If you're a casual traveler, signing up for a hotel credit card can qualify you for upgrades and special perks usually reserved for touring rock stars. Frequent guests can cover the costs of personal trips to the kinds of resorts not usually covered under corporate travel policies. Our list of this season's best hotel credit cards features rewards programs that maximize your earnings without holding back on bonus rewards.
Our editor's take:
This card is a must-have for travelers devoted to the Hilton brand. The generous 4-month period to redeem the intro offer valid for two weekend night certificates (which only requires $2,500 in purchases) makes the Citi® rewards program a touch sweeter
Hilton's relationships with two different banks means you don't have to choose between your favorite hotel and your preferred bank. The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card from Citibank offers the benefits of HHonors™ Gold status, as long as you are a card member. New cardholders that spend $2,500 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening are eligible for two weekend night certificates at select hotels and resorts. There is an annual fee of $95.
Frequent fliers may choose to look into the Hilton HHonors™ Surpass® Card from American Express. Basic cardholders of this American Express card get airport lounge access at participating lounges with complimentary Priority Pass membership, valued at $99. With this complimentary membership, all lounge visits are subject to a fee of U.S. $27 per person per visit. The card has a slightly lower annual fee that the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card at $75.
Our editor's take:
If luxury travel is your thing, this card is one of the best on the market. Cardholders don't need to worry about blackout dates at any of the elite Starwood properties – a great incentive to redeem the intro offer: earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® by spending $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of an account opening.
With the Starwood Preferred Guest® (SPG) Credit Card from American Express luxury hotel enthusiasts can rejoice. Cardholders are eligible to earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after using their new card for $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of their account opening. Cardholders also earn up to 5 Starpoints® on eligible purchases at participating SPG hotels. That's 2 Starpoints® for which you may be eligible as a Card Member, in addition to the 2 or 3 Starpoints® for which you may be eligible as an SPG member. You can earn free nights at over 1,200 hotels and resorts in nearly 100 countries — with no blackout dates. Keep in mind, some hotels may have mandatory service and resort charges. This card has a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. Terms and Limitations Apply.
SPG gets consistently high marks from business travelers for its flexible redemption program and for Starwood's ever-expanding lineup of hotels and resorts. If you are a business owner there is a business version of this card: Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express. (Terms and limitations apply). While sales teams that typically flock to the nearest Sheraton still have their "go-to" as an option, Starwood has upped the ante for immersive guest (and client) experiences by introducing additional luxury collection hotel chains like Aloft, Westin and W Hotels brands for Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card holders.
Our editor's take:
Points can accumulate quickly with the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card especially for new cardholders who qualify for the intro offer: 50,000 Bonus Points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
For the jetsetter that likes consistency, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card is worth your attention. Marriott has won the Freddie Award for best American hotel loyalty program eight years in a row, and has over 4,000 locations worldwide. Chase's Marriott rewards cardholders for staying at any Marriott, including luxury hotel partner, the Ritz-Carlton for the occasional traveling splurge. To take customer appreciation a step further, The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers 1 free night stay at a Category 1-5 hotel every year after your account anniversary
The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card eliminates foreign transaction fees for those that take advantage of the worldwide Marriott locations. Cardholders are offered a $0 introductory annual fee, then $85 thereafter. Cardholders earn 5 points for every $1 spent at Marriott locations, 2 points for every $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with airlines, car rental agencies, and restaurants and 1 point for every $1 spent on purchases anywhere else.
Our editor's take:
The intro offer for Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card provides huge benefits for cardholders – 40,000 miles (equal to $400 in travel) once you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months.
Although the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is not a traditional hotel loyalty program, it still makes a great "go-to" card for all things travel. You can earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase you make with this card, which is a good earning rate for not having to follow categories. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card also offers a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. Use your Venture® card for any travel purchase, and watch the miles add up – rewards don't expire so you can redeem points at your discretion. Want a straight-forward redemption rate? Just add two zeros to the purchase price, and that's how many points you'll need to cover the cost.
Finding the best value among hotel credit cards
Such strong competition among both hotel chains and credit card issuers has resulted in some unprecedented signup offers for new customers. Each of the hotel credit cards on our list offers enough rewards points with a qualifying purchase for at least one hotel night.
But the very best cards rocket you into the same orbit as guests who had to earn their gold, platinum, or diamond status one night at a time. The extra recognition at the front desk, an unexpected gift on your dresser, and the incremental bonus points you'll earn with elite status offer big returns on relatively low annual fees.