Update: This offer for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express has expired. Learn more about the current offers here.
Okay, we’ve established (hopefully) that hotel credit cards are great cards to keep long term for their annual bonuses, but are they worth using for everyday spend? Admittedly this is highly subjective (just as the other installments have been), though I’ll try to put a value to points in each program and based on that figure out the percent return on everyday spend. Again, valuing points is highly subjective, though you can always plug your own valuations in to determine your value. For the most part I’ll be using this post from March of this year as my basis for valuing hotel points.
As I prefaced my other posts, I’ll sorta kinda be putting them in the general order from what I consider to be the best(ish) perks to the worst(ish) perks (so what I’m saying is that I don’t think the first card is objectively better than the second card, but I do think the first card is objectively better than the fifth card):
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
Annual fee: $125 (Rates & Fees)
Points earned: 6X Marriott Bonvoy points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels; 4X points for each dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers & on U.S. purchases for shipping; 2X points on all other eligible purchases
My value per point: 2.2 cents
This is an excellent card that is rewarding for everyday spend, and Marriott points can be valuable thanks to their partners.
Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card and Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa Card
Annual fee: $75
Points earned: 10x points per dollar spent at Club Carlson properties; 5x points per dollar spent on everything else
My value per point: 0.4 cents
Some people will say the Club Carlson card is the single most rewarding credit card for everyday spend, while others will disagree. You get 5x points per dollar spent on everything, so at a valuation of 0.4 cents each, that’s a 2% return. However the single biggest perk of having the card is that when you redeem points for two nights the second night is free, so if you plan your travel correctly you’re potentially doubling the value of your points, to 0.8 cents each. If that’s how you do the math, that’s an amazing 4% return on everyday spend.
The World Of Hyatt Credit Card
Annual fee: $95
Points earned: 4x points per $1 at Hyatt hotels, 2x points per $1 spent at restaurants, on airline tickets, on local transit and commuting and on fitness club and gym memberships
My value per point: 1.6 cents
Hyatt points are among the most valuable hotel points currency on a per point basis. That being said, for the most part there are better cards out there for everyday spend. There are some unique categories for bonus spend, like local transit and fitness club and gym memberships. But, there tend to be better overall cards out there, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 2x points on dining and all travel purchases. Best of all, those points can be transferred to World of Hyatt. So not only do you get 2 points per dollar spent, but you get a more flexible points currency.
Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express
Annual fee: $95 (Rates & Fees)
Points earned: 12x points per dollar spent at Hilton properties; 6x points per dollars spent at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations; 3x points per dollar spent on everything else
My value per point: 0.4 cents
The Hilton Ascend Card does offer three points per dollar on everyday spend for a return of 1.2%. Aside from complimentary Gold status for holding the card, the Ascend Card isn’t overly compelling for everyday spend unless you’re shooting for one of the threshold bonuses, like a free weekend night after spending $15,000, or Diamond status after spending $40,000. Both can be more than worthwhile (especially the free weekend night after spending $15,000, since that can be redeemed for a hotel that would cost 95,000 points per night).
Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Annual fee: $85
Points earned: 5x points per dollar spent at Marriott; 2x points per dollar spent on airlines, car rentals, and dining; 1x point per dollar spent on everything else
My value per point: 0.8 cents
With Marriott you’re looking at a return of 1.6% on bonus categories and 0.8% on everyday spend. Unless you’re putting money on the card to requalify for status (since the card offers one elite qualifying night for every $3,000 spent) this probably isn’t worth putting spend on.
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
Annual fee: $89, waived the first year
Points earned: 10x points per dollar spent at IHG properties; 2x points per dollar spent on gas, groceries, and at restaurants; 1x point per dollar spent on everything else
My value per point: 0.5 cents
At best you’re looking at a return of 1.4% on their “bonus” categories of gas, groceries, and restaurants, and at worst you’re looking at a return of 0.5% on everyday spend. Pass.
Fairmont Visa Signature Credit Card
Annual fee: $95, waived the first year
Points earned: 5x points per dollar spent at Fairmont; 2x points per dollar spent on airlines, car rentals, and on transit; 1x point per dollar spent on everything else
My value per point: 0.5 cents
Much like the Marriott and Priority Club cards, the Fairmont card simply doesn’t offer much of a return for everyday spend. The added challenge is how difficult it is to rack up Fairmont points, since they don’t have many transfer partners. The one perk potentially worth pursuing is a free night after spending $12,000 on the card.
I find it really interesting that hotel credit cards offer huge annual bonuses that make you want to keep the cards long term, but not much of an incentive to spend much money on them.
I think the Starwood American Express remains the best card for everyday, non-bonused spend for someone looking to earn an extremely flexible points currency.
If you’re into staying at Club Carlson properties and do so in two night increments, the return you get from spend on that card is unbeatable, hands down.
Other than that there are generally better cards out there for everyday spend. All of my dining and (non-airfare) travel spend goes on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. My spend at US restaurants and US supermarkets all go on the American Express® Gold Card. My cell phone, internet, cable, and office supply store purchases all go on the Ink Bold® Business Charge Card. Aside from that my non-bonused spend goes towards reaching minimum spend thresholds on credit cards or otherwise mostly on the Starwood American Express.
I’m curious, does anyone use a hotel credit card for their everyday spend?
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card (Rates & Fees), and Marriott Bonvoy Business Card From American Express (Rates & Fees).