Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
Hotel credit cards are definitely not created equally and measuring them up against each other is very difficult for a number of reasons. For one, they often offer perks like elite status that is hard to quantify and personal preference plays a large role in determining the value of sign-up bonuses. Furthermore, some cards like the SPG and Marriott cards offer unique ways to redeem points, such that the value in cents per point easily dwarfs other cards like the Citi Hilton. With that being said, here are my top 7 hotel credit cards as of March 6, 2017.
Update: Some offers are no longer available — click here for the latest deals!
1. American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card
- Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints after you make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months and an extra 10,000 bonus Starpoints after you make an additional $2,000 in purchases within the first 6 months
- Annual fee: $95 (waived first year)
I value this card a lot because you can can use SPG points for free nights at SPG properties, transfer them at a 1:3 ratio to Marriott, transfer them out to over 30 airlines at a 1:1.25 ratio when transferring 20,000 points or more, and utilize them in a number of other different ways, such as SPG Moments.
There’s always a chance that this could be the last time we see this offer for this card since Marriott acquired Starwood. Thus, if you’re on the fence about this card, you may want to act sooner rather than later.
The business version of the SPG card is very similar but it also offers Sheraton lounge access, although it comes with a higher minimum spend at $5,000. Read more about this offer and the similar offer for the business version here.
2. Marriott Rewards Card
- 80,000 Marriott points after $3,000 spend; 7,500 points when you add an authorized user
- $85 annual fee (not waived)
The Marriott Rewards card found itself here given the flexibility of the bonus. 87,5000 Marriott points can get you a couple of nights at some high quality properties. But I like the fact that you can transfer these 87,500 Marriott points to SPG for nearly 30,000 SPG points, which can be transferred to nearly 30 different airlines as approximately 35,000 miles (due to the 25% SPG transfer bonus).
Also, 87,500 Marriott points get you that much closer to being able to redeem for a Flight and Hotel package, which is usually considered one of the most valuable redemptions for hotel points. You can often use the SPG credit cards in conjunction with the Marriott card to rack up enough points to earn a flight and hotel package.
Plus, you get a free anniversary night each year at category 1 through 5 hotels. And while the card earns bonus category points on restaurants, car rentals, and airlines, it’s probably best to put your spend on the SPG to earn more Marriott points.
It’s important to note that while the personal version of this card is subject to 5/24, the business version of this card is not.
3. Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card
- 2 (or even 3) free nights after $5,000 spend at Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton properties
- Priority Pass lounge access
- Marriott Gold status (first year)
- $450 annual fee (not waived)
The landing page for the free three night offer is still active here and so many people suspect that you might be able to get three free nights honored. In that case, I think this is definitely one of the more valuable cards. March 12, 2017: Offer dead.
I recently stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Battery Park in New York and while I wasn’t overly impressed with the property, I got two free nights which would’ve have each cost about $1,000 a night! So there’s potential to get a large return in value with this card and the Priority Pass lounge access (valued at $399) is a sweet addition to the card.
Read more on my take of the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card here.
4. Chase Hyatt Card
- 2 free nights at any Hyatt worldwide of any category when you spend $2,000 or more during the first 3 months
- Get 5,000 bonus points after you add an authorized user to your account and make a purchase with your card during the first 3 months from account opening
- Plus, 1 free night every year after your cardmember anniversary at any Category 1-4 property
- $75 annual fee (not waived)
What makes this card so valuable is that it offers you two free nights at Hyatt properties of any category and they can be used on any night of the week. So unlike the Hilton Reserve, you’re not limited to only weekend plans and it makes it much easier to utilize this benefit. Like the Ritz-Carlton, standard rooms at the top categories like the Park Hyatt can sometimes go for close $1,000 a night, so there’s potential to gain a ton in value from this card.
The card offers the new “Discoverist” elite status which leaves a bit to be desired but the free anniversary night can easily cover the annual fee so this card can definitely be a keeper. Also, this is one of the few Chase cards not subject to the 5/24 Rule and for that alone, it’s a more appealing card.
5. Hilton Reserve
- 2 free weekend nights after making $2,500 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening and a $100 statement credit
- Hilton Gold Status
- $95 annual fee (not waived)
There are multiple Hilton cards but this card offers you the most potential value since you could redeem your free night certificates for the most expensive Hilton properties, which could go for over $1,000 a night. Still, the weekend only limitations on the certificate make this card less attractive than the Hyatt card, in my opinion.
However, unlike the Hyatt card this card offers better status. Gold status can offer you a range of benefits including:
- 5th night free
- Complimentary internet
- With Gold elite status, you automatically receive a 25% bonus on all the HHonors Base Points you earn.
- Complimentary Breakfast
- Eligible for upgrades and occasional executive lounge access
The downside is that there’s no free anniversary night (unless you make $10,000 on purchases each year) so this card is much less of a keeper in my book. Also, this card is subject to Citi’s 24 month rule, which means that you can’t receive another Citi Hilton bonus until another two years, which is a bit of a bummer.
6. Barclaycard Wyndham Rewards Visa
- Earn 30,000 bonus points after your first purchase. Plus, earn an additional 15,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening
- Automatic Platinum status
- Earn 6,000 bonus points annually after your account anniversary every year (this is in addition to the 3,000 offered each year due to Platinum status)
- $75 annual fee (not waived)
Wyndham has a unique redemption system where you can book any of their properties for 15,000 points a night so this card offers you a total of three free nights. Considering that two nights are offered to you just after the first purchase, that’s quite a bargain. Also, each year you’re given 9,000 points which isn’t too far off from another free night.
Some properties will allow you to redeem 3,000 points + cash for a booking so it’s quite easy to stretch those 9,000 points plus cash into free nights, especially considering how expansive the Wyndham network is.
Finally, Barclaycard typically pulls from TransUnion so this card can give your Equifax and Experian credit reports a much needed break.
7. Citi Hilton Honors Visa Signature Card
- Earn 75,000 HHonors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months.
- Silver Honors status and fast track to Honors Gold status after four stays within your first 90 days of account opening or when you make $20,000 or more in purchases each calendar year
- Earn an annual loyalty bonus of 10,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points at the end of each calendar year in which you spend $1,000 or more on stays within the Hilton Portfolio
- No annual fee
I’d usually put the no annual fee American Express version of this card above the Citi Hilton Honors Visa Signature Card but that sign-up bonus is only at 50,000 right now. 75,000 Hilton Honors points can get you a couple of free nights at a major city if you play it right or you could stretch those into several nights at a lower property. Considering that this card has no annual fee, I consider this to be a keeper.
UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.