Comparing Credit Cards for Hotel Points
Updated: February 11, 2020
A great hotel card can help you log free hotel nights, add a touch of luxury to your hotel stays and even take the stress out of travel with convenient perks and upgrades. Many hotel cards combine generous rewards programs with ample perks for loyal guests.
Hotel credit cards, like airline cards, pair a travel brand with a bank, encouraging loyalty. They are a great way to build points on a specific loyalty brand. But, it’s important to make sure you are going to spend enough to benefit from the card.
We researched more than 40 co-branded hotel cards and more than 300 general travel rewards cards, using a lot of the criteria outlined in this guide, to get down to our list of the best hotel cards. Strong rewards values, sign-up bonuses, and flexible redemption options were a big factor in our choices. Here, we look at:
Whether you are wondering how hotel cards work or you want to know who should get one, we can help.
Best Hotel Credit Cards
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture Rewards‘ 2X miles on all eligible purchases make this card a superior general-purpose hotel card and one of the best travel credit cards.
This card doesn’t have the 25% boost when redeeming for travel on the Citi ThankYou Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards portals that are offered by some cards.
Bottom line: Venture Rewards partners with more than a dozen major airlines, allowing you to transfer your miles.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
With one of the better sign-up bonus offers and 2X points on worldwide travel and dining, this card rewards the international traveler nicely.
This card offers limited rewards above 1X point on categories other than worldwide travel and dining, making it of limited value to the occasional traveler.
Bottom line: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is at the top in flexibility, with a 25% bonus on travel bookings through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, and 1:1 redemption on many travel partners.
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One VentureOne Rewards comes in beside the Sapphire Preferred in rewards flexibility for general purchases, with travel without blackout dates and stays at any hotel at any time. But with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, this card is a keeper.
While you can earn rewards on all types of spending with this card, you can’t count on the rewards racking up quickly.
Bottom line: This card is just right for the occasional traveler who wants to enjoy some of the benefits of the Capital One Venture Rewards.
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
With super high rewards for such quirky categories as homestays, popular streaming services and rideshares, this is a millennial’s dream come true. Also, the sign-up bonus is good for a card with no annual fee.
It’s hard not to love this card with its general travel rewards, including hotels, but it is not the best for everyday purchases such as groceries.
Bottom line: The Wells Fargo Propel American Express offers exceptional rewards for hotels, flights, homestays and car rentals – making it a favorite for travel features.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card is just full of surprises, including a weekend night reward after spending $15,000 in a calendar year, and upgrade to Diamond status after a $40,000 spend in a calendar year. You can also earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after making $2000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of membership.
The $95 annual fee isn’t waived the first year, which means you are stuck with a bill the first year for the honor of using this card. Also, Hilton Honors points valuation is only 0.6 cent†.
Bottom line: Unique to this card – your non-hotel spending is mightily rewarded, meaning that more than travel categories can help you earn points.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
This card currently has a offer where you earn a massive 100,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months of opening your account. You can enjoy automatic Silver Elite Status each account anniversary year and a path to Gold Status after a $35,000 spend on purchases each account year.
Like the Surpass, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless doesn’t waive the $95 annual fee the first year, although the point valuation is a little better at 0.8 cent†.
Bottom line: While the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless has a lower rewards value than the Surpass, it still offers excellent rewards for the Marriott enthusiast.
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card
This card is a good option for the traveler who doesn’t want to think about how to earn rewards and would like to enjoy no annual fee to boot.
While this card offers boosted rewards for all types of spending, it’s not the best choice for the frequent traveler. Look instead at the Chase Sapphire Preferred, although there’s an annual fee with that card.
Bottom line: The Bank of America Travel Rewards‘ no annual fee, straightforward redemption and easy earnings make it a smart addition to your wallet.
Hilton Honors American Express Card
The welcome offer of this card is bodacious, as are the ongoing rewards, and there’s no annual fee.
You’ll do better with the Surpass if you are willing to put down $95 for the annual fee, which isn’t waived the first year.
Bottom line: With Silver elite status, you automatically receive a 20% bonus on all the Hilton Honors Base Points you earn. Plus, you get express check-in and late check-out, take a look at the Hilton Honors American Express.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
From access to the Global Lounge Collection to complimentary benefits with Fine Hotels & Resorts, this card’s benefits are hard to match. There’s the annual $200 airline fee credit and up to $100 on annual purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue (enrollment required).
