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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available.
Here are our top 3 picks for hotel co-branded credit cards.
We’ve narrowed down a handful of our favorite hotel rewards credit cards that offer some of the best rewards, free lodging and extra perks for loyal cardholders. Hotel-branded cards can offer you great benefits, one being free nights from the start as long as you meet the necessary spend in the first few months. Frequent loyal guests will discover benefits that both lower your rates and add another dimension of luxury to the hotel experience. As you read through our list, please keep in mind these credit cards make more sense if you are already a part of a hotel’s loyalty program or have an upcoming trip with the family for a big holiday that is going to be at least a week. Once you are extra loyal to a hotel brand and carry their credit card you can make sure you are booking your overnight stays as well to build up your point balance.
Please note: In November, it was announced that Marriott will merge with Starwood – a deal that should close in 2016. Starwood loyalists are no doubt curious as to how the merger will impact their SPG points and status. The following is Starwood’s statement to SPG members:
“We will work to bring you the very best of SPG and Marriott Rewards®, two of the most rewarding loyalty programs in our industry. Our members are at the core of everything we do, and that will not change.
This is the beginning of a long journey as we combine our two companies. For now, we remain separate, and there is no change to your SPG program status, your Starpoints® or your existing reservations.
You will continue to earn Starpoints and elite stay/night credit for your stays, as well as bonus Starpoints for any promotions in which you are participating. There is no change to how you manage your SPG account or book reservations.”
#1 Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express – 35,000 Bonus Starpoints until March 30th
The Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express has the highest rewards rate of any hotel credit card, with its Starpoints being the most valuable point or mile there is (at a value of about 2.3 cents per point). Plus, Starwood’s partnership through their Crossover Rewards Program lets you earn both Starpoints and Delta Skymiles when you fly Delta or stay at a Starwood property.
- Our highest Starpoints® offer ever. Get 35,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Offer ends 3/30/2016.
- Terms and limitations apply.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases.
- Receive free in-room, premium internet access. Booking requirements apply.
- Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
- Get free nights at over 1,200 hotels and resorts in nearly 100 countries with no blackout dates. Some hotels may have mandatory service and resort charges.
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
- Visit our credit card partner’s site in order to learn more and securely apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Why we like this card
We love the flexibility of Starpoints. In addition to redeeming them for hotel stays, they are quite valuable when you transfer them to airline loyalty programs.
But in terms of hotel stays, here’s why we like Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express:
- Award nights start at just 3,000 points per night for a Category 1 property. The low threshold to redeem for free nights can’t be beat. For hotels in Categories 2-4 you need 4,000 to 10,000 points per night. That’s a small amount of points for staying in some pretty nice hotels.
- When you redeem Starpoints for four consecutive nights, you get the fifth night free.
- If you’re short on Starpoints, you can still save money on your stay using Cash & Points. You can stay for as little as $30 and 1,500 Starpoints. For example, if you want to stay at a Category 3 hotel for one night but you don’t have the 7,000 points required, you can redeem 3,500 Starpoints and pay just $55 for the room.
- You can transfer your Starpoints to a large selection of frequent-flier programs. The card has more than 30 airline partners, so no matter where you’re going, chances are you can get there using your Starpoints.
- Each calendar year your account is open, you receive from Starwood a credit for 2 stays and 5 nights towards your Starwood Preferred Guest elite status.
#2 Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card – Limited Time 80,000 Bonus Points
The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers solid benefits for travelers who frequent Marriott properties. It comes with an impressive signup bonus and high rewards on all Marriott spending. Plus, its chip technology and no foreign transactions fees make the card a smart option for overseas travelers.
- Earn 80,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
- Plus, earn 7,500 bonus points when you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening.
- Enjoy 1 Free Night Stay at a Category 1-5 location every year after your account anniversary date!
- Earn unlimited Marriott Rewards points and get free stays faster
- Earn 5 points for every $1 spent at 4,000 Marriott locations, 2 points for every $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airlines, at car rental agencies & restaurants and 1 point everywhere else
- The fastest way to earn Marriott Rewards points towards free nights
- The fastest way to earn Marriott Rewards Elite Status. Receive 15 Elite Credits guaranteeing Silver Elite Status or better. Plus, Earn 1 Elite Credit for every $3,000 spent on purchases
- All for an $85 Annual Fee
Why we like this card
We love the range of Marriott properties available to use your points – from the smaller-scale Courtyard by Marriott to the high-end Ritz-Carlton brand. And Marriott gives cardmembers various ways to earn free nights and move up to Elite status:
- You get 15 credits toward Elite status every year after account anniversary
- For every $3,000 spent on purchases, you earn 1 Elite credit
- Cardmembers receive 1 free night stay every year after account anniversary (Category 1-5 hotels).
- The current offer of 50,000 bonus sign-up points is hard to beat!
#3 Wyndham Rewards® Visa Signature Card (no-fee version)
Wyndham loyalists would be wise to check out the Wyndham Rewards® Visa Signature Card. Although the signup bonus is a modest 15,000 points right now, occasionally Barclaycard will offer much larger bonuses and, if you frequent Wyndham properties, your points add up pretty fast toward free nights at everything from the modest Super 8 brand to the higher-end Wyndham Grand chain of hotels.
- 15,000 bonus points after your first purchase
- 3 points per $1 for using your card to pay for stays at Wyndham Rewards hotels
- 2 points per $1 on purchases everywhere else
- There’s no limit to the total points you can earn
- Redeem points for nights at participating hotel brands, gift cards, merchandise and more
- No annual fee
Why we like this card
The 15,000 bonus points you earn in the first few months of using your card is enough for one free night right from the start. We love that it doesn’t take long to start reaping the rewards of this card. And you can use your free night at ANY of Wyndham’s 7,500 hotel locations – there are no restrictions.
Other standouts about this card and Wyndham Rewards, in general:
- There’s a fee version and a no-fee version of the card. Almost all hotel co-branded cards come with an annual fee. We like that the Wyndham Rewards® Visa Signature Card gives you the choice of two cards, with the fee-version offering more bonus points, more points per $1, plus bonus points every year on your account anniversary – all for a $69 annual fee. That’s still less than competing cards like Marriott and SPG.
- You can redeem 3,000 points and just add a little cash to pay for a stay if you don’t have quite enough points. Much like Starwood’s Cash & Points option, this is Wyndham’s “Go Fast” Award Program, and it makes it easier to get discounted rates when you can’t book a stay on points alone.
Frequent travelers would be wise to consider carrying a hotel credit card. It’s an easy way to pay yourself back for your loyalty to your favorite hotel brand. And it could give you added perks with your visit to make your stay more enjoyable. But remember, most of these cards come with APRs that can be less than desirable if you’re one to carry a balance from month to month. So try to pay your balance in full whenever possible to avoid turning a rewards card into an interest-fee nightmare.