NerdWallet’s Best Hotel Credit Cards, Spring 2013
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.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Our favorite hotel credit card, the Starwood 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 2.3 cents each when redeemed for hotel stays. That means the base rewards rate is around 2.3%–much, much higher than the industry standard. The signup bonus is currently 25,000 points (10,000 after a single purchase and 15,000 after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months). There are a number of other perks as well, including credit for elite status upgrades and airfare redemption. The annual fee is $65, waived the first year.
Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
Want a gargantuan signup bonus? The Marriott Rewards Premier credit card awards new cardholders 50,000 points ($500) for spending just $1,000 in the first 3 months. Good luck topping that one. Ongoing rewards accumulate according to a similar system as the Hyatt card. You earn 5% at Marriott locations, 2% at restaurants, airlines and car rental agencies and 1% everywhere else. Points are redeemable at all Marriott properties, which include Renaissance Hotels, Courtyard, Residence Inn, and Fairfield Inn & Suites. The Marriott Rewards Premier does not charge a foreign transaction fee, saving you 3% on every out-of-country purchase. The annual fee is $85, waived the first year. If that seems steep, think of it this way: The signup up bonus basically pays for the first 6 years.
Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card
Want an easy bonus of a two-night stay worth $650? 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 is just the card to do it. With a signup bonus of 2 free weekend nights when you spend $2,500 in the first 4 months (worth $650 if you stay at a Category 7 hotel); an EMV chip and no foreign transaction fees; an anniversary bonus of one weekend night every year; and complimentary Gold status for the life of the card, there’s a lot to love about the Reserve. 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 cars and 1.5% elsewhere. There is a $95 annual fee, but given the anniversary bonus worth up to $325, there’s every reason to get the card.