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NerdWallet’s Best Hotel Credit Cards of 2018

July 13, 2018
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This page is out of date

We are revising this page to expand its offerings and take into account the effects of combining the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty programs. In the meantime, see our best credit cards page for other offers.

Searching for the best hotel credit card? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve chosen some favorites that offer high rewards, free nights and extra perks for loyal cardholders.

As you read through our picks, keep in mind that some of these cards make sense only if you stay at hotels frequently. One week out of the year doesn’t quite cut it. Here are NerdWallet’s picks for the best hotel credit cards.

Best for a free anniversary night

Earn 75,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Enjoy 1 night’s stay free at a category 1-5 location every year on your account anniversary date. Earn 5 points per dollar spent at participating Marriott Rewards and SPG hotels; 2 points per dollar on airline tickets purchased directly with airlines, at car rental agencies and restaurants; and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere. No foreign-transaction fees. Annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $85.

Benefits of the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card:

  • You get a free night’s stay at a category 1-5 hotel every year. With some category 5 locations charging more than $200 a night, this makes the annual fee — $0 for the first year, then $85 — worth it.
  • With your choice of more than 4,300 locations in 81 countries and territories across the world, you’re likely to be able to use your points wherever you travel.
  • You automatically receive Silver Elite status every year, which includes exclusive offers, 20% bonus points during stays, priority late checkout, a 10% discount on weekend stays at select locations and more.
  • You can transfer your points to any of several airline transfer partners. See our Marriott program review for the full list.

Drawbacks of the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card:

  • According to Nerd calculations, Marriott points can be worth up to 1.7 cents per point, but on average are worth only 1 cent each, which is lower than some of this card’s competitors.
  • The card has an annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $85. While the free anniversary night more than makes up for that cost, the frugal crowd may still bristle at the idea.

The bottom line:

The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card is a great card to have. Not only does Marriott have a wide selection of locations, both economy and upscale, but the card doesn’t limit you to using your points only for hotel stays. The main downside of the card is the value of the points.

Best for hotel transfers

Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Get a 1:1 point transfer to 11 airline, hotel and other partners. No foreign-transaction fee. $0 for the first year, then $95.

Benefits of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card:

  • You get a 20% discount when you use your points to book travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards platform, giving your points an effective value of 1.25 cents apiece.
  • You can also transfer your points at a 1:1 ratio to 11 travel partners, including Hyatt Gold Passport, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards. See our editorial review of the card for the full list.
  • The card’s sleek design and metal composition make it a standout at the cash register.

Drawbacks of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card:

  • It’s flexible, but you’re still restricted to the Ultimate Rewards transfer partners and the travel platform.
  • It doesn’t offer the kind of elite status perks you might receive with a co-branded hotel card.
  • It has an annual fee, but it doesn’t offer an anniversary bonus to make up for it.

The bottom line:

With its 2X rewards on all travel purchases, the 20% discount on travel bookings through Ultimate Rewards and its transfer partners, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the best travel credit cards on the market. If you’re not a big spender, however, the annual fee is a barrier to consider.

Easiest redemption:
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel. Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase. No foreign-transaction fees. Annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $95.

Benefits of the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card:

  • Maximum flexibility: Simply make a travel purchase with the card, then redeem your miles to get statement credit against the purchase. You’re not restricted to any specific hotel brand.
  • The base rate of 2 miles per dollar spent is rare among travel credit cards.

Drawbacks of the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card:

  • It doesn’t offer any of the elite status perks you might receive with a co-branded hotel card.
  • It has an annual fee but doesn’t offer an anniversary bonus to make up for it.

Bottom line:

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card doesn’t have the perks of a cobranded hotel card or a premium travel card, but its high ongoing rewards rate and flexibility make it hard to beat.

To recap our selections:

NerdWallet’s best hotel credit cards

Best for … Card
Free anniversary night Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Hotel transfers Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Easiest redemption Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Methodology

NerdWallet’s credit cards team selects cards in each category based on overall consumer value. Factors in our evaluation include fees, promotional and ongoing APRs, and sign-up bonuses; for rewards cards, we consider earning and redemption rates, redemption options and redemption difficulty. A single card is eligible to win in multiple categories.

Ben Luthi is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email:bluthi@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @benluthi.


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