3 reasons to ‘team up’ your hotel card with other cards
A hotel credit card can be very useful, but it shouldn’t necessarily be the only tool in your kit. Find out how the old saying about strength in numbers could apply to your pursuit of travel rewards.
Reason 1: You earn more points with multiple cards.
When it comes to non-travel purchases, a typical hotel card doesn’t have the same earnings potential as an all-around rewards card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which offers 2X points for restaurant purchases in addition to travel, is a good example of a primary credit card that you can use to augment a hotel card. Another possible strategy would be to pair a hotel card with a co-branded airline card that lets you link your accounts to earn more points, as in the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express.
Reason 2: Cash back cards can pay off big.
The Discover it® Cashback Match™ and similar cards with quarterly rotating bonus categories can earn you as much as 5% cash back for every $1 spent on purchases in those categories. (Compare that figure with the 1X or 2X rate on non-hotel purchases with a typical hotel card.) Another option is a fixed-category card like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which has a rewards structure that includes 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) and 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores. When you earn cash back rewards with this type of card, you can redeem the points for statement credits to free up money you can then use for your travel expenses.
Reason 3: Some cards offer points transfers and travel credits.
Go back to the example of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which lets you transfer points to participating hotel and airline loyalty programs at a 1:1 rate. Also, you can transfer points to this card from a Chase cash-back card, which lets you “bank” points that you can earmark for travel. Another Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card feature that travelers will find useful is the signup bonus of 50,000 points, which you can redeem for $625 toward hotels or airfare booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
The upshot is, consider using one or more higher-earning rewards cards for everyday use and saving your hotel card for hotel purchases. If you play your cards right, you could wind up with significantly more rewards points and more room in your personal budget for travel.
Should you get a hotel credit card?
There’s no universal rule of thumb for putting an exact dollar value on any type of credit card rewards. In the case of hotel credit cards, frequent travelers who make it a habit to stay at a particular hotel chain have many reasons to feel that travel rewards are worth it.
For starters, they can redeem their accumulated points/miles for rewards that make travel more affordable (hotel stays, airfare and car rentals) and more comfortable (premium in-room internet access, among other benefits). Some hotel cards even help you celebrate each “anniversary” as a cardholder with a free night at a participating property every year. In addition to the monetary value, cards that offer travel rewards with no blackout dates or restrictions also make travel more convenient.
Not everybody needs a hotel credit card, but consumers who faithfully take vacations and faithfully use the same hotels when they travel just might find them indispensable.
Pro tip: Research the airline partner
Whatever your destination, and whatever hotel you choose, transportation always comes first. And with an average of more than 8 million people flying commercially every day, sometimes the ideal air travel booking can be elusive. Luckily for the points-minded traveler, each of our hotel credit cards offers an abundance of global airline partnerships and generous point-to-mile transfer rates.
Marriott Rewards® and Travel Rewards
With Travel Rewards, Marriott Rewards® members can transfer points to frequent flyer miles with over 40 global and regional airlines. Participating airlines include:
- British Airways
- JetBlue Airways
- Korean Air SKYPASS
- Qatar Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
If you prefer to fly United, and you’re a Marriott Rewards® and United MileagePlus® member, you’re eligible for the Marriott and United’s RewardsPlus program. It offers a whopping 7 rewards miles per dollar spent on United flights, and a 20% discount when you convert points to United MileagePlus® award miles, plus a host of other perks.
If you’re a Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card holder, it’s possible to combine Marriott Travel Rewards with select airline credit cards to earn extra rewards.
Let’s say you’re a Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card holder, and you prefer to fly Southwest. If you also sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card (one of our Best Airline Cards for 2017), you’ll be able to earn 2X points for Southwest® and Rapid Rewards® purchases, in addition to unlimited 5X points spent on participating Marriott Rewards®, The Ritz-Carlton®, and Starwood Preferred Guest® (SPG®) hotels.
Dual cardmembers also have the option of converting Marriott Rewards points and Rapid Rewards® Points to United MileagePlus award miles with RewardsPlus. You could qualify for tens of thousands of MileagePlus miles.
