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Hotel Credit Cards

Hotel credit cards are linked to specific hotel chains and offer rewards that can only be redeemed at the affiliated company’s properties or those of its partners. If you travel frequently and are a brand-loyal hotel visitor, look into the hotel credit card(s) tied to your chain of choice. Only brand-loyal frequent travelers will be able to redeem their hotel rewards often enough to consistently reap tangible perks and avoid the threat of devaluation.

If you don’t fit those criteria, consider a generic travel rewards credit card that allows you to redeem miles for any travel related expense, including…show more

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    Expert’s Answers

    How do I pick a hotel credit card?

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOThe manner in which you choose a hotel rewards credit card depends on whether your objective in opening such a card is to garner a valuable initial rewards bonus or long-term benefit. If you’re after an initial bonus, choose the hotel credit card that offers the most free nights without requiring that you spend more than you would ordinarily in order to get them. For those interested in ongoing benefit (really only applies to brand-loyal frequent travelers) open the card affiliated with your existing hotel loyalty program, even if a competing hotel’s credit card provides more attractive rewards. After all, what good are a bunch of points to a hotel you’ll never visit?

    What to look for when evaluating hotel rewards programs:

    By: John Kiernan, Personal Finance EditorKeeping an eye out for the following key terms will simplify your hotel rewards programs comparison and result in optimum usage of your newly selected hotel card:
    1. Earning Rate: The rate at which you will be earning rewards together with your expected spending will give you a sense of how quickly you can reach the rewards redemption milestones you’re most interested in. Keep an eye out for cards that require quarterly registration for the highest earning rates.
    2. Redemption Milestones: How many points does it take to get a free night? Do you need more points for nights at nicer hotels? Are any dates, hotels, or types of rooms off-limits? These are the types of questions you must answer because a hotel card’s redemption policy determines how lucrative its earning rate actually is.
    3. Initial Rewards Bonus: Many hotel rewards credit cards offer a large number of bonus points during the first few months of card use, which can equate to a couple of free nights. Since these bonuses can be more lucrative than the rewards you’ll garner in an entire year of typical card use, they are a key feature to look out for. Keep in mind that some of the initial bonuses offered by hotel reward credit cards don’t kick in until you’ve spent a predetermined amount within the first few months of card use, so select a card that coincides with your monthly spending patterns.
    4. Tiers: With certain credit cards, you earn rewards at a particular rate until you’ve spent a predetermined amount, at which point the rewards will come in at a faster or slower pace. While this type of tiered rewards program is not that common with hotel loyalty programs, it’s something to watch out for as it can affect your effective earn rate.
    5. Expiration: The most common type of expiration policy found in hotel loyalty programs is due to inactivity (i.e. lack of point-generating actions) for an extended period of time. In these cases, a hotel rewards credit cards can be particularly useful since you do not have to actually stay at a hotel to earn points and preserve your current rewards balance. All you have to do is make at least one purchase on a regular basis. Having said that, your rewards program may be subject to a different expiration policy, so make sure you know the exact terms of your agreement.
    6. Status points: Sometimes there are multiple credit cards affiliated with a single hotel chain. The number of status points each provides, both initially and on an ongoing basis, could be a deciding factor between them. Annual fees generally rise in accordance with status points, so only focus on this feature if you stay at a particular hotel chain regularly and can therefore extract a lot of value from fringe benefits like complimentary breakfast and room upgrades.

    What’s the difference between hotel points and hotel membership status points?

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOWhen it comes to hotels, there are two types of rewards points: those redeemable for free nights and those needed to move up the membership status ladder, which dictates the VIP extras that you’re entitled to (e.g. breakfast coupons, complimentary room upgrades, access to executive floors, priority check-in). While all hotel rewards credit cards give you points to earn free nights, only some provide status points as well. Status points are truly only important to people who actually stay at a particular hotel chain on a consistent basis, especially since they are often tied to the number of nights you accumulate in a calendar year.

    Which is the best hotel rewards program?

    By: John Kiernan, Personal Finance EditorConsumers base their hotel choices primarily on things like price, location, and quality of service, and since each hotel has but a single rewards program, the best hotel rewards program for each individual is that which is tied to their favorite hotel. However, there might be more than one hotel credit card affiliated with a given chain, especially the big ones, which means that the best hotel credit card is whichever best matches your income, spending habits, and existing status within the rewards program.

    Do any credit cards offer both hotel points and airline miles?

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOSort of. Travel reward credit cards offer either miles or points that in most cases can be redeemed for either hotel or airfare bookings made through any travel agency or website. In other words, while all credit cards use a single rewards currency (i.e. points, miles or cash back), some allow you to redeem for broader perks. This can be useful in the sense that travel might not be your top priority down the road, in which case redeeming for something else, like a gift card, could be more rewarding.

    Can I get more than one hotel credit card?

    By: John Kiernan, Personal Finance EditorOf course you can get more than one hotel reward credit card, but whether you should do so is another story. The Island Approach to credit card use holds that you should have rewards credit cards that complement one another in order to give you the most comprehensive rewards earning power possible. Therefore, if you already have a hotel rewards card, the most strategic move would be to get a credit card tied to your next biggest type of expense. For example, someone who stays at a Marriott Hotel every other week and also spends a lot on gas would derive the most benefit from having both a Marriott Credit Card and a gas credit card.

    Community Discussion

    Ask a question or help others find the best hotel credit cards by sharing some tips.

