Posted by Ric Garrido

This post summarizes hotel loyalty credit card benefits and current enrollment bonus offers for 8 major hotel programs of Best Western Rewards, Choice Privileges, Hilton HHonors, Hyatt Gold Passport, InterContinental Hotels Group Priority Club, Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and Wyndham Reward.

Carlson Hotels goldpoints plus credit card was recently discontinued as the new Club Carlson program replaces the current goldpoints plus loyalty program at the end of March 2011 and Carlson Hotels does not currently offer a co-branded credit card. 

Hotel credit cards have two features that make them better than many other credit card choices:

  • Complimentary elite status for better hotel benefits
  • Bonus points on hotel stays

The first feature primarily benefits the infrequent guests who do not spend many nights in hotels, yet desire better hotel stays and earning loyalty points for hotel stays. There are probably better rebate cards and cash-back cards offering more overall annual savings if you do not frequent hotels more than 10 nights per year.

The second feature is a great benefit for frequent guests. Most hotel loyalty credit cards offer from 50% to 100% of the earn rate for hotel stays. A hotel loyalty credit card can make $100 in hotel stay spending the equivalent of having spent $150 to $200. A hotel credit card for a loyalty traveler can add many thousands of points to your account balance.

And high spenders can benefit from elite status upgrades with several of the hotel loyalty credit cards based on spend (Best Western Visa, HHonors AmEx Surpass, Marriott Signature Visa, and Starwood Preferred Guest AmEx), if your annual hotel stay pattern is not already at the top level of the elite chain.

Loyalty Traveler Analysis of Hotel Rewards Credit Cards

  • Best Western Rewards MasterCard (Barclays Bank)
  • Choice Privileges Visa (Barclays Bank)
  • Hilton HHonors American Express and Surpass (American Express)
  • Hilton HHonors Visa (Citibank)
  • Hyatt Gold Passport (Chase Bank)
  • InterContinental Hotels Group Priority Club (Chase Bank)
  • Marriott Rewards (Chase Bank)
  • Starwood Preferred Guest (American Express)
  • Wyndham Rewards Visa (Barclays Bank)

 

Best Western Rewards World MasterCard (Barclays Bank)

Interest 13.99% or 24.99%

Best Western Rewards MasterCard link 

Enrollment Bonus:  (This offer available on March 18, 2011)

  • 16,000 bonus points after first card use.
  • Earn 1 point per dollar for balance transfers within first 30 days after account is opened, up to maximum 5,000 points. 

Elite Status:

  • Spend more than $6,000 within a calendar year and receive one tier elite status upgrade four to six weeks after spend level reached. 

Earn Rate:

5 points per dollar for:

  •  Best Western hotel stays, (credit card earn rate = 50% Best Western Rewards base points earn rate for hotel stays (10 points/$1). 

1 point per dollar for:

  • All other purchases 

No Annual Fee = $0.

Loyalty traveler comments: There is really no compelling reason to have this card unless you frequent Best Western hotels. Loyalty Traveler likes to emphasize that Best Western has 4,000+ hotels worldwide and is larger than Hilton or Marriott in number of hotels outside the U.S. with nearly 2,000 hotels.

Best Western is second to none for its geographic coverage globally among these hotel loyalty credit card chains profiled here. This could be a good credit card if traveling extensively internationally and seeking cheaper hotels with Best Western than the major upscale chains like Marriott, Starwood and IHG.

Best Western frequently ties in a bonus points offer with hotel stay promotions paid with the Best Western MasterCard for the potential of an extra few thousand bonus points annually.

Several of the other hotel loyalty credit cards have better benefits, so I repeat that this card is really only a good choice if you frequently stay in Best Western hotels. 

  

Choice Privileges Visa Signature Card (Barclays Bank)

Interest = 13.24% or 16.24% with 0% APR for first 6 months.

Choice Privileges Visa Card link 

Enrollment Bonus:  (This offer available on March 18, 2011)

Update March 20 - See comments section for a higher enrollment bonus offer link.

  • Earn 8,000 points after first purchase or balance transfer.
  • Earn 8,000 points after first Choice hotels stay paid with Choice Privileges credit card

Elite Status: Choice Privileges Gold elite status while a cardmember (Normally requires 10 nights/year)

Benefits:

  • Gold elite  is 50-days advance booking window for U.S./Canada hotels. Choice Privileges  general members may only book reward nights at U.S./Canada hotels up to 30 days in advance of stay. 

Earn Rate:

  • 5 points per dollar on Choice Hotels stays, points purchases and Choice Hotels gift cards with Choice Privileges credit card. Credit card earn rate is 50% base points earn rate (10 points/$1) for hotel stays at most Choice brands and equal to 100% Choice Privileges base earn rate (5 points/$1) for Rodeway, EconoLodge, Suburban and Mainstay brands.
  • 2 points per dollar on all other purchases. 

