Since so many folks travel around the holidays, either for family or for fun, I thought this would be a good time to review the various hotel credit cards on the market. Most of the major hotel chains offer a co-branded credit card. These cards can be quite valuable, as most have an upfront free night(s) redemption after hitting a minimum spend requirement, an ongoing points bonus where you get a more powerful points multiplier each time you use the card at the hotel, elite status with the chain or nights towards that status which entitles you to better rooms and freebies, and some sort of ongoing yearly bonus.
While hotel cards do not traditionally have the same point value as airline tickets, mostly because a moderate increment of airline points can be used for much more expensive flights like first class; hotel points may, for many, be more useable in that it is easier to do a local staycation to “get away”. Also, domestic coach or less frequent fliers who need flights at a specific time, may find it easier to just book the flight paying regular fares on a good cashback card, and instead use their points for hotel award stays which tend to be slightly easier to use. Hotel cards often make it easier to earn points on each dollar spent, making it easier to build up a large cache.
Here are what I consider the best hotel cards, in descending order.
1. Starwood Preferred Guest, American Express Card, $0 fee first year, then $65
Starwood may not look so exciting on the surface, only 25k in miles and no free nights for a signup, what gives? Yet do not be confused by this, as the Starwood card offers unique powers. First of all, its points, unique among hotel cards, can be transferred to their many frequent flier partners. Moreover, for each 20k points transferred from Starpoints to an airline, you receive a 5000 point bonus, effectively giving you 1.25 points per dollar on all spending. Finally, Starwood offers an amazing ‘cash and points’ redemption option where you combine cash and points to book award stays. This often has the highest value of point value in the game, as a really expensive property can be booked for a nominal fee plus points. Category 6 hotels are among the finest and can be had for $150 and just 8000 starpoints. Even their most exclusive category 7 hotels, costing several hundred dollars each night, can be had for 15000 points and $275 points. Here is an example of how this would work and the savings that can be reaped from a somewhat random search of SPG properties in Paris:
2. The Citi Hilton Card, Visa Signature, $95
I carry this card as well and I believe it offers a few exciting benefits. First of all, just for having the card you get Hilton’s second highest elite level, gold, and this entitles you to free internet and breakfast. The signup bonus is two weekend night certificates at just about any Hilton property in the world after $2500 spend in 4 months. You also get a free night every year up to a certain category level if you put $10,000 spend on the card. Hilton cards also get 3 points per dollar on all spending and 5 points on airline tickets and car rentals, and a whopping 10 points on any Hilton stay. If you travel even a few times a year these multipliers can really add up, leading you closer to that free award night room.
3. Chase Hyatt Visa, $75
Chase has an amazing product in the Hyatt Visa as it entitles the cardholder to two nights at any Hyatt in the world, for free, once you hit the signup bonus spending of $1,000 in 3 months. Each year on renewal you get an additional free night at up to a category 4 Hyatt anywhere in the world. This card also offers 3 points on Hyatt properties; 2 points on restaurants, airlines, and car rentals; and 1 point on everything else. If you can leverage the free nights into expensive properties this card can be very rewarding!
There are certainly other options out there as well, Hilton itself has several good cards with Amex as well. These, though, hit the home run of benefits in signup bonuses, points earning power, and status at the chains.
None of these cards offer me any kind of referral credit, this is just a review of my three favorite cards.