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Hotel credit cards can help you earn points that can be redeemed for free nights at the hotel of your choice, or they can even propel you through the ranks of a hotel’s elite program. Use our table to compare your options and find the best hotel card for you.
A hotel credit card offers rewards for purchases that can then be redeemed on hotel stays and other related purchases. Just as airline credit cards earn more miles on airline-related purchases, hotel credit cards earn more points on hotel-related purchases.
Like airline cards, hotel credit cards also come in two varieties: cobranded, which are branded with a specific hotel, and general which aren’t.
Compare & apply for a card
Review your travel needs and compare which of the two hotel card varieties fit your needs. From there, you can apply as normal.
Once you have your hotel card, start spending on eligible categories to earn points. While both types of cards earn points on hotel stays, cobranded cards tend to earn more on hotels associated with that specific card.
After you’ve earned enough points, you’ll be able to redeem them on nights at eligible hotels. Depending on the card, you might be able to use these points on other hotel-related purchases as well.
When is a hotel credit card worth it?
Whether a hotel credit card is worth grabbing depends on a few factors, including whether you actually stay at hotels during travel. Here are a few reasons why it might be a good idea to pick up a hotel card:
You have a preferred hotel brand. A hotel card is often worth it if you regularly stay at a specific hotel chain when you travel. If you stay at different hotels each time you take a trip, however, a general travel card might be the better choice.
You take long hotel stays. Several hotel credit cards offer a free night if you stay for a certain number of days and pay with your card. This value can add up quickly.
You’re chasing elite status. Similarly, many hotel cards can boost your elite status gains or outright grant a status level altogether.
You spend rewards on travel. If you only plan on spending your points on hotel stays, a hotel card is your best value. If you want a bit more flexibility, you’re better off with a general travel card.
You want perks. Hotel cards offer specific perks associated with the card’s hotel brand. These are often lucrative and can make your stays more comfortable.
If most of these reasons don’t apply to you, a general travel card is likely the better choice.
How to compare hotel credit cards
The best hotel card will offer the benefits and perks that offer the most value. Here’s a quick overview of the major card features you’ll want to look at when comparing hotel credit cards:
If you have a preferred hotel chain, you’ll want to see if they offer a cobranded credit card. Otherwise, a general hotel card might prove more useful.
Many hotel credit cards offer a sizable signup bonus that you can use toward several free nights.
Beyond the signup bonus, a high earning rate or an earning rate on categories you often spend in are important to keep generating value through the lifetime of the card.
Travel cards that offer perks often require you pay an annual fee to use them.
A hotel credit card only makes sense if you spend a significant amount of time and money at hotels during your travels.
In addition to rewards rates, hotel cards often come with additional perks to sweeten the deal, such as complimentary elite status, resort credits and free award nights.
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 hotel 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.
Read more about hotel credit cards
Megan Horner Credit Cards Publisher
Hi, I’m Megan! I recently opened a hotel credit card to get staus as well as stellar perks. I had lots of questions before I picked the right card for me. Below are some of the articles that helped me make my decision.
Which hotel has the best rewards program? Or is there a best? There is no best for everyone. However, each individual needs to examine her consumption behavior to decide what is best for her. Cards with no annual fees are favored usually, but some fees can be seen as risk-free too. For instance, a card with a $75 annual fee is perfectly fine if it comes with one-night free stay per year. One needs to be careful about the locations of the hotel though. Does the hotel operate in a location you want to or tend to visit? Some hotels operate in only few places.
Ph.D., Assistant Professor in-Residence
School of Business at University of Connecticut
When is a hotel credit card worth it? There are a few circumstances where hotel card could be worth it to a consumer: 1. They travel frequently to the same locations 2. They find a hotel chain with the right balance of room availability, amenities and price 3. They intend to use the hotel program reward points for travel, staying at the same chain at locations that offer the same balance of room availability, amenities and price 4. They choose to stay at the same hotel chain whenever possible
To sum up, the answer is in the usage. If the hotel card is used frequently for stays at that specific hotel chain, the hotel credit cards may be better. If it is used as a more general card, a wider-use general card may be better.
University of North Dakota
What is the best way to earn hotel stays? Careful planning is the best way to earn hotel stays. Having traveled the world over the past 20 years for business, I’ve come to appreciate being a member of a hotel chain’s rewards program and taking advantage of the free stays that come with it. In selecting the best program for you, it’s important to identify a chain offering properties in locations you frequently visit and at a price point that’s competitive with competing offers. I’ve tried using some of the online aggregator sites but in my mind, they don’t offer the same benefits as sticking with one of the majors. With the majors you get the free nights and other benefits like room location and special checkout times.
Professor of Marketing & Director
Old Dominion University
Are hotel cards for a specific chain worth it versus a general travel card? A general travel card is more flexible, allowing you to earn points wherever you stay or whoever you fly with. However, most chain-specific cards do offer pretty valuable extra benefits, such as:
Elite status upgrade. For example, the Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ credit card offers enough elite night credits to qualify the cardholder for Silver status.
Higher point ratio for purchases at the chain. An example is the
Hilton Honors American Express Card that offers 7x points for every dollar spent at Hilton properties, compared to 3x points on all other purchases.
Professor of Marketing
Penn State Altoona
When is a hotel credit card worth it? I typically try to take advantage of the best offers by any of my credit cards during a given time period. I use the American Express-Hilton Honors cobranded card to earn hotel points and also to take advantage of the additional rewards offered by Amex. For example, I can maintain gold member status regardless of how many nights I stay in a year by just using my Amex.
There are numerous great hotel credit cards out there, but it’s hard to go wrong with one of the five we’ve highlighted above. If you need more help choosing what’s right for you, compare no-annual-fee hotel cards or check out hotel loyalty brands for more in-depth information.
Kevin Joey Chen is a credit cards, banking and investments writer whose work and analysis have appeared on CNN, U.S. News & World Report, Business.com, Lifehacker and CreditCards.com. He's passionate about helping you get your finances in order by expertly navigating cutting-edge financial tools — including credit cards, apps and budgeting software.
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