Comparing Credit Cards for Hotel Points
Updated: February 12, 2018
CreditCards.com's Top Hotel Credit Cards of 2018
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card
- Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
- The Hyatt Credit Card
- Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
- The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN
- The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
For more information and to see more cards, see our hotel credit card reviews.
Hotel credit cards have some of the most generous rewards out there in exchange for your loyalty to their brand. But there are a few things to know.
All points are not the same, and there can be restrictions difficult for some to overcome. But used correctly, hotel cards can save you hundreds of dollars a year and deliver other excellent benefits.
Here, we look at:
- How hotel credit cards work
- Pros and cons of hotel credit cards
- Who should get a hotel credit card?
- How to compare two hotel credit cards
How hotel credit cards work
- Co-branded cards: Most hotel cards, called co-branded products, are aligned with specific hotel companies, such as Starwood or Marriott. 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 some 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.
- Other benefits: Hotel cards often offer benefits such as early check-in, late check-out, breakfast and other features. You might also get a free night every year or for every certain number of stays you book.
Pros and cons of hotel cards
- Getting rewarding benefits. David Bakke of Money Crashers points out that the big advantage of hotel credit cards is the rewards program. You can earn everything from points good for purchases and statement credits to free nights and room upgrades.
- Finding a strong sign-up bonus. Many of the available hotel cards offer sign-up bonuses in which you spend a certain minimum within a specific amount of time, usually 3 months or 90 days, and in return, you earn thousands of points, which can be worth hundreds of dollars.
- Enjoying credits for other brands. As Bakke points out, some hotel cards allow you to convert points into credits for flights as well.
- Paying an annual fee. Most hotel cards have an annual fee, which you need to be aware of, because if you don’t pay full attention to your spending and earning, you can actually end up spending more than you save.
- Finding that the card is of limited use. Bakke points out that some cards’ rewards are only good at the brand’s hotels, limiting how you use the card’s points. A hotel card may not be the best choice if you aren’t supremely loyal to a single brand, in this case.
- Varying points valuations. It may not be readily apparent how much your card’s points are worth. The Points Guy looks at points valuations for the different brands that will help inform your decision.
- Carrying a balance. If you carry a balance, you defeat the purpose of a rewards card. Plan to not pay in full each month? Don’t get a hotel card.
Who should get a hotel card?
- 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.
- 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 early check-in, late check-out, breakfast, free bottles of water, room upgrades and other goodies.
How to compare two hotel credit cards
- Which is easier to earn points with? Daniel Wesley, of Credit Loan, points this out – study your spending habits to decide which card you are more likely to use.
- Which has fewer restrictions? Wesley notes that you need to be mindful of restrictions on usage as well as points redemption.
- Do the annual fees outweigh the potential perks? If so, don’t get the card.
- How useful are the rewards, really? Look at whether you are really going to have an opportunity to redeem the points, says Wesley.
- Am I familiar and comfortable enough with one hotel chain over the other? Look at which brand you are most loyal to, says Wesley.
- What are the points actually worth? Yes, 100,000 points seems like a lot, but you need to look at the cards’ points valuation to compare apples with apples. The Points Guy’s monthly points valuation assessment can help.
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