Hilton vs. Marriott: Which One Is Right for You?
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These two well-known hotel brands have a global presence and loyalty programs with strong followings, even more so when understanding their credit cards’ perks for travelers.
But which chain, loyalty program and credit card is right for you and how you travel? If you have wondered, “Which is better, Hilton Honors or Marriott Bonvoy?,” this guide will show you the way.
Let’s compare the two hotel programs, Marriott versus Hilton credit cards, geographic footprints and the necessary travel considerations for all customers.
Where can you find Hilton and Marriott?
Winner for hotel availability: Marriott
Hilton trails Marriott in availability, both in terms of the number of properties and the number of destination options. Marriott is in 139 countries and territories, while Hilton is in 123 countries and territories.
Hilton has more than 7,000 hotels worldwide that participate in Hilton Honors and its 18 brands. Hilton’s brands range from luxury, such as the Waldorf Astoria, to value-oriented, such as the Hampton by Hilton.
As one of the largest hotel chains in the world, the Marriott hotel group features more than 8,000 properties in 139 different countries and territories. Its brands range from ultra-luxurious, like the St. Regis, to value-focused, like Fairfield. With 30 Marriott brands, you’re sure to find something that suits your style.
Hotel credit card availability
Winner for best hotel credit card: Hilton
When it comes to hotel credit cards, Hilton beats all competition — not just Marriott. This is thanks to the industry-leading benefits offered by the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (namely Hilton Honors’ highest elite status for the $450 annual fee), though the large welcome bonuses offered by all its cards don't hurt.
Hilton credit cards
Complimentary top-tier Diamond elite status.
An annual free night certificate.
14 points per dollar spent on Hilton properties.
$250 airline fee credit.
$250 annual resort credit.
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card does come with a $450 annual fee, but it’s worth it, especially if you can earn the following welcome bonus: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card after you use your new Card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
Here are the other Hilton credit card offerings:
The Hilton Honors American Express Card has a $0 annual fee. Welcome bonus: Earn 70,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points and a Free Night Reward after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card comes with a $95 annual fee. Welcome bonus: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points and one Free Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card comes with a $95 annual fee. Welcome bonus: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points plus a Free Night Reward after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors Business Card within the first three months of Card Membership. Offer ends 7/19/23. Terms Apply.
» Learn more: The best Hilton credit card strategy
Marriott credit cards
Although Marriott has its share of co-branded credit cards, its top-tier card falls short compared with Hilton’s offerings (mostly because it offers only Marriott’s mid-elite status and not the top tier like Hilton’s Aspire card). The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card comes with:
$300 annual statement credit per calendar year (up to $25 per month) for eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide.
A free night certificate worth up to 85,000 points is given every year after your card renewal month.
6 points per dollar spent at Marriott.
Complimentary Platinum elite status (which delivers an additional 15 points per dollar spent at Marriott).
These and several other perks do come with a $650 annual fee. And the card has the following welcome bonus: Earn 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy® bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card's lack of top-tier elite status puts it a step behind Hilton’s top card.
Here are the other Marriott credit cards:
The Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card has a $0 annual fee. Welcome bonus: Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after spending $1,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening with the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card.
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card comes with a $95 annual fee. Welcome bonus: Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card.
The Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card comes with a $250 annual fee. Welcome bonus: Earn 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy® bonus points after you make $4,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.
The Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful™ Card has a $250 annual fee. Welcome bonus: Earn 125,000 Bonus Points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from your account opening.
The Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card comes with a $125 annual fee. Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.
» Learn more: The best hotel credit cards right now
Hotel loyalty programs
Winner for ease of points: Marriott
Marriott and Hilton could be better regarding redeeming points, but Marriott has more properties and brands. In 2022, it removed the minimum and maximum number of points needed for a redemption. This can muddy the waters when it comes to knowing how many points you’ll need to save for a trip since it can vary based on the date. Still, according to NerdWallet data, there is a slightly higher rate of return when it comes to the value of points from Marriott.
