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NerdWallet’s Best Hotel Credit Cards of 2017

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NerdWallet's Best Hotel Credit Cards

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 value

https://www.nerdwallet.com/lib/redirect.php?name=American-Express-Starwood&uv=A8BRnHRh9Y%2Fp%2BddNemqm%2FS6uAPJUk5YeQ53Xi0rzppqwvsKmDtGQW47dToBcwhxx00tgehlv%2BZaZOgy3dsznSnEy3Q%3D%3D&clickHeader_category=Credit%20Card&clickHeader_productId=1015

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • No foreign transaction fee

    Cons

    • Has annual fee
    • Rewards only valuable if you stay at Starwood properties frequently

    Annual Fees

    $0 for the first year, then $95

    APR

    • APR: 15.99% - 19.99% Variable APR
    • Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%, Variable
    • Cash Advance APR: 25.99%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Limited Time Offer- Earn an extra 10,000 bonus Starpoints® after you make an additional $2,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. Offer ends 4/5. Terms Apply.

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
    • Limited Time Offer- Earn an extra 10,000 bonus Starpoints® after you make an additional $2,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. Offer ends 4/5.
    • Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent on the Card at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
    • Redeem Starpoints® at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries and for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG flights, all with no blackout dates.
    • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
    • Terms Apply.

Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Limited Time Offer- Earn an extra 10,000 bonus Starpoints® after you make an additional $2,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. Offer ends 4/5. Terms Apply.
Earn up to 5 Starpoints per dollar spent at participating SPG locations and 2 Starpoints per dollar at Marriott Rewards properties. No foreign-transaction fees. The annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $95.

Benefits of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express:

  • Starpoints are among the most lucrative rewards points in the business, with the Nerds valuing them at 2.3 cents each. By contrast, most hotel rewards programs’ points are valued at less than a penny apiece. See our rewards program reviews for more information.
  • You’ll get great travel perks, including free premium in-room Internet access and complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi at more than 1 million hotspots worldwide.
  • If you need some extra airline miles, the SPG program has you covered. You can transfer your Starpoints to more than 30 airline transfer partners. Read our editorial review for the full list.

Drawbacks of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express:

  • The SPG program has more than 1,300 properties worldwide, not many compared with other major hotel chains. If you’re looking for a better hotel selection, this card may not be your best choice.
  • The card has an annual fee and doesn’t offer a free night every year to make up for it. If you’re not using the card regularly, it might not be worth it.
  • Marriott has acquired Starwood Hotels, which leads to some uncertainty with the chain’s loyalty program.

The bottom line:

If you can get past the limited locations and you plan on using the card often, Starpoints’ relatively high value and the program’s airline transfer partners make the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express not only the best hotel credit card, but one of the best travel credit cards overall.

Best for a free anniversary night

https://www.nerdwallet.com/lib/redirect.php?name=Chase-Marriott-Rewards-Premiere&uv=A8BRnHRh9Y%2Fp%2BddNemqm%2FS6uAPJUk5YeQ53Xi0rzppqwvsKmDtGQW47dToBcwhxx00tgehlv%2BZaZOgy3dsznSnEy3Q%3D%3D&clickHeader_category=Credit%20Card&clickHeader_productId=3057

Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • No foreign transaction fee

    Cons

    • Has annual fee
    • Needs excellent credit
    • Rewards only valuable if you frequently stay at Marriott properties

    Annual Fees

    $85

    APR

    • APR: 16.49% - 23.49% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 25.49%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    Earn 80,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • Earn 80,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
    • Plus, earn 7,500 bonus points when you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening.
    • Enjoy 1 Free Night Stay at a Category 1-5 hotel every year after your account anniversary date!
    • Earn unlimited Marriott Rewards points and get Free Night Stays faster
    • Earn 5 points per $1 spent at participating Marriott Rewards & SPG hotels
    • 2 points per $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airlines, at car rental agencies & restaurants. Plus 1 point per $1 spent everywhere else
    • The fastest way to earn Marriott Rewards Elite Status. Receive 15 Elite Credits guaranteeing Silver Elite Status or better.
    • All for an $85 Annual Fee

Earn 80,000 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 $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 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. While the free anniversary night more than makes up for the cost, the frugal crowd may still bristle at the idea of shelling out cash every year to carry a credit card.

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

https://www.nerdwallet.com/lib/redirect.php?name=Chase-Sapphire-Preferred&uv=A8BRnHRh9Y%2Fp%2BddNemqm%2FS6uAPJUk5YeQ53Xi0rzppqwvsKmDtGQW47dToBcwhxx00tgehlv%2BZaZOgy3dsznSnEy3Q%3D%3D&clickHeader_category=Credit%20Card&clickHeader_productId=3098

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • A large bonus
    • No foreign transaction fee
    • Cool factor - metal card
    • Earn more points on travel and dining at restaurants
    • Premium travel protection benefits

    Cons

    • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, after that $95 per year

    Annual Fees

    $0 for the first year, then $95

    APR

    • APR: 16.49% - 23.49% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 25.49%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    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®

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • 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®
    • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
    • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
    • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
    • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
    • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

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 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months of approval, equal to $400 in travel. Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase. No foreign-transaction fees. Annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $59.

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
Value Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
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.

Last updated Jan. 4, 2017

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


Image via iStock.