NerdWallet’s Best Hotel Credit Cards, 2015
If you’re searching for the best hotel credit cards, look no further. We’ve chosen a handful of our favorites that offer high rewards, free lodging and extra perks for loyal cardholders. Hotel-branded cards, unlike most airline cards or retail cards, can actually be worth your while. Frequent guests will discover benefits that both curb costs and add another dimension of luxury to the hotel experience.
As you read through our list, keep in mind these cards only make sense if you are truly a frequent hotel patron. One week out of the year doesn’t quite cut it. Most travelers will do better to check out our current list of the best travel cards to view more universally applicable options. Without further ado, here are NerdWallet’s picks for the best hotel credit cards.
Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card
Want an easy bonus of a two-night stay worth hundreds of dollars? Want that bonus to come with EMV technology, an anniversary award night and free elite status? Of course you do — and the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card is just the card to do it. The sign-up bonus is very generous. Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio after you make $2,500 in purchases within 4 months of account opening
The card also comes with an EMV chip and no foreign transaction fees; an anniversary bonus of one weekend night every year when you spend $10,000 or more in eligible purchases each cardmembership year; and complimentary Gold status for the life of the card. No matter how you look at it, there’s a lot to love about the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card. And the ongoing rewards rate is not too shabby either: 10 points per $1 at Hilton hotels, 5 per $1 on airlines and car rentals and 3 per $1 elsewhere.
Even if you value HHonors points at 0.5 cents apiece (which we do), that’s a 5% rewards rate at the Hilton, 2.5% on airlines and car rentals and 1.5% elsewhere. The annual fee is $95, but given the anniversary bonus, there’s every reason to get the card.
Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Want a gargantuan signup bonus? The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card awards new cardholders a stellar sign-up bonus: Limited Time: Earn 80,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Ongoing rewards also offer a great deal: You earn 5 points per $1 at Marriott locations, 2 per $1 at restaurants, airlines and car rental agencies and 1 per $1 everywhere else.
Points are redeemable at all Marriott properties, which include Renaissance Hotels, Courtyard, Residence Inn, and Fairfield Inn & Suites. Keep in mind that redemption values for Marriott points aren’t that great – while you do get the fifth night free when you redeem for 4 award nights, based on the nightly rate-vs-points required value, we think that Marriott Points are worth about 0.8 cents each. This does diminish slightly the luster of the card. The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card does not charge a foreign transaction fee, saving you 3% on every out-of-country purchase.
There is an annual fee of $85. If that seems steep, think of it this way: The signup up bonus basically pays for almost five years’ worth of annual fees.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
One of our favorite hotel credit cards, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express packs a powerful punch. At first glance, the rewards program is fairly unassuming. You get 5 points per dollar spent at SPG locations and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else. So what’s the big deal? Well, while most rewards programs pay in points worth a penny apiece, we value Starpoints at an average of 2.4 cents each when redeemed for hotel stays. That means the base rewards rate is around 2.4% — much, much higher than the industry standard.
The signup bonus is great: Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. There are a number of other perks as well, including credit for elite status upgrades and airfare redemption. There is a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $65.