Which Credit Card Should You Use At Hotels?

Which Credit Card Should You Use At Hotels?

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I’m often asked by readers which credit card they should be using to maximize points for a given hotel stay, or if there’s an overall best hotel credit card.

Typically recommending which credit card is best for a particular bonus category (like dining, grocery stores, gas stations, everyday spending, etc.) is easy. That’s not really the case when recommending which credit card to use at hotels, though.

The added wrinkle with making this recommendation for stays at chain hotels is that you don’t just have to consider which credit cards broadly offer the best bonus categories for travel, but you also have to consider whether the hotel brand you’re staying at has a co-branded credit card that offers bonus points for stays at that specific brand.

In this post, I wanted to look at the most rewarding credit cards for hotel spending in general (regardless of the brand you’re staying at), and then compare that to the bonuses offered by specific co-branded hotel credit cards.

The most rewarding credit cards for hotel spending

For this section, I’m excluding co-branded hotel credit cards. That’s because I’m looking at the cards that offer the best bonuses on hotel spending in general, rather than the best bonuses for a particular brand of hotel.

So, which major credit cards offer bonuses for hotel spending?

1. Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Reward for hotel spending: 5.1% (3x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $550

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve, apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

2. Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Reward for hotel spending: 5.1% (3x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $95
Things to be aware of: This is a business card, and the 3x points is limited to the first $150,000 in combined purchases in bonus categories each account anniversary year

Learn more about the Ink Business Preferred, apply for the Ink Business Preferred.

3. American Express® Green Card

Reward for hotel spending: 5.1% (3x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $150 (Rates & Fees)

Learn more about the Amex Green, apply for the Amex Green.

The information and associated card details on this page for the American Express Green Card has been collected independently by OMAAT and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

4. Citi Strata Premier℠ Card

Reward for hotel spending: 5.1% (3x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $95

Learn more about the Citi Strata Premier, apply for the Citi StrataPremier.

5. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Reward for hotel spending: 3.4% (2x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $95

Learn more about the Sapphire Preferred, apply for the Sapphire Preferred.

6. Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Reward for hotel spending: up to 17% (10x miles on hotels booked through Capital One Travel) or 3.4% (2x miles otherwise). I value Capital One miles at 1.7 cents each.
Card annual fee: $395

Learn more about the Venture X, apply for the Venture X (Rates & Fees).

7. Capital One Spark Miles for Business

Reward for hotel spending: up to 8.5% (5x miles on hotels booked through Capital One Travel) or 3.4% (2x miles otherwise). I value Capital One miles at 1.7 cents each.
Card annual fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that

Learn more about the Spark Miles, apply for the Spark Miles (Rates & Fees).

Several credit cards offer 3x points on hotel spending

The most rewarding co-branded hotel credit cards

As you can see above, there are four cards with the same return (by my valuation). All offer 3x transferable points, and all are points that I value at 1.7 cents each.

That means you’re looking at a return of ~5.1% regardless of which card you use. Do you get a better or worse return when using a co-branded hotel credit card?

To be comprehensive, let’s look at the co-branded credit cards issued by Choice Privileges, Hilton Honors, IHG One Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt, and Wyndham Rewards. First let me share how much I value a point in each of these currencies:

  • Choice Privileges — 0.6 cents each
  • Hilton Honors — 0.5 cents each
  • IHG One Rewards — 0.5 cents each
  • Marriott Bonvoy — 0.7 cents each
  • World of Hyatt — 1.5 cents each
  • Wyndham Rewards — 0.7 cents each

To keep things fairly simple, let’s look at the co-branded credit card(s) from each of the hotel groups that offers the highest return on hotel spending (keep in mind the main reason to get hotel credit cards could be for the elite status and free night certificates that they offer).

Choice Privileges

The Choice Privileges Select Mastercard offers 10x points on Choice spending, which I value at a return of 6%. This is excellent, and beats the return on spending offered by all transferable points cards.

I wouldn’t use Choice’s credit card for hotel spending

Hilton Honors

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (review) offers 14x points on Hilton spending, which I value at a return of 7%. This is excellent, and beats the return on spending offered by all transferable points cards.

The information and associated card details on this page for the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by OMAAT and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

I use the Hilton Aspire Card for my Hilton hotel spending

IHG One Rewards

The IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card (review) and IHG One Rewards Premier Business Credit Card (review) offer 10x points on IHG hotel spending, which I value at a return of 5%. This isn’t quite as good as the return on spending offered by some transferable points cards, though others may feel differently based on their valuation of points.

Earn bonus points for hotel spending with IHG’s credit cards

Marriott Bonvoy

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card (review), Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card (review), Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card (review), and Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card (review) offer 6x points on Marriott hotel spending, which I value at a return of 4.2%. This isn’t as good as the return on spending offered by some transferable points cards.

