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The information about the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.
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A hotel credit card is a type of card that rewards its users for brand loyalty. You earn points in the hotel chain’s loyalty program by using the card to book rooms at the chain’s hotels or resorts, and in some cases by making eligible non-travel purchases. Other incentives may include free nights, free room upgrades and access to the hotel chain’s travel partners.
Hotel credit cards can help you make the most of your travel experience, especially if you prefer to stay at the same brand of hotels wherever you travel. Additionally, some general-purpose travel cards have partnerships with certain hotel chains.
Which hotel rewards card is best for you? Read through our guide to help you decide.
In this guide:
Compare Bankrate’s top 2021 hotel credit cards
|Hilton Honors American Express Card
||Hilton card with no annual fee
||7X points per dollar on eligible Hilton purchases
||4.1 / 5
Read our full review
|The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
||12X points on Hilton hotel and resort purchases, 6X points on select business (U.S. gas stations, U.S. cellphone service providers and U.S. shipping purchases) and travel purchases (U.S. restaurants, airfare booked through Amex Travel and select car rentals) with 3X points on all other purchases
||4.0 / 5
Read our full review
|Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
||Hotel welcome offer
||12X points per dollar on eligible Hilton purchases
||3.8 / 4
Read our full review
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
||Loyal Marriott customers
||Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program, 3 points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines
||4.5 / 5
Read our full review
|Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
||Rewards on business spending
||4X points on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping
||4.3 / 5
Read our full review
|Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
||Flexible travel with no annual fee
||1.25x miles per dollar on all purchases
||3.6 / 5
Read our full review
|The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
||Flexible business travelers
||5x points per dollar on flights and prepaid hotels booked through Amextravel.com
||4.7 / 5
Read our full review
A closer look at our top hotel credit cards
Hilton Honors American Express Card
Best no-annual-fee Hilton card
- This card is best for: Loyal Hilton customers who want exceptional rewards rates in a variety of purchase categories, all with no annual fee.
- This card is not a great choice for: Those who insist on elite benefits, which is a common tradeoff for no-annual-fee hotel cards.
- What makes this card unique? The two-stage welcome offer: Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card in the first 3 months of card membership. Offer expires 8/25/2021. Plus, earn up to $100 in statement credits on eligible purchases made on the card at any of the Hilton family of hotels in the first 12 months of card membership. Offer expires 8/25/2021.
- Is this card worth it? Well-rounded rewards are hard to come by with a no-annual-fee hotel card. There are more luxury-oriented options, but the Hilton Honors card is a strong pick for budget-conscious travelers.
Read our Hilton Honors American Express Card review.
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
Best for business travel
- This card is best for: Hilton-loyal business travelers who want to earn stellar rewards rates in several purchase categories.
- This card is not a great choice for: Business owners whose budgets don’t match up with the more narrowly defined purchase categories. If U.S. cellphone service providers and U.S. shipping purchases aren’t a big part of your budget, for example, you won’t get the full benefit of the 6X points rate in those categories.
- What makes this card unique? You’ll earn 12X points on purchases made through Hilton hotels and resorts — one of the most generous rewards rates you’ll find anywhere.
- Is this card worth it? Although it does have a $95 annual fee, new cardholders can offset the first-year cost by earning the welcome offer: Limited Time Offer: earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card in the first 3 months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 in statement credits on eligible purchases made on the card at any of the Hilton family of hotels in the first 12 months of card membership. Offer ends 8/25/2021. After the first year, the rewards rates and benefits should do a lot to cushion the blow.
Read our Hilton Honors American Express Business Card review.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Best hotel welcome offer
- This card is best for: Travelers who want their new hotel card to make a big entrance. The welcome offer earns you 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you make $2,000 in purchases in your first 3 months of card membership.
- This card is not a great choice for: Those who value consistency in points value. Hilton’s dynamic pricing system means that the cost of a free night depends heavily on location, demand and where the property rates on the luxury scale. (In fairness, this quirk applies to the Hilton Honors program in general, not just any particular card.)
- What makes this card unique? Again, it’s the welcome offer. Spending just $2,000 in your first 3 months of card membership is a very low hurdle to clear to earn 130,000 bonus points.
