Best Hotel Credit Cards of 2018
Have you ever wondered what the difference is in hotel credit cards? People think of hotels when they travel, but sometimes when you are buying or selling your home, or you are relocating to a different city, you stay at a hotel. Here you can compare the best hotel credit cards to earn free nights, exclusive perks, unique hotel discounts, and more.
Consumers who like to get rewarded for their travel spending might look to hotel credit cards to earn free nights and exclusive perks like travel credits, upgrades, or access to luxury lounges. Hotel credit cards can be a great way to upgrade a vacation for free or at a discount, but there are many things to consider before applying for one.
There are numerous hotel credit cards to choose from – each one with a different set of benefits and costs. Frequent customers of certain hotel chains could really cash in on the bonuses and perks. Watch for high interest rates, annual fees, and other details in the fine print – like the rules for redeeming or blackout dates – that might make the hotel rewards not so sweet.
You stand to make the most of your hotel credit card if you pay your balance in full each month to avoid accruing interest. If not, paying high financing fees will eat away at those bonuses in no time.
LendEDU’s 10 Best Hotel Credit Cards of 2018
Note: LendEDU is not affiliated with any of the following credit card issuers.
|Card||Bonus Offer||Annual Fee|
|Starwood Preferred Guest® Card from American Express||$100 statement credit when spending at least $1,000 during the first three months||$0 annual fee, $95 after first year|
|Wyndham Rewards® Visa Signature® Card||Earn 15,000 points after making your first purchase with the card||$75|
|Choice Privileges® Visa Signature® Card||Earn 32,000 bonus points when spending at least $1,000 during the first 90 days||$0|
|Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card||Earn 100,000 bonus points for spending at least $3,000 in the first three months||$95|
|Hyatt Credit Card from Chase||Earn 40,000 bonus points for spending $2,000 during the first three months||$75|
|Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card||Two free nights for spending $4,000 during first three months||$450|
|Capital One® Venture® Rewards Card||Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending at least $3,000 during the first 90 days||$0 annual fee, $95 after first year|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Earn up to 50,000 points when you make $4,000 worth of purchases in the first three months||$0 annual fee, $95 after first year|
|Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express||Earn 100,000 Hilton Honor Bonus Points after making $4,000 in purchases within the first three months||$450|
|Expedia®+ Voyager Card from Citi||Earn 25,000 Expedia+ bonus points after spending $2,000 in three months||$95|
What you Need to Know About Hotel Credit Cards
When it comes to choosing the best credit card, it’s important to compare your spending and travel needs with what a particular card offers. It’s also important to consider whether you meet the general eligibility requirements for the card you want.
Hotel credit cards can be valuable to people who take advantage of all the benefits a card will offer, but won’t be so valuable for users who don’t. Here’s what you need to know about hotel credit cards to help you figure out it if such a card is right for you.
Hotel Credit Cards vs Regular Credit Cards: What are the Differences?
A hotel credit card can provide unique opportunities to cardholders that traditional cards or other types of travel credit cards don’t offer. Hotel credit cards can be a good option for business travelers as well as frequent leisure travelers.
There are two general categories of hotel credit cards available to consumers. The first is a co-branded hotel card. Co-branded hotel credit cards are good for people who typically use the same hotel chain and who travel often. With a co-branded hotel credit card, the cardholder can participate in the loyalty membership program offered by the hotel.
On the other hand, a general travel card can provide benefits related to travel, but it’s not necessarily focused on one hotel brand. This can be better for leisure travelers or anyone who wants a sense of flexibility in how they earn points and how they can use them.
Perks of Hotel Credit Cards
The perks depend on the type of card, the company it’s affiliated with, and the cardholder’s loyalty status with the company. One of the primary reasons people use hotel credit cards is because they’d like to get free nights.
