Earn Free Flights, Free Hotels with Travel Credit Cards
Hotel rewards credit cards are a great way for any traveler to make his or her travel dollar go further. With broader earning options, more generous introductory bonuses, and lower minimums for redemption, hotel credit cards will likely prove more useful to the casual traveler than airline credit cards.
Anyone wanting to compare travel rewards credit cards must foremost consider one’s own hotel preferences. Hilton-branded cards can be used at over 3,600 hotels in the Hilton Worldwide portfolio; The Marriott Rewards Visa from Chase can be used at over 3,300 Marriott locations; The Priority Club Select Visa from Chase can be used at over 4,300 hotels in the IHG portfolio (including Intercontinental, Holiday Inn, and Crowne Plaza hotels); and, The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card can be used at over 1,000 hotels in the Starwood portfolio (including St. Regis, W Hotels, Westin, and Sheraton hotels). If the specific hotel is unimportant, one can also compare the Marriott Rewards Visa to the Hilton and others on the bases of annual fees, signup bonuses, and methods of points accumulation, conversion, and disbursement.
Travelers seeking a card without an annual fee can consider the Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card from Citi or the Hilton HHonors American Express card. Those willing to pay an annual fee can also consider: the Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express, which carries a $65 annual fee; the Priority Club Select Visa from Chase, which carries a $49 fee; or, the Marriott Rewards Visa from Chase, which carries a $30 fee. It’s worth considering that these fees are waived for the first year in every case.
Every travel rewards card offers bonuses to newcomers. The Marriott Rewards Visa from Chase credits new users with 30,000 bonus points after the first purchase with the card, as well as a free night’s stay at any category 4 or less Marriott hotel. The Hilton HHonors American Express card offers 2,500 bonus points per Hilton stay made within the first 18 months, up to a maximum of 10,000 points; the HHonors Visa from Citi is more generous, offering 30,000 points after the first $600 of purchases made within the first 4 months. Chase’s Priority Club Select Visa and the Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express both give bonus points after any initial purchase – 30,000 and 10,000, respectively.
Points can also be accumulated through everyday spending. American Express’ Starwood Preferred Guest card gives 2 points for every dollar spent, with a 2-3 point bonus for every dollar spent at hotels and resorts in the program; its HHonors card gives 6 points for every dollar spent on Hilton bookings, groceries and gas, and 3 points are awarded for every dollar spent elsewhere. Chase gives 3 points for every dollar spent at a Marriott hotel with its Marriott Rewards Visa, and 1 point for every other dollar charged to the card; its Priority Club Select Visa gives 5 points per dollar spent at any IHG hotel, 2 for every dollar spent on gas, groceries, or dining, and 1 point per dollar for all other purchases. The HHonors Visa Signature card from Citi gives 6 points per dollar spent on Hilton bookings, 3 points per dollar for groceries and gas, and 2 points per dollar for everything else.
Regardless of which card you choose, the key to maximizing rewards is using the card as often as possible. Make use of your travel rewards card at every opportunity, and you’ll earn a free night’s stay in no time at all.