Hotels offer unique rewards that can be used for free nights. To help bring down the cost of your next vacation, here is a list of the best hotel credit cards of 2018.
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.
The Best Hotel Rewards Credit Card
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express–Perhaps the most popular hotel rewards card on the market today, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is also the card with the highest quality. New members can earn 25,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 in the first three months of card ownership. Double Starpoints are earned on all eligible Starwood and Marriott Rewards hotel purchases and single Starpoints are earned elsewhere.
When you are an SPG member, you’ll earn triple points per dollar spent at Starwood and Marriott hotels. This is on top of the two per $1 that this credit card provides, effectively making it five Starpoints for every dollar spent. Owning the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express offers you credit for five nights and two stays each year toward elite status. There’s no fee for foreign transactions and the annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year.
- Intro Bonus: 25,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 in the first three months
- Best Rewards Feature:- 5x Starpoints on purchases made at Starwood and Marriott hotels
IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card–The IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card is a card I personally own and use often. When visiting my family in New Jersey, my wife and I stay at the local Holiday Inn Express (because you wouldn’t stay at my parents house either). New cardmembers can earn a 60,000 point bonus after spending just $1,000 in the first three months. In addition, every year you continue to be a cardmember, you’ll earn one free night on your anniversary date.
Five points per dollar spent are earned when you stay at an IHG hotel. Two points per dollar spent are earned at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants and one points per dollar spent is earned everywhere else. Immediately after becoming an IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card you’ll earn platinum status which increases the amount of perks you’ll receive when staying at IHG hotels. Tack on a 10% redemption bonus, there’s plenty to love about IHG if you spend time at their properties. Important to note that the $49 annual fee is waived for the first year.
- Intro Bonus:60,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months
- Best Rewards Feature: 5x points per $1 spent at IHG locations
Learn more about this and other hotel rewards credit cards.
The Hyatt Credit Card–The Hyatt Credit Card offered by Chase gives members a 40,000 points bonus after spending $2,000 in the first three months of card membership. An additional 5,000 bonus points can be awarded after adding an authorized card user inside of three months (who makes at least one purchase). That’s a potential total of 45,000 bonus points, which is certainly worth a few free nights. Three points per dollar spent are earned at Hyatt hotels, two points per dollar spent are earned at restaurants, and on airline tickets (when booked with the airline) and one point per dollar spent is earned elsewhere.
Hyatt has some funky names for the status levels of their program, but know when you’re approved for the Hyatt Credit Card, you immediately earn Discoverist status. This means 10% bonus points on Hyatt purchases and 2:00 pm late checkout (which is actually quite nice). If you spend at least $50,000 or more in a calendar year, you’ll earn Explorist status, which means 20% bonus points, the late checkout and Club lounge access (many other benefits as well). This card has no foreign transaction fees and an annual fee of $75.
- Intro Bonus: 40,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first three months / 5,000 point bonus for authorized card holder that makes a purchase inside of 3 months
- Best Rewards Feature: Double points at restaurants
Learn more about this credit card HERE.
Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card–The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card kicks off with a 75,000 point bonus after spending $3,000 in purchases during the first three months of account opening. Five points are earned per dollar spent at Marriott and Starwood locations. Double points are earned per dollar spent on airline tickets (purchased directly with the airline), car rental agencies and at restaurants. Single points are earned on all other purchases. Points do not expire so long as you make at least one purchase every 24 months.
Let’s talk about Elite status. When you open your Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card account, you’ll earn 15 Elite credits toward your status (Silver, Gold or Platinum). Every $3,000 you spend annually is good enough to earn one more credit. Gold and Platinum status offer things like room upgrades, 4pm late checkout (WOW) and guaranteed lounge access/breakfast for two. Like other cards on this list, the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card has no foreign transaction fee and the $85 annual fee is waived during the first year.
- Intro Bonus: 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of card ownership
- Best Rewards Feature: Free night stay at any category 1-5 hotel every anniversary
Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express–Another big bonus credit card, the Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express offers 75,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in the first three months. Tack on an additional 25,000 bonus points after spending another $1,000 in the first six months, and we’re talking six figure bonus points. Wait until you hear about the rewards program …
Twelve points per dollar spent are earned on purchases at hotels inside the Hilton portfolio. Six points per dollar spent are earned on purchases at restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations. Triple points are earned for every other $1 spent. When you spend $40,000 annually, you’ll automatically earn Hilton Honors Diamond status through the next full calendar year. One additional big perk to mention; when you spend $15,000 in a calendar year, you’ll earn a Weekend Night Reward. No foreign transaction fees to speak of but the Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express has a $95 annual fee.
- Intro Bonus: 75,000 points after spending $2,000 in three months/25,000 points after spending another $1,000 in six months
- Best Rewards Feature: TWELVE points per dollar spent on Hilton Hotels