With April 2023 just around the corner, there’s never been a better time to explore the world and make memories that last a lifetime. But, as savvy travelers know, globetrotting is quite the investment.
It’s here that the best hotel credit cards come in. These cards offer the chance to elevate your travel experiences without breaking the bank. So whether you’re a globetrotter looking for upgrades or a budget-conscious traveler looking for benefits, our in-depth analysis of the best hotel credit cards of April 2023 will help you discover the ultimate travel companion.
Best Hotel Credit Cards From Our Partners
What Are Hotel Credit Cards?
Hotel cards are designed to reward frequent travelers. Besides providing convenient ways to pay for accommodation, they also offer the chance to earn and redeem points that can be used for free stays, room upgrades, and other travel-related rewards.
As travelers focus on comfort, convenience, and cost savings, these cards are becoming more popular. Using 200 hotel credit points, for example, unlocks a lot of savings. Some of the top hotel cards available come with enticing signup bonuses, adding even more value to the deal.
But the perks don’t stop there – many of them also offer extra benefits to enhance the travel experience. These include exclusive services, such as priority check-in, late check-out, and access to hotel lounges.
Cardholders can also get travel protection and insurance, such as trip cancellation and baggage loss coverage. These provide peace of mind while on the go.
What is a Hotel Rewards Credit Card?
When you know what type of rewards are available to you, you’re better equipped to select the card that best aligns with your travel preferences. From points and miles to elite status and travel protection, hotel credit cards offer many rewards that make each stay more enjoyable.
- Reward miles or points per every dollar spent on eligible purchases. These can be redeemed for free nights or other travel-related perks. They work on a point-per-dollar basis and can add up if the card is linked with a hotel chain or rewards program. This helps you to save money on accommodation costs
- Sign-up bonus. This bonus requires meeting a small spending threshold within a specific time frame. But once achieved, you can free future hotel stays or other general travel card costs based on your spending (E.g., 1 point per $1)
- Complimentary elite status. By being a cardholder, you can get exclusive perks at particular hotels like the IHG hotel. The IHG® rewards premier credit card also offers room upgrades and complimentary breakfast. These benefits can elevate your hotel experience, making it more luxurious and enjoyable
- Free annual night stays. These can be redeemed at participating properties within the hotel chain. This benefit is perfect if you stay at hotels a lot or are loyal to a particular hotel brand
- Travel protection and insurance. These benefits provide peace of mind while you’re on the road. They include trip cancellation coverage, baggage delay insurance, and car rental insurance
What Are Hotel Rewards Programs?
By using rewards programs, as the IHG hotel does, any hotel or resort can foster brand loyalty and repeat business by offering exclusive benefits to its members. Rewards programs work on a simple premise: the more you stay, the more you earn another free perk.
As a member, you can earn bonus points for each dollar you spend (E.G. 1 point per $1) on eligible expenses. Think of things like room rates, dining, and other on-site services. You can then redeem each point per dollar for free nights, airline miles, and even get more bonus points by earning rewards.
The membership structure is also tier-based. For example, with the IHG® rewards premier credit card, your membership level rises, and you get more bonus points after you spend on your card.
This, in turn, unlocks extra perks and benefits. And the rewards that come with these programs aren’t limited to individual guests. They can also be great for companies to use points on prepaid hotels booked for their employees.
Do Hotel Rewards Expire?
Travelers who rely on hotel cards for rewards often ask this question. But, there is no simple answer since it depends on the rewards program linked with the rewards premier credit card.
In general, hotel card rewards do have an end date, but the timeline can vary from one program to another.
- Some hotel loyalty programs have a policy where their rewards expire after a certain period of inactivity. This could range from 12-24 months. But, as long as you continue to earn or redeem points on your card in a calendar year, your rewards will remain active
- Some hotel programs have a hard end date, irrespective of your account activity
Ensuring you understand your rewards program’s terms and conditions can help you avoid expiring points. To do this, you should keep track of your points balance and redeem them whenever possible.
So, while hotel rewards can expire, staying engaged with your loyalty program, especially within the first 3 months of card membership, can help prevent the loss of points.
How to Maximize Hotel Rewards Points
If you want to make the most of your hotel card, the best way to do this is to maximize hotel rewards® points after you spend on eligible purchases on your card. Doing so will make your travel experience better and save you money.
- Choose the card that matches your travel style. Many hotel chains have their own co-branded credit cards, partnering with major banks. Make sure to compare the sign-up bonuses, annual fees, and rewards rates to find the card that best suits where you stay.
- Stay loyal to your chosen hotel chain and rewards premier credit cards. Sticking to one brand will help you earn point-per-dollar benefits faster and achieve higher membership rewards® points on prepaid hotels, for example.
