Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.

By: Griffin Miller

Updated: August 1, 2018

Table of contents

Editor’s take: The best hotel credit cards of 2018

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

With a simple hotel and travel rewards program that offers a generous 2X points rate on every purchase, the Venture card is a solid choice for beginners and experienced travelers. Capital One’s partnership with Hotels.com gives you even more ways to rack up points quicker than the average general travel credit card.

Card Details

  • Card Type: General Travel
  • Best For: Straightforward, flat rate hotel rewards
  • Credit Needed: Good/Excellent
  • Bankrate Score: 94/100
  • Sign-Up Bonus: 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of card ownership
  • Rewards Rate: 2 miles/dollar
  • Hotel Rewards Rate: 10 miles/dollar spent when booked and paid on hotels.com/venture
  • Annual Fee: $95, waived in the first year

Editor’s Take: The Capital One Venture Card is Bankrate’s favorite hotel credit card due to the flexibility that it offers in how you can redeem your rewards. The sign-up bonus is valued at $500 in benefits, and the high rewards rate of 2 miles per dollar spent makes this card a terrific choice for the average consumer.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

A staple in the travel and hotel rewards game, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a smart choice for collecting valuable points that can be used in a variety of ways. Chase’s Ultimate Rewards shopping portal offers extra value for cardholders and a wide range of options when choosing airlines in addition to hotels.

Card Details

  • Card Type: General Rewards
  • Best For: A generous sign-up bonus
  • Credit Needed: Good/Excellent
  • Bankrate Score: 95/100
  • Sign-Up Bonus: 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 within the first 3 months of card ownership
  • Rewards Rate: 2X points/dollar on restaurant and travel, 1X point/dollar on everything else
  • Hotel Rewards Rate: 2X points/dollar
  • Annual Fee: $95, waived in the first year

Editor’s Take: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is an excellent choice for someone looking for a generous sign-up bonus (valued at $625 in travel) on a card that rewards every day spending. If you are willing to go the extra mile to maximize your points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards points system, this card is a no-brainer.

Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card

With no annual fee, the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card offers a nice rewards rate and generous sign-up bonus. The simple earning structure makes it easy to track rewards and plan vacations to any hotel using any booking site.

Card Details

  • Card Type: Travel Rewards
  • Best For: No annual fee
  • Credit Needed: Good/Excellent
  • Bankrate Score: 85/100
  • Sign-Up Bonus: 25,000 bonus points when you spend at least $1,000 within the first 90 days of opening an account
  • Rewards Rate: 1.5 points/dollar spent
  • Hotel Rewards Rate: 1.5 points/dollar spent
  • Annual Fee: $0

Editor’s Take: If you have money in a Bank of America account, you can earn a 10% to 75% bonus on card spending. Consumers who are looking for a solid hotel rewards card and already have a substantial financial relationship with Bank of America should have this card in their wallet.

Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express

More than 6,500 resorts and hotels in over 110 countries fall under the SPG and Marriott brand. The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express offers generous rewards on spending alongside flexible redemption options for businesses that require frequent travel, both domestic and international.

Card Details

  • Card Type: Hotel
  • Best For: Businesses
  • Credit Needed:Excellent/Good
  • Bankrate Score: 96/100
  • Welcome Offer: 100,000 bonus points after $5,000 spent within the first three months of card membership
  • Rewards Rate: 4 points at U.S. restaurants, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers, and on U.S. purchases for shipping. Earn 2 points for all other eligible purchases.
  • Hotel Rewards Rate: Earn 6 points per dollar at eligible SPG and Marriott Rewards purchase
  • Annual Fee: $95, waived in the first year

Editor’s Take: For any business that requires frequent travel, the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card is a must-have.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Luxury travelers will reap exclusive perks from the Platinum Card from American Express that simply don’t exist anywhere else. The high annual fee will turn some people away, but the Centurion Lounge access and additional benefits make it a unique hotel rewards credit card that many travelers will find compelling.

Card Details

  • Card Type: Travel Rewards
  • Best For: Premium cardholder benefits
  • Credit Needed: Excellent
  • Bankrate Score: 95/100
  • Sign-Up Bonus: 60,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend $5,000 within the first 3 months of card ownership
  • Rewards Rate: 5 Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent on airfare, 1 point/dollar on all other spending
  • Hotel Rewards Rate: 5 Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent on eligible hotels booked through American Express’ travel portal
  • Annual Fee: $550

Editor’s Take: The Platinum Card from American Express sets the bar for premium hotel and travel perks. Hotel perks include Gold elite status at Hilton and Starwood Hotels, as well as access to Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts. As competitive as those offers are, they don’t even scratch the surface of the additional travel extras that come with this card. If you are looking for an upscale travel experience, this card is for you.

How do hotel cards work?

Hotel credit cards reward loyalty with free nights, room upgrades, complimentary breakfast, and more. Benefits come in the form of points, which can be redeemed for all of those great perks. Most hotel cards offer big point totals on purchases made at their properties, and at least 1X points everywhere else. For frequent travelers, points add up quickly and can turn the average hotel stay into a luxurious trip.

Hotel credit cards are either co-branded cards like the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, or are general travel rewards cards like the Capital One® Venture® Card.

To make the most of a hotel rewards credit card, combine it with a membership to the hotel’s loyalty program for truly impressive benefits.

