The Best Hotel Credit Cards To Maximize Your Rewards [October 2021]

Hotel beach resort

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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 hotel cards available.

So that you can find the best credit card for your unique situation, in this article we will cover our choices for the best credit cards for hotel purchases, including cards that offer complimentary elite status and free nights. We’ll also review hotel-branded credit cards, including those with no annual fee and those that reward business expenses. If you’re not loyal to a specific hotel brand, we have you covered with recommendations as well.

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 perks, you’ll want to look beyond the standard hotel-branded credit cards for maximum value and benefits.

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. 

The Best Credit Cards That Offer Hotel Elite Status

DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Hotel Zanzibar Nungwi
DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Hotel Zanzibar Nungwi. Image Credit: Hilton

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 checkout
  • 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 Amex Platinum card 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. Hyatt also gives out a free night after you have stayed at 5 separate Hyatt brands. 

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
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards card
  • 1.25 miles per $1 on all purchases
  • Travelers with no hotel loyalty
Choice Privileges® Visa Signature© Card
  • Budget domestic travelers
  • Travelers who stay at Choice Hotels properties including Comfort Inn, Sleep Inn, Econo Lodge, and Cambria
Hilton Honors American Express Card
  • 7 Hilton Honors points per $1 of eligible purchases charged directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
  • 5 Hilton Honors points per $1 at U.S. gas stations, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. grocery stores
  • Hilton Honors Silver elite status
  • Domestic and international travelers whose brand of choice is Hilton
  • Earning points on everyday spending
Best Western Rewards® MasterCard®
  • 10 points per $1 at Best Western properties
  • Best Western Gold elite status
  • Domestic hotel rewards earning and international redemptions
Wyndham Rewards® Earner℠ Card
  • 5 points per $1 at Wyndham properties and gas stations
  • 2 points per $1 on dining and grocery stores
  • Property redemptions are 7,500 to 30,000 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 Earner card and the Choice Privileges card work well for domestic budget travelers who want to earn hotel rewards. But keep in mind that the Choice Privileges card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee on international purchases.

Note that the Best Western Rewards card 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.

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

The Best Hotel Business Credit Card

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 Bonvoy and you’re looking for a business credit card, you won’t go wrong with the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card.

Marriott Bonvoy Business Card

You’ll enjoy complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status with your card and have accelerated rewards earning every time you stay at a Marriott.

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 per $1 spent.

With a free hotel night at card anniversary and the opportunity to earn Gold Elite status after spending $35,000 per account year, the Marriott Bonvoy Business card comes with high earning potential plus benefits you can use.

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

The Best Hotel Credit Card for Big Spenders

Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort
Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort. Image Credit: Hyatt

The World of Hyatt Credit Card

Although not a practical or savvy way to reach top hotel elite status, the World of Hyatt 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 in 2021, you’ll need to stay 30 nights at Hyatt properties (or 50,000 base points).

You do receive 5 elite 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 elite night credits in addition to the 5 you receive for having the card, for a total of 25 nights toward the 30 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 per $1 at Hyatt properties and has an annual fee of $95.

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

The Best Credit Cards for Earning Rewards at any Hotel

Mandarin Oriental New York
Earn 5 Membership Rewards Points per dollar spent for prepaid hotels using your Amex Platinum card through Amex Travel. Mandarin Oriental New York. Image Credit: Mandarin Oriental

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).

The Amex Platinum card earns 5 Membership Rewards points per $1 on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel. 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.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is another stellar option with its 3x earnings on travel, complimentary Priority Pass lounge membership, and a 50% boost in value when redeeming Ultimate Rewards points for travel. If you spend a lot on hotels, you’ll find that this card 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.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card, one of the most popular travel rewards cards, 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 CapOne Venture card has a simple earning structure of 2 miles per $1 on every purchase.

It’s important to note that booking hotels from any third-party site such as Amex Travel, the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, or Capital One Travel 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. 

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 or 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.

The information regarding the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature® Card, Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards card, Choice Privileges® Visa Signature© Card, Best Western Rewards® MasterCard®, Wyndham Rewards® Earner℠ Card, and Capital One® Venture® Rewards card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, click here.

Frequently asked questions

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 checkout, 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 a Hilton Honors-branded 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 to 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 checkout, 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.

Christine Krzyszton

About Christine Krzyszton

Christine, who lives in Northern Michigan, travels about 300,000 miles a year despite her remote location. Her expertise is traveling the world on a weekend with no pre-determined destination in mind, letting the cost of the airfare determine where she will go. She has over four million flown miles and elite status on all three major domestic carriers.

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