- Take advantage of bonus categories and promotions to earn even more points. Many hotel cards offer extra bonus points after you spend in certain categories, such as dining, travel, or even on the hotel’s services. Keep an eye out for limited-time promotions, such as the chance to earn 3 points per dollar or earn 5 points per dollar.
- Redeem your points. Do some research and compare the point requirements for redemption options, such as the ability to earn a free night reward, transfer points, or use credit towards room upgrades. Doing this will give you the best value for your points.
How Do Hotel Credit Cards Work?
If you’re intrigued about earning free hotel stays, room upgrades, and other perks through a hotel card, you’ll need to know exactly how they work. With these cards, you can earn miles (airline fee credit) or points per dollar spent and redeem them for expenses related to travel. For example, anyone interested can get Capital One’s best prices on thousands of exclusive benefits.
- The next step is to learn how to get a travel credit card.
- To make sure you’re getting the best value for your money, compare things like annual fees, interest rates, and reward structures before applying.
- Once you’ve selected your lender, as with other credit cards, you can apply online or at a bank or credit union in person.
- You’ll then be asked to complete an application form with your personal and financial details. You’ll likely need your Social Security number and income details.
- The credit card issuer will assess your creditworthiness and decide whether to approve or deny your application.
Why Get a Hotel Credit Card?
The answer to this question lies in the multitude of benefits that come with owning one of these high-value cards. A travel credit card offers large rewards such as:
- Redeem points or miles for free or discounted stays at your favorite hotel chains. This means that for every dollar you spend using the card (E.g., 1 point per $1), you earn points, which can lead to complimentary nights at a luxurious property.
- Generous sign-up bonus points after you spend at a certain location, which can be worth hundreds of dollars in free stays.
- Hotel benefits like room upgrades, late check-outs, complimentary breakfast, and access to exclusive lounges.
- Financial security in the form of travel insurance, purchase protection, and extended warranty coverage.
- No foreign transaction fees.
Are Hotel Credit Cards With No Annual Fees the Best Choice?
The best way to decide if you should go with an annual fee or not is to look at the value of a rewards premier credit card. Hotel credit cards without an annual fee are an attractive choice for occasional travelers who can’t justify the cost of an annual card.
Although there are trade-offs to consider. Travel credit cards with annual fees have higher rewards rates and more exclusive perks, such as room upgrades and even access to airport lounges. These benefits easily outweigh the cost of the annual fee, making these cards a better value for some people in the long run.
So, while hotel cards with no annual fees can seem like the best choice for budget-conscious travelers, it’s best to weigh the benefits and rewards against the potential savings. For occasional travelers, a no-fee card may be the ideal choice, but for those who frequently stay at a hotel or resort, a card with an annual fee may offer greater value and a more rewarding experience.
Pros and Cons of Using a Hotel Rewards Card
Travel preferences and spending habits play a large role in deciding whether to use a hotel card. If the rewards are right for you, a hotel card can be a great way to save money and make your trip better. If you do decide to go with one, be sure to take into account its drawbacks and costs.
|1. Reward points galore. For a more cost-effective and enjoyable experience, you can earn points while you spend and use them for free hotel stays, room upgrades, or even airfare. Some cards even offer the chance to earn 3x points or earn 5x membership rewards® points on prepaid hotels.||1. Limited flexibility. Sometimes the rewards and perks are tied to a specific hotel. This means you’re limited in choice when it comes to choosing where to stay, as you may feel like you need to book a room at a certain hotel to maximize each point per redemption.|
|2. Exclusive perks and discounts. You can save money by redeeming points for complimentary room upgrades, late check-outs, and discounts on dining or spa services.||2. High APRs and fees. Travel credit cards often have higher annual percentage rates (APRs) and fees than other types of credit cards, making them more expensive over time. If you don’t pay off your balance each month or incur late fees, the interest charges can quickly cancel out your rewards.|
|3. Welcome bonuses. You can offset the cost of your upcoming trips or hotel stays with lucrative welcome bonuses, which can include a substantial number of reward points, a free night award at a hotel, or vouchers for hotel amenities.||3. Temptation to overspend. You may be tempted to overspend when you earn points. This can lead to spiraling debt and financial difficulties, particularly if you’re not that great with money.|
|4. Elite status acceleration. Hotel cards can fast-track your journey to achieving elite status within the hotel’s loyalty program. As a result, you can enjoy an even higher level of rewards, discounts, and every point per dollar counts for even more benefits. $189 clear® credit, for example, gets you through airports faster.||4. Reward devaluation. Sometimes hotels change their rewards program, devaluing the point per dollar structure you’re used to. Due to this, you might end up with rewards worth less than you expected, making the card’s disadvantages harder to justify.|
|5. Travel insurance and protection: Their features provide peace of mind and financial security in the form of trip cancellation or interruption insurance, baggage loss or delay coverage, and even emergency medical assistance.||5. Limited availability: Some cards are only accepted at certain hotel chains or locations, or points are only available after the first 3 months of card membership usage. These limitations further limit your redemption options.|
How to Choose a Hotel Credit Card With Any Credit Score
Even with all the benefits that a rewards card has, you should still consider whether one is right for you. For example, do you really need one, and why do you need to think about whether or not it’s the right choice for you? Let’s explore this in more detail.
