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The best hotel credit card is the one that offers you the most travel value for thee cheapest price. The Finder credit card experts reviewed nearly 100 travel cards to assess and rank the best hotel credit cards on the market and make your choice that much easier.
When assessing the best hotel cards, we looked at features like hotel brand, welcome offer value, bonus point earning rates, additional travel perks, annual fees, redemption options and other hotel or travel concerns. The cards that performed best in a given category, or fulfilled a niche need, were selected for our list.
Our list didn’t receive many changes for 2021 as there was less traveling due to the pandemic. We did, however, add the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card as a cheap way to take advantage of flexible reward points on both hotels and airlines. Here’s our selection of the best hotel credit cards.
Quick look at the best hotel credit cards
Here are our picks for the top hotel credit cards in the following categories.
- The World of Hyatt Credit Card: Best hotel credit card for everyday spending
- IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: Best hotel credit card for free nights
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Best for travel credits
- Hilton Honors American Express Card: Best hotel card with no annual fee
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Best hotel credit card for transferring points to airlines
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Best for airport lounge access without a high annual fee
Best hotel credit card for everyday spending
The World of Hyatt Credit Card
Finder rating 3.8 / 5 ★★★★★
Best hotel credit card for free nights
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
Finder rating 4.6 / 5 ★★★★★
Best for travel credits
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Finder rating 4.6 / 5 ★★★★★
Best hotel card with no annual fee
Hilton Honors American Express Card
Finder rating 4.4 / 5 ★★★★★
Best hotel credit card for transferring points to airlines
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
Finder rating 4.6 / 5 ★★★★★
Best for airport lounge access without a high annual fee
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Finder rating 4.5 / 5 ★★★★★
Compare all hotel credit cards
How to choose a hotel credit card
Hotel credit cards offer a few benefits designed to help you make the most of your hotel loyalty membership. Take a ook at some of those specific benefits when picking out a hotel card for your wallet. Here are some considerations to take into account.
- Do you care about signup bonuses? Perhaps one of the bigger draws of hotel credit cards are the generous welcome offers. Completing welcome offer requirements within the allotted time could earn you a point bonus worth at least one reward night stay at an eligible hotel property. Both annual fee credit cards and no annual fee credit cards can come with signup bonuses, though you might find bigger bonuses on a card with an annual fee.
- Look at your spending versus the card’s reward categories. Hotel credit cards typically offer an increased point earning rate on purchases associated with that hotel loyalty program. These cards also tend to offer points on non-hotel purchases as well, albeit at a lower rate. Like signup bonuses, earning rates are often higher on cards with annual fees.
- Whether the card grants elite status. Some hotel cards grant immediate elite status as soon as you open your account. For many hotel programs, this is a huge boon as you can expect not only improved earning rates with higher tiers but even more complimentary benefits. Credit cards with no annual fees rarely offer complimentary elite status.
- Whether the card offers complimentary reward nights. Some hotel credit cards offer reward nights when you spend a minimum amount of money on purchases within a calendar year. Currently, you’ll only find free night rewards on a few hotel credit cards that carry an annual fee.
- Concierge services and other perks. Some hotel credit cards come with additional travel perks such as concierge services or travel insurance. These benefits can prove useful for the frequent traveler and even potentially save you some money. You’ll typically only find concierge services and similar perks on cards sporting an annual fee.
How do hotel credit cards work?
Hotel credit cards work similarly to a standard rewards card. Here’s a quick overview.
- Choose your hotel card. You have two primary options: a cobranded hotel card, such as a Hilton credit card, or a standard travel card that can earn points on hotel bookings.
- Earn points on purchases. A cobranded hotel card typically earns the most points on purchases from the branded hotel, and less points on other purchases. A standard travel card tends to earn more points over a wider spread of categories, though less at a specific hotel than you’d find with a cobranded card.
- Redeem points on award nights. Once you’ve amassed enough reward points, you can spend those on free nights at the hotel. In some cases, you might be able to spend your earned points on other perks, such as room upgrades or gift cards.
Pros and cons of hotel credit cards
- Earn rewards toward free hotel stays. Depending on your card, purchases on a variety of categories can feed your next free hotel night.