No Annual Fee = $0

Loyalty Traveler comments: NerdWallet.com places good value on the Choice Privileges card with its estimate of point value at $8 per 1,000 points. What Loyalty Traveler likes about this card is the 2 points per dollar on all purchases.  5 points per dollar for Choice Hotels stays matches the earn rate of the Best Western card and surpasses the earn rate for the Wyndham Rewards card (3 points/$1). This card has a better earn rate for all other purchases at 2 points per $1 compared to 1 point per dollar for both Best Western and Wyndham Rewards.

Loyalty Traveler ranks the Choice Privileges card as the best credit card of the three economy hotel class cards for Best Western, Choice and Wyndham, which all happen to be partnered with Barclays Bank. Priority Club Visa from Chase is an even better card with more benefits like an annual free night certificate and redemption rebates, although the average room rate with IHG brand hotels will likely be higher than these other three primarily economy rate hotel brands.

 

Hilton HHonors

Hilton HHonors has three different cobranded credit cards for residents of the U.S. The two Hilton HHonors American Express cards for U.S. residents have more benefits than the Visa card. Top elite HHonors Diamond membership for $40,000 in annual spend on the HHonors American Express Surpass card is probably the highest value benefit of any hotel loyalty program credit card.

Hilton HHonors American Express (no annual fee version)

Interest Rate: 15.24% introductory offer = 2.90% for first 6 months.

Hilton HHonors American Express link (30,000 bonus points)

Update: Hilton HHonors American Express link (62,500 points)

Enrollment Bonus: up to 30,000 bonus points. (This offer available on March 18, 2011)

  • 20,000 points after first purchase.
  • Up to 10,000 bonus points after four hotel stays. 2,500 points for each of first four Hilton stays paid with HHonors American Express during the first 18 months of card membership. Hilton stay must be at least $100 to earn these bonus points.

Elite Status:

  • Silver VIP while HHonors American Express cardmember. Silver elite membership opens access to HHonors VIP rewards with a 15% discount on 4-night award stays, 20% discount on 5-night award stays and 25% discount on award stays of 6-nights or longer. 
  • HHonors Gold VIP for $20,000 in annual card charges.
  • AXON5/6 and AXON7 discount awards (Four Nights AXON 5/6  = 125,000 points; four nights AXON7 = 145,000 points). AXON rewards are lower cost than regular HHonors VIP discount for Category 6 = 136,000 or category 7 = 170,000 points. AXON awards are higher cost than HHonors VIP Category 5 = 119,000 points. 

Earn Rate:

        6 points per dollar for:

  • Hilton brand hotel stays,  (credit card earn rate = 60% HHonors base points earn rate for hotel stays.)
  • Grocery stores (excludes warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club)
  • Drugstores
  • Gas stations
  • Wireless and home phone
  • Internet
  • Cable/satellite providers

        3 bonus points per dollar for other charges 

No Annual Fee = $0.

Loyalty Traveler comments:  

HHonors American Express is the best hotel card for paying telecommunications bills like cell phone, internet and cable/satellite bills. For many households these three items can amount to $3,000 to $4,000 in annual charges for 18,000 to 24,000 HHonors points.

The no fee American Express no-fee card has most of the benefits of the HHonors American Express Surpass card ($75 fee) with the exception of the ability to earn HHonors Diamond elite with $40,000 annual spend. The no-fee card is probably the better choice for the Hilton HHonors member who does not spend $40,000 to benefit from Diamond elite.

Hotel stays earn rate is only 6 points/$1 with the no-fee AmEx rather than 9 points earned with the Surpass AmEx. HHonors Surpass has a $75 annual fee. Giving HHonors points an estimated value of about $5 per 1,000 points means the $75 fee is equivalent to about 15,000 HHonors points. You will need to spend $5,000 or more in Hilton Hotel stays to make up that points value of $75 per year. 

Advice: Go with the no fee American Express rather than Surpass if your spend pattern is less than $5,000 in Hilton brand hotel stays per year and you do not plan to use credit card spend as your route for complimentary elite status. The no-fee HHonors American Express has all the other benefits of the HHonors Surpass card. Surpass gives first year complimentary Gold and Priority Pass airline lounge benefits. 

 

Hilton HHonors American Express Surpass

Interest Rate: 15.24% introductory offer = 2.90% for first 6 months.

Hilton HHonors American Express link 

Enrollment Bonus: up to 60,000 bonus points. (This offer available on March 18, 2011)

  • 40,000 points after first purchase.
  • Up to 20,000 bonus points after eight hotel stays. 2,500 points for each of first eight Hilton stays paid with HHonors American Express Surpass card during the first 18 months of card membership. Hilton stay must be at least $100 to earn these bonus points. 