- Is this card worth it? The annual fee is $95 ($0 introductory annual fee for the first year), but you could easily erase the first-year cost, by a lot, with the welcome offer. The rewards rates hold the potential for significant long-term value.
Read our Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card review.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
Best for loyal Marriott customers
- This card is best for: Travelers who want premier benefits for staying at Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis, plus solid rewards rates in a variety of purchase categories.
- This card is not a great choice for: Anyone who’s easily susceptible to sticker shock. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card carries a $450 annual fee.
- What makes this card unique? Unlike some co-branded hotel cards, this one has rewards categories that extend to eligible airfare purchases (3X points on airfare booked directly through airlines).
- Is this card worth it? Put the $450 annual fee in perspective. You get up to $300 in statement credits each year of Card Membership for eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program and up to $100 Marriott Bonvoy Property Credit in qualifying charges when booking a stay at The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis for at least two nights. Those are just two examples of benefits counterbalancing the annual fee.
Read our Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card review.
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
Best for rewards on business spending
- This card is best for: Travelers who (a) stay at Marriott on their frequent business trips and (b) want a card that rewards them for purchases across a wide array of categories.
- This card is not a great choice for: Business owners who don’t spend a lot in the more specific 4X categories (wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. purchases for shipping). Small budgets in those areas won’t help you get maximum rewards value.
- What makes this card unique? A twin welcome offer: 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after using your new card to make $3,000 of eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership, and up to $150 back in statement credits on eligible purchases made within the first 3 months of card membership.
- Is this card worth it? Although the card has an annual fee of $125, automatic Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status (enrollment required) and other benefits can deliver a lot of compensatory value. The same goes for the rewards rates.
Read our Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card review.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Best for flexible travel
- This card is best for: Travelers who aren’t attached to a single hotel chain and want a variety of options for redeeming their rewards.
- This card is not a great choice for: People loyal to a hotel brand that isn’t included among Capital One’s transfer-eligible travel partners. Capital One currently has many more airline partners than hotel partners.
- What makes this card unique? The Venture’s calling card, if you will, is how it provides flexibility in how you can use your Miles. Options include booking travel through the Capital One portal, transferring miles to more than 15 airline and hotel partners or getting a statement credit for eligible travel purchases made within the last 90 days.
- Is this card worth it? If you value flexibility in redeeming your travel rewards and a straightforward, flat-rate rewards program, the $95 annual fee just might be a worthwhile expense.
Read our Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Best for premium cardholder benefits
- This card is best for: Travelers who want premium benefits that they’re unlikely to find anywhere else and aren’t hesitant about paying a steep annual fee ($695) to get them.
- This card is not a great choice for: Not just travel minimalists but those who aim for anything less than extravagant. The American Express Platinum is one of the flagship cards in the travel category with good reason.
- What makes this card unique? Complimentary gold-level status (enrollment required) with not one but two hotel brands: Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status and Hilton Honors Gold Status.
- Is this card worth it? Although many travelers will find the $695 annual fee cost-prohibitive, impressive rewards rates and premium benefits have a value all their own. Access to American Express Global Lounge Collection®, American Express Platinum Concierge and other benefits can go a long way toward offsetting the annual fee, if not erasing it. Rates and Fees
Read our The Platinum Card® from American Express review.
How do hotel credit cards work?
There are two types of hotel credit cards. One is a co-branded hotel card that works through a partnership between an issuer and a hotel brand. These cards usually include enrollment in the hotel’s loyalty program. The other type of hotel credit card is a general travel rewards card that might offer hotel-related perks but isn’t associated exclusively with a single chain.
You earn points with a hotel credit card each time you use it to make a rewards-eligible purchase. Depending on the card, these purchases could include hotel stays, airfare, meals at restaurants or everyday purchases such as groceries and gas.
Generally speaking, non-branded travel cards work best for those who value flexibility in where they earn their rewards and how they redeem them over loyalty to one chain of hotels. Co-branded cards are best suited for travelers who want to maximize the benefits of their loyalty with high rewards rates and brand-specific benefits. Either kind of card has the potential to help you get more value out of your travel budget and improve your travel experience.
