Are Hotel Credit Cards Worth It If You’re Not Loyal?

Are Hotel Credit Cards Worth It If You’re Not Loyal?

10
In the interest of full disclosure, OMAAT earns a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the below links. These are the best publicly available offers (terms apply) that we have found for each product or service. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, hotel chain, or product manufacturer/service provider, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Please check out our advertiser policy for further details about our partners, and thanks for your support! The offers for the IHG® Rewards Premier Business Credit Card, and IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card have expired. Learn more about the current offers here.

If you want to maximize your travel rewards, I recommend using cards earning transferable points currencies, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (review), Citi Premier® Card (review), and Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (review). Not only do these cards give you the most flexibility, but they also often have great bonus categories on spending.

A reader asked me about the overall value proposition of hotel credit cards for those who are “free agents,” who don’t have elite status with a hotel loyalty program, and aren’t otherwise usually loyal to a hotel group. Is it still worth picking up a hotel credit card, and if so, under what circumstances?

Hotel credit cards largely pay for themselves

Great welcome bonuses aside, in general I think airline credit cards are primarily worth it if you’re at least somewhat loyal to an airline. That’s because these cards often have benefits when flying with a particular airline, but the cards don’t really “pay” for themselves.

What makes hotel credit cards unique is that they can often be worth holding onto even if you don’t spend money on the cards, thanks to the free night certificates and elite status they potentially offer. For example, take the below sub-$100 annual fee hotel credit cards, each of which offers an anniversary free night certificate:

Obviously hotel free night certificates are most valuable if you have top-tier elite status with a hotel group, since you can get perks like free breakfast and suite upgrades. However, even without that, odds are that if you travel with any frequency, you’ll easily be able to get outsized value on your credit card annual fee with just one free night certificate stay.

With how expensive hotel stays are nowadays, it’s rare to find a hotel in the United States retailing for less than $100 per night. For example, I’m not in any way loyal to IHG, but I used my last IHG free night certificate at the Kimpton EPIC Miami, where a cash stay would have cost $270+.

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg with these cards, as they often have plenty of other perks, ranging from elite status, to discounts on award redemptions, and more. Just to give an example of how robust card benefits can be, theIHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card (review) offers IHG One Rewards Platinum status for as long as you’re a cardmember, a fourth night free on award redemptions, up to $50 in United TravelBank credit each year, and much more.

Used an IHG free night award at the Kimpton EPIC Miami

Two other reasons to get hotel credit cards

Beyond the actual ongoing perks of having hotel credit cards in the long-run, there are two others reasons that these cards should be no-brainers for most consumers.

First of all, these cards often have huge welcome bonuses, that are are worth close to $1,000, by my valuation of points. That’s a huge upfront reward for picking up a card.

Beyond that, a big part of maximizing credit card rewards is making sure you have a great credit score. Keeping credit cards open in the long-run helps your credit score, by increasing your average age of accounts, lowering your credit utilization, increasing your good payment history, and more.

Obviously most people want to minimize the cost of holding onto credit cards, which means you’ll either want to consider no annual fee cards, or hotel credit cards that offer outsized value just for being a cardmember. I think hotel credit cards are pretty unbeatable for this purpose, given the value they offer.

Use a Hyatt free night award at the Wellem Düsseldorf

Bottom line

Even if you’re not loyal to a specific hotel group, I tend to think that hotel credit cards are worth picking up. Assuming you travel with any frequency, you’ll almost certainly end up at a destination where a hotel credit card free night certificate will get you outsized value.

The free night certificate alone should more than justify the annual fee on many cards, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Hotel credit cards offer plenty of other perks, including elite status.

To those who aren’t loyal to a specific hotel group, do you still see value in hotel credit cards?

Conversations (10)
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.
Type your response here.

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Anyone can comment, and your email address will not be published. Register to save your unique username and earn special OMAAT reputation perks!

  1. MariB New Member

    My husband and I only have status conferred by virtue of having some hotel credit cards (IHG for Platinum, Marriott and Hilton Gold status from my Morgan Stanley AMEX Platinum) so we don't get perks like free breakfast, but we have saved lots just by virtue of having our hotel cards. what with sign up bonuses and free night certificates.

    Back when Radisson did their 2-for-1 rewards, we used 4 rewards to stay 2...

    My husband and I only have status conferred by virtue of having some hotel credit cards (IHG for Platinum, Marriott and Hilton Gold status from my Morgan Stanley AMEX Platinum) so we don't get perks like free breakfast, but we have saved lots just by virtue of having our hotel cards. what with sign up bonuses and free night certificates.

    Back when Radisson did their 2-for-1 rewards, we used 4 rewards to stay 2 nights in Brussels and 6 in Amsterdam (with an upgraded canal view room). We had 3 nights at the Park Hyatt Sydney where an email helped get a room with a view of the Opera House and some yummy birthday/anniversary treats. With all our extended free night certificates due to Covid, we just took a road trip for 16 nights (including 6 nights in Montreal and Quebec City) using certs for 14 nights and points for 2, with net savings of almost $3K after accounting for the annual fees.

    It's pretty rare that we actually have to pay for a hotel (some places in Southern Italy where there aren't any points options, and rates are low anyway). So, yes, worth it, even if I have to go out to a local café for breakfast, especially since we don't eat huge breakfasts anyway.