Questions to ask yourself before applying for a hotel card:

  1. How often do you stay at hotels?
  2. Which hotel chain(s) do you prefer?
  3. Which hotel chain has the most locations in the destinations that you most often travel to?
  4. What are your travel goals?
  5. What other rewards credit cards do you already have?

The answer to these questions will help you find the right hotel credit card for you. The perfect hotel card will:

  • Give you benefits you actually use
  • Complement the benefits that you get from other credit cards
  • Upgrade your hotel experience during every stay

Pros and cons of hotel credit cards

Pros:

  • Sign-up bonuses. Hotel cards regularly dish out sign-up bonuses in excess of 50,000 points, which is among the highest of all rewards credit cards.
  • High rewards rates. Rewards from on-brand purchases usually come at 8X rates and higher.
  • Perks you won’t find anywhere else. Late check-in, complimentary breakfast, and room upgrades are pretty standard across co-branded hotel credit cards.
  • Rewards increase with spending. Hotels with loyalty program tiers reward customers with greater benefits for greater spending.

Cons:

  • Rewards structures can be complicated. To get the most from your card, you will have to be a member of loyalty programs and book at the best-category property with an available room.
  • Hotel credit card point values are usually inflated. For example, The Hilton Honors American Express Card offers 50,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on this card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. But those points are only valued at about 0.6 cents apiece, according to The Points Guy’s April, 2018 valuation. Most general travel rewards points are worth at least one cent.
  • Rewards are limited to hotel spending. Although you can usually transfer hotel rewards points to partnering airlines for discounts on flights, points lose their value dramatically when used that way.
  • Annual fees & high APR. Whether you opt for a co-branded hotel card or a general travel rewards card, you’ll most likely have to pay an annual fee of $95 or more. Make sure you don’t carry a balance either, as APRs are typically on the higher side.

Co-branded Hotel Cards vs General Travel Cards

Most of the best rewards credit cards generally offer points for travel and can potentially be used to book free nights at hotels. If you’re considering a hotel rewards credit card, you’re most likely looking for a co-branded hotel card or a general travel card.

Co-branded hotel cards offer big points when you book nights at their specific properties, and small point totals on everything else. The good news is that many of the best hotel credit cards are attached to hotels with thousands of locations. Forbes reports that after its 2016 acquisition of Starwood, Marriott has over 6,000 locations worldwide. So, if you apply for the Marriott® Rewards Premier Credit Card, even though your benefits are mostly limited to Marriott properties, you are likely never far from one of their locations.

General travel cards offer fewer points on hotel purchases but are never limited to one specific brand or location. For example, every time you use your Chase Sapphire Preferred card to book a room, you’ll collect 2X points, no matter where you are. The points you’ll get from a general travel card are also more flexible in terms of what you redeem them for. Bundle your hotel room and flight through Chase Ultimate Rewards and the value of a point jumps to 1.25 cents.

The bottom line: If you travel frequently and prefer a certain hotel, opt for their co-branded card. If you’d rather keep a flexible rewards program rolling, go for the general travel card.

Do hotel points expire?

Hotel rewards points don’t usually expire if your account is open, active, and in good standing. For the specific card you are considering, check out the following chart or visit the points expiration resource at CreditCards.com.

Hotel Rewards Program Rewards Expiration Date
Hilton Honors No expiration as long as points are earned or redeemed every 12 months.
IHG Rewards Club Select No expiration as long as points are earned or redeemed every 12 months
Hyatt Visa Signature from Chase No expiration as long as points are earned or redeemed every 24 months.
Marriott Rewards Premier No expiration as long as points are earned or redeemed every 24 months.
Ritz-Carlton Rewards Visa No expiration as long as points are earned or redeemed every 24 months. E-certificates expire one year after issue date.
Starwood Preferred Guest from American Express No expiration as long as points are earned or redeemed every 12 months. Starwood points issued/earned through Vistana expire after six years.
Wyndham Rewards Signature Visa Points expire four years after post date. Account must also be active every 18 months.

How to maximize hotel rewards points

Whether you’re interested in a Hilton, Marriott, or other hotel card, first consider what it takes to get the most value out of that card. Take these steps before applying and you’ll be well on your way to soaking up the rewards:

  1. Join hotel loyalty programs. They’re free to sign up for and will provide you with extra resources on how to get the most out of your booking. As a loyalty member and co-branded cardholder, you’ll earn points in two ways for every stay.
  2. Be strategic about how you use it. Your new hotel credit card will give you big point totals for hotel purchases, but not so much on everything else. Hotel cards are excellent complementary cards—use them in addition to cash back cards and other cards with higher rewards rates on spending in other categories.
  3. Book directly through the hotel or issuer’s shopping portal. You usually glean extra value by booking your room through the hotel’s website or an issuer’s shopping portal, like Chase Ultimate Rewards. Booking through third-party sites may not qualify for the expected rewards rate.

Recap: Bankrate’s favorite hotel credit cards

Card Name Bankrate Score Best For
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card 94/100 Straightforward, flat rate hotel rewards
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card 95/100 Generous sign-up bonus
Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card 85/100 No annual fee
Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express  96/100 Business
The Platinum Card® from American Express 95/100 Premium cardholder benefits

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.