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Hotel rewards cards are the most cost-effective way of scoring free stays and elite status benefits at major hotel chains. Holding the right hotel cards can save you money on your hotel stays and provide perks and benefits equivalent to those received by brand loyalists who stay 20, 30, or even 50 nights per year with a hotel chain.
The best co-brand hotel cards provide a high-value welcome offer, the chance to earn plenty of points via bonus spending categories, free night certificates on your account anniversary (or when you hit a spending threshold), and elite status benefits such as room upgrades and free meals.
- The Best Co-Brand Credit Card for Each Hotel Loyalty Program
- Hotel Rewards Card Details and Benefits
- Alternatives to Hotel Co-Brand Rewards Cards
- Final Thoughts
In this post, we take an in-depth look at some of the best co-brand hotel cards from a variety of loyalty programs and card issuers, benchmarking them according to the perks they provide and the points earning potential. Here are the ranking criteria we’ve used to determine each card’s value, including the weight given to each item:
- Welcome offer or signup bonus – 20%
- Bonus categories and earning potential – 10%
- Travel, airline, or hotel credit – 15%
- Elite status perks and benefits – 15%
- Anniversary free night certificate – 15%
- Spending threshold bonus – 5%
- Ancillary and insurance benefits – 5%
- Annual fee – 15%
The Best Co-Brand Credit Card for Each Hotel Loyalty Program
If you only stay with one or two hotel chains, then brand loyalty will be the key factor in your rewards card choice. However, if you are a free agent, card benefits and earning potential will have a more substantial impact on the brands you stay with, the number of points you receive, and how you are treated during your stay.
Here are the cards that made our list:
- Best card for Hyatt: The World Of Hyatt Credit Card
- Best card for Hilton: Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card
- Best card for IHG: IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
- Best card for Marriott: Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
- Best card for Radisson: Radisson Rewards™ Business Visa® Card
- Best card for Choice: Choice Privileges® Visa Signature® Card
- Best card for Hotels.com: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Hotel Rewards Card Details and Benefits
Annual fee: $95
Welcome offer: Earn up to 50,000 Bonus Points - 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus an additional 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend a total of $6,000 on purchases within the first 6 months of account opening.
Bonus categories: Cardmembers earn 4x points at Hyatt properties and 2x points at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airlines, on local transit and commuting, and on fitness club and gym memberships.
Elite status benefits: Receive Discoverist status and 5x elite night credits towards the next elite tier each year you hold the card, plus you’ll get 2x additional elite night credits for every $5,000 spent on the card.
Additional benefits: One free night at any Category 1–4 Hyatt property on account anniversary each year, plus an extra free night when you spend $15,000 in a cardmember year. Unlike other benefits that are based on the calendar year from January 1st to December 31st, this benefit is based on cardmember year which begins on the date you opened your account.
Our take: We rank the World of Hyatt Card the highest-value hotel rewards card available to points and miles fans today. The ability to earn elite night credits via spending that can take you all the way to Globalist is a fantastic benefit and can help you reach top-tier status when you are short on elite night credits for the year. Most cardholders will have no problem recouping the $95 annual fee via the free night certificate, and an additional free night after $15K spend is an added bonus.
Although we’re not fans of the tiered signup bonus, 50,000 Hyatt points can provide a ton of value when you consider top-tier Hyatt properties go for 30-40K points per night. Other hotel programs charge 70,000 points or more for top-tier properties, so it’s important to consider the price of a free night before making a head-to-head comparison between hotel cards.
World of Hyatt points are even more valuable for folks that hold Ultimate Rewards earning cards. If you need additional Hyatt points for a redemption, you can transfer from Chase, and the points will post to your Hyatt account instantly.
Keep in mind that Ultimate Rewards cards may be a better tool for earning Hyatt points than the World of Hyatt Card itself for certain categories of spending. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® earns 3X points on travel and dining, so you’d want to use that card for dining and non-Hyatt travel expenses. The Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card card earns 5X points at office supply stores, so you’d be better off earning five Ultimate Rewards than one Hyatt point.
