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.
How to compare hotel credit cards
A great hotel credit 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:
- Loyalty program. 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.
- Signup bonus. Many hotel credit cards offer a sizable signup bonus that you can use toward several free nights.
- Earning rates. 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 card’s lifetime.
- Annual fee. Travel cards that offer perks often require you to pay an annual fee to use them.
- Travel expenses. A hotel credit card only makes sense if you spend significant time and money at hotels during your travels.
- Perks. 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.
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Hi, I’m Megan! I recently opened a hotel credit card to get status as well as stellar perks. I had lots of questions before I picked the right card for me. See some of the articles that helped me make my decision.
Ask the experts
- Nada Nasr Bechwati
- Associate Professor of Marketing
- Bentley University
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. 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 a few places.
- Kevin McEvoy
- 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 a 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.
- Robert Warren
- 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.
- Yuping Liu-Thompkins
- 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 other eligible purchases.
- Tulay Girard
- 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.
Hotel credit cards are a nice value-add to your wallet if you frequently stay at hotels during your travels. But if you’re looking for more flexible options, consider a travel credit card designed for general travel to find one that suits your needs.
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5+ Best hotel credit cards 2023
Hotel credit cards with no annual fee are perfect for occasional travelers.
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