What’s the Best Hotel Credit Card? (We Compare 13 of Them)
List updated October 7th, 2011
In our opinion, the three best hotel credit cards are the Starwood American Express, the Hilton credit card and the Ritz-Carlton credit card. The first two are offered by American Express, an issuer known for catering to frequent travelers and big spenders, while the last is issued by Chase. Keep in mind that the value of hotel credit cards is pretty subjective, since points lose a lot of their value if you don’t redeem for hotel stays or with the hotel chain’s affiliates.
Update 10/7/11: The Marriott Rewards Premier now offers 50,000 bonus points on signup, up from 30,000, along with a free night’s stay. The regular Marriott Rewards credit card offers 30,000, up from 22,500, and two free nights instead of one.
That said, hotel credit cards are a surprisingly good deal in comparison to airline credit cards and even normal rewards credit cards. Many give rewards not just for staying at the hotel, or for spending at affiliates, but also for spending on everyday purchases like groceries. Hotel rewards are notoriously hard to quantify, since points can be used in so many different scenarios. But we’ve done our homework and calculated how much a room costs compared to how many points it takes to book the room, putting a dollar value on murky hotel rewards points.
on American Express's
on American Express's
Best fringe benefits: The Ritz-Carlton credit card has fringe benefits that rival (and at times surpass) those of the American Express Platinum. It gives complimentary Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership (valued at ~$400), a $200 airline incidentals credit, complimentary Gold Elite status in your first year, and a $100 credit towards dining, spas and other hotel activities each time you spend two or more nights at the hotel. That’s on top of the 50,000-point signup bonus. It gives 5 points per $1 spent at the hotel, 2 per $1 spent on airfare, dining and car rentals, and 1 per $1 spent elsewhere.
Most generous rewards rate: The Hilton HHonors Surpass from American Express comes with a $75 annual fee, but it’s well worth it for the extensive perks and decent rewards rate. You earn 3 HHonors points per $1 as a base rate, 6 points per $1 spent on gas, groceries, drugstores, and cable/internet/wireless bills, and 9 per $1 spent at the Hilton itself. We value HHonors points at anywhere from 0.4-1.7 cents each, and an average of 0.5 cents. Even with that devaluation, the Hilton Surpass earns 1.5% base, 3% in the generous bonus categories and 4.5% at the Hilton itself. The extensive benefits include complimentary Gold VIP status for 1 year, a points bonus for staying at Category 5&6 hotels, and lounge access valued at $99 a year.
The top hotel credit cards, ranked: Here’s our take on the best hotel credit cards. We’ve listed the base rewards rate, bonus rate and rate for staying at the hotel, but as a percentage rather than points earned per $1 spent. We also listed the dollar value of the signup bonus. This is because we’ve valued each hotel’s rewards points in dollar terms based on the cost of a hotel room versus the points you’d redeem. For example, we value Marriott rewards points at 1 cent apiece but Starpoints at 2.3 cents apiece. Even though the Marriott Premier credit card and the Starwood American Express both have 30,000-point signup bonuses, the Marriott’s is worth $300 while the Starwood’s is worth $690. For a complete explanation of how we came to these numbers, check out our hotel rewards infographic.
|Card Name||Base Rewards Rate||Bonus Rate||Hotel Rate||Annual Fee||Value of Signup Bonus|
|Starwood American Express**||2.3%||N/A||11.5%||$65*||$575|
|Ritz-Carlton credit card**||1%||2% on airfare, dining and car rentals||5%||$395||$500|
|Hilton HHonors Surpass**||1.5%||3% on groceries, gas, drugstores, utilities||4.5%||$75||$200|
|No-Fee Hilton HHonors||1.5%||3% on groceries, gas, drugstores, utilities||3%||$0||$100|
|Citi(R) Hilton HHonors(R) Visa Signature(R) Card||1%||3 points per $1 spent on gas, groceries, drugstores (a 1.5% reward rate based on our estimate of point value)||6 points for each $1 spent at participating hotels (a 3% reward rate based on our estimate of point value)||$0||$200|
|Marriott Premier credit card||1%||2% on airfare, dining, rental cars||5%||$85*||$500|
|Marriott Rewards Visa Signature||1%||N/A||3%||$45*||$300|
|Best Western Credit Card||0.6%||N/A||9%||$0||$90|
|Priority Club Credit Card||0.6%||1.2% on dining, groceries, gas||3%||$49*||$180|
|Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature||1.2%||N/A||3%||$39||$108|
|Wyndham Visa – No Fee||1.2%||N/A||1.8%||$0||$72|
|Choice Privileges Visa||1.6%||N/A||4-12%||$0||$128|
*The annual fee is waived the first year.
**The card has significant perks/fringe benefits that you should consider; see the card details.
***The Hilton cards’ rewards rates are based on our valuation of Hilton HHonors Points at 2 HHonors points to the penny.