A former boss of mine had travel down to a science. He bought the most expensive luggage and could pack a week’s worth of clothes into a single, carry-on roller. He had elite status on just about every airline and rental car company. But it was his premier status with hotels that really caught my attention.
The scenario always went something like this. We’d both check in at the same time and then head to the elevator. I’d push the button for my floor, which was usually on a lower floor. But he’d have to insert his room key to activate the button for his “executive” floor, which was almost always one of the top three floors. I still remember his sheepish grin every time this happened. I hated that grin. (John, if you’re reading this, yes, I’m talking about you.)
So today I decided to pull together a list of the top hotel rewards credit cards. The idea here is to find cards that can not only help you get free hotel stays, but also the elite status that my boss enjoyed. One of the great benefits of hotel credit cards is that they help you qualify for elite status without having to spend a gazillion nights at a hotel every year.
We’ll start with my favorite hotel card, which I’ve carried for about a year.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is my favorite card for several reasons. First, the bonus rewards for new card members are first rate. Second, rather than being stuck with one hotel, Starwood covers a number of hotels including the Westin, the Sheraton, and W. Third, and this is a big one, you can transfer your Starwood points to most airlines to purchase reward plane tickets.
Here is a summary of the card’s benefits:
- Starpoints® bonus: earn up to 25,000 bonus points: 10,000 after your first purchase and another 15,000 after you spend $5,000 within the first 6 months of Cardmembership
- That's enough for a weekend getaway to a Category 4 Hotel.
- Free Hotel Nights: redeem Starpoints at over 1,100 hotels in nearly 100 countries worldwide - with no blackout dates. Some hotels may have mandatory service and resort charges.
- Free Flights: redeem Starpoints on over 350 airlines with SPG Flights - with no blackout dates
- No limits on the number of Starpoints you can earn
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $65
- Terms and Restrictions apply.
Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card
If you spend a lot of money on your credit card each year and love Marriott properties, it’s worth stepping up to the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card. The annual fee is a bit higher, but you get 20,000 more bonus points and earn more points based on your purchases.
Here are the details:
- Earn 50,000 Points after spending $1,000 in your first 3 months from account opening
- Receive 1 Free Night Stay after account approval in category 1-4 locations
- Receive 1 additional free night stay at a Category 1-5 location every year after your account anniversary date!
- Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $85
- For every $1 spent, earn 5 points at 3,600 Marriott locations, 2 points on airline ticket purchases directly with airlines, at car rental agencies & restaurants and 1 point elsewhere
- Achieve Elite Status Faster with Annual Credit & Everyday Purchases - 15 Elite Credits after account approval and every year after your account anniversary
- Unlimited Point Accumulation
- No Foreign Transaction Fees and global Chip and Signature technology
Citi® Hilton HHonors® Visa Signature® Card
This card is ideal if you stay at Hilton hotels regularly, although its perks are not industry leading. You can earn 40,000 Hilton HHonors bonus points, but you must first spend $1,000 in purchases within the first four months. With the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Visa Signature® Card, you do get HHonors Silver status just for carrying the card.
Here are the details:
- Earn 40,000 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points after spending $1,000 within 4 months of account opening*
- Earn 6 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent at a participating hotel within the Hilton HHonors portfolio.*
- Earn 3 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent on purchases at supermarkets, drugstores and gas stations*
- Earn 2 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent on all other purchases*
- No annual fee.*