The annual fee on The Platinum Card from American Express is a whopping $550, although luxury travel cards can have higher annual fees than that, by far.
Bottom line: This card is packed with travel features that make it worth your while if you feel the need to travel in style.
Compare the top hotel credit card offers:
After analyzing over 40 different hotel rewards credit card offers (and even more general travel cards), here is our list of the 10 best hotel credit cards for 2020. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card tops our list because of its generous 2X miles per dollar on all purchases. For a co-branded hotel credit card, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card is our top choice.
||Hotel Rewards Rate
|Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
||2X miles per dollar on all purchases
||$0 first year, then $95
||4.2 / 5
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
||2X points on travel, including hotels
||3.9 / 5
|Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
||No annual fee
||1.25X miles per dollar on all purchases
||3.5 / 5
|Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
||Flexible travel rewards
||3X points on travel, including hotels
||3.5 / 5
|Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
||Hilton bonus points
||12X points at Hilton properties
||4.2 / 5
|Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
||Free night awards
||6X points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels
||4.0 / 5
|Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card
||Flat rate rewards
||1.5X points on all purchases
||3.4 / 5
|Hilton Honors American Express Card
||Hilton Honors Silver status
||7X points at Hilton properties
||3.9 / 5
|The Platinum Card® from American Express
||Luxury travel perks
||5X points on Amextravel.com
||4.5 / 5
Research methodology: how we chose the best cards
Hotel credit cards analyzed: 42
Criteria used: Rewards rates, rewards categories, sign-up bonuses, size of hotel network, transfer partners, point values, other travel benefits, annual fee, other rates and fees, redemption options and flexibility, customer service, credit needed, elite status, ability to upgrade and downgrade
What are hotel credit cards and how do they work?
What are hotel credit cards?
Hotel credit cards are often co-branded cards (but not always). That means they are issued by a bank, such as Chase or American Express, and partner with a specific hotel brand. As you can imagine, the hotel card will reward you for loyalty to that brand, as well as reward you for loyalty to airline and car rental partners. In some cases, you are rewarded for using the card on general-purpose purchases, such as grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants.
How hotel cards work
Typically, hotel credit cards come with sign-up bonuses, ongoing rewards and special benefits, depending on the category of membership that you qualify for. Then, the rewards programs usually offer a different redemption amount depending on the category of hotel property you choose. For example, a Category 1 Marriott property requires 7,500 points for a one-night stay, while a Category 8 property runs 85,000 points.
There are 2 types of hotel credit cards, co-branded cards and general-purpose cards. Each has its advantage.
- Co-branded cards. Most hotel cards, called co-branded products, are aligned with specific hotel companies, such as IHG. These cards reward you for loyalty to specific brands, giving bonus points for spending at properties and sign-up bonuses in the hundreds of dollars. In many cases, the brand will have partnerships with airlines or other companies that you can benefit from.
- General-purpose cards. Some travel cards reward you for a variety of spending that you can use on a number of airline and hotel brands. In some cases, your points are boosted for using a travel portal operated by the card issuer, such as the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. For example, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you get an increase of 25% and with the Reserve, you get an increase of 50% on your points when you book through the portal, which makes it worth a look.
Which credit cards offer free hotel stays?
There are a number of ways to earn free hotel stays, including through earning points via sign-up bonuses and ongoing rewards. In addition, some hotel credit cards reward you with free stays by meeting a minimum spend each year or even for keeping the card in your wallet each year. Here are leading hotel cards that reward you beyond the points you earn.
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Earn a weekend night reward after $15,000 spend in a calendar year.
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn a free night award (up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary.
- Hilton Honors American Express Card: With Hilton Honors Silver Status, you’ll get your 5th standard reward night free.
- The World Of Hyatt Credit Card: Receive 1 free night at any category 1-4 hotel each year after your cardmember anniversary. Receive an additional free night at a category 1-4 hotel after spending $15,000 in a year.
Who should get a hotel credit card?
If you make the choice to transition to a rewards card, keep in mind that with the right hotel card, you can maximize points through business and personal travel alike. Also, they are worth your while if you like to play the points game.
Wondering if a hotel credit card is right for you? If you are one of these 4 types of people, they might be a good choice.
- If you travel often for business. With the right hotel card, you can maximize your savings by pulling the card out whenever you travel on business.