Rewards ratio varies by airline, so be sure to do your research and always check the fine print.
Starwood Preferred Guest® and SPG® Flights
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express cardholders can redeem Starpoints® to book flights with over 150 airlines through SPG® Flights, all with no blackout dates. Participating airlines include:
- American Airlines
- China Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Virgin Atlantic
Instead of direct transfer, SPG® Flights utilizes a predetermined redemption rate determined by price range. For example, ticket prices up to $150 require a redemption of 10,000 Starpoints®, while prices that fall anywhere between $345-$410 require 30,000 Starpoints®.
If you are looking to go the direct transfer route, SPG® members can transfer Starpoints® directly to miles with participating frequent flyer programs. Most Starpoint®-to-mile exchanges enjoy a 1:1 ratio, and SPG® will add 5,000 bonus Starpoints® for every 20,000 transferred at a time.
If you’re a frequent Delta traveler and a Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express cardholder, you’re eligible for Crossover Rewards with SPG® and Delta SkyMiles®. SPG® Platinum and Gold members earn 1 Starpoint® for every dollar spent on eligible Delta flights. Diamond, Platinum, Gold, and Silver Medallion® members earn 1 mile for every dollar spent on eligible room rates at over 1,100 Starwood hotels and resorts globally. And Crossover Benefits are in addition to the typical Starpoints® or miles earned as a member of each program.
It’s also possible to pair the both rewards programs to create a powerful rewards combo. If you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express within the first three months of card ownership, you’ll be able to earn 30,000 bonus miles. And if you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express within the first 3 months of card ownership, you’ll earn 25,000 Starpoints®. Since Starpoints® transfer to Delta miles at a 1:1 ratio, those bonuses could be worth 55,000 miles.
IHG® Rewards Club Partner Airlines
IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card holders can turn their rewards into frequent flyer miles with any one of IHG®’s 40-plus airline partners through the IHG® Rewards Club Customer Care Center. Participating airlines include:
- Alaska Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- JetBlue Airways
- Singapore Airlines
- United Airlines
IHG® rewards don’t translate directly into frequent flyer miles – instead Rewards Club members can select from an online store of block increments of miles worth an established amount of points. For example, members can purchase 2,000 miles from Alaska Airlines at a price of 10,000 points using a specific code available on IHG®’s partner airlines page.
With the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card’s impressive rewards rate (5X rewards points at IHG® properties, 2X rewards points at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants, and 1X rewards points on all other purchases), cardholders can earn frequent flyer miles in no time!
The IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card pairs well with the , which offers 3X points for JetBlue purchases and 2X points on dining and groceries.
The IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card comes with a modest $49 fee, waived for the first year, and the comes with no fee at all. JetBlue Card holders can earn 10,000 signup bonus points if they spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of card ownership, and IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card holders can earn a whopping signup bonus of 80,000 points if they spend $1,000 within their first three months of account opening. Those bonuses can be worth a combined 31,000 JetBlue TrueBlue points.
Metasearch: A new way to book direct online
At first glance, OTAs and metasearch engines can seem like two sides of the same coin. Both are aggregate hotel and flight booking organizations with strong online presences and considerable marketing budgets. (You’ve likely seen as many commercials for Kayak, a metasearch Engine, as you have for Travelocity, an OTA.)
But there’s one key difference: direct booking.
With OTA’s, you’re booking with the agency, not directly with the hotel, meaning that you won’t be able to maximize rewards, and paying third parties a considerable commission.
Hotel metasearch engines combine the aggregate power of OTAs — scouring the industry to find the best possible room rates for consumers – but once you’re ready to book you’ll have the option of booking direct. That means loyalty points, better perks, and higher quality customer service (which can make life much easier if you ever need to ask for a refund).
Hotels are beginning to turn more and more to metasearch engines as a way to compete with online travel agencies — and some major deals have been made this past year as a result.
