Best Hotel Credit Card
The right card for you depends on so many factors that make up your unique situation including your desired benefits, your level of loyalty, annual spending and travel style. Unfortunately the correct hotel credit card choice isn't as a clear cut as deciding which brand you like best. Further complicating matters are the different types of credit cards offering bonuses or benefits at hotels. I get a lot of questions from friends about which hotel card is best suited for their needs and this is my initial thought process.
Types of Credit Cards for Hotels
- Hotel Co-branded Credit Cards
- OTA (or site specific) Credit Cards (e.g. Expedia, Orbitz)
- Travel Rewards Credit Cards with Bonus earnings and/or perks when booking hotels (e.g. Chase Sapphire Preferred, Citi Prestige, Amex Platinum)
- Bonus (airline branded cards used to book vacation packages- for those who value Airline miles above all else)
Business Traveler and Brand Loyalists
Many people who travel predominantly for work don't have too many options because they are generally tied to specific brands and partnerships based on corporate relationships. This is a pretty cut and dry situation because you'll rack up tons of free points and elite qualifying credit. Also if you're a brand loyalist, you probably don't even need to be reading this, you know which card you want and you probably already have it.
Budget Conscious Frequent Travelers
If you travel a ton but you're less concerned about luxury than overall value, your situation is not quite as clear cut. You'll need to consider what cards help you earn the benefits you value most and the specific way you book hotel stays. Let's say for example, you really only care about getting free breakfast and spending as little as possible, you're probably going to be booking budget hotels that serve breakfast like Marriott Fairfield and Holiday Inn Express. In this situation, you're probably way better off using a third party booking site such as Expedia or Hotels.com since any rewards will be flexible and you'll usually end up spending less since you are free to choose whichever brand of hotel is cheapest for all of your stays.
My top picks for luxury travelers without any major brand preference are the Amex Platinum Card because you can book through Fine Hotels and Resorts and earn 5x Membership Rewards for prepaid stays. Other great options for those who prefer luxury hotels are the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, Chase Ritz Carlton and Hilton Aspire because they all offer added credits worth at least $100 when staying at the top brands. Last you might consider the Expedia Rewards Voyager Card from Citi, which gives you Expedia rewards status and more flexibility than any other aforementioned card.
Bonus: First Class Fanatics
I happen to fall within this category and it often leads to contrarian plays. I constantly find myself searching airline travel package deals and calculating the number of miles I'd earn from a hotel stay. For the small subset of people who think like this, the best cards are those that have a high general travel return and those that earn miles on hotel stays or vacation packages with some additional benefit. The two that come to mind are the AAdvantage Cards issued by Citi because they offer a 10% discount on non flight components and the Jetblue credit cards which give you up to 9 points per dollar and a yearly $100 statement credit. You earn all the miles you normally would from flying. For a few awesome applications of this idea check out my post “Travel Booking Basics: (30K Miles Up For Grabs) Stack Offers for Tons of Extra AA Miles.”
Related: JetBlue Mint Flight Review
Best Hotel Credit Card Type: Thoughts
You spend money each and every day, the key to award travel is to earn the biggest return possible on that spend and there are so many avenues to increase your return on hotel stays. There are also things like sign up bonuses and travel benefits to consider but those change frequently so we'll go over them in a different post. When choosing the Best hotel credit card for you: (Things to Consider)
- What cards offer the best earn rates in the categories you spend the most money on
- What perks are most important to you
- Transfer partners with your preferred loyalty programs