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How to choose a hotel credit card


A hotel credit card is a travel rewards card that helps you earn free nights, discounts and even elite status at popular hotel chains. Having one of these cards in your wallet can put you closer to your next vacation.

Here are some things to consider and questions to ask before choosing a hotel credit card.

How often do you travel?

How often do you travel and stay in hotels? If you travel frequently, getting a hotel credit card makes sense. If you don’t travel often or tend to stay in other accommodations, such as Airbnbs, you might be better suited with a travel rewards card that earns more flexible rewards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Related: Why I love my Chase Sapphire Preferred card — and will always keep it in my wallet

Do you prefer a specific hotel chain?

If you prefer to stay at a specific hotel chain, consider signing up for one of its cobranded credit cards. For example, if you are a budget traveler, you might favor IHG hotels and resorts. Marriott is a good option if you would rather select from a variety of hotels across all service levels and price ranges.


Marriott is my go-to hotel chain, and I hold Titanium Elite status, so a Marriott credit card can help me maximize the points I earn each time I stay. Whatever chain you prefer and stay with the most is the one you should choose for your first hotel card.

Related: Which credit cards offer the most lucrative rewards for hotel stays? 

What benefits do you get?

When researching a hotel credit card, it is important to consider the benefits of the card, which can include:

  • Elite status requirements
  • Free night certificates
  • Travel protections and insurance
  • Bonus earnings on hotel stays
  • Elite night credits
  • The potential for award stays
Arial shot of a beach and shoreline

For example, the IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card automatically gives you Platinum Elite status, which includes several benefits.

Some hotel cards also give you elite night credits just for holding the card, which can move you closer to a higher status tier. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card is a good example, as it automatically gives you 25 elite nights.

IHG will give you the fourth night free if you hold a credit card and pay with points.

Related: Quick Points: Get your fourth or fifth night free on hotel award stays

Earnings structure

Another perk of hotel credit cards is the bonus earnings on hotel stays. Some cards earn more than others, so it’s essential that you choose the right card.

For example, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card earns 12 points per dollar spent on all Hilton stays. The Marriott family of credit cards earns up to 23.5 points per dollar spent on Marriott stays. IHG cards earn up to 26 points per dollar spent on IHG stays. Meanwhile, Hyatt cards earn up to 10 points per dollar spent on Hyatt stays.

Related: What are points and miles worth? TPG’s monthly valuations

Are you choosing the right welcome offer?

Most hotel credit cards have generous welcome offers, such as bonus points or free nights, that can help you accumulate rewards quickly. Marriott, for example, has six credit cards with varying welcome offers.

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card welcome offer is for five free night certificates valued at up to 250,000 points after you spend $5,000 within the first three months of account opening (each night is valued at up to 50,000 points; certain hotels have resort fees). The Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card has a welcome offer of 30,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 within the first three months of account opening.

courtyard with a pool in a tropical location

Welcome offers can vary between cards, so you should determine whether you want to earn points or free night certificates. You should also make sure you meet the minimum spending requirement to qualify for the offer, as that can also vary between cards.

Related: Here are the best credit card welcome offers

Should you put your everyday spending on a hotel card?

Hotel cards don’t always have the best earnings rate on everyday purchases. However, there are some scenarios where you should put your everyday spending on a hotel card.

woman and child looking at juice bottles in a grocery store

If you are trying to qualify for a welcome offer, you should put your everyday spending on your new card to ensure you reach the threshold. You should also prioritize your hotel card if you are trying to earn points toward an upcoming trip.

Related: Best credit cards for everyday spending

Is the annual fee worth it?

Many hotel credit cards charge an annual fee, so you’ll need to determine if you will get enough value from the card to justify paying the fee.

Sign-up bonuses and anniversary certificates can offset some of these annual fees, especially in your first year. A handful of cards will give you a free night certificate every anniversary year just for having the credit card.

For example, the World of Hyatt Credit Card has a $95 annual fee but gives you a free night certificate for any Category 1-4 property after your card anniversary each year. You can easily get a free night that normally costs between $200 to $400, offsetting the annual fee and making the card a no-brainer.

Related: The wild thing I did not to lose a free hotel night, and how you can avoid my mistake

Bottom line

A hotel credit card can be a great way to earn elite status and points toward your next dream vacation. Make sure you choose a card that suits your lifestyle and preferred hotel chain. That way, you can maximize the benefits of having a hotel credit card. If you don’t stay at hotels often, opt for a travel card that earns a more flexible currency.


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