Travel rewards credit cards take many different forms. Airline rewards cards offer opportunities to fly for free or on the cheap, reducing the cost of your vacations and business trips. Dining rewards cards reduce the cost of restaurant meals, often a major expense on trips.
The list goes on. Many cash back credit cards give you a percentage back on all of your most important purchases. Gas rewards credit cards pay you to buy gasoline and make other purchases at gas stations.
If you travel frequently, one or more of these card types have a place in your wallet – and so do hotel rewards credit cards. Virtually every major hotel company or brand family has at least one rewards credit card. Some cater to individual travelers, and others are meant for business owners.
Best Hotel Credit Cards
These are the best hotel rewards credit cards on the market right now. Each does at least one thing really well, whether it’s delivering great value for folks loyal to a particular brand or providing unusually versatile rewards that don’t yoke you to a particular hotel chain.
Best Overall: IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card
The IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card has a fantastic elite status benefit, making it the best pure hotel credit card on the market right now.
As long as you remain a cardholder in good standing, you automatically qualify for Platinum Elite status. Benefits include:
- A 50% bonus on base IHG Reward point earnings on hotel stays
- Priority/flexible check-in and check-out
- 72-hour guaranteed room availability
- Complimentary room upgrades where available
The rewards program is worth noting as well:
- Earn 10 IHG Rewards points per $1 spent at Intercontinental Hotel Group hotels, including all participating Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express properties
- That’s on top of your base points earned as an IHG Rewards Club member — for a total of up to 26 points per $1 spent at IHG properties
- Earn 5 points per $1 spent on travel, gas stations, and restaurants
- Earn 3 points per $1 spent everywhere else
- Redeem for a free night with as little as 10,000 points
- Spend at least $20,000 in qualifying purchases and make one additional purchase in a calendar year to earn 10,000 bonus points
- Sign-up Bonus: Earn 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
- Key Fees: The annual fee is $99. There are no foreign transaction fees. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 5%, and cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%.
- Other Perks: Get one reward night per year at select IHG hotels for as long as your account remains in good standing. Plus, get a reward night free when you redeem points for any stay of 4 nights or longer.
Apply Now for the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card
Best for Grocery Spending: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card has been collected independently by Money Crashers.
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card is one of the best hotel credit cards for nonhotel rewards — and hands down the best for grocery store spending.
Here’s how the rewards program shakes out:
- Earn 12 points per $1 spent at select Hilton properties
- Earn 6 points per $1 spent at supermarkets, restaurants, and gas stations
- Earn 3 points per $1 spent on everything else
- Redeem your Honors points for free room nights at Hilton properties — starting at 5,000 points per night
- Welcome Offer: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points and get a free night reward after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires July 19, 2023. Terms apply.
- Preferred Customer Status (Gold Status): Get automatic Gold status, which comes with complimentary high-speed in-room Internet access, complimentary room upgrades when available, and a 25% boost to points earned on Hilton stays. Terms apply.
- Preferred Customer Status (Diamond Status): When you spend $40,000 in eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year, you ascend to Diamond status. Terms apply.
- Key Fees: This card has a $95 annual fee. Cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 3%. Late and returned payments cost $37 each. See rates and fees page.
- Other Perks: You get a free weekend night every year your card spending totals more than $15,000 in eligible purchases. Plus, get a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership that’s good for up to 10 complimentary airport lounge visits each year after you enroll.
Best for General Travel Benefits: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card has the best overall lineup of travel benefits of any co-branded hotel credit card on this list. In no particular order, they include:
- A $300 annual statement credit against qualifying purchases at restaurants worldwide (up to $25 per month)
- Complimentary access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide through Priority Pass Select (enrollment is required)
- Enjoy automatic Gold Elite Status in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program — benefits include 25% faster base Bonvoy point earnings, complimentary room upgrades where available, guaranteed reservations, flexible check-out times, and complimentary in-room Internet access
- Each calendar year after spending $60,000 on eligible purchases, you may be eligible to select an Earned Choice Award benefit that includes Five (5) Suite Night Awards, 85,000 Free Night Award, or mattress and box spring $1,000 discount from Marriott Bonvoy Boutiques. Certain hotels have resort fees.
- Earn 6 Bonvoy points per $1 spent on eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties with no spending limits or restrictions
- Earn 3 points per $1 spent on eligible U.S. restaurant purchases and purchases made directly with airlines
- All other purchases earn 2 points per $1 spent
- Redeem for free nights and room upgrades at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels with no blackout dates
- Or redeem for airfare and car rental redemptions with participating partners
- Welcome Offer: Earn 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 3 months. Terms apply.
