Best Hotel Credit Cards for 2017

Unless you always stay at the same hotel chain, you're better off with an all-around rewards credit card

Today’s best hotel cards provide much more than the occasional free room. They can also help leisure and business travelers starting saving money before they even check in.

The playbook for hotel credit cards hasn’t changed in 2017. As with airline credit cards, a flexible travel credit card generally offers more benefits — unless you’re exclusively loyal to a particular hotel chain.

What makes hotel credit cards important? For Americans traveling inside the U.S., the average nightly cost of a hotel room rose 1% in 2016, according to the Hotels.com Hotel Price Index (HPI). Although the global HPI remained stable from the previous year, the Caribbean index increased 2 points, while Europe’s rose by 1 point. Your cost for hotels may have gone up, depending on your destination, so looking for ways to save only makes sense. Browse our shortlist of the best hotel credit cards of 2017 to find your perfect fit. When you find one you like, applying online is quick and easy.

The Simple Dollar’s top picks

A look at the best hotel cards in 2017

Your ideal choice for a hotel credit card largely depends on how you travel. If you like to economize on lodgings but also want the option to indulge yourself every now and then, the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card is a solid choice. For a wider variety of hotel chains — and an exceptionally generous signup bonus — the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card may be more to your liking.

For some travelers, how you get to your destination is another factor to consider, along with where you stay. Our pick for best overall hotel card is the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, which offers a useful combination of hotel rewards and travel rewards.

In choosing the best hotel credit cards, our criteria include:

  • Rewards rate for hotel purchases
  • Rewards rate for other purchases
  • Redemption options that include air and ground transportation
  • Signup bonus
  • Variety of hotel options
  • Overall value

What kind of hotel rewards are you interested in? How would you prefer to distribute your savings and benefits? Those are just some of the questions we attempt to answer for you as we review the top hotel rewards credit cards.

Best overall:

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is an outstanding hotel card, and it also offers high-level rewards you can apply toward air travel. The key to its value as a hotel card is the vast potential to earn points as a loyal Starwood® customer.

With this card, you earn 2 Starpoints® for every dollar spent on eligible purchases at participating Starwood Preferred Guest® (SPG®) and Marriott Rewards® hotels, plus 1 Starpoint® per dollar spent on other eligible purchases. You should have plenty of opportunities to earn 2X Starpoints®, with 1,300 hotels and resorts located in over 100 countries. If you’re also an SPG® member, you can earn an additional 2 or 3 Starpoints® on top of the 2X Card Member rate — that could be as many as 5 Starpoints® per $1 spent.

Redeem your points for free hotel stays at participating properties, with perks that include free in-room, premium internet access (booking requirements apply) and Global Assist® Hotline, a service that offers help with trip planning, lost passports, missing luggage and more. As for air travel rewards, you can transfer Starpoints® to Delta SkyMiles® or one of the other 30+ airline loyalty programs affiliated with SPG®. Transfer 20,000 Starpoints® to a participating frequent flyer program, and you’ll receive 5,000 bonus Starpoints®. Redeem Starpoints® through SPG® Flights for flights on over 150 airlines, with no blackout dates.

Highlights

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Best use

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Our verdict

Our verdict

  • Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent on the Card at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
  • Redeem Starpoints® at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries and for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG flights, all with no blackout dates.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Book with participating properties each time you travel. Every $1 spent on eligible purchases at participating SPG® or Marriott Rewards® properties is worth 2X Starpoints® (and an additional 2 or 3 Starpoints® for SPG® members); earn 1X Starpoint® per $1 spent on other eligible purchases.
  • Earn the welcome bonus by making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. You’ll get 25,000 Starpoints®, worth two free nights at a Category 4 hotel.
  • Explore flexible redemption options. Options for airline rewards include transferring points to more than 30 participating frequent flyer programs or redeeming points through SPG® Flights to fly on more than 150 airlines with no blackout dates.
Although waived the first year, the $95 annual fee is fairly steep. However, for frequent leisure and business travelers who prefer to stay at SPG® and Marriott Rewards® properties, the rewards program and ability to transfer points for air travel will probably be worth it. If you’d prefer a more modest annual fee, the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card has an annual fee of just $49 (waived for your first year).
If you’re a loyal customer of SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels, think about reserving room in your wallet for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. Used correctly, it combines the best qualities of a hotel card and an all-around travel card.