Remember, you can transfer points earned from the Ink Cash to Hyatt or other partner programs if you also hold the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Sapphire Reserve, or the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card.
Annual fee: $95 – Rates & Fees
Welcome offer: Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
Bonus categories: Earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio. Earn 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations. Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
Elite status benefits: Complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status, plus, earn Diamond status when you spend $40,000 in a calendar year.
Additional benefits: A weekend free night certificate from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 in a calendar year. The certificate is valid at any Hilton property except those in this (reasonably short) list of exclusions. The card also comes with ten complimentary Priority Pass lounge passes each year you hold the card.
Our take: The Hilton Ascend features a stellar welcome offer, fantastic bonus categories for a co-brand card, and an elite status level that will earn you free breakfast and potential room upgrades. Depending on your stay patterns, this card could comfortably be interchanged with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. The main caveat is that you need to extract enough value from the Hilton Aspire's complementary Diamond Elite status and additional perks like the Hilton fee and airline incidentals credits to cover the much higher $450 annual fee. If you only stay with Hilton a few times per year, the Hilton Ascend will likely provide a higher return than its premium counterpart due to the lower out-of-pocket expense.
Hilton Honors is a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, but the high cost of free nights with Hilton means that transfers from Amex are rarely a good deal. Amex points are simply too valuable to transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Hilton.
Annual fee: $89
Welcome offer: Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
Bonus categories: Earn 25 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel. Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Elite status benefits: Receive IHG Rewards Platinum Elite status
Additional benefits: Anniversary free-night certificate valid at IHG properties costing up to 40,000 points per night; 4th night free when you redeem points for 4 or more consecutive nights; 10,000 bonus points when you spend $20K on purchases and make one additional purchase; Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® fee credit every four years worth up to $100; plus you’ll save 20% on points purchases (an overlooked benefit when combined with regular sales and bonuses on points purchases). The IHG Rewards Premier Card is now subject to Chase’s 5/24 policy, which needs to be factored into your application strategy.
Our take: While the anniversary free night is now restricted to properties going for 40K and under, we still rank it one of the best free-night certificates available due to IHG’s massive global footprint and abundance of mid-tier hotels. The card provides a balanced array of perks for the $89 annual fee. The biggest drawback is that IHG's Platinum Elite status doesn’t quite measure up to mid-tier status with other hotel brands. Still, late checkout, 50% more points earned on paid stays, and occasional room upgrades are certainly better than nothing. IHG also offers a no-annual-fee card (which is currently only available when you change from another product) for folks that don’t want to pay the year-on-year fees of the IHG Rewards Premier Card.
Annual fee: $125 – Rates & Fees
Welcome offer: Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.
Bonus categories: Earn 6x points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 4x points at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping, and 2x points on all other purchases.
Elite status benefits: Complimentary Silver Elite status, plus earn Gold Elite status after spending $35,000+ in a calendar year. You’ll also receive 15 elite night credits towards the next elite status tier each year (limit of one 15-night elite credit per Marriott Bonvoy account, per year).
Additional benefits: Anniversary free-night award valid at any Marriott Bonvoy property up to the value of 35,000 points.
Our take: While most folks point to the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card as the sweet spot for Marriott co-brand cards, we would argue that when you take application strategy into account, the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card is a better card to target.
Because this is a business card, it won’t count towards your 5/24 status with Chase. In other words, opening this card won’t make it harder to get Chase cards for the subsequent two years. If you don’t have the full lineup of Chase cards you want, this card is a great option because you can fill your 5/24 slots with Ultimate Rewards earning cards which we consider much more valuable in the long run.
If you are already over 5/24, (you’re not eligible for Chase cards), you can still get this card since it’s issued by Amex.
Annual fee: $60
Welcome offer: Up to 85,000 bonus points – receive 50,000 points after your first purchase plus 35,000 points once you spend $2,500 on your card within the first 90 days.
Bonus categories: Earn 10x points per $1 at participating Radisson properties, plus 5x points per $1 everywhere else.
