Hotel Credit Card FAQ
Let’s explore some answers to frequently asked questions about hotel credit cards.
When comparing the best hotel credit cards, you’ll want to pay close attention to a few things:
- Annual fee – Look for a card with a low annual fee. Most waive the cost for the first year.
- Signup offer – Taking advantage of a signup offer can be a lucrative way to fund your travel.
- Rewards – Take a look at the rewards structure and make sure it aligns with your purchasing habits to ensure you’re earning maximum rewards.
- Expiration – Points or rewards may expire after a certain length of time. Make sure the details fit your travel habits.
Should I get a hotel credit card or travel credit card?
Whether or not you should get a hotel or travel credit card depends on how you plan to use your points and rewards. Typically, with both types of cards, you’ll earn points or rewards on all travel related expenses — booking hotels and flights — as well as buying items at participating locations and making everyday purchases.
The difference comes when you want to redeem those points. With a hotel credit card, you’re typically going to redeem those points for a free hotel stay; however, in some cases, you may also redeem them for flights on participating airlines. With a travel card, you have a little more flexibility to redeem points for flights, hotels, or rental cars, as well as a general statement credit.
How do I earn points?
Tips and tricks for earning points vary between hotel credit cards, but typically cardholders can earn rewards in as many as five categories:
- Booking stays or events at participating hotels
- Booking flights with participating airline partners
- Purchasing items with participating retail partners
- Making everyday purchases with their hotel credit card
- Buying points direct from the hotel
Can I earn rewards by flying?
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 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.
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 rewards programs to create a powerful rewards combo. With the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express cardholders can earn 30,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. 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.
Do hotel points expire?
Next we’ll offer some answers to questions about hotel rewards points, relevant to the cards profiled on our list.
Do Marriott Rewards expire?
Marriott Rewards points expire if a member does not have a qualifying activity within the past 2 years. Qualifying activities include:
- Staying at any participating hotel (through payment or point redemption)
- Using your Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card for purchases
- Earning points with Marriott program partners
- Purchasing points directly through Marriott
- Holding a qualifying meeting or other event
Do Starpoints® expire?
Starpoints® expire if a member does not have a qualifying activity on their account within a 12-month period. Qualifying activities include:
- Eligible stays at SPG Participating Hotels
- Redeeming, purchasing, or transferring Starpoints®
Which hotel credit card earns the most points?
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 major hotel brands.
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.
How many points do I need for a free night?
When it comes to earning free nights, redemption rates can vary by location and brand. Just as some rooms are more expensive at one franchise than another, some hotels require more points for free nights.
Here’s a quick guide to each hotel’s category or tier, and what it takes to earn free nights:
|Free nights with Marriott|
|Hotel Tier||Points (per night)||PointSavers (per night)|
|Free nights with Starwood|
|Category||Starpoints® (per night)|
|1||2,000 – 3,000|
|2||3,000 – 4,000|
|5||12,000 – 16,000|
|6||20,000 – 25,000|
|7||30,000 – 35,000|