- Key Fees: The card has a $650 annual fee. There are no foreign transaction fees. Cash advances cost the greater of $5 or 3%. See rates and fees page.
- Other Perks: Get up to $100 in statement credits against Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees, plus free access to thousands of Boingo WiFi hotspots worldwide.
Best for General Travel Rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card is an exclusive travel rewards card that’s ideal for folks who spend heavily at hotels. And unlike most of the cards on this list, it’s not tied to a particular hotel brand — meaning you’re free to use it wherever and whenever you choose without missing out on hotel rewards and perks.
Sapphire Reserve’s highlights include:
- A $300 annual travel credit against virtually all eligible travel purchases.
- 3 Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on most eligible travel purchases (after the annual travel credit is exhausted) and all eligible dining purchases
- 5 total points per $1 spent on air travel purchases made through Chase Travel
- 10 total points per $1 spent on hotel and car rental purchases made through Chase Travel
- Redeem points for travel purchases (including hotels) at the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal — get a 50% premium to the standard cash redemption value
- 1-to-1 point transfer to top travel brands like Southwest Airlines and the Intercontinental Hotel Group
- Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership — free access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide for the cardholder
- Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credits every 4 years — up to $100 value
- Complimentary Lyft Pink membership for one year — $199 minimum value
- Sign-up Bonus. Spend at least $4,000 in qualifying purchases within 3 months to earn 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points. That’s worth up to $900 when redeemed for airfare, hotels, and other travel purchases through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
- Key Fees. The annual fee is $550. Additional cards for authorized users cost $75 per card, per year. There’s no foreign transaction fee.
Best General Hotel Credit: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the few general travel rewards credit cards with a dedicated hotel credit: $50 per year against eligible hotel purchases made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. That’s $50 off your travel budget each year, assuming you find the opportunity to stay in a hotel at some point.
Sapphire Preferred has more going for it too:
- Earn 5 total points per $1 spent on eligible travel purchases (including hotels) made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
- Earn 3 points per $1 spent on eligible restaurant purchases, select streaming purchases, and online grocery purchases
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on other eligible travel purchases after the $50 annual Ultimate Rewards hotel credit
- Earn 1 base point per $1 spent on all other purchases
- Get a 10% bonus points boost to base point earnings after your account anniversary
- Redemptions worth 25% more when you redeem for travel in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
- 1-to-1 points transfer to about a dozen major travel loyalty programs
- Sign-up Bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points, worth up to $750 on travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards, when you spend at least $4,000 within 3 months.
- Key Fees: The card’s annual fee is $95. There are no foreign transaction fees. Late and returned payments cost up to $38. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 5%, and cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%.
- Get VIP packages, early access, exclusive deals, and concierge treatment at entertainment and sporting events, including the PGA Championship.
- Get complimentary access to DashPass, to unlock $0 delivery fees and lower service fees on DoorDash orders for at least 1 year when you activate by Dec. 31, 2024.
Methodology: How We Select the Best Hotel Credit Cards
We use several important factors to evaluate hotel rewards cards and build our list of the very best. Each of these factors relates in some way to these cards’ cost-benefit proposition — how much they cost to carry against the value they offer their intended users.
Rewards Type and Categories
When it comes to hotel rewards earned through credit card spending, the biggest distinction concerns the rewards currency itself.
With a hotel credit card, you can either earn hotel loyalty currency or general rewards currency. Hotel loyalty rewards aren’t as flexible — the best way to redeem them is with the hotel brand, for free nights and other items of value offered by that brand. General rewards currency can be exchanged for a much wider variety of items, including travel purchases, cash back and merchandise.
Rewards categories are important too. Most hotel credit cards reserve the most generous rates of return for hotel-related purchases. Some leave it at that. But great hotel cards have broader rewards programs that offer bonus points on non-hotel spending too.
Rewards Rate and Value
These considerations are crucial as well. How fast does card spending rack up rewards, and how much are points actually worth at redemption?
The answers vary widely. They’re also related: The fastest rate of return isn’t necessarily the best value if the points aren’t worth very much. A slower-earning card that earns fewer but more valuable points could be your best bet.
Automatic Elite Status
Elite status is arguably the most valuable benefit of any hotel credit card, other than the rewards program.
Cards that offer automatic elite status, especially at higher tiers, are inherently more valuable for cardholders who travel frequently. That’s because elite status entitles you to faster base point earnings on hotel spending — points you’d earn anyway even without the credit card — and room upgrades, among other benefits.