Who Should Get a Hotel Credit Card?
This list highlights the diverse range of people who stand to benefit from owning a hotel travel card. Are you a brand loyalist who wants a rewards card for the best prices on thousands of hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy® programs? Or are you a budget-conscious adventurer looking to take advantage of a free night reward from Hilton resorts® or the hotel collection they’re known for?
- Frequent travelers. If you find yourself packing your bags for business trips or leisure getaways, a travel credit card can help you earn rewards, such as a free night award, the chance to earn 12x Hilton honors bonus points, and other point-per-dollar perks.
- Brand loyalists. For those who have a preferred hotel and consistently choose to stay with that brand, a rewards card is a must-have. By remaining loyal to a specific hotel group, you’ll earn points faster. For example, you can earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar you spend.
- Luxury seekers. If you have a penchant for indulging in luxurious accommodations and world-class amenities, a rewards credit card can help you access these experiences at a more affordable price. For example, earn up to 9 points per dollar on eligible purchases or earn 2 bonus points per dollar on restaurant spending with Hyatt Hotel.
- Budget travelers. Contrary to popular belief, a rewards card can also benefit you if you travel on a budget. Many offer generous bonus points after you use your card, which can translate into a free night award every year at budget-friendly properties within many hotel collection bookings.
- Travel hackers. If you’re a savvy traveler well-versed in the art of maximizing rewards and minimizing costs, you can use a travel card for everyday expenses and take advantage of points to redeem for free stays and other rewards.
Who Should Skip a Hotel Credit Card?
Not all rewards credit card perks are suitable for everyone. Here, we provide a list of the type of people who should not get a hotel travel card.
- Infrequent travelers. These cards come with higher annual fees and interest rates compared to standard credit cards, so it would be difficult to reap the rewards that make these rewards premier credit card options worthwhile.
- Poor credit score. Many of these cards require a good to excellent credit score for approval and applying for a card you’re unlikely to be approved for can further damage your credit.
- Not financially disciplined. The attractive rewards and benefits these cards offer can tempt users into overspending, leading to substantial debt and financial strain.
- Alternative accommodations. If you prefer vacation rentals, hostels, or couch-surfing, you wouldn’t find value in a co-branded hotel credit card. This is because they’re designed specifically for hotel stays, and their rewards programs may not extend to alternative lodging options.
How to Make the Most of Your Hotel Loyalty Program, Hotel Points, and Hotel Card?
Making the most of your hotel card is a smart move that will reward you with exclusive benefits. Use your card strategically to take advantage of its perks and enhance your travel experiences. Here’s how to do it:
- Make sure you’re earning points correctly by familiarizing yourself with the reward structure. You can do this by understanding the points system and reward categories. For instance, some cards offer the chance to earn food and beverage credit, while with others, you can earn 5x points on all other eligible purchases.
- Keep an eye out for deals. Hotel card issuers collaborate with partner establishments. For example, you can earn Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend on your card at these locations. By taking advantage of these promotions, you can earn 6x Hilton Honors bonus points faster.
- Be strategic. Instead of redeeming your points for merchandise or cash back, opt for hotel stays or other travel-related rewards with higher value. Additionally, look for opportunities to transfer your points to other loyalty programs, as this could potentially provide you with even more value
- Use everything the card gives you. Complimentary airport lounge access, free Wi-Fi, or travel insurance perks not only enhance your overall travel experience but also help you save money
We always aim to present well-rounded and detailed information on the products we review. But to provide even more on our best options, we use a comprehensive and meticulous approach.
Our first consideration was the rewards structure of each card. Here, we test the earning potential for hotel stays, dining, travel, and everyday purchases. This helped us identify cards that offer the most lucrative reward rates, so cardholders could earn rewards quickly.
Our next step was to explore the perks and benefits of each card. We looked at things like complimentary hotel stays, elite status upgrades, and travel insurance. Especially for frequent travelers, these features can add significant value to a card.
Lastly, we examined customer reviews and expert opinions to understand the real-world experiences of cardholders. This qualitative data helped us confirm our findings and fine-tune our recommendations.