Hotel loyalty programs may be the unsung heroes of the rewards credit card industry. While many airline rewards customers are finding it difficult to redeem their miles, many hotel programs will allow their points to be redeemed for any unsold room. And at a time of low oil prices and highly discounted airfares, a larger percentage of your travel dollar may be spent at hotels, and not with the airlines. And finally, these cards offer rewards that can be perfect when you want to take a road trip, or just spend a romantic night downtown after a show.
What Goes Into Choosing a Hotel Rewards Credit Card?
When choosing an airline mileage card, many people focus on the carrier that offers the best service to their home airport. But when choosing a hotel rewards credit card, it’s all about the destinations you will be visiting. While most hotel chains will have competing locations in major cities, you might wish to earn points with a program that offers great properties at your favorite vacation spots. When comparing credit cards, you need to scrutinize the terms of a hotel’s loyalty program before committing to its credit card. Check to see how many points are required for an award night, and whether the program offers any unsold room available as an award night, or imposes capacity controls that limit your use of points.
Examine how many points per dollar you will receive for various types of purchases, and compare it to the number of points needed for an award night. Also, take note of any perks and benefits offered to cardholders such as late checkouts, room upgrades, and even free breakfast.
You will also want to look at the terms of the credit card itself, not just the rewards program. The annual fee and any foreign transaction fees are important to figuring out if the card is right for you. As with other types of reward cards, hotel cards should be used by those who avoid interest charges by paying each month’s statement balance in full. Otherwise, you will be better off focusing on cards that have the lowest interest rate, not additional rewards.
Before applying for any credit card, it’s important to know where your credit stands so you don’t apply for credit cards you’re unlikely to qualify for. You can check your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com to see where you stand.
Why It Won: The Starwood card continues to offer not just free award nights, but many other travel reward options.
The Rewards: New applicants receive 25,000 points after using their card to make $3,000 in purchases within three months of account opening. Cardholders earn double points at Starwood properties, which include Westin, Sheraton and several other brands. All other purchases earn one point per dollar spent. Points can be redeemed for award nights starting at just 3,000 points per night, with the fifth night free on stays of four consecutive nights. In addition, you can also transfer your points to airline miles with the programs of more than 30 different carriers, and receive a 5,000-point bonus when redeeming 20,000 points at once. This card also offers Starwood Gold status to those who spend $30,000 on their card in a calendar year. This status offers room upgrades, late checkouts and the ability to earn more points during stays.
The Costs: New for this year is an annual fee of $95 for this card (up from $65 previously) that is waived the first year, but the card no longer has any foreign transaction fees.
1st Runner-Up: Wyndham Rewards Card From Barclaycard
Why It Won: Wyndham radically changed its rewards program for the better this year.
The Rewards: New cardholders earn 30,000 points after their first purchase, and five points per dollar spent when staying at Wyndham properties, and double points are earned for all purchases elsewhere. In addition, cardholders receive 6,000 bonus points each year on their account holder anniversary. But the best part is that under the newly revised Wyndham Rewards program, a free night at any property is just 15,000 points, with no blackout dates or capacity controls. This program is only hampered by the limited number of luxury properties offered by the Wyndham brands, which feature many budget hotels and motels. Nevertheless, there are enough high-end properties offered to make this program, and its credit card, shine.
The Costs: There is a $69 annual fee for this card, and a 3% foreign transaction fee.
2nd Runner-Up: Hilton HHonors Surpass Card From American Express
Why It Won: It offers a massive number of points when staying at Hilton hotels, as well as impressive benefits.
The Rewards: New applicants receive 60,000 Hilton HHonors bonus points after spending $3,000 on their card within three months of account opening. Cardholders also earn 12 HHonors bonus points for each dollar of purchases made at Hilton properties, and six points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations. Three points are earned per dollar spent on all other transactions. In addition, cardholders receive Gold status with Hilton, which features room upgrades, late checkouts and even free breakfasts at some properties. Other benefits include extended warranty coverage, purchase protection, return protection and a baggage insurance policy.
The Costs: There is a $75 annual fee for this card, and a 2.7% fee imposed on all transactions processed outside of the U.S. after conversion to U.S. dollars.
Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.
At publishing time, The Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.