Hilton has done away with its award chart, which severely hampers your ability to plan how many points you’ll need to save before planning a trip. Yes, you can redeem rooms for as little as 5,000 points per night, but you’ll need to find standard room rewards to do so.
Beyond standard room rewards, Hilton offers premium room rewards — and those rates can run you into the hundreds of thousands (if not more) of points per night. Because of this, and other reasons, NerdWallet values Hilton Honors points at 0.6 cent each.
You can earn points with hotel stays, credit card spending, by dining and many other ways. Chase points don’t transfer to Hilton, but AmEx points do, at a ratio of 1:2.
» Learn more: The complete guide to Hilton Honors
Marriott has done away with its fixed award chart. This means that awards rates are now tied to demand and will vary depending on when you book. NerdWallet currently values Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.7 cent each.
You can use various methods to increase your Marriott points stash, including credit cards, hotel stays and dining. You can also choose to transfer points to Marriott from either American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards® at a 1:1 ratio. However, this may not be a good use of your points since NerdWallet estimates the overall transfer value at 2 cents per point.
» Learn more: The complete guide to the Marriott Bonvoy program
Family travel considerations
Best hotel for family travel: Hilton
When it comes to family travel, there are multiple things you’ll want to take into consideration. One of those things? Food. Hilton offers five brands with complimentary breakfast:
Hampton by Hilton.
Breakfast access at other Hilton properties is also available. At certain brands, you can get yourself and a registered guest complimentary breakfast if you have Hilton Gold status or higher, depending on the location (complimentary in non-U.S. hotels; U.S. hotels offer a food and beverage credit).
Additionally, if you have Diamon status (free with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card), you’ll have access to Hilton’s executive lounges in many places with food and drinks, including breakfast. Finally, Diamond elite status also entitles you to complimentary suite upgrades. While these aren’t guaranteed, having much more room for you and your family will certainly help. Otherwise, Hilton also has plenty of suite hotels among its brands. In addition, the Embassy Suites and Homewood Suites brands offer a complimentary evening snack spread, which includes alcoholic drinks.
Marriott also has five brands that include free breakfast:
Fairfield by Marriott.
Unfortunately, outside of these properties, you’ll need to have at least Platinum elite status to score a complimentary breakfast. Guests with Platinum elite status or higher have access to select suite upgrades, and while upgrades are not guaranteed, they can be a nice perk. Marriott has several suite hotels in its brand portfolio. Since Hilton offers a breakfast benefit to those with mid-tier status (Marriott does not), it makes it easier for families to benefit.
Business travel considerations
Best hotel for business travel: Hilton
Although Marriott has more properties than Hilton and thus a wider geographic footprint, the easy elite status afforded to Hilton Honors members means more. This is especially true for business travelers. Early check-in, late check-out, premium Wi-Fi, executive lounge access, suite upgrades and complimentary breakfast can make the difference between a comfortable stay and a not-so-favorable experience, especially on a tight turnaround.
Don’t forget Hilton Honors Gold elite status comes as a perk of The Platinum Card® from American Express, too. The card also offers Marriott Gold elite status, but with Marriott, the benefits are fewer. Since these benefits are readily available without acquiring any actual stays, business travelers can start enjoying these perks immediately with the The Platinum Card® from American Express.
Even though Marriott has more properties than Hilton, both hotel chains are massive, which means there will likely be one or more of each hotel no matter where you’re going. NerdWallet values Hilton Honors elite status as more valuable than Marriott Bonvoy status because of the perks that kick in at the second tier of elite status and beyond. This tips the scales in favor of Hilton.
If you’re choosing between Hilton and Marriott
Considering these criteria, Hilton is the clear winner in this showdown with Marriott. Although Marriott has more hotels and the transparency of using points there has been easier so far, it falls behind when it comes to practical travel.
This is due mainly to Hilton’s industry-leading credit cards and generous elite status benefits, which afford high-end perks to any traveler — especially those approved for the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. Combined with a better ability to earn points and a more favorable transfer ratio, Hilton handily beats out Marriott in this competition.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card