Best new cardmember bonuses:

Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Not every trip is the same. Travelers may want the option to choose between a budget hotel, a business suite or even luxurious, resort-type lodgings. If you’re a selective traveler and a frequent guest at Marriott® properties, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card has the variety of hotels you’re looking for — plus the most generous signup bonuses on our list.

To qualify for 80,000 bonus points, spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after opening your account. Then, to get an additional 7,500 bonus points, add your first authorized user and make a purchase in that same 3-month period. With a combined 87,500 bonus points on the table, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers the richest signup incentives of any card on our list.

The three-tiered rewards program is also generous, offering: 5X points per dollar at over 5,700 participating Marriott Rewards®, The Ritz-Carlton® and Starwood Preferred Guest® (SPG®) hotels worldwide; 2X points per dollar on tickets purchased directly from the airline and at restaurants and car rental agencies; and 1X point per dollar on other purchases. Even better, you can earn unlimited rewards points in these categories.

The list of over 5,700 participating properties includes Residence Inn® by Marriott, Fairfield Inn & Suites®, Sheraton®, St Regis®, The Ritz-Carlton® and more than 20 other hotel brands. Since a number of these properties are outside the U.S., this card’s $0 foreign transaction fee may frequently come in handy. The 2X points will appeal to those who prefer to buy their tickets directly from the airline rather than using a travel agent or a website.

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How to use it

Best use

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Our verdict

Our verdict

  • Earn 80,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Plus, earn 7,500 bonus points when you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Enjoy 1 Free Night Stay at a Category 1-5 hotel every year after your account anniversary date!
  • Earn unlimited Marriott Rewards points and get Free Night Stays faster
  • Earn 5 points per $1 spent at participating Marriott Rewards & SPG hotels
  • 2 points per $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airlines, at car rental agencies & restaurants. Plus 1 point per $1 spent everywhere else
  • The fastest way to earn Marriott Rewards Elite Status. Receive 15 Elite Credits guaranteeing Silver Elite Status or better.
  • All for an $85 Annual Fee
  • Earn unlimited 5X points for each $1 spent at participating Marriott Rewards®, The Ritz-Carlton® and Starwood Preferred Guest® (SPG®) hotels; unlimited 2X points for each $1 spent when purchasing tickets directly from an airline and at car rental agencies and restaurants; and unlimited 1X point for each $1 spent on other purchases.
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points by spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months; earn an additional 7,500 bonus points by adding the first authorized user and making a purchase in your first 3 months.
  • Get a free night stay at a Category 1-5 hotel every year after your account anniversary.
Despite the signup bonuses and the other benefits, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card is strictly a hotel card. The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express may offer a lower points rate for hotel purchases, but it does incorporate air travel rewards, including points transfers to airline loyalty programs. It all depends on how you prefer to distribute savings and rewards.
The new cardmember bonuses provide an enticing incentive to add the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card to your wallet, and the rewards program is generous enough to keep it there. The 5X points rate has huge potential payoff for regular Marriott® guests, who are sure to appreciate the variety of properties where they can apply their rewards.

Most budget-friendly:

IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Saving money takes discipline, but sometimes you may want to reward yourself for your efforts. The IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card offers frequent travelers the opportunity to save on hotel stays. It also provides opportunities to indulge yourself with special deals at one of the 5,200+ IHG® hotels worldwide, which include more upscale hotels in addition to the budget-friendly brands.

Under a limited-time offer, each dollar spent at an IHG® hotel is good for 10 rewards points in your first 12 months or until you reach $50,000 in IHG® purchases, whichever comes first. (After that, the rate reverts to the usual 5 points per $1.) Purchases at grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants earn rewards at a rate of 2 points per dollar. Each $1 spent on other purchases earns 1 point. With Platinum Elite travel benefits, you also get an automatic 10% points rebate every time you redeem.