Elite status benefits: Complimentary Gold status after you activate and use your card. If you’ve already reached Gold or Platinum status, you will receive 15 qualifying nights toward obtaining or maintaining Platinum status after you activate and use your card instead.
Additional benefits: A Free Night E-Cert (valid for US properties only, see terms) for every $10K spent on the card, up to 3x free E-Cert’s per 12 month statement cycle; 40,000 point annual card renewal bonus when you renew your account (making at least the minimum payment by the due date printed on the account statement on which your annual fee is billed).
Our take: Again, another business card that neither counts towards 5/24, nor is it subject to 5/24. Radisson is an often overlooked rewards program in the US, as it doesn’t have the same footprint as its domestic counterparts. However, when traveling abroad, Radisson Rewards can provide a ton of value with hotels located in many popular destinations. The Radisson Rewards Business Visa features a low annual fee which is more than accounted for by the 40K annual renewal bonus.
Annual fee: $0
Welcome offer: Earn 32,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
Bonus categories: Earn 15x points at Choice Privileges properties and 2x points on all other purchases
Elite status benefits: Complimentary Elite Gold Status
Additional benefits: Earn 8,000 anniversary bonus points every year you spend $10,000 or more on purchases with your card by your account anniversary date.
Our take: We’re going out on a limb here and assuming the majority of U.S.-based points and miles fans don’t have this card foremost in their minds; however, if you look at the numbers, this card stacks up pretty well. With no annual fee, you get complimentary Gold status, and a small minimum spend to earn the welcome bonus.
Although 32,000 points may not appear to be in the same league as welcome offers from Hilton or Marriott, it’s enough points to land you four free nights at over 1,000 Choice hotels priced at 8,000 points per night or less.
Choice Privileges hotels are plentiful in some regions with limited options from the big hotel brands. For example, in New Zealand, Choice has properties in 17 towns and cities compared with only 3 for Hilton and just 1 for Marriott.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
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Annual fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Welcome offer: 50,000 Miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Bonus categories: Earn 10x Venture Miles at Hotels.com/Venture and 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day.
Note: We have recently learned that the 10x Venture Miles at Hotels.com will be discontinued in January 2020.
Elite status benefits: N/A
Additional benefits: Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® fee credit
Our take: While not a traditional hotel rewards card, the Capital One Venture straddles the three main sectors of the points and miles scene: The card earns 10x Venture Miles at hotels.com, you can transfer Venture Miles to 14 airline transfer partners via Capital One’s new flexible rewards program, and cardholders retain the ability to redeem at a fixed-value of one cent per point towards any travel expense.
When you combine the 10x miles earned at Hotels.com/Venture with the free night earned after every ten nights booked via Hotels.com, you can achieve a 20% return on your hotel spend! For those that favor premium-cabin airfare, you can achieve great returns by transferring Venture Miles to airline partners.
Alternatives to Hotel Co-Brand Rewards Cards
While points and miles fans can extract a ton of value from co-brand hotel cards, they are not the only way to get free nights in hotels.
- Fixed-value rewards: Fixed-value points are a great way of wiping out the cost of accommodation, including hotels that don’t participate in major loyalty programs, and vacation rentals like Airbnb. You can earn fixed-value points with cards like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® (See Terms) or the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card.
- Flexible rewards: A handful of flexible rewards programs offer high-value transfers to hotel loyalty programs. For instance, Ultimate Rewards points earned with your Chase Sapphire Reserve® transfer to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio.
Hotel rewards cards can be a key part of your points and miles strategy. In most cases, free-night certificates, annual-points bonuses, and elite status easily cover the annual fees, making these cards easy to keep for the long term.
Determining which hotel cards provide the most value can be tricky, so we recommend working backward from your travel goals and let the destination dictate the hotel chains available to you before you decide on an application strategy. And don’t overlook the benefits of utilizing online travel agencies such as Hotels.com, which can potentially provide better returns than traditional hotel loyalty programs when you swipe the right credit card at checkout.
Got a favorite hotel card we didn't cover? We would love to hear from you in the comments.
For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card (Rates & Fees), Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (Rates & Fees), and Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® (See Terms)
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