In Case You Missed It: Marriott and PlacePass
Earlier this year, Marriott announced a partnership with tours-and-activities metasearch platform PlacePass. It’s a valuable acquisition for Marriott. Last year Marriott Rewards® and SPG® members cashed in points for over 6,000 events or experiences. PlacePass has an expansive presence. Their official announcement cites access to over 100,000 experiences in over 800 countries, with more added every week.
Here’s just some of the experiences available to travelers through PlacePass:
- Louvre Museum walking tour in Paris
- 45-minute helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon
- Danube River Dinner Cruise in Budapest
But it’s loyalty members who benefit the most from this deal. If you’re a Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card or Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express holder, you’ll be able to access PlacePass directly through Marriott and Starwood’s loyalty portal. And there’s the possibility for hotel card holders to use points to book events in the future.
It doesn’t matter where you choose to lay your head; booking a stay at a Marriott or Starwood property isn’t a requirement to access the PlacePass portal.
In case you missed it: IHG and TripAdvisor
Earlier this year, IHG made a big investment in the online travel game, announcing that its hotels (including InterContinental and Holiday Inn) are now part of TripAdvisor’s Instant Booking catalogue. IHG customers will be able to book rooms directly at IHG properties without the need to leave TripAdvisor’s website or app. Because TripAdvisor is a metasearch engine with direct booking, IHG properties will handle the transaction, as well as provide customer service.
IHG has been one of the last holdouts in the online travel game, pushing for direct booking by boycotting OTAs. It’s not the first time, either – IHG had previously pulled its inventory from Expedia all the way back in 2004.
The upshot for IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card holders is the opportunity to utilize the 5X points per dollar spent at IHG properties directly through TripAdvisor, making Reward Nights easier than ever to earn and redeem.
Pro-tip: Combine membership, direct booking, and traveling abroad
Traveling abroad can be an exhilarating, once-in-a-lifetime experience, but it can also be an exhausting one. The last thing you want to think about once you’re overseas is where you’re going to lay your head for the night, and if you’ll have everything you need once you’re settled in.
If you choose to book third party, there’s a possibility that you’ll receive poorer customer service – since hotels don’t get all the details when you book through a third-party OTA, you’ll open yourself up to possible misunderstandings and might have a harder time getting issues resolved. If you’re a Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card holder or a Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express holder, you’ll have access to a global network of customer service phone lines, as well as a toll-free, North America-based phone number available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card holders can access a global customer care network of their own, with customer service lines available around the world 24/7 (unless otherwise noted on their site).
Whether you’re globetrotting or exploring a single country and culture, be sure to check out the international portal of your loyalty program for true peace of mind – and remember that booking direct means that membership perks remain the same, no matter where you are on the map.
For both Marriott Rewards®/SPG members and IHG Rewards Club members, that means free in-room internet – an absolute necessity for any overseas trip. And you’ll be able to turn points into unforgettable travel experiences, whether through Marriott’s Membership site (with the new PlacePass network coming later this year), or IHG’s Rewarding Experiences.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express holders can benefit even more, as they can redeem their Starpoints® for Marriott Rewards® or The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Points at a ratio of 1:3!
Protip: Know your rewards rates
Marriott/Starwood and IHG are titans in the hotel industry, with a combined 40+ brands and thousands of individual locations around the world. So, when you sign up for a hotel loyalty program, you’ve got access to quite a bit. But just as the nightly rate varies based on where you’re staying, the rewards rate can change based on the brand you’re staying with. And loyalty members earn more points per dollar with some brands than others.
Before you’re in the air or on the road, you want to make sure that your desired hotel is the absolute best place to rest your head, so we’ve put together a shortlist of the benefits and rewards rates of each major hotel brand.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express cardholders enjoy a flat, streamlined earning rate: 2X Starpoints® at participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels, while SPG® members can earn an additional 2-3X Starpoints® per dollar. It’s a compact plan that doesn’t vary by hotel brand.
