The Best Hotel Credit Cards To Maximize Your Rewards & Points

Hotel beach resort

Full Disclosure: We may be compensated when you click on links to credit card products from our advertising partners, such as American Express, Chase & Barclays. Opinions on this site are ours alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by the issuer. See our Advertiser Disclosure for more details. Thanks!

If you have a preference for one hotel brand over another — and many travelers do — you’ll find immense value in carrying that hotel’s branded credit card.

A hotel rewards credit card is the fastest way to earn hotel rewards points and gain elite status to ensure an elevated experience during your hotel stays.

Over and above the onsite benefits offered with hotel-branded cards, you may also enjoy free hotel nights at renewal and earn additional free nights by hitting specific spending levels.

To illustrate the value of these rewards cards, we’ve put together a breakdown of the best cards available.

So you can find the best hotel credit card for your situation, in this article we’ll cover:

  • Our choices for the best credit cards for hotel purchases
  • Which credit cards offer complimentary elite status and free nights
  • Hotel credit cards with no annual fee
  • Which hotel cards reward business expenses
  • Whether you can get a hotel credit card if you have bad credit
  • Which credit cards are best for non-loyalists

Let’s get started finding the best hotel credit card for your travel preferences.

The Best Premium Credit Cards for Hotel Purchases

For travelers who want to earn hotel rewards plus receive premium travel benefits, you’ll want to look beyond the standard hotel-branded credit cards for maximum value and perks.

Here are some ideas:

While premium travel/hotel rewards credit cards come with higher annual fees, they also deliver travel benefits that can add value far above their cost.

In fact, if you can use the extra benefits provided by these premium cards, you’ll find the net cost of holding the card can be less than the annual fee for a standard hotel-branded credit card.

Bottom Line: With airport lounge membership, statement credits for qualifying travel purchases, accelerated hotel rewards earning, and elite status, a premium travel/hotel rewards credit card can be a great value for the frequent traveler. 

Hilton Guam Resort and Spa
It’s possible to get upgraded to a room with a view when you have complimentary elite status. Hilton Guam Resort and Spa. Image courtesy of Hilton.com.

The Best Credit Cards That Offer Hotel Elite Status

Having elite status elevates your whole lodging experience, and having complimentary elite status just for having a hotel-branded credit card is a huge plus.

The perks, rewards, and benefits of elite status can include:

  • Early check-in/late check-out
  • Upgraded rooms
  • Suite upgrade certificates
  • Breakfast
  • Lounge access
  • Free premium Wi-Fi access
  • Free newspaper, water, and other amenities
  • Welcome bonus points
  • Accelerated earnings rates

Most hotel-branded credit cards and even some premium travel rewards cards come with a level of elite status.

Here’s how the top cards fare when it comes to providing this complimentary perk:

Even with higher annual fees, premium travel rewards cards such as the Platinum Card® from American Express deliver value far beyond hotel elite status and are worth considering if you travel frequently.

Bottom Line: If you frequently stay with a specific hotel brand, you’ll enjoy the elevated experience of having elite status. Selecting a hotel-branded credit card that offers this benefit can be a smart move for adding comfort and convenience to your next hotel stay. 

The Best Hotel Credit Cards With Free Nights

What’s better than getting a free hotel night? Free hotel nights can bring value that often offsets the annual fee charged on a hotel-branded credit card.

Here’s how these popular hotel cards deliver free night awards when you have their branded credit card:

Hot Tip: Earn more free nights! In addition to the free anniversary hotel nights offered on hotel credit cards, many hotel loyalty programs offer a free night when booking 3 or 4 consecutive nights with points. IHG offers the 4th night free, while Hilton and Marriott offer the 5th night free. Hyatt gives out a free night after you have stayed at 5 separate Hyatt brands. 

Best Western Maina Las Contes Santiago
Some domestic hotel brands have international properties offering high quality and good redemption value. Best Western Maina Las Contes Santiago. Image courtesy of Best Western.

The Best Hotel Credit Cards With No Annual Fee

You don’t have to pay an annual fee to earn hotel rewards and experience hotel elite benefits at associated properties.

Here are 5 budget-conscience rewards-earning hotel credit card options:

Best Hotel Credit Card with No Annual FeeBenefitsBest for:
  • 10 miles/$1 at hotels.com/venture
  • 1.5 miles/$1 all purchases
  • Travelers with no hotel loyalty
  • Choice Privileges® Visa Signature© Card
  • 15 points/$  at Choice affiliated hotels
  • Choice Elite Gold status
  • Budget domestic travelers
  • Travelers who stay at Choice Hotel properties including: Comfort Inn, Sleep Inn, EconoLodge, and Cambria
  • Hilton Honors® Card
  • 7 Hilton Honors Points/$ at Hilton
  • 5 Hilton Honors Points/$ at U.S. gas stations, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. grocery stores
  • Hilton Honors Silver Elite status
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Domestic and international travelers whose brand of choice is Hilton
  • Earning points on everyday spending
  • Best Western Rewards® MasterCard®
  • 10 points/$ at Best Western Properties
  • Best Western Gold Elite Status
  • Domestic hotel rewards earning and international redemptions
  • Wyndham Rewards® Visa® Card
  • 3 points/$ at Wyndham properties
  • 2 points/$1 grocery stores, utilities, gas
  • All property redemptions are 15,000 points
  • Wyndham Rewards Gold Elite status
  • Budget domestic traveler
  • Earning points on everyday spending
  • Travelers who stay at Wyndham properties including: Ramada, Days Inn, Super 8 and Travelodge