    Mar 24, 2015
    I really like using my Marriott Reward Card. I travel often and almost always find a Marriott or Marriott affiliated hotel nearby. I have already had three nights free and like the fact that there are no limits to the amount of points I can collect. I plan on using my card to achieve a reduction in future airfare and flights and of course more free nights at premier Marriott Hotels.
    Mar 10, 2015
    Hotel credit cards are extremely helpful. I travel frequently for both work and play. I stay at various hotel brands. I have cards for a number of these hotels, and every time I stay at one of these properties, the money I spend goes to me earning points towards future stays or credits such as dining, parking, upgrades, and even early check-ins or late check outs. These cards are absolutely rewarding as a traveler.
    Feb 20, 2015
    I am currently using the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card. I think it is the best thing since sliced bread. I do a lot of traveling for my business, and if it weren't for this card, my expenses would be pretty much out of hand. I get so many free nights with this card, that it basically pays for itself. I cannot stress how useful this card has been in my travels across the country. I am always able to find a Marriott in the area I am in that can offer me several perks just due to the fact that I am a holder of this card. I am able to get free upgrades and also free services. This always makes my trip hassle-free and worry-free. I recommend this card to any business professional who always finds themselves in a travel situation. I am also up for a limit increase on my card. There are always increases sooner than you would expect. Try it out. You will not regret it.
    Jan 1, 2015
    I use my Marriott rewards visa when ever i travel and i have no complaints. The points system is very simple to understand and earning is just as easy.
    Dec 26, 2014
    I have used the Hilton Honors credit card for several years. I find it quite a good deal, and I do recommend it. It's surprising how fast one can build up enough points using that card- to earn free hotel nights! It just seems a natural, as well to use a branded card at the specific brand's outlets. I feel like staff of the various hotels I have frequented are happy to see that card used. It might even influence a little better service.
    So, overall- I definitely do recommend a branded hotel credit card. Whether that is the Hilton Honors card that I have enjoyed, or some other branded card, I think it's a great deal and provided just what a business or casual traveler wants from that segment of the credit card market.
    Nov 26, 2014
    I used my Hilton card not too long ago when we stayed in Branson it was actually a thing I used my card because the interest rates are low and you get lots of reward points for using your card.
    Nov 6, 2014
    I think hotel credit cards are extremely helpful. I travel quite a bit for both business and pleasure, and often stay at Marriott, Hilton, or Starwood brand hotels. I have cards for all three of these hotel brands, and each time I earn points and bonuses on my stay so that I can have a discounted or free stay in the future. Additional perks include food and beverage credits so free meals or drinks, room upgrades, free parking, early check-ins or extended check outs, or special amenities in the room. I also think that because hotel credit cards are geared towards travelers expecting good hospitable service and the fact that they are more specialized helps in getting better customer service. The customer service that I’ve gotten on these cards has been really helpful and efficient. I would highly recommend hotel credit cards for the avid and loyal traveler as they are definitely useful.
    Oct 8, 2014
    I am auditor, and that means I stay out of town a lot. I only stay at the Marriott, because I like the amenities they offer. A few years ago, I applied for a credit card there. I was accepted and now I use their card exclusively. I can upgrade to a king size room at any time, and the points roll over instead of expiring. I can reserve a hotel and I never have to worry about being bumped from my room. I stayed at the Marriott for three days virtually free! It’s a really good card, I recommend it!
    Oct 2, 2014
    I really like the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. It currently has the highest reward rate in the market right now. This is really convenient for me because I often travel for my job and need to stay at various hotels. The rewards pile up pretty quickly thanks to this card.
    Sep 19, 2014
    The one time I used a hotel credit card at a hotel, I had to call from the lobby of the hotel to get them to recognize the rewards I had available. It was not worth the effort and I agree with some of the other commenters that there are much better non-hotel cards available that will, in the end, get you similar results. I would advise against getting a hotel card.
    Sep 7, 2014
    I personally feel as though hotel credit cards are not as useful as they seem. There are plenty of other cards that are much better in the rewards department. With hotel cards you are very limited in where you can earn and redeem points. I also think that the APR on most chain hotel cards is way too high.
    Nov 27, 2014
    Photo of Cou P.
    I agree with Sarah. Sometimes it feels like I need to jump through hoops just to earn enough reward points with a hotel card. I rather stick with what i know best and not run into any surprises.
    Aug 31, 2014
    The best hotel credit card I have used is the Best Western Credit Card. I used it to stay at a hotel when I took my family to Disneyland. I've also used it multiple times when traveling on business. Had no issues with it so far. There is no annual fee on the card and I also really like the rewards.
    Aug 27, 2014
    I think that hotel credit cards can be useful if you are someone who travels a lot. I don't travel much, and when I do, I rarely stay in a hotel. But, my parents have a job that requires a lot of travelling, and I know that with all of the points that they wrack up, they earn a lot of points towards things like airlines and hotel stays, and they get some fun perks, too!
    Jul 29, 2014
    I travel for a living so I get plenty of benefits from using my Marriot Rewards Card. I cant count how many free nights and room upgrades I have gotten from this card. The hotel also has partnerships with many other companies and I am able to get discounts for being a member. I love it!
    Jul 21, 2014
    I used the marriott rewards premier card. The rewards weren't great and to be honest neither were the rates. The rate isn't bad but its nothing special. I used to travel a lot. I still travel a lot but I travel a lot less now. Yet what i realized something when i traveled and used the rewards from the hotel credit cards; the cards just weren't good enough to match the hassle of keeping up with them. Even if you use book a hotel about one every two or three weeks it's not necessarily worth it. I used to stay at the marriot a lot and it still was a waste of time.
    Jul 31, 2014
    Photo of Stephanie C.
    I love the rewards that I have gotten so far with my Marriot card. Lots of room upgrades and free nights and I have only had it for a year.
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