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What's the better hotel credit card -- Hyatt or Marriott?

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Cashing In
Cashing In columnist Cathleen McCarthy
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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Question for the CreditCards.com expert Dear Cashing In,
How do the Hyatt credit cards compare to the Marriott cards? -- Bret 

Answer for the CreditCards.com expert Dear Bret,
That's a bit like comparing apples to oranges because the hotel brands themselves are so different. If you have to pick one hotel credit card, you're probably better off with Marriott's, but that has as much to do with accessibility as it does the cards. Overall, it's easier and cheaper to earn and redeem points with Marriott Rewards than Hyatt Gold Passport, which is one reason it's consistently ranked at the top by frequent travelers.

Marriott offers two consumer credit card options and one business. Hyatt has one card and far fewer properties, but for those who consider luxury travel the ultimate reward, it may be just the ticket.

If your travel is all over the map, particularly in the U.S. and on business, Marriott may be your best bet just because there are so many properties to choose from -- 3,800-plus properties worldwide versus Hyatt's 500 or so -- and Marriott is more affordable overall.

If, on the other hand, you're gunning for top-level elite status so you can use points accumulated on business travel for weekend getaways at swanky resorts, Hyatt may be the card you want. Hyatt has a large proportion of upscale properties and, at the highest level, Hyatt's Diamond status brings a luxury experience Marriott Presidential properties can't match, simply because they don't have the amenities. If you don't think you'll make it that far, take a look at what Marriott Gold gets you versus the Platinum status you'll get with the Hyatt card -- at the hotels where you'll likely be staying.

As for the cards themselves, Hyatt Gold Passport offers Visa Signature travel benefits (same as Marriott) and overseas-friendly chip technology and no foreign exchange fees (same as Marriott). It comes with a $75 annual fee and earns 3 points for every $1 spent at Hyatt, 2 points for every $1 on restaurants, airfare (purchased directly from the airline) and car rentals, and 1 point for every $1 on everything else. You get two free nights after spending $1,000 within the first three months and one free night every year on renewal.

As a Hyatt cardholder, you also get automatic Platinum status, which includes a 15 percent point bonus on eligible charges, room upgrades, free Wi-Fi and a 2 p.m. checkout. Platinum status at Hyatt usually requires five qualifying stays or 15 eligible nights in a calendar year. For luxury travel mavens who covet stays at resorts such as Hyatt's Andaz, this can add up to a sweet payoff.

Chase's Marriott Rewards 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, 10 credits toward elite status and two free night stays annually. The premier Marriott card 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. Both cards offer one credit toward elite status with every $3,000 you spend. Some would argue that "elite" doesn't mean the same thing at Marriott as it does at Hyatt, but that depends on your standards (and your budget).

See related: What to consider before getting a hotel credit card, How to get rewards for rural hotel stays, Can I get more rewards by using my hotel's app?,  

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Published: August 13, 2013


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