Elite Status:

  • Complimentary HHonors Gold VIP for first year of card membership.
  • Silver VIP in subsequent years while HHonors Surpass American Express cardmember.
  • HHonors Gold VIP for $20,000 in annual card charges.
  • HHonors Diamond VIP for $40,000 in annual card charges.  

Cardmember benefits:

  • AXON5/6 and AXON7 discount awards (Four Nights AXON 5/6  = 125,000 points; four nights AXON7 = 145,000 points. AXON rewards are lower cost than regular HHonors VIP discount for Category 6 = 136,000 or category 7 = 170,000 points. AXON awards are higher cost than HHonors VIP Category 5 = 119,000 points.
  • Silver elite membership opens access to HHonors VIP rewards with a 15% to 25% discount on award extended stays of four nights or longer.
  • Priority Pass $99 membership for airport lounge access – this membership level still requires $27 entry fee per airport lounge visit. 

Earn Rate:

        9 points per dollar for

  • Hilton brand hotel stays (Credit card earn rate = 90% HHonors base points earn rate for hotel stays.)               

       6 points per dollar for:

  • Grocery stores (excludes warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club)
  • Drugstores
  • Gas stations
  • Wireless and home phone providers
  • Internet providers
  • Cable/satellite providers

        3 bonus points per dollar for other charges  

Annual Fee = $75 

Loyalty Traveler comments:  

Hilton HHonors is one of the best choices in the credit card game with its array of cardmember benefits. The HHonors American Express cards allow you to earn high value bonus points for groceries, cable, internet, cell phone bills and gas with 6 points/$1. That is 60% of base points earned for hotel stays. Every $100 spent on the card for groceries, telecommunications bills and gas is like spending the equivalent of $60 at a Hilton brand hotel.

Assume you can redeem points for about 1 penny a point and your credit card purchases will have a 6% return. Savvy HHonors members can find redemption values for hotel stays in the $10 per 1,000 points range. This means that you can probably find a category 7 hotel that is 50,000 points per night and with your American Express card redeem 145,000 points for a hotel stay that would cost $1,500 after tax for four nights.

HHonors members who are frequent guests with high spend over $5,000 per year at Hilton brand hotels should sign-up for the American Express Surpass rather than the no-fee AmEx to earn 9 points per dollar at Hilton brand.

HHonors American Express Surpass card is also the better card for a high spend person who will benefit from elite status without extensive Hilton stays. HHonors Gold elite normally requires 16 stays or 36 nights and Diamond elite requires 28 stays or 60 nights in a calendar year and spend levels of $20,000 to $40,000+ will earn the Surpass card member complimentary elite. 

HHonors Diamond elite is a high value benefit if you spend 10 or more nights in full-service hotels. You will likely receive about $30 to $100 per night in value-added benefits like free breakfast, VIP lounge access at hotels, and complimentary room upgrades sometimes even to suites as a Diamond elite member. 

Loyalty Traveler’s number one piece of advice for frequent guests is to attain top elite loyalty status with a hotel loyalty program to enhance the value of your hotel stays. 

The 4-night AXON award is a good value hotel stay award and high spenders will likely earn enough points through credit card spend for one or two of these awards annually. 

Priority Pass is typically a $99 membership and is the low level membership requiring a $27 payment for each airline lounge visit.  This is a likely a limited value benefit for most cardmembers.

The only drawback to the HHonors American Express as your primary hotel loyalty credit card is for someone who wants miles. Starwood American Express is a much better program than Hilton HHonors for points-to-miles exchange rates as a versatile mileage earning card.  

Hilton HHonors Signature Visa (Citibank)

Interest Rate: 14.24% for Visa Signature or 16.24% for Visa Gold

Hilton HHonors Visa link 

Enrollment Bonus: up to 30,000 bonus points. (This offer available on March 18, 2011)

  • 30,000 points after spending $600 within four months of account opening.  

Elite Status: Silver VIP while Citi Hilton HHonors Signature Visa cardmember. Silver elite membership opens access to HHonors VIP rewards with a 15% to 25% discount on award extended stays of four nights or longer. 

Earn Rate:

        6 points per dollar for:

  •  Hilton brand hotel stays, (credit card earn rate = 60% HHonors base points earn rate for hotel stays.)

        3 points per dollar for: 

  • Grocery stores (excludes warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club)
  • Drugstores
  • Gas stations 

        2 bonus points per dollar for other charges

No Annual Fee = $0 

Loyalty Traveler comments:

HHonors American Express no-fee card has better benefits. HHonors Visa is a good backup for places where American Express is not accepted.

The HHonors American Express Surpass card offers the highest value return for the big spender who wants free hotel stays with Hilton Worldwide.

