When it comes to hotel stays, deciding which credit card to pay with can be a complex decision. It isn’t always clear which card may offer the best rewards or value for your stay. Should you pay with a travel credit card that earns points on all hotel spending? Are you going to get more value from a credit card with lower earnings on travel but has a promotion that gives you a discount on your stay? Is the best option to pay with your hotel’s cobranded credit card?
Add the perks that some hotel credit cards offer, such as additional progress toward elite status or free night certificates after spending a given amount within a year, and rewards maximizers would understandably be wondering about the best way to get the most value out of a hotel stay.
Let’s break down your options.
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As a general rule, your cobranded hotel card is best
If you frequently stay at the same hotel chain, you will find its cobranded credit card usually offers the best rewards for your stays. These cobranded credit cards are offered by hotel chains in partnership with major banks and are meant to incentivize and drive your loyalty to a brand. The cards earn points in their associated brand’s loyalty program and offer generous rewards for staying loyal to a hotel chain.
Using a cobranded card will give you additional points per dollar spent on top of the base points you would earn as a loyalty member. There are a variety of cobranded hotel cards — here are a few examples:
The information for the Hilton Aspire and Wyndham Earner Plus cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
In addition to earning a generous number of points, many cardholders appreciate some of the additional perks.
Elite status credits: If you are attempting to earn hotel elite status, spending on some cobranded credit cards can help you along your journey. For example, for every $5,000 you spend on your World of Hyatt Credit Card, you earn 2 additional qualifying nights toward elite status. Likewise, for every $5,000 you spend on a Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, you will earn 1 elite night credit.
Free night certificates: Some cards award free night certificates, either just for having the card or for reaching specific spending thresholds. The Hilton Surpass card offers a free weekend night reward when you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year, and the Hilton Aspire card offers both an annual free weekend night every year after renewal just for having the card and a second free weekend night when you spend $60,000 on purchases in a calendar year.
Related: My top 3 picks for the best cobranded hotel credit card
No-annual-fee cards can also have good earnings
While you will typically earn more rewards from premium or mid-tier cobranded hotel credit cards with annual fees, some hotel brands offer no-annual-fee cards. These cards typically earn fewer points per dollar, but for stays within a hotel chain’s family of brands, they offer a better return than a 2% card. Here are some examples of what you can earn on some no-annual-fee hotel credit cards:
The information for the Wyndham Earner and Choice Privileges cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
When you shouldn’t use your cobranded credit card
Merchant offers from banks
Chase, Bank of America, Capital One and American Express feature the ability to add targeted spending offers to some of their card accounts. These offers include either additional points or a discount for spending at a participating merchant. Many of the major hotel brands are frequently included as participating merchants for these offers. Enrollment is required, and eligible cardholders can add offers to their cards online. If targeted, it can be worth forgoing the rewards you might earn by using your hotel’s cobranded credit card.
For example, a recent Amex Offer was to spend $300 or more at Hyatt Regency, and get $60 back, which is essentially 20% off your stay. Let’s say that you have an upcoming stay at a Hyatt Regency and that stay will cost a little more than $300. This stay would be a great use of a targeted Amex Offer awarding $60 back on $300 or more spent on stays at Hyatt Regency hotels. Let’s use a two-night stay at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare Chicago for $314 as an example.
If you use The Platinum Card® from American Express because it was targeted with the offer, you will earn 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar for the hotel charge, or 314 Membership Rewards points (about $6.28 in value). You would also receive a $60 statement credit from the Amex Offer for spending $300 or more on stays at a Hyatt Regency hotel. If you had the World of Hyatt card, you would give up 1,256 World of Hyatt points (about $21.35 in value). Clearly, in this case, it is better to use the card targeted with an Amex Offer.
Recommendation: If you are targeted for an offer through your bank or credit card issuer, consider using your targeted card instead of a cobranded hotel credit card.
Related: These Amex Offers will save you money and make life easier right now
Occasional stays and general travel cards
If you only occasionally stay at hotels or are not loyal to a particular brand, it might not make sense to have a cobranded credit card. In this case, you might find that paying for your stays with a credit card that awards bonus points for hotels or travel purchases, including hotels, is a better fit. Fortunately, many credit cards will give you bonus points for your occasional hotel spending, including:
Recommendation: If you don’t frequently stay at hotels, or if you switch between hotel chains, consider using a card that offers elevated rewards for staying at any hotel.
Spending for a welcome bonus
Finally, if you are working toward meeting a spending threshold to earn a welcome bonus or are considering going after one of the many lucrative welcome bonuses that are available, you will almost certainly find that putting your hotel spending toward that goal is more rewarding than using a cobranded hotel card.
For example, let’s look at the welcome bonus offered on the U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card. The card currently offers a $200 bonus after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening. This welcome bonus is certainly not among the most generous, but spending toward even a mediocre welcome bonus might earn you something like an effective 20% in rewards.
None of the currently available cobranded hotel credit cards offer a 20% return on spending, so if you’re choosing between a cobranded card or a new credit card to meet a minimum spending threshold for a welcome bonus, go for the welcome bonus.
Recommendation: Spending toward a welcome bonus is typically more rewarding than using a hotel’s cobranded credit card.
The information for the U.S. Bank Cash+ card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
If you are loyal to a hotel brand, having a cobranded credit card is a great first step toward increasing the points earned from your stays. However, plenty of opportunities exist to earn elevated rewards. Look for targeted offers that you can add to your credit card or for attractive welcome bonuses to increase your earnings from your hotel stays.
If you only infrequently stay at hotels or are not loyal to a particular hotel brand, consider a credit card that earns elevated rewards on travel and hotel spending.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, click here.