Every free night you earn with a hotel credit card could be worth more than $100. STR, a data analytics company serving the hospitality industry, estimates the average daily rate for a U.S. hotel room
Pros and cons of hotel credit cards
Whether or not a hotel card is the right choice for you depends on your travel habits, budget and financial priorities. Make sure to weigh the pros and cons before deciding on a particular card.
Advantages of hotel cards
- Hotel cards regularly offer lucrative welcome offers or sign-up bonuses for new cardholders who meet the spending requirements within a specified period, usually 3 months. These bonus points are often worth multiple free nights at a hotel, depending on where you’re staying.
- A co-branded hotel card will likely offer a higher-than-average rewards rate compared with a general travel card. You could earn up to 10 points per dollar spent on eligible hotel purchases, and in some cases more.
- Late check-in, complimentary breakfast and room upgrades are pretty standard across co-branded hotel credit cards. Many hotel cards also offer expedited pathways to elite status, which can come with even more perks.
- A hotel credit card offers a convenient way to book your hotel stays and earn hotel-specific rewards all at the same time.
Disadvantages of hotel cards
- To get the most value from your card, you will probably have to navigate complicated rewards programs and redemption processes. For example, the award price for free nights varies greatly depending on a variety of factors, including time of year and availability.
- Although rewards rates are high with co-branded hotel cards, the points are generally not worth as much as those earned with non-branded travel cards.
- Redeeming points for award night stays is generally the only option for getting full point value. The value can decline significantly when you transfer points to travel partners or redeem for merchandise.
- 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.
Who should get a hotel credit card?
As a niche product, hotel credit cards appeal to fairly specific types of consumers. Here are some of the ways that you might fit the profile:
Regular hotel guests will benefit the most, of course, but you don’t have to be constantly on the road. A hotel card could be worthwhile with even a comparatively modest travel schedule, something along the lines of one month of hotel stays per year.
If you regularly stay at the same hotel chain, a card that earns points with every eligible purchase offers an effective way to reward yourself for your brand loyalty.
The chance to earn free nights and perks like complimentary breakfast and room upgrades are sure to appeal to travelers always on the lookout for value.
Some of the top hotel credit cards include access to luxury hotel and resort collections, where amenities include spas, wine tastings, executive clubs and more.
Hotel credit cards commonly offer generous rewards rates, but you might be able to earn additional points outside the specified purchase categories as well. A number of hotels offer the opportunity to earn points on purchases with their partner companies, which typically include airlines and retailers.
How to choose the best hotel credit card for you
Choosing the right card for you comes down to how much flexibility you need from your rewards.
If you don’t always stay with the same hotel brand when you travel, you’ll probably find more value in a general travel card that offers a lot of redemption flexibility. However, those who frequently stay with the same brand might get more out of a co-branded card that offers perks such as elite status and free nights.
Questions to ask before applying for a hotel card
- How often do you stay at hotels? Estimate how much you spend on hotel stays in a typical year. Even if it’s just a few thousand dollars, the rewards you earn with a hotel card could be economically worthwhile.
- Which hotel chain do you prefer? Credit card issuers tend to partner with national and international brands rather than smaller, regional chains. Most hotel credit cards carry the names of chains such as Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt and Radisson.
- What are your travel goals? If you like a bit of luxury, choose a card with the most generous room upgrade benefits. If you’re more of a no-frills traveler, look for value over perks.
- What other rewards credit cards do you already have? Having a general-purpose travel card might be enough for a casual traveler who isn’t dedicated to any particular hotel brand.
The answers to these questions will help you find the best hotel credit card for you. The right card will give you benefits you actually use, upgrade your travel experience during every trip and complement the benefits that you get from other credit cards.
How to get free nights at hotels
Getting free nights, sometimes called reward nights, at your favorite hotel chain is one of the most straightforward benefits of a hotel credit card. How you earn that benefit varies depending on the card and its associated loyalty program.
Here’s a list of a few ways you could enjoy a free stay:
Under the typical hotel loyalty program, a free stay is one of the options for redeeming your points. The required number of points usually runs in the thousands — 10,000, 20,000 or higher.