 

Hyatt Gold Passport Visa (Chase)

Interest 15.24%

http://www9.chasecreditcards.com/hyatt/search 

Enrollment Bonus:  (This offer available on March 18, 2011)

  • receive two Hyatt Gold Passport® Free Night Awards after your first use of the card. 
  • (Platinum members receive complimentary upgrade. Diamond member receive complimentary confirmed suite upgrade)  

Elite Status: Platinum status as long as cardmember. 

Earn Rate:

        3 points per dollar for:

  •  Hyatt brand hotel stays, (credit card earn rate = 60% Hyatt Gold Passport base points earn rate for hotel stays.)

        1 points per dollar for: 

  • All other purchases 

Benefits: No foreign transaction fees for international travel. 

Annual Fee = $75

Loyalty Traveler comments:

Hyatt Gold Passport Visa has the best enrollment bonus offer with its two free nights for use at any Hyatt worldwide. This is a $600 to $1,000 value if you plan for a high value hotel stay.

Hyatt Gold Passport elites who sign up for the Hyatt credit card earn additional bonuses to the two free nights. Diamond members receive a confirmed suite upgrade for use with the two free nights from the credit card offer. Current Platinum elite members at the time of credit card enrollment receive two confirmed suite upgrade certificates for use with paid stays.

The earn rate of the credit card for Hyatt stays at 3 points/$1 is a good value at 60% of the regular hotel stay base rate of 5 points/$1.

The weak part of the Hyatt credit card is the 1 point/$1 on other purchases. In real travel the Gold Passport member can reasonably expect to get about 2 cents per point redemption value. That makes the Hyatt credit card basically a 2% return on non-hotel purchases which is not comparatively good to other credit card options.

The Chase Hyatt card website advertises a card feature as award nights with no resort or internet fees. While this is a true statement, these benefits are available to any Gold Passport Platinum elite member. Hyatt Gold Passport does not charge resort fees on award nights at Hyatt Resorts and all platinum and diamond members receive complimentary internet at Hyatt brands globally. 

The two free nights is a nice sign-up feature, but I think the Priority Club Visa has better annual benefits with the annual free night.  

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card is a hugely popular credit card for its points-to-miles exchange with a 25% bonus on points transfers in blocks of 20,000 points into 25,000 miles. Hyatt Gold Passport has the same 25% bonus when transferring 50,000 points into 25,000 miles. The earning rate of 1 point per US$1 for everyday purchases with both the Hyatt Visa card and the SPG American Express places the balance heavily in favor of SPG American Express for persons interested in maximizing credit card spending for airline miles.

My Take: The Hyatt Visa enrollment bonus offer is a great value. Renewal may not be such a great value since there are no annual benefits except Platinum elite which only takes 5 hotels stays in a calendar year. If you are not staying in Hyatt’s that frequently anyway, then there is probably a better credit card option for you elsewhere.

 

InterContinental Hotels Group IHG Priority Club Rewards Visa Signature Card (Chase)

Interest 13.24% or 17.24%

http://www.mychasecreditcards.com/ihg/pcrhomepage160k 

Enrollment Bonus:  (This offer available on March 18, 2011)

  • 60,000 bonus points after first card use.
  • $20 credit on credit card statement with first purchase after account opening. 

Elite Status: Gold elite status as long as cardmember. 

Benefits:

  • One Free Night certificate annually as long as a cardmember. Valid for any IHG brand hotel worldwide excluding all-inclusive resorts.
  • 10% rebate on all Priority Club points redemptions, up to 100,000 points per calendar year.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 10,000 points Annual  bonus when card purchases exceed $15,000 in card spend, (maximum one bonus per card membership year).  

Earn Rate:

        5 points per dollar for:

  •  IHG brand hotel stays, (credit card earn rate at 5 points/$1 = 50% Priority Club base points earn rate for hotel stays at most IHG brands (10 points/$1) and 100% of base points earned at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites (5 points/$1).

        2 points per dollar for: 

  • Gas, groceries and dining

        1 point per dollar for:

  • All other purchases 

10,000 points Annual  bonus when card purchases exceed $15,000 in card spend, (maximum one bonus per card membership year).  

Annual Fee = $49, waived for first year 

Loyalty Traveler comments: The best benefit of the Priority Club Visa is the annual free night e-certificate. An InterContinental Hotel night will usually be a $200+ rate or even $400+ per night in some locations.  

10% rebate on reward nights is a unique benefit. Points rebate value can mean 10,000 to 20,000 points savings annually for even a moderately active Priority Club member and possibly be worth hundreds of dollars in additional hotel stays.

Priority Club Visa and Marriott Rewards Visa are the only cards offering higher points earn rates for dining spend. Combine these credit cards with dining programs and you can double dip for even more points. This can be a high earn factor for the restaurant aficionado. 

 

Marriott Rewards Visa Credit Card (Chase)

Interest 14.24%

Marriott Visa link 

Enrollment Bonus:  (This offer