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Wyndham Credit Card: Not Always the Best Deal

by on April 18, 2012

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If you spend a lot of time at the Wyndham hotel, you may be considering a Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature card from Barclaycard. The Wyndham Rewards credit card doesn’t charge an annual fee and it offers 3 points per $1 spent on participating hotels. There’s also an annual fee version of the card that costs $39 per year and bumps up the hotel rewards rate to 5 points per $1 spent.

Both cards offer 2 points per $1 spent on all other purchases and an easy-to-earn signup bonus. After your first purchase or balance transfer, you’ll get 18,000 points for the annual fee card and 12,000 points for the no annual fee version.  The version with the annual fee comes with 0% APR for the first 6 months.

With a 2-points-per-dollar minimum rewards rate, no limit to the number of points you can earn, and plenty of opportunities to earn extra points, both Wyndham cards seem like a pretty sweet deal. But are they? We’ll break down the fine print and give you the facts you need to decide for yourself.

Wyndham Rewards Program: no credit card required

Before you consider applying for a credit card, remember that you don’t need one to earn rewards at the Wyndham. The Wyndham Rewards Program is available to all hotel patrons, and it’s completely free. For every dollar you spend at one of their hotels, you’ll earn 10 rewards points. For extended stays at the Hawthorne Suites, you’ll earn 5 points for every dollar you spend. Both the Wyndham Visa credit cards piggyback on this program, so any points per dollar you earn are added together. With the no annual fee card, for example, you’ll earn a total of 13 points per dollar on most Wyndham hotel stays: 3 points from the card and 10 from your membership.

Points aren’t all they’re cracked up to be

For many credit card rewards programs, you can count on a point being worth about a cent. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with a Wyndham Rewards Card. Your point value varies wildly depending on how you choose to redeem them, even for rewards within the same category. For example, a $25 gift certificate to Restaurant.com only costs 2,200 points, but a $25 gift card to Denny’s, Chili’s or most other restaurants will cost you a whopping 6,500 points. At that rate, your points are only worth 0.38 cents. Factoring that in, your base rewards rate falls to 0.76%, worse than your standard rewards card.

Hotels aren’t always a better deal

Think you’ll do better when you redeem your points for hotels? You might, but only if you’re staying in the middle of nowhere. 6,000 points will get you one free night at a Tier 1 Hotel, but the tier is determined by the hotel’s location, occupancy and average daily rate, not the hotel’s overall quality. The Travelodge in downtown San Francisco is considered a Tier 4 hotel, the cream of the crop, so it costs 16,000 points for one free night. We’re got nothing against the Travelodge, but we don ‘t exactly consider it a top-tier hotel, even if it’s located in our beloved City By the Bay.

International travelers lose out

The Wyndham has locations throughout the United States and 20 other countries, including Panama, Libya, China and the Czech Republic. Some of their other chains, like the Ramada and the extra-ritzy Wyndham Grand Collection, also have a strong international presence. Accordingly, you’d expect the Wyndham Credit Cards to be travel friendly, but we took a closer look at the fine print and were sorely disappointed by the 3% foreign transaction fee. With this and no memorable travel perks to speak of, these cards are not a great choice for international travelers.

Should you get a Wyndham Card?

If you spend a ton of time at domestic Wyndham hotels, the no-fee card may give you a little extra edge. The $39 fee version is only worth it if you practically live at the Wyndham. For most people, we just recommend signing up for the Wyndham Rewards Program and getting a better travel credit card for your purchases. Here are two of NerdWallet’s top travel cards to consider:

Best all-around travel card: Capital One Venture

The Capital One Venture is perhaps the most legit 2% back travel card available. It pays out rewards in No Hassle Miles, which equal a solid cent each. You can redeem your miles for almost any travel expense, including airline tickets, hotel rooms, gas, rental cars and baggage fees. You won’t have to deal with blackout dates or booking restrictions, and there’s no foreign transaction fee.

Good hotel alternative: Starwood AmEx

If you aren’t set on the Wyndham but don’t mind sticking with one hotel chain, the Starwood American Express is worth a look. This card earns 5 Starpoints per dollar on Starwood Preferred Guest Hotel purchases and 1 Starpoint everywhere else. On the surface, that doesn’t seem like anything special, but it turns out these points are pretty valuable. When you redeem points for hotel stays, for example, they’re worth an average of 2.3 cents and a maximum of 5 cents. The Starwood also has a good signup bonus right now: 10k with your first purchase and another 15k when you spend $5,000 in the first six months, for a total of 25,000 points.

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    I’ve been wondering whether to get one of these Wyndham cards since they cover a lot of the hotels that I stay at during my trips. I travel a lot internationally as well as domestically, so I am not too sure whether this is the best option to lower my costs. It sounds like it is only viable for people who travel very regularly and stay exclusively in Wyndham partner hotels.

    I thought the points they gave were worth a lot more than what you just revealed. The $39 annual fee version pays a decent number of points, but the idea of paying an annual fee for something one can get for free is kind of repulsing.

    At the moment, my plan is to get a Starwood American Express card as well as a free Wyndham card – I’ll probably use both for a year, and see which one seems more lucrative.

    Thanks for the expose,

    James.