Along with earning free nights, hotel credit cards can also offer elite status at certain chains. That can lead to things like room upgrades and free wireless internet. Some cards will offer free anniversary nights to cardholders, and if you earn elite status you can usually get even more perks – like free upgrades, access to exclusive lounges, or late checkout.
Should You Ever Pay an Annual Fee for a Hotel Credit Card?
Many credit cards do charge an annual fee, but it leaves some consumers wondering if it’s worth it. Most hotel credit cards with the best perks do charge an annual fee. If you don’t travel often or spend much money on hotel stays, a hotel credit card is not likely your best option – and paying the annual fee also likely won’t be worthwhile for you.
On the other hand, if you do travel often or spend in certain areas frequently, you’ll probably find the annual fee is well worth it. For example, if you pay an annual fee of $95 but you’re able to earn several nights free throughout the year, you’ve more than made up for that fee.
To determine if you should pay an annual fee for a hotel credit card, consider how often you’re using the benefits provided to you through the card. You also want to think about how much you’re actually spending on the card. If you’re not spending enough to make up for the fee and then some, it’s not worth it.
How Much Do You Need to Stay at a Particular hotel to Make it Worth Applying?
When you’re trying to decide whether or not a hotel credit card is right for you, you’re going to have to look at your travel time, and how often you stay with that particular hotel if you’re going with a co-branded card. You’ll also need to think about the fees associated with the card, and whether your hotel stays will cover the annual fee, if there is one.
Some specific things you should also consider include:
- Try to choose a hotel credit card for a chain you’re already loyal to. If you don’t ever stay at a hotel, you’re probably not going to break even if you get their card. There might be an amazing offer available from another hotel company, but if you’re not staying there, that offer isn’t going to be worth it to you. Some applicants might get caught up in what’s offered upfront without considering the potential long-term value of the card.
- Be wary of sign-up bonuses. Sign-up bonuses can be great if you’re going to be spending the money or meeting the requirements anyway, but not if they’re leading you to overspend. For example, if you get a new card and you have to spend $5,000 in the first three months to get the sign-up bonus, is that going to be more than you would normally spend on a credit card?
- As well as thinking about choosing a card that’s co-branded to a hotel company you’re already loyal to, you need to really understand the points value and accrual system before applying. For example, how much value is each point you can earn worth?
To give an example what you might think about when determining whether or not it’s worth it to apply to a particular card, consider the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card. If someone stays at least once a year at a Marriott hotel, it may be worth it. People earn points for day-to-day spending, and the card provides a free night every year in a hotel that falls into a certain category.
Can You Transfer Points Earned on Hotel Credit Cards?
Some hotel credit cards will allow for transferring points, and others won’t. For example, if you choose a Starwood card, you will usually have the opportunity to transfer points to their partners. Starwood partners include different companies including Marriott. There are also options with Starwood-branded cards to transfer points to airline partners. If you want to transfer points to other cards or users, eligibility requirements also depend on the card and the company.
When hotel cards do offer transfer program partnerships, there is a lot of difference in how points transfer as compared to airline programs. For the most part, if you’re transferring points to an airline partner, it’s a 1-to-1 ratio. With hotels, it can vary quite a bit depending on the card or the chain. If you do transfer hotel points, you might not get a great value in doing so.
Are There Any Drawbacks?
Most hotel credit cards do come with an annual fee, and that can be one of the biggest downsides for some consumers – unless the benefits outweigh the cost. Another big drawback of hotel credit cards is the fact that some programs aren’t very flexible and they can have a lot of restrictions for earning and redeeming points. In some cases with a hotel credit card, you’re tied to that specific chain. If you’re not going to be traveling to that hotel chain at least six times a year, it might not be worth it.
Do Hotels Use Blackout Dates to Limit How You Can Spend Points?
What a lot of people learn with rewards credit cards is that redeeming the rewards accrued isn’t as easy as it might seem. You have to be familiar with the details of the cards to make the most of points and redeeming them. For example, many hotel cards and reward programs advertise that they don’t have blackout dates, but is that the reality?