The Wyndham Rewards® Visa® Card and the Choice Privileges® Visa Signature© Card work well for domestic budget travelers who want to earn hotel rewards. Each of these cards charges a 3% foreign transaction fee on international purchases.

Note that the Best Western Rewards® MasterCard® also charges foreign transaction fees, so it’s best to earn points while spending domestically.

However, Best Western properties abroad can be nicer than many domestic Best Western properties, so redeeming points for those stays can yield better value and help avoid foreign transaction fees incurred when paying for your stay abroad.

For travelers with no hotel brand preference, the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Card is a nice option offering 10x earnings on hotel purchases booked through hotels.com/venture.

Hot Tip: You can make your Hilton Honors points go further  — all Hilton Honors elite members (even Silver Elite members) qualify for the 5th night free when paying for 4 consecutive nights with points!

The Best Hotel Business Credit Cards

Selecting a business credit card that matches the categories of your largest business expenses ensures you’ll be earning the most hotel rewards.

If your brand of choice is Marriott/Starwood and you’re looking for a business credit card, you won’t go wrong with either of these options.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

You’ll enjoy complimentary Marriott Silver Elite status with your card and have accelerated rewards earning every time you stay at a Marriott/SPG/Ritz-Carlton property.

Bonus spending categories include U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, U.S. wireless telephone services, and U.S. purchases for shipping, which all earn 4 points/$1 spent.

With a free hotel night at card anniversary, free Boingo Wi-Fi, and the opportunity to earn Gold Elite status after spending $35,000 per account year, the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card comes with high earning potential plus benefits you can use.

The card charges a $95 annual fee, but this fee is waived the first year.

Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Business Credit Card

The Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Business Credit Card earns 6 Marriott Rewards Points/$1 spent at Marriott and Starwood hotel properties.

This card differs from the personal version in that business bonus spending categories include typical business expenses: shipping, cable, internet, phone service, gas, and restaurants.

All these categories earn 4 Marriott Rewards Points/$1, while other purchases earn 2 points/$1.

You’ll receive complimentary Silver Elite status for having the card and a free hotel night at your card anniversary. Plus, if you spend $35,000 during your account anniversary year, you’ll be elevated to Marriott Gold Elite status.

The card has a $99 annual fee.

For a breakdown of our top recommended rewards-earning credit cards for small businesses, you’ll want to check out our complete guide.

Hyatt Regency Maui
Use a combination of stays and spending to reach top Hyatt Elite status. Hyatt Regency Maui.  Image courtesy Hyatt.com.

The Best Hotel Credit Card for Big Spenders

Chase World of Hyatt® Credit Card

Although not a practical or savvy way to reach top hotel elite status, the World of Hyatt® Credit Card does offer the unique opportunity to spend your way to top status.

The card comes with Discoverist Elite status, but to achieve top-level Globalist Elite status, you’ll need to stay 60 nights at Hyatt properties.

You do receive 5 night credits for having the World of Hyatt card and 2 additional night credits for every $5,000 you spend on the card each calendar year.

If you were to spend $50,000 on the card, you would receive 20 night credits in addition to the 5 you receive for having the card, for a total of 25 nights toward the 60 you need for top status.

There is no limit on the amount of qualifying night credits you can earn.

Free hotel nights abound with the card: you’ll receive a free hotel night at each card anniversary and a second free night after spending $15,000 each account year.

The card offers accelerated earnings up to 9 points/$1 at Hyatt properties and has an annual fee of $95.

Bottom Line: The Chase World of Hyatt® Credit Card offers the flexibility of combining qualifying hotel stays with earned stay credits to achieve the requirements for top elite status. 

Mandarin Oriental New York
Earn 5 Membership Rewards Points per dollar spent for prepaid hotels using your Platinum Card® from American Express through Amex Travel. Mandarin Oriental New York. Image courtesy of Mandarin Oriental.

The Best Credit Cards for Earning Rewards at any Hotel

If you have no allegiance to a specific hotel brand, a hotel rewards credit card may not be the best fit.

Instead, you may find more flexibility with a travel rewards credit card that earns rewards on travel (which includes qualifying hotel purchases).

Earning 5 Membership Rewards Points/$1 on prepaid hotels with the Platinum Card® from American Express is a great deal.

Add premium lounge access, travel statement credits, access to Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts, and a long list of other perks, and this card becomes a leader in travel rewards credit cards.

With complimentary Priority Pass lounge membership, 3X earnings on travel, and a 50% boost in value when redeeming Ultimate Rewards Points for travel, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is another stellar option.

