year when they renew their card, and they'll be upgraded to the Club Carlson Gold Elite status automatically after using their card. In addition, as an exclusive offer to cardmembers, when they redeem their points for 2 or more consecutive award nights, their last night is free. The card has an annual fee of $75.
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. This card offers new cardmembers 70,000 bonus points after they spend $1,000 within the first 3 months of their account opening. Beyond that, 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 every year they're a cardholder, 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 for as long as they remain a Select cardholder. There are no foreign transaction fees on the card. This card has an annual fee of $49 that is waived for the first year.
Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card
The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers new cardmembers 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months from their account opening, along with a free night stay at a category 1-4 hotel. In addition, they'll receive a free night stay to a category 1-5 hotel each year after their account anniversary. Cardholders can also earn 5 points for every $1 spent at any one of the 3,800 Marriott Hotels located all around the world, which also includes the luxurious Ritz-Carlton line of hotels as well.
They can also earn 2 points for every $1 spent at restaurants, at car rental agencies, and on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline, and they can earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases with the card. There are no foreign transaction fees on the card. This card has an annual fee of $85 that is waived for the first year.
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.