That being said, some may wish to still use a Marriott co-branded credit card, since there aren’t many other ways to efficiently earn Bonvoy points. Furthermore, keep in mind that the Bonvoy Bevy Card offers 1,000 bonus points per eligible Marriott stay for cardmembers.

Earn bonus points on spending with Marriott’s credit cards

World of Hyatt

The World of Hyatt Credit Card (review) and World of Hyatt Business Credit Card (review) offer 4x points on Hyatt hotel spending, which I value at a return of 6%. This is excellent, and beats the return on spending offered by all transferable points cards.

I use the World of Hyatt Card for my Hyatt hotel spending

Wyndham Rewards

The Wyndham Earner Business Card (review) offers 8x points on Wyndham hotel spending, which I value at a return of 5.6%. This is very good, and beats the return on hotel spending offered by transferable points cards.

I wouldn’t use Wyndham’s credit card for hotel spending

Crunching the numbers

Everyone will value points differently, and those with different points valuations may also come up with different conclusions.

Personally, I think the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, American Express® Green Card, and Citi Strata Premier℠ Card, offer the best general return on hotel spending, at 5.1%.

What’s surprising is that co-branded hotel credit cards largely don’t offer a better return for stays at their “own” hotels than these cards do for travel purchases.

Based on my valuation of hotel points:

The information and associated card details on this page for the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and American Express Green Card has been collected independently by OMAAT and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Earn 14x points on Hilton stays with the Hilton Aspire Card

Other considerations with hotel spending

There are other potential considerations when deciding which hotel credit card to use:

It could be worth earning a Hilton free night reward

Bottom line

In many cases, you’re actually not best off using a co-branded hotel card for your hotel spending, counterintuitive as it might be. Hilton and Hyatt have especially good co-branded hotel credit cards, where it can be worth spending money on their cards at hotels.

Otherwise, you’re generally best off using a transferable points card for your hotel spending.

What’s your go-to card for hotel spending? Do you find it more worthwhile to use the hotel’s co-brand card, or do you use a card earning transferable points?

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: American Express® Green Card (Rates & Fees).

Conversations (6)
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  1. Jags Guest

    You didn’t show the most valuable:

    Bank of America Business Customized Cash with Platinum Honors:

    5.25% back on travel (up to $50k/yr spend)

  2. Jake Guest

    Wonderful post. I hadn't paid attention of how far the sh!ttification of the Starwood Preferred Guest program in the hands of Marriott and that I'm better off using a regular premium credit card than the Bonvoy whatever my (excellent) SPG card autoconverted to.

    Thanks Ben. Also very much appreciate that your valuations are not as inflated as other travel card commissioned salespeople masquerading as bloggers.

  3. Joey Stradler Guest

    I value the points differently. Transferrable currencies I value at $0.02/point, so the value is 6% return. My valuation for Hyatt is $0.02/point (effectively 8% return with the hyatt cards), and IHG is $0.008/point (effectively 6% return with the IHG cards). Wyndham is $0.011/point so you earn 8.8% return.

  4. iamhere Guest

    Even if you have the co-branded credit card that does not mean you want to charge there. If you do not often stay at that hotel brand but you keep the co-branded card for as the benefits outweigh the annual fee then you probably should not charge there.

    Your comment about "Amex Offers" - this does not mean you need to settle your entire hotel bill via Amex. You could split the payment.

    Your value...

    Even if you have the co-branded credit card that does not mean you want to charge there. If you do not often stay at that hotel brand but you keep the co-branded card for as the benefits outweigh the annual fee then you probably should not charge there.

    Your comment about "Amex Offers" - this does not mean you need to settle your entire hotel bill via Amex. You could split the payment.

    Your value of the Chase points via the Chase Reserve card depends how you redeem it. If you redeem for "pay yourself back" categories which are not as valuable as it once was without dining being there you can redeem for a 50% bonus and the same true for reservations through the travel center. Note that they are fair when calculating a price which is part cash part points.

  5. Johhny Guest

    Ben, Citi Prestige 3x on Hotel and 10x thru the Citi portal.

  6. Marcus Guest

    If you have Amex green, Gold and Venture X why do you need Chase Sapphire Reserve?

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Jags Guest

You didn’t show the most valuable: Bank of America Business Customized Cash with Platinum Honors: 5.25% back on travel (up to $50k/yr spend)

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Jake Guest

Wonderful post. I hadn't paid attention of how far the sh!ttification of the Starwood Preferred Guest program in the hands of Marriott and that I'm better off using a regular premium credit card than the Bonvoy whatever my (excellent) SPG card autoconverted to. Thanks Ben. Also very much appreciate that your valuations are not as inflated as other travel card commissioned salespeople masquerading as bloggers.

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Joey Stradler Guest

I value the points differently. Transferrable currencies I value at $0.02/point, so the value is 6% return. My valuation for Hyatt is $0.02/point (effectively 8% return with the hyatt cards), and IHG is $0.008/point (effectively 6% return with the IHG cards). Wyndham is $0.011/point so you earn 8.8% return.

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