If you spend a lot on hotels, you’ll find the Chase Sapphire Reserve® will serve you well — both on the earnings side and when it comes time to redeem your points.

You’ll also receive a $300 annual travel credit (which can be used for hotels) just for having the card.

One of the most popular travel rewards cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a solid option that earns 2x valuable Ultimate Rewards Points on every hotel purchase, and 25% extra value when redeeming in the Chase travel portal.

The Capital One® Venture Card has a simple earning structure of 2 miles/$1 on every purchase, but really excels when it comes to booking hotels. You must use the Hotels.com/venture portal to book, but you’ll be rewarded with 10 miles/$1 when doing so.

It’s important to note that booking hotels from any third party site such as Amex Travel, the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, or the Venture hotel site will generally cause you to forfeit hotel loyalty program elite benefits.

Bottom Line: Consider a top travel rewards credit card for hotel purchases if you’re not loyal to a particular brand or don’t need the elite status that comes with many hotel-branded credit cards. 

The Best Hotel Rewards Credit Card for Bad Credit

With less-than-perfect credit, you may think you can’t qualify for a credit card that earns hotel rewards, but there is an option for earning rewards when paying for lodging.

Best Western Rewards® Secured Mastercard

The Best Western Rewards® Secured Mastercard allows you to earn on every purchase you make. You’ll earn 3 points/dollar at Best Western properties and 1 point/dollar on all other purchases.

This card has a $40 annual fee and requires a security deposit for approval. The card also reports to the 3 leading credit card agencies, so it’s the perfect vehicle to help you build your credit history and subsequently qualify for more lucrative rewards-earning credit cards.

Hot Tip: For more information on finding other secured credit cards and the best credit cards for those with bad credit, check out our in-depth guides.

Final Thoughts

If you spend significantly on hotels, it makes sense to earn rewards and enjoy the associated benefits for an expense you’re already incurring. Not doing so means you may be walking away from free hotel nights, complimentary elite status, and other associated hotel perks.

The brand you stay at frequently will likely determine the hotel-branded credit card you select. However, you may benefit equally from a travel rewards credit card that earns multiple points/miles on any hotel purchase.

We haven’t focused on the generous sign-up bonuses offered with hotel credit cards since they frequently change, but these bonuses can result in several free hotel nights just for meeting minimum spending requirements (usually in the first 3 months after you’re approved for the card).

Whether you’re staying at a major brand hotel, frequenting small boutique lodging, or booking budget hotels, there’s a way to earn rewards and free nights with a hotel rewards credit card.


Featured image: Courtesy of Hilton.com

FAQ

How do hotel credit cards work?

Hotel-branded credit cards earn points for all purchases made on the card, with spending at the branded hotel earning the most points.

Points earned on these credit cards are deposited into your hotel loyalty account each statement period and are then available for redemption.

Points can usually be redeemed for the best value when used for free nights, but can also be redeemed for other rewards (such as transferring to travel partners or purchasing gift cards).

Hotel-branded credit cards can also offer elite status, which qualifies the cardholder for benefits such as early check-in, late check-out, upgraded rooms, bonus earnings, special rates, free nights, breakfast, and other perks.

Which is the best hotel credit card?

The best hotel credit card for you will depend on your hotel brand of choice. This is because hotel-branded credit cards come with elevated earnings and additional benefits when spending at the associated brands.

For example, if you stay at Hilton hotels, you’ll earn the most points and receive benefits at Hilton affiliated properties by holding the Hilton Honors credit card.

If you don’t frequent a specific hotel brand, selecting a general travel rewards-earning credit card can assure you earn the most points on generic lodging.

How many nights do I have to stay to get elite status?

Each hotel loyalty program has several levels of elite status, and each level requires a specific number of nights to qualify.

Many hotel loyalty programs offer elite status for staying as few as 10 nights per year, but top elite status can require 50-75 nights per calendar year depending on the hotel loyalty program.

However, many hotel-branded credit cards come with elite status, and you do not have to stay a minimum amount of nights per year to keep that status. It is good as long as you hold the credit card.

Is hotel elite status worth it?

Yes, even entry-level elite status can make a positive difference in your hotel stay.

Entry-level elite status can give you early check-in, late check-out, a free newspaper, free Wi-Fi, and even a room upgrade. You may also receive additional bonus points for your stays, special member rates, and a dedicated reservation phone line.

Another benefit of even entry-level elite status is the ability to use a combination of points and cash when booking a hotel room.

Achieving top hotel elite status brings even more benefits, such as suite upgrades, guaranteed reservations even if the hotel is full, free breakfast, lounge access, and more. Top elite status is, of course, much more difficult to achieve.

Advertisement

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

Disclaimer: Any comments listed below are not from the bank advertiser, nor have they been reviewed or approved by them. No responsibility will be taken by the bank advertiser for these comments.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

Advertiser Disclosure

Many of the credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which we receive compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. For more information on our advertisers, see here.