    1. weiskel Guest

      MariB, how many hotel credit cards do you have that you were able to spend 14 certs on a single trip?!?

  2. RovinMoses Guest

    Two weeks ago used free night at BNA Hyatt Place, then 3 free nights at brand new Hampton Inn (Ashland City where they take their free breakfast seriously) north of Nashville, finally free night at BNA Holiday Inn Express. Being retired, I love my FREE nights that come with credit cards :-) We were in the area for a family gathering and free nights greatly helped our travel budget.

    1. Pam Guest

      The frequent Chase & AMEX offers on their cards really can add up, too, over the course of a year with some strategic planning on their use. The bank offers aren’t exclusive to the co-branded hotel cards, of course, but using a hotel card at its brand provides extra stacking opportunities as well.

  3. stlsch02 New Member

    @DCS
    What about the Hilton Aspire Card that seems like it’s the best hotel credit card

    1. DCS Diamond

      Everything about the Aspire makes it the best hotel card, perhaps ever.

      In fact, as I have pointed out countless times, I was able to make LF Diamond at least 1 year ahead schedule with only a limited number of stays in 2021 (8 stays) and in 2022 (2 says), by putting most of my 'dining' (7x) and plane tickets (7x) on the Aspire card and having all the resulting bonus points count as base...

      Everything about the Aspire makes it the best hotel card, perhaps ever.

      In fact, as I have pointed out countless times, I was able to make LF Diamond at least 1 year ahead schedule with only a limited number of stays in 2021 (8 stays) and in 2022 (2 says), by putting most of my 'dining' (7x) and plane tickets (7x) on the Aspire card and having all the resulting bonus points count as base points . In 2022 alone, with just 2 stays, I've already earned 130,426 base points, enough to qualify me for LF Diamond, which I believe HH did on purpose to fast-track some of the program's most loyal and long-time Diamonds to LF Diamond status. See it here (includes a picture the awesome HH LF Diamond "Black Card"):

      https://bit.ly/3CdnjAc

      The beauty of it? Those same bonus points simultaneously count as redeemable points. In fact, until 12/31/2022, every bonus point that I earn on the Aspire (up to 14x) will continue to account as both base points (which I no longer need as a LF Diamond) and as redeemable points -- double dipping does not get better than that!

      In short, the Aspire is the too-good-to-be true hotel rewards card that keeps on giving.

    2. stlsch02 New Member

      @DCS

      Thank You! Very useful also I can’t wait for Hilton’s Fall promotion for week day stays

    3. DCS Diamond

      I should rephrase the following statement from

      "In 2022 alone, with just 2 stays, I've already earned 130,426 base points, enough to qualify me for LF Diamond, which I believe HH did on purpose to fast-track some of the program's most loyal and long-time Diamonds to LF Diamond status"

      to

      "In 2022 alone, with just 2 stays, I've already earned 130,426 base points, enough to put me over the 2,000,000 base points that are...

      I should rephrase the following statement from

      "In 2022 alone, with just 2 stays, I've already earned 130,426 base points, enough to qualify me for LF Diamond, which I believe HH did on purpose to fast-track some of the program's most loyal and long-time Diamonds to LF Diamond status"

      to

      "In 2022 alone, with just 2 stays, I've already earned 130,426 base points, enough to put me over the 2,000,000 base points that are required to qualify for LF Diamond, which I believe HH did on purpose to fast-track some of the program's most loyal and long-time Diamonds to LF Diamond status.

      Yup, I made LF Diamond, now HHonors' de facto highest elite status, by being a standard HH Diamond for 12 consecutive years and accumulating 2M base points during that time...

    4. Eskimo Guest

      @DCS

      Congrats on your LT Diamond milestone.
      Let's just hope Hilton can keep you happy for your lifetime.
      In my lifetime, I've seen airlines and hotels screw their most loyal customers too often.

    5. DCS Diamond

      Thanks! As for being screwed by HH after I reach the pinnacle, I believe that it'll be a very good while that happens, if at all, because it'll take a few years before the number of LT Diamonds swells enough to begin 'diluting' the status, which I believe HH created specifically to have a limited number of long-time loyal customers to, well, "pamper"...

      Of course, I'll be sharing my experience in the rarefied air at the very top, as usual.

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.

DCS Diamond

Thanks! As for being screwed by HH after I reach the pinnacle, I believe that it'll be a very good while that happens, if at all, because it'll take a few years before the number of LT Diamonds swells enough to begin 'diluting' the status, which I believe HH created specifically to have a limited number of long-time loyal customers to, well, "pamper"... Of course, I'll be sharing my experience in the rarefied air at the very top, as usual.

0
Pam Guest

The frequent Chase & AMEX offers on their cards really can add up, too, over the course of a year with some strategic planning on their use. The bank offers aren’t exclusive to the co-branded hotel cards, of course, but using a hotel card at its brand provides extra stacking opportunities as well.

0
Eskimo Guest

@DCS Congrats on your LT Diamond milestone. Let's just hope Hilton can keep you happy for your lifetime. In my lifetime, I've seen airlines and hotels screw their most loyal customers too often.

0
Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
4,788,713 Miles Traveled

27,627,500 Words Written

32,315 Posts Published

Keep Exploring OMAAT