Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.
Some travelers avoid hotel credit cards for chains like Marriott or Hilton because they’d prefer to earn more flexible rewards to use across a wide variety of properties. Rather than being tied to only, say, Hyatt hotels at their destination (if there even is a Hyatt nearby), many travelers prefer the flexibility to pick from any hotel at their destination.
And sometimes you might not even want a standard hotel. A cabin, safari tent or beachside cottage might be a better fit.
With the $0-annual-fee Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card, you can redeem rewards at any of the travel booking website’s more than 500,000 properties.
For commitment-phobes willing to at least commit to booking travel through Hotels.com, you can maximize your Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card to get more rewards and better benefits than everyone else booking through the website.
» Learn more: Benefits of booking with Hotels.com
But the card also has a number of drawbacks that might not make it a worthwhile piece of plastic in your wallet to begin with. So is the Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card worth applying for? Here’s a closer look.
The best benefits of the Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card include:
Low annual fee
The card’s annual fee, $0, is easier to stomach than other travel rewards cards (premium ones can cost upwards of $450 annually).
Get 3 reward nights worth $375 total (max $125 per night)* with qualifying purchases. Get 2 reward nights worth $250 total (max $125 per night), when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, get another reward night worth $125 when you spend $4,000 in total purchases within the first 6 months. *Excludes taxes and fees. If a night costs less than $125, you won't get the difference.
Cardholders earn one stamp for every $500 spent on purchases on the credit card. Once you earn 10 stamps, you’ll be eligible for one free reward night, whose value is capped at the average of the 10 properties booked to earn it (more on this in the drawbacks section).
Automatic Silver status with Hotels.com
You’ll automatically receive Silver status for as long as your card is open. Silver status in the Hotels.com Rewards program entails perks that vary by property but can entail free breakfast, spa vouchers, airport transfers, VIP access and more.
Other travel benefits
The card comes with a slew of traveler-friendly perks, like:
Foreign currency conversion fee: None.
Cell phone protection: Pay your phone bill with this card and you’ll be covered in the event of damage to or theft of your phone, for up to $1,200 per year ($600 per claim) after paying a $25 deductible.
Travel protection benefits: Cardholders get trip cancellation and interruption coverage, car rental collision damage waiver, roadside dispatch and other protections.
There are plenty of other underrated reasons to consider the Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card. Use the card to its full potential, and some frequent Hotels.com bookers might be able to really maximize it.
But while there are some nice perks, including benefits that are tough to find in other no-annual-fee credit cards, there are drawbacks aplenty, and the card might be more irritating to use than appealing. Here are some of its biggest drawbacks:
Capped value of reward nights
Upon earning 10 stamps, you’ll have the ability to redeem a free reward for a future hotel stay.
You earn one stamp for every $500 of spending on the card, so $5,000 in purchases on your card equals 10 stamps — thus enough for a free night.
But if you’re hoping that your free night will be a honeymoon-worthy ocean bungalow, good luck. Your free night certificate can only be redeemed for a value of up to $110. If you want to book a more expensive property, you can pay cash for the difference — and you’ll also owe any taxes and fees.
While Hotels.com calls this a reward night, consider it more like a $110 discount on your next hotel stay for every $5,000 you spend on the card. That’s effectively a 2.2-cent return, which actually isn’t bad for a credit card with no annual fee. But annoyingly, you can only use it with Hotels.com, which is less flexible than just opting for a cash back credit card.
Additionally, Hotels.com Rewards members also earn one stamp every time you book and stay one night at an eligible property. This benefit is available to all rewards members, not just Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card holders. The maximum value of this type of reward night is equal to the average daily rate of your 10 nights collected, excluding taxes and applicable fees. This means if you tend to book more expensive hotel stays, your reward will have a higher value.
It is possible to earn the required 10 stamps for a reward by combining the stamps you earn from spending on the credit card with those you earn from booking paid stays through Hotels.com as a rewards member.
No bonus categories for ongoing spending
Many travel rewards cards, including those with no annual fee, offer the ability to boost the number of rewards you earn by spending in certain categories, such as travel, grocery stores or gas stations. The Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card doesn’t pay extra for spending in bonus categories, meaning your options for earning rewards are more limited.
Instead, you simply redeem a stamp for every $500 in spending, agnostic to where you swiped the card.
Limited choices for redeeming rewards
Unlike cards offering flexible rewards, the stamps you earn using this credit card are redeemable only for Hotels.com bookings. Plus, you can’t redeem the rewards you’ve earned until you have 10 stamps.
If you regularly use your card and anticipate accumulating $5,000 in purchases on it to get that reward night, then it can be worth it. But if you leave the card in the back of your sock drawer only to be used for occasional purchases, then you might not ever earn enough stamps to actually get a free night. After all, if you don't collect stamps or use any nights for 12 months, all stamps and reward nights expire.
The card counts toward your Chase 5/24 limit
If you want to open other credit cards in the next two years, beware: Chase, issuer of some of the most coveted travel rewards and cash-back cards in the business, could hold it against you if you open too many other cards, including this one.
Chase has an unspoken, so-called 5/24 rule, which says you’re unlikely to get approved for a Chase card if you have five or more approvals for credit cards over 24 months. Even though this card is issued by a different bank, opening it will count toward your five-card limit for future Chase accounts.
Considering this card is decidedly “meh,” it might not be worth taking up a 5/24 slot, in spite of it having a $0 annual fee.
Alternative travel credit cards to consider
If you’re looking for more flexibility with a $0-annual-fee rewards credit card, you may want to consider the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card or Chase Freedom Unlimited®. Both of these cards offer valuable sign-up bonuses and the ability to redeem rewards for travel with fewer restrictions.
» Learn more: The best hotel credit cards right now
The bottom line
While the Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card’s $0 annual fee and ability to save on a huge selection of hotels is appealing, you may want to consider an alternative no-annual-fee travel credit card due to the limitations and complications of redeeming your rewards.
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 2022, 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