Marriott Rewards® Rates:
Earn 10 points (or up to 2 air miles) per dollar on qualifying charges spent at the following brands:
- JW Marriott
- Autograph Collection® Hotels
- Renaissance® Hotels
- Marriott Hotels
- Marriott Vacation Club
- Delta Hotels Marriott
Earn 10 points (or up to 2 air miles) per dollar on room rates spent at the following brands:
- Edition® Hotels
- Gaylord Hotels®
- AC Hotels by Marriott
- Courtyard® Marriott
- Springhill Suites® Marriott
- Fairfield Inn &Suites® Marriott
- Protea Hotels Marriott
- Moxy Hotels
- The Ritz-Carlton®
Earn 5 points (or up to 1 air miles) per dollar on room rates spent at the following brands:
- Residence Inn® Marriott
- TownePlace Suites® Marriott
And Marriott has some extra deals with the following Earning-Only partner hotels:
- Marriott® Executive Apartments
- Earn 2.5 points or 1 air mile per U.S. dollar spent on room rate only and one elite night credit for every three nights stayed.
- Earn 2.5X points per dollar on all qualifying charges of the stay at ExecuStay® and one elite night credit for every three nights.
IHG® Rewards Club Rates:
Earn 10 points for every dollar spent at the following IHG brands:
- InterContinental® Hotels &Resorts
- HUALUXE® Hotels
- Crowne Plaza Hotels &Resorts
- Hotel Indigo
- Holiday Inn
- Holiday Inn Express
- Holiday Inn Resorts
- Holiday Inn Club Vacations®
- EVEN® Hotels
Earn 5 points for every dollar spent at the following IHG brands:
- Staybridge Suites®
- Candlewood Suites®
Pro tip: Research your destination’s category
In addition to knowing the rewards earning rate of each brand, it’s helpful to know their tier and point requirements of each hotel, which is industry speak for how many points are required in order to redeem a free night. Individual hotels are grouped into categories and tiers based on their brand, location, and type.
Hotels in lower categories tend to net fewer rewards for members, but free nights also cost less points to redeem. It’s a lot to keep track of, so we’ve pulled the basic info for Marriott’s, Starwood’s, and IHG’s rewards categories:
Marriott Rewards Categories*
|Category||Points Required for Free Nights|
*Note: Allow popups on your browser.
Starwood Preferred Guest Categories**
|Category||Starpoints® Required for a Free Standard Room|
|Category 1||2,000 – 3,000 Starpoints®|
|Category 2||3,000 – 4,000 Starpoints®|
|Category 3||7,000 Starpoints®|
|Category 4||10,000 Starpoints®|
|Category 5||12,000 – 16,000 Starpoints®|
|Category 6||20,000 – 25,000 Starpoints®|
|Category 7||30,000 – 35,000 Starpoints®|
**Lower point requirements in Categories 1 and 2 refer to weekends vs. weekdays. Location and season may affect points requirements in other categories.
IHG® Rewards Club Categories
|Category||Points Required for Free Nights|
For in-depth details on each individual IHG property’s redemption rate, check out this list, updated January 2017.
In case you missed it: IHG’s Accelerate
IHG is always looking for ways to help its rewards club members earn more points through extra earning opportunities. nights in specific cities, or at pre-established brands for a specified length of time, can earn an extra 1,000-3,000 rewards points. These promotions are offered through IHG Rewards Club’s Accelerate program, and they switch out every few months.
IHG’s Fall 2017 Accelerate promotions were recently released, and are valid between September 1st and December 31st, 2017. Here’s a quick glimpse at this season’s promotions:
- Stay once, get 2,000 bonus points: IHG Rewards Club members stay once at an IHG property and earn an extra 2,000 points.
- Book and pay for one stay with your IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card and earn 1,500 bonus points.
- September bonus offer: Stay in any IHG property in September and earn an extra 3,000 bonus points.
- Stay 2 or more nights at participating IHG® hotels in New York City and earn 3,000 bonus points.
For more information on IHG’s Accelerate program, as well as up-to-date information on current deals, check out their official page. (Available only to IHG Rewards Club Members.)