With most hotel card and reward programs, the ‘no blackout dates’ marketing mantra refers to standard rooms. So, if you wanted to book a standard room and the hotel doesn’t have any available, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll then book you into an upgraded room.
Also, when cardholders want to book upgrades using their points, there can be a lot of restrictions even if the hotel says they don’t have blackout dates. Finally, cardholders should realize that each hotel or chain is going to have its own idea of what a standard room is.
Can You Get Approved for a Hotel Credit Card if You Have Fair or Bad Credit?
Every credit card company is going to have its own requirements for approval, so there’s no way to determine if you’re going to get approved for a hotel credit card if you have fair or bad credit.
It is possible, and there are credit cards available for people with FICO scores of less than 600, or people with no credit history. Regardless of whether you get approved for a hotel credit card with bad credit, you’re probably going to pay a higher interest rate.
You’re also likely to have a lower credit limit, at least at first. Hotel credit cards aren’t necessarily any easier or harder to apply for than other specific types of cards, but as with most of the best rewards cards, for the best program options, you’re likely going to need good or excellent credit.
What are Common Hotel Credit Card Fees?
Many hotel credit cards charge an annual fee. Again, to determine whether or not it’s worth it to you to apply for a card with an annual fee, think about your spending and how much you’re likely to earn in rewards each year to offset that fee.
Other possible fees that can be included with hotel credit cards include balance transfer and cash advance fees, foreign transaction fees, and fees for making late payments. Some travel cards don’t have annual fees including the flexible Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, and the Hilton Honors American Express Card.
It’s important to be careful when applying for a card because some will have a $0 annual fee for the first year, but many will charge $75 or more annually after that.
Does It Ever Make Sense to Have More Than One Hotel Credit Card?
If you are a very frequent traveler, but you often split your stays between two different hotel chains, you might benefit from having more than one hotel credit card. However, if those cards each have annual fees, then you have to do the math to determine if it’s smart to have both.
Sometimes, for people who do travel often but don’t have loyalty to one particular hotel chain, it’s best to go with a flexible travel card that isn’t co-branded with any one particular chain.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a popular option for general spending on hotels and travel, without requiring staying with one hotel chain.
Are Certain Hotel Credit Cards Preferred by International Travelers?
For international travelers, it’s important to look for a hotel credit card that is going to offer options domestically and outside the country. Certain cards are well-suited to international travel, such as the Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite MasterCard.
This card can be better for travelers because it doesn’t carry foreign transaction fees and it has EMV technology. If you’re a luxury international traveler, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a good option, although it’s not co-branded with any particular hotel company. The card has a high fee, but it has a lot of perks for international travelers, including Global Entry application reimbursement and global airport lounge access.
Are There Any Sign-up Bonuses Offered on Hotel Credit Cards?
There are almost always sign-up bonuses offered on hotel credit cards. One example of a card with a sign-up bonus is the Hilton Honors Card from American Express. It has offered as much as 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $1,000 in the first three months. That isn’t an extraordinarily high spending threshold, and the bonus is a good one comparatively.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, also from American Express, offers a $100 statement credit after the first $1,000 in purchases during the first three months of having the card. Then, if cardholders stay at a participating hotel property in the first six months of having the card they can earn an additional $100 statement credit. Most cards will have a sign-up bonus, but some will be much better than others.
Hotel credit cards that are co-branded are usually only an ideal option for very frequent travelers with an existing loyalty to one chain over another. For someone who wants a card that earns travel benefits but who doesn’t stay at one particular chain, it can be better to opt for a flexible travel rewards card.
If you want to read the card highlights, APR & fees, and the bottom line for each of the 10 cards, or even apply for a card, here is the link to the original article.
Sent in by Andrew Rombach, Content Associate at LendEDU
Updated September 3, 2018 by Mike Brown
photo courtesy of My Favorite Hotel Credit Cards, Freequent Flyer Blog