Elite Status With Spend
Some hotel credit cards offer the opportunity to climb the elite status ranks as you spend. They may do this in addition to or instead of offering automatic elite status. But either way, this is a very valuable benefit for heavy spenders.
Other Hotel Benefits
Great hotel credit cards offer additional hotel benefits independently of elite status. These might include resort fee credits, complimentary breakfasts, complimentary room upgrades, welcome gifts, and more. These perks often apply to higher-end boutique properties in “collections” that partner with the credit card, such as Fine Hotels & Resorts.
Other Travel Benefits
The best hotel credit cards offer non-hotel benefits as well, like complimentary airport lounge access, general travel credits, and discounts with travel vendors like car rental companies. These benefits sometimes get lost in the shuffle, so pay close attention.
Credit card annual fees aren’t bad if you’re able to offset them (and then some) by earning rewards and taking advantage of card benefits. As a general rule, the less you use your credit card, the less use you have for a card that charges an annual fee.
Other Card Fees
The most important “other” fee in the hotel credit card game is the foreign transaction fee. This levy — often 2% to 3% — can reduce or even swamp the value of rewards earned on international spending. Avoid it if you can.
Hotel Credit Cards FAQs
You have questions about hotel credit cards. We have answers.
What Is a Hotel Rewards Credit Card?
Every hotel rewards card is a little different, but the basic premise is consistent. You earn points on eligible purchases that you can redeem for free or discounted nights, incidental hotel expenses (such as meals or spa treatments), and sometimes other travel expenses like airfare.
Some hotel credit cards have more expansive rewards programs. They offer merchandise, gift cards, and other valuable items that have nothing to do with hotels. Most hotel credit cards have extensive perks and benefits. And many have enticing promotions and sign-up bonuses.
Most hotel credit cards are co-branded, meaning they’re closely tied to specific hospitality companies like Marriott or InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG). Some general-spending travel cards can be considered hotel cards, though.
How Much Do Hotel Rewards Credit Cards Cost?
Hotel credit card annual fees range from nothing to more than $500, depending on the card’s benefits, rewards program, and other factors.
In general, the more generous the hotel credit card’s rewards and benefits, the higher the annual fee. While no-annual-fee hotel cards sound nice, they often have drawbacks, such as foreign transaction fees and fewer fringe benefits. But if you don’t travel often, those downsides could be worth the lower cost.
Do You Need to Join a Hotel Loyalty Program to Get a Hotel Credit Card?
If it’s a co-branded credit card, the answer is usually yes. But don’t worry. Hotel loyalty programs are almost always free to join, and you can often create your loyalty account as part of the credit card application process.
Looking ahead, your membership in the hotel loyalty program could outlive your time as a cardmember. If you decide your card isn’t worth it any longer, you can close your card account without canceling your loyalty membership.
How Many Hotel Credit Cards Should You Have?
As many as you can comfortably manage — but no more.
With so many great hotel rewards credit cards out there, it’s hard to pick a favorite. When you throw the attractive sign-up bonuses that so many cards feature into the mix, the category gets even more exciting.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to throw caution to the wind and apply for new cards as fast as your fingers can type. Opening multiple credit card accounts within short time-frames can damage your credit score, and failing to make timely payments on the cards you’ve accumulated can have even more dramatic consequences.
Indeed, if you’re not careful, you could soon find yourself applying for a secured credit card in an effort to rebuild your credit. Plus, if you’re not paying off your entire statement balance each month, the interest you end up paying will likely exceed the value of any rewards you earn.
How to Select the Best Hotel Rewards Credit Card
To find the best hotel credit card for your needs, consider:
- Loyalty vs. Flexibility. Are you super loyal to a specific hotel brand? If so, choose one of that brand’s cobranded cards, as the rewards and benefits will be better than anything you can get with a general-spending card. If you’re more focused on getting the lowest price on rooms and don’t care about chain-specific rewards or benefits, choose a general spending card instead.
- Cost to Carry. Look at the card’s fees and what they might mean for you. The annual fee is the big one here — if you don’t travel much, you’ll have trouble offsetting a hefty annual fee. And if you travel internationally, choose a card without a foreign transaction fee.
- Rewards on Non-Hotel Spending. More and more hotel credit cards earn bonus points on non-hotel purchases, such as gas, airfare, and grocery store purchases. If you want a hotel credit card that works as a general-spending card too, this is an important consideration.
- Travel Benefits. The best hotel credit cards’ travel benefits go beyond hotel perks. Whether it’s airport lounge access or complimentary rental car insurance, these value-added items can really make a difference.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express, please visit this rates and fees page.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, please visit this rates and fees page.