- If you have a favorite hotel brand. If you are loyal to say, Hilton, then look at the Hilton cards that are available to see which one suits your travel habits best, such as the Hilton Honors suite through American Express.
- If you enjoy playing the points game. Hotel cards are great for people who like to take full advantage of rewards programs.
- If you’ll enjoy the finer benefits. With the right hotel card, you can get, for example:
- Early check-in
- Late check-out
- Complimentary breakfast
- Free bottles of water
An incredible 40% of cardholders have always used the same card or haven’t changed cards in at least 10 years, our March 2018 survey shows. That’s a lot of points, miles and cash we are leaving on the table, including those from hotel cards.
When consumers did switch, it looks like it was for the right reason, with people on the hunt for rewards at the top of the list.
Reasons cardholders switched cards
- Points, miles or cash
- Low interest rate
- Easy to get
- Card brand
CreditCards.com favorite cards survey
How to compare two hotel credit cards
Hotel cards come in a choice of flavors, with widely varying benefits, different point valuations and differing expiration rules. Curious how to make it work for you? Here, we look at the different factors to consider, then we compare hotel cards as an example. Here are top factors to consider when choosing a hotel credit card.
How to compare 2 hotel credit cards
Hotel cards come in a choice of flavors, with widely varying benefits, different point valuations and differing expiration rules. Curious how to make it work for you? Here, we compare hotel cards as an example.
||The World of Hyatt Credit Card
||Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
|TPG August 2019 points valuation†
||25,000 pts / $3,000 spend in 3 mths = $425
25,000 pts / $6,000 spend in 6 mths = $425
|125,000 pts / $2,000 spend in 3 mths = $750
|Spending at properties
||$2,000 * 9X pts * $0.017 = $306
||$2,000 * 12X pts * $0.006 = $144
|Various bonus spending
||$500 * 12 mths * 2X pts * $0.017 = $204
||$500 * 12 mths * 6X pts * $0.006 = $216
|Total end of first year
As you can see, the Hyatt card is the clear winner because of a superior point valuation – that’s even with the Hilton card’s intro offer. Bottom line: Make sure you look at all of the moving parts of the cards you are eyeing before making a decision.
Do hotel points expire?
Typically, points for hotel-brand loyalty programs can expire if you don’t keep the account active, but there are a number of ways to make sure that doesn’t happen. By keeping your accounts active, the points won’t just go away. Here are top brands and their expiration policies:
Hotel loyalty programs’ points expiration policies
||Points expiration policy
||End of calendar year following calendar year when obtained
|World of Hyatt
Source: CreditCards.com research
Can hotel credit card points be used for flying?
By transferring your hotel card points to an airline partner, you can fly with those points. But do your homework, because the transfer may not be the best you can get. That said, there are advantages to marrying airlines with hotel cards, such as bonuses for points transferred and points earned for airline tickets purchased. Ideally, check the hotel brand’s partnerships if that’s a deal-breaker for you.
Popular hotel loyalty programs
With many hotel loyalty programs out there, it can be hard to decide which is the best. Well, we do the heavy lifting for you with the help of The Points Guy. Here, we reveal popular hotel loyalty programs and what they can offer members:
Favorite hotel loyalty programs
|Hotel loyalty program
||Number of properties
||More than 8,000
||Ease and value of redemption
||1.1 cents/per point
||Free wifi, discounted nights at select properites, late check-out after 5 nights
||More than 5,000
||Strong co-branded cards
||0.6 cents/per point
||Late check-out, at least 10X points on stays, 5th night free
||More than 7,000
||0.8 cents/per point
||After 10 nights, get complimentary in-room internet, late check-out, dedicated reservations line
|World of Hyatt
||More than 800
||Percentage of luxury properties
||1.7 cents/per point
||Free standard wifi, 5X points, as well as complimentary breakfast, early check-in and check-out, 1 category upgrade (SLH hotels)
Source: TPG, CreditCards.com research
Detailed card reviews
For more information and to see more cards, see our hotel credit card reviews.
Related Travel and Rewards Card Categories:
† All information regarding credit card point valuations is provided by The Points Guy
Laura is an editor and writer at CreditCards.com. She has written extensively on all things credit cards and works to bring you the most up-to-date analysis and advice. Laura’s work has been cited in such publications as the New York Times and Associated Press. You can reach her by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @creditcards_lm.
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