Cardholders have the flexibility to book Reward Nights at IHG® properties using rewards points, cash, or a combination of points and cash, with no blackout dates. Also, you get a free night after each account anniversary year. Other redemption options include airline tickets, car rentals shopping and gift cards.

The IHG® portfolio may be best known for Holiday Inn® and other budget-friendly, family-friendly brands. For those who want to spend a Reward Night or account anniversary night in a different setting, IHG® also includes brands such as Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts and HUALUXE® Hotels & Resorts.

Highlights

Highlights

How to use it

Best use

Consider this

Consider this

Our verdict

Our verdict

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
  • Enjoy a Free Night after each account anniversary year at over 5,200 hotels worldwide
  • Earn 5 points per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants
  • IHG Rewards Club Bonus points are redeemable at hotels such as InterContinental® Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts and Holiday Inn®
  • Platinum Elite status as long as you're a Select credit cardmember
  • Automatic 10% points rebate on redemptions
  • $0 Introductory Annual Fee for the first year, then $49 a year
  • Earn 10X rewards points per $1 spent at IHG® properties; 2X rewards points at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants, 1X rewards point on other purchases. (Limited-time offer.)
  • Use rewards points, cash, or a combination of both to book Reward Nights at IHG® hotels with no blackout dates.
  • Enjoy a free night after each account anniversary year
The IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card normally earns you 5 points per $1 spent at IHG® hotels — quite a difference from the limited-time offer of 10 points per $1. If you’re interested in this card, don’t wait too long to apply, and use the card for travel purchases as often as possible during the 12-month period to maximize rewards.
If you put a high premium on value, the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card matches up well with your priorities. When it comes to Reward Nights or account anniversary nights, don’t forget that the list of IHG® properties extends beyond the Holiday Inn® flagship brand.

The Simple Dollar’s top picks: summed up

Four rules for getting a hotel credit card

Rule #1: Don’t get a hotel credit card as your primary card

Just like the airline cards, hotel cards won’t earn you many rewards on your common purchases. It’s best to get an all-around rewards card as your primary card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a good option for your main card because you can transfer points to Marriott, IHG, and Hyatt.

Rule #2: Don’t get a hotel credit card as your second card if you fly on one airline often.

The earning potential for the best airline credit cards is higher in most cases, and the point conversions are much easier to understand. So if you’re loyal to a particular airline, you’ll usually get more bang for your buck with their branded card. Though, some of the best travel credit cards do offer flexible rewards you can transfer 1:1 to your favorite frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs.

Rule #3: Don’t get a hotel credit card as your second card if you spend a lot on gas and groceries.

Your best bet is a cash-back card, like the Chase Freedom®, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express® (which offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 3% at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, and 1% on all other purchases), or the Discover it® Cashback Match™ and the Chase Freedom®, which offers 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter.

Rule #4: Get a hotel credit card if you consistently stay at the same line of hotels wherever you travel.

Hotel credit cards are directly connected with the rewards program of the hotel. You earn more by staying at these hotels, and your points have more value when redeemed for hotel rooms. While some cards offer rewards on purchases away from the hotel, none are significant enough to warrant using the card for all your purchases.

Hotel credit cards: a difficult comparison

None of the hotel rewards programs have the same value. Rewards are earned at one rate and redeemed at another. Without any standardization, it’s difficult to tell how much the rewards are actually worth. By digging into the hotel reward programs themselves, I was able to put together some fairly accurate rewards rate estimates for each card.

The value of the rewards for a hotel program doesn’t convert directly to dollar amounts. In the credit card industry, 1% or 1x normally means $0.01 for every dollar spent. That’s not the case here. Since the value of the rewards you earn on the credit card is directly connected to the hotel rewards program, it’s important to be aware of the hotel point reward values.

That concludes our series on rewards credit cards. If you have any opinions or feedback on any of these hotel credit cards, tell us about your experiences using them and whether you have your own strategies to maximize rewards.

Read Part 1 -> The Best Rewards Credit Cards
Read Part 2 -> The Best Airline Credit Cards
Read Part 3 -> The Best Cash Back Credit Cards

 

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