The trade-off with credit cards used to be simple. You made your purchases on credit, your creditor paid the tab, and then you repaid the balance with interest for the privilege of essentially borrowing funds. These days, the proposition is a lot more complex, thanks to a competitive range of benefits designed to offer added value in order to attract your business and encourage purchasing on credit.
If you’re the type the travels frequently, either for business or pleasure (or both), you might be keen to find a card that offers mileage rewards with airlines. However, you should also know that there are several cards providing benefits related to hotel stays, as well, that include desirable benefits like discounts, upgrades, free stays, and other member perks.
Some are designed for use at a wide range of properties, while others are exclusive to one particular hotel brand. Which ones offer the most bang for your buck, so to speak? Here are a few of the hottest hotel credit cards for 2018 and what you stand to gain by signing up.
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express.
The first thing to note is that many credit card companies offer multiple cards with different levels of perks (and fees). In addition, many hotel chains have different tiers of membership. It is therefore extremely important to read the fine print and make sure you get the card and the perks you prefer, as well as fees you can manage.
In addition to the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, there’s also a Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card and a Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card, both from AMEX. Each designation offers different terms. What makes the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card better than the rest?
When you sign up, there’s no annual fee for the first year, after which you’ll pay a $95 annual fee. It’s the same with the Business card, but whereas the Preferred Guest card offers 75,000 bonus points when you make $3,000 in purchases in the first three months, the business card requires you to make $5,000 in purchases in the first three months (although you’ll earn 100,000 bonus points).
The Luxury card also requires $5,000 in purchases in the first three months for 100,000 bonus points, but it includes an annual fee of $450. All of the cards earn six points per dollar spent at participating Marriott and SPG properties, and two points for all other eligible purchases. Plus, you’ll get one free night per year awarded after your card account anniversary. With the preferred card, the redemption value is 35,000 points – the luxury card is up to 50,000 points. APR is 17.74% - 26.74% variable.
Hilton Honors American Express Card.
This is a great card for loyal customers of Hilton properties. Again, there are many Hilton cards, and this one doesn’t come with the highest level of perks, but it is one of the few cards that offers no annual fee.
You’ll enjoy 7x Hilton Honors bonus points for every dollar of eligible purchases with Hilton Honors brands, as well as 5x bonus points at eligible restaurants, gas stations, and supermarkets, and 3x points on all other eligible purchases. When you make $1,000 in purchases in the first three months, you’ll get 75,000 bonus points. APR is 17.74% - 26.74% variable.
IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.
Although this card features an annual fee of $89, you will receive mad bonus points for spending at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) properties, with 10 points per dollar spent. Unfortunately, you’ll only get two points for purchases at eligible restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores, and just one point for all other eligible purchases.
When you spend $2,000 in the first three months, you’ll be awarded 80,000 bonus points. You’ll also get one free night stay after each account anniversary, eligible for redemption at IHG properties worldwide. Plus, when you redeem points for a stay of four or more nights, you’ll get a free reward night. APR is 17.74% - 24.74% variable.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
If you travel frequently, you know it’s not always possible to stay at your hotel of choice. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you won’t be beholden to a single hotel brand to earn and use points. Named the “Best Travel Credit Card” by Money Magazine for 2016-17, this card has no fee for the first year, after which the annual fee is $95.
You’ll only earn 2x points for eligible travel and dining purchases, and 1x points for all other eligible purchases, but you will gain the flexibility to shop for the best deals on airfare and hotel rooms across multiple brands. Earn 50,000 bonus points (redeemable for up to $625 in travel) when you spend $4,000 in the first three months. APR is 17.74% - 24.74% variable.
Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card.
Ok, the annual fee on this card is high at $450, but the APR is fixed at 15.99%, which is lower than the other rewards cards on this list. Plus, you’ll get a $300 credit annually to be used toward travel purchases (including hotel stays), as well as a $100 hotel credit for stays of two or more nights, so you can easily recoup the annual fee and then some if you travel more than once a year. You’ll earn 5x points on eligible Ritz-Carlton purchases, plus 2x points on eligible airline, car rental, and restaurant purchases.