- Complimentary elite status. Some hotel cards offer complimentary elite status for the hotel’s loyalty program, which can boost your rewards further.
- Perks and features. Many hotel cards come with additional perks, such as early check-in and late check-out, or anniversary free nights.
- Earning categories can prove narrow. If you’re using a cobranded hotel card, you might have trouble building significant points with your card if you’re not using it to pay for hotel purchases.
- The best cards are expensive. The hotel credit cards with the best perks and features are often the most expensive.
When is a hotel credit card worth it?
A hotel credit card is worth it if you frequently stay at hotels during travel and want a way to earn some value back on that expenditure. With that said, hotel credit cards tend to prove a little harder to use than a standard travel card, or even an airline card. Here’s a quick cheat sheet on whether or not you should get one.
You should get a hotel credit card if…
- You travel frequently and for long periods of time.
- You primarily stay at hotels and not Airbnb or similar housing programs.
- You largely want to use your credit card rewards on hotel nights.
You should get a general travel credit card if…
- You don’t often stay at hotels.
- You want to redeem on a variety of travel purchases.
How are the hotels on our list handling COVID-19?
In addition to mandatory face masks in all indoor public areas and updated cancellation policies, here’s how each of these hotel chains is adapting to better handle COVID-19:
- Hyatt. Enhanced cleaning protocols include Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) cleanliness and training accreditation, touch-free digital amenities, mobile check-in and check-out, mobile room entry and contactless room service.
- IHG. This hotel chain partnered with Cleveland Clinic, Ecolab and Diversey to launch its IHG Way of Clean program. Hospital-grade disinfectants, sanitizer stations, individual guest amenity cleaning kits and paperless checkouts are being implemented across IHG hotels.
- Hilton. The Hilton CleanStay program includes contactless arrivals and departures via the Hilton Honors app, digital room keys, hospital-grade room disinfectants and the Hilton CleanStay Room Seal so you know your room has thoroughly cleaned and reviewed by housekeeping inspectors prior to arrival.
- Marriott. The newly formed Marriott Cleanliness Council has redefined the hotel chain’s cleaning protocols to include hospital-grade room disinfectants, the sanitization of high-touch surfaces with electrostatic sprayers, personal disinfecting wipes in each guest room and contactless check-in and check-out via the Marriott Mobile App.
How do I compare hotel card points?
Put simply, the higher the monetary value of a hotel point, the more lucrative it is to earn and use those points. Of course, point values can fluctuate based on how you use them – a single point can be worth 2 cents when redeemed on a night stay, and just 0.5 cents when redeemed on merchandise for example.
Credit card and airline rewards points tend to average around 1 to 1.5 cents a piece. Unfortunately, most hotel reward points come in at a lower value than this average. The most valuable hotel reward point as of January 2021 is World of Hyatt, clocking in at 2 cents a piece. The lowest: Radisson Rewards and Hilton Honors, both worth about 0.4 cents a piece.
Finder has calculated the average point value across rewards programs for your convenience. But if you’d like to identify the value of a point on a given redemption, you can divide the monetary cost of a night stay or purchase by the number of points the same night would require for redemption.
You asked, we listened: Top 5 common questions
Unsung heroes in the travel card space, hotel cards have a lot to offer. Here are the 5 most common questions we receive on the subject.
- How much are credit card hotel points worth? The average value of your accrued hotel points ultimately vary depending on the specific hotel loyalty program.
- Can I get a hotel credit card with bad credit? Generally, most hotel credit cards require a good or better credit score. With that said, there are a few credit cards that may offer rewards on spending that you can obtain with bad credit.
- What kinds of hotel cards are there? Hotel credit cards come in two varieties: cobranded, which are released under the umbrella of a specific hotel chain, and general, which can be used on any hotel.
- What is the best hotel credit card? The “best” hotel credit card ultimately comes down to your hotel and spending preferences.
- What’s the difference between hotel credit cards and travel credit cards? Hotel credit cards offer points, perks and rewards on hotel related purchases. Travel credit cards offer general reward points that can be used on hotels as well as other travel options, such as airlines and cruises.
If none of these cards are the right fit for you, compare more hotel cards to find out which benefits matter most to you. And if you’re more interested in flexible rewards, check out some rewards cards that offer point transfers.
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