Which credit card should you use in hotels?

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Readers often ask me which credit card they should use to maximize points for a given hotel stay, or if there is a better hotel credit card.

It’s usually easy to recommend which credit card is best for a particular bonus category (like restaurants, groceries, gas stations, daily expenses, etc.). That’s not really the case when it comes to recommending which credit card to use in hotels.

The added downside to making this recommendation for hotel chain stays is that you not only have to determine which credit cards typically offer the best travel bonus categories, but you also have to determine whether the brand hotel you are staying in has a co-branded credit card that offers bonus points for stays in that specific Mark.

In this article, I wanted to look at the highest paying credit cards for hotel spending in general (regardless of which brand you’re staying at) and then compare that to the bonuses offered by specific co-branded hotel credit cards. .

The highest paying credit cards for hotel expenses

For this section, I exclude co-branded hotel credit cards. This is because I look at the cards that offer the best bonuses on hotel spend in general, rather than the best bonuses for a particular hotel brand.

So which major credit cards offer bonuses for hotel spending?

1. Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Reward for hotel expenses: 5.1% (3x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Annual card fee: $550

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire reserve, apply for the Chase Sapphire reserve.

2. Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Reward for hotel expenses: 5.1% (3x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Annual card fee: $95
Things to know: This is a business card, and 3x points are limited to the first $150,000 in combined purchases in bonus categories each account anniversary year

Learn more about Ink Business Preferred, apply for Ink Business Preferred.

3. American Express® Green Card

Reward for hotel expenses: 5.1% (3x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Annual card fee: $150 (Rates and Fees)

Learn more about Amex Green, apply for Amex Green.

4. Citi Premier® Map

Reward for hotel expenses: 5.1% (3x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Annual card fee: $95

Learn more about Citi Premier, apply for Citi Premier.

5. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Reward for hotel expenses: 3.4% (2x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Annual card fee: $95

Learn more about Sapphire Preferred, apply for Sapphire Preferred.

6. Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Reward for hotel expenses: 3.4% (2x miles, which I estimate at 1.7 cents each)
Annual card fee: $395

Learn more about Venture X, apply for Venture X.

7. Capital One Spark Miles for Business

Reward for hotel expenses: 3.4% (2x miles, which I estimate at 1.7 cents each)
Annual card fee: $395

Learn more about Spark Miles, request Spark Miles.

Several credit cards offer 3x points on hotel spend

The highest paying co-branded hotel credit cards

As you can see above, there are four cards with the same yield (by my rating). All offer 3x transferable points, and all are points which I value at 1.7 cents each.

That means you’re looking at a return of around 5.1% no matter what card you’re using. Do you get better or worse performance when using a co-branded hotel credit card?

For completeness, let’s look at co-branded credit cards issued by Choice Privileges, Hilton Honors, IHG One Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt, and Wyndham Rewards. Let me first share how much I appreciate a point in each of these currencies:

  • Privileges of choice — 0.6 cents each
  • Hilton Honors — 0.5 cents each
  • IHG One Awards — 0.5 cents each
  • Marriott Bonvoy — 0.7 cents each
  • The world of Hyatt — 1.5 cents each
  • Wyndham Rewards — 0.7 cents each

To keep things pretty simple, let’s take a look at the co-branded credit card(s) from each of the hotel groups that offer the best return on hotel spend (keep in mind that the number one reason for getting hotel credit cards might be the elite status and free night certificates they offer).

Privileges of choice

The Choice Privileges credit card offers 5x points on Choice spend, which I value at a 3% return. It’s not as good as the return on spend offered by some transferable point cards.

I would not use Choice’s credit card for hotel expenses

Hilton Honors

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (review) offers 14x points on Hilton spend, which I estimate at a 7% return. It’s great and beats the return on spend offered by all transferable point cards.

I use the Hilton Aspire card for my expenses at the Hilton hotel

IHG One Awards

The IHG® The Rewards Premier Credit Card (review) and the IHG® Rewards Premier Business Credit Card (review) offer 10x points on IHG hotel spend, which I estimate a 5% return. It’s not as good as the return on spend offered by some transferable points cards, although others may feel differently based on their points rating.

Earn Bonus Points For Hotel Spending With IHG Credit Cards

Marriott Bonvoy

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® credit card (test), Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® The Marriott Bonvoy Business® Card (review) and American Express® Card (review) offer 6x points on Marriott hotel spend, which I estimate a 4.2% return. It’s not as good as the return on spend offered by some transferable point cards. That being said, some may want to continue using a Marriott co-branded credit card, as there aren’t many other ways to earn Bonvoy points effectively.

Earn bonus points by spending with Marriott credit cards

The world of Hyatt

The World of Hyatt Credit Card (review) and World of Hyatt Business Credit Card (review) offer 4x points on Hyatt hotel spend, which I estimate a 6% return. It’s great and beats the return on spend offered by all transferable point cards.

I use the World of Hyatt card for my Hyatt hotel expenses

Wyndham Rewards

The Wyndham Earner business card (review) offers 8x points on spend at Wyndham hotels, which I value at a 5.6% return. That’s great and beats the return on hotel spend offered by transferable points cards.

I would not use Wyndham’s credit card for hotel expenses

crush numbers

Everyone will rate points differently, and those with different point ratings may also come to different conclusions.

Personally, I think Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, American Express® Green Card and Citi Premier® Card, offers the best overall return on hotel spend, at 5.1%.

What’s surprising is that co-branded hotel credit cards generally don’t offer a better return for stays at their “own” hotels than these cards do for travel purchases.

Based on my assessment of hotel points:

Earn 14x points on Hilton stays with the Hilton Aspire Card

Other Considerations for Hotel Spending

There are other potential considerations when deciding which hotel credit card to use:

Might be worth winning a free Hilton night

At the end of the line

In many cases, it’s actually not best to use a co-branded hotel card for your hotel expenses, as counterintuitive as that may be. Hilton and Hyatt have particularly good co-branded hotel credit cards, where it can be worth spending money on their cards at hotels.

Otherwise, it’s usually best to use a transferable points card for your hotel expenses.

What’s your favorite card for hotel spending? Do you find it more interesting to use the hotel’s co-brand card or do you use a transferable points card?

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for the American Express cards mentioned. These include: American Express® Green Card (Rates and Fees).

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