Have job, will travel, need points: Best bets for hotel rewards cards
Cathleen McCarthy is a journalist whose articles on travel, commerce and consumer topics have appeared in dozens of publications. She writes "Cashing In," a weekly column about credit card rewards programs, for CreditCards.com
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Dear Cashing In,
Me: Happy to be off the unemployment
rolls. Yay! You: Helping me out, please? For my new job, I'll be traveling a
lot, major metro areas, setting up convention space, spending up to a week at a
time in one place. But it's contract work, so I'll be using my own card. Which
hotel card would suit me? I hear the hotel cards have gotten chintzy lately. -- Miranda
Congratulations! You should be able
to rack up piles of points with this situation. Which hotel loyalty program you
choose depends partly on your travel budget, of course, but just to give you
some idea of your fellow travelers' preferences, here's a look at the hotel
loyalty programs and credit cards frequent fliers ranked highest at the 2013 Freddie
As usual, Marriott Rewards nearly swept
the hotel category in the Americas, winning program of the year, best
redemption ability, best customer service and best earning promotion. Assuming
your business travel will be primarily in North America, you can't go wrong
with Marriott, and it's pretty solid overseas, too.
The Chase Marriott Rewards Visa card ($45
annual fee, waived the first year) earns 3 points per $1 spent on Marriott and 1
point per $1 spent on other purchases. You get 30,000 points after spending
$1,000 in the first three months, a one-time bonus of two free night stays and 10
credits toward elite status every year.
The Premier version has an $85
annual fee (waived the first year), offers 50,000 points after you spend $1,000
in three months, 15 credits toward elite status annually, 5 points per $1 spent
at Marriott, and 2 points per $1 on restaurants, car rentals and airline
tickets purchased from the airline. It comes with chip technology and no
foreign transaction fees. Both cards offer 1 credit toward elite status with
every $3,000 you spend.
You can find lots of promotional
deals for Marriott Rewards members on the Marriott Rewards website, starting with a free continental breakfast for two for Gold
and Platinum elite members beginning June 22 and triple Avios points now
through September when you stay at any of 3,700 participating hotels.
You should also look at what all
those weeks on the road will get you in terms of elite status. The one category
Marriott didn't win was for best elite level. Hyatt Gold Passport won that, and
its credit card gets you Platinum membership automatically. Among other things, that means a
15 percent point bonus on each room stay, complimentary in-room Internet
access and expedited check-in.
Hyatt Visa ($75 annual fee, waived the first
year) comes in chip form with no foreign transaction fees (important if some of
your travel is overseas) and offers two free nights for $1,000 spent in the
first three months, 3 points per $1 spent on Hyatt and 2 points per $1 spent on
dining, airline and car rental.
If you travel overseas, Starwood
Preferred Guest (SPG) was the top pick for elite level and redemption ability
in Europe and Africa. One perk of earning points via Starwood and the SPG American Express is the ability to redeem points on 350 airlines with no blackout dates.
You might also look at Club Carlson.
It hasn't yet secured a place in the top-ranked loyalty programs and credit
cards, but it's trying harder. Last year, Carlson Hotels and Rezidor
Hotel Group merged, with a new credit card and loyalty program covering about
1,000 hotels worldwide (including Radisson, Park Inn and Country Inns &
Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa card
offers automatic Gold elite status and up to 85,000 bonus points at sign-up --
50,000 after first purchase and 35,000 after spending $2,500 in three months.
After that, you get 10 points per dollar spent at participating hotels and 5
points per dollar elsewhere.
You also get 40,000 points each year when you
renew your card (for a $75 annual fee). If you have a Club Carlson credit card,
you get the last night of any award reservation of two nights or more free.
Juicy promotional deals are always popping up on Club Carlson website.
See related: What to consider before getting a hotel credit card,
Can I get more rewards by using my hotel's app?, How to get rewards for rural hotel stays
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Published: June 25, 2013