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Planning a vacation? Getting ready for a year full of business trips? A hotel credit card could help you travel in style and luxury, or at least shave a few bucks off your bill. With perks like free night stays, automatic hotel member status, and the ability to earn a wealth of reward points, hotel cards are some of the most lucrative credit cards available.
By Brendan Harkness
By Brendan Harkness
Hotel-branded cards come with some of the best rewards and benefits available on all credit cards, and frequent travelers who don’t take advantage of them are missing out.
How do perks like free night stays, automatic elite hotel status, and complimentary WiFi sound? What about room upgrades, early check-in, and late check-out?
Most of the major hotels offer co-branded cards that can be very valuable. If you stay at several hotels or resorts per year you could probably find an offer that will help save money and make your stays more comfortable, and may even turn a run-of-the-mill business trip into something worth writing home about.
The right hotel card for you will depend on the specific hotels you typically stay at. If you love Marriott, for example, look for a co-branded Marriott Bonvoy card. If you prefer Hilton or Radisson hotels, look for their co-branded cards. If you stay at a variety of hotels you might want a variety of credit cards as well, or you could just go with a general use card that could be used anywhere.
Ask yourself a few questions to help figure out which hotel card (or cards) you should apply for:
The information related to Citi Prestige® Card has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.
The information related to Hilton Honors Aspire Card has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.
The information related to Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.
|Best Western||Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard®|
|Choice Privileges||Choice Privileges® Visa Signature® Credit Card (Review)|
|Diamond Resorts||Diamond Resorts International® Mastercard®|
|RCI||RCI® Elite Rewards® Mastercard® (Review)|
|Wyndham Rewards||Wyndham Rewards® Visa Signature® Card – $75 Annual Fee|
Hotel credit cards come with a range of annual fees, with more rewards and better perks on the more expensive cards. Some of the best include:
If you’d like to stay with any hotel brand, go for the Citi Prestige® Card (Review). You’ll get your fourth night free on hotel bookings of four nights or more, twice per year, when booking through ThankYou.com.
Or, if you have a favorite brand, these cards will get you free nights at their co-branded hotels:
A number of major hotel brands offer co-branded cards you can use to get upgraded rewards and perks, including:
Hotel credit cards work like any other credit card. They come in two basic types:
In general, you’ll earn the most points for hotel bookings and other brand-related activities. Co-branded hotel cards often come with an elite membership status, bonus point opportunities, and free night stays, as well.
You’ll typically get the most bang for your buck by redeeming your points for hotel bookings. So you come full circle: Pay for hotel stays and make other purchases with your hotel card to earn points, and then use those points for hotel bookings
You’ll have to decide how much you’re willing to pay for a hotel credit card: nothing, or quite a bit? There are three basic tiers to consider:
If you spend a lot of time and money with a particular hotel brand each year, it probably makes sense to go with the high-end card product. These come with plenty of cost-saving benefits, like free nights and travel credits, that will often offset the annual fee down below $100, or may even offset it completely. Don’t be afraid of a high annual fee: you’ll find that the rewards and perks you can earn make the effective annual fee quite affordable.
Even if you don’t spend a lot of time and money at hotels, it might still be a good idea to go with a high-end card offer. You might be surprised at how affordable some of these $450 cards can be — take the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (Review), for example. It costs $450 per year, but comes with a $300 travel credit and one Free Night Award every year after your cardmember anniversary, along with other perks. The $300 credit reduces the effective annual fee to just $150, and the Free Night Award can provide as much as $500 in value at the upper end, or perhaps even more. Make good use of those perks, and that would mean you’re actually profiting by $350 per year!
Mid-range and low-end hotel cards don’t come with the same level and variety of cost-saving benefits, so in some cases they could actually have a higher effective annual fee than a high-end card. In general, we encourage you to take a look at the high-end cards to see how they’d fit into your travel plans, even if you typically shy away from credit cards with high annual fees.
But if you can’t justify paying a high annual fee, you may decide that a mid-range or low-end card would be better for you, especially if you don’t travel often or are less familiar with credit cards. There would be less pressure to make good use of it every year to get your money’s worth, and you wouldn’t have a $450 card in your pocket begging to be used.
Before applying for any hotel card you should do some sample calculations to see how much value you’ll get, and compare the results from different cards. Figure out how much you can expect to earn in hotel rewards, and what you’ll get from perks like travel credits, free nights, and complimentary hotel statuses. You may find that a high-end card would be far more profitable than a mid-range or low-end card.
For rates and fees of The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, please click here.
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The information related to Citi Prestige® Card, Hilton Honors Aspire Card, Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card, and Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card have been collected by Credit Card Insider and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of these products.