Some hotel credit cards offer a free-night bonus for opening an account rather than awarding points. As with any sign-up bonus, you have to meet the spending requirement during the specified period of time after signing up.
Depending on your card, you might be eligible for a free night every year on the anniversary of becoming a cardholder. If the card has an annual fee, the yearly free stay could offset that cost.
Loyalty program status
Some hotel loyalty programs have different levels, or tiers, of membership. Earning “elite” status could make you eligible for additional free nights.
Despite their undeniable appeal, remember that free hotel stays may be subject to certain restrictions, including location and room availability. Read your loyalty program’s terms and conditions carefully, and contact the hotel where you want to redeem your free night before booking to avoid surprises.
How to earn elite status with a hotel loyalty program
In most cases, the road to elite status runs through frequent use. You become eligible after you stay a required number of nights in a year. One example is Marriott Bonvoy:
However, you might be able to find a shortcut to elite status through a credit card offer. Examples of cards that offer complimentary elite status for becoming a cardholder include:
The information about the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card, the Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature Card and the World of Hyatt Credit card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.
How to maximize hotel rewards points
Hotel credit cards are only worth it when you take full advantage of the hotel rewards programs and associated perks that come with earning hotel rewards. Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your card and the points you’ll earn:
- Make sure you’re a member of the associated hotel rewards program. 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.
- Pair multiple credit cards. Your new hotel credit card will give you big point totals for hotel purchases, but not necessarily on everything else. Hotel cards are excellent complementary cards—use them in addition to cash back cards and other travel cards with higher rewards rates on spending in other categories.
- 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.
- Use your rewards. While it can be tempting to hoard points for a huge payout, it’s actually much smarter to redeem more frequently. Award night pricing changes often, especially for hotels that have dynamic pricing. When a deal comes your way, take advantage of it.
Bankrate guides to hotel loyalty programs
Learn more about some of the programs that reward hotel customers who stay loyal to their favorite brands.
CardSmart: Earning travel rewards with vacation rental bookings
Vacation rentals from services such as Airbnb and VRBO can provide more than just the cozy amenities of home, but are you sacrificing travel rewards when you don’t stay at a chain hotel? Not necessarily.
With the right travel rewards credit card and rewards program, you could earn points or miles as you enjoy the personal touch of a vacation rental booking.
Most of the best credit cards for Airbnb and VRBO are general-purpose travel cards that aren’t affiliated with a single hotel chain or airline. Cards of this type often earn a flat rewards rate on all eligible purchases or all eligible travel purchases.
Among co-branded credit cards, the Wyndham Rewards portfolio stands out for being rental-friendly. Options with the rewards program include redeeming points for free stays at select vacation rental properties.
VRBO and Airbnb are relatively recent arrivals to the world of rentals, and their relationship with rewards credit cards remains a work in progress. When in doubt, check the terms and conditions of your credit card to see if your vacation rentals are eligible to earn rewards.
More resources from Bankrate
How we chose our list of best hotel cards
Our credit card experts can help you find a top-rated hotel card to help you fund your next family vacation, business trip or overseas getaway.
The best hotel rewards card is one that accommodates your personal travel needs. There’s not much reason to accrue Hilton Honors points if you frequently find yourself in Starwood-Marriott locations. Our 5-star scoring system takes a host of elements into account, but for hotel credit cards, we’ve emphasized:
Rewards value and redemption flexibility
Some cards offer the capability to transfer hotel points to different chains while other cards have their rewards tied to specific loyalty programs, To help you earn the most rewards possible, at the highest redemption value, we comb through the numbers to rank each card on the value that each swipe brings.
A lot of high-end hotel rewards cards charge fees, but offset this cost with luxury benefits like free room upgrades and trip insurance. We examine how each of these add-ons as we determine whether the annual fee is worth the cost.
Sign-up bonuses offer an easy way to earn hotel points. Within three months, you can hit the spending requirement and quickly amass enough points to redeem for a free night. We compare each of these welcome bonuses as we determine which cards deliver the strongest offerings on the market.
Learn more about hotel cards and loyalty programs
When it comes to hotel credit cards and travel tips, Bankrate has a huge collection of resources at your service:
Have more questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email, find us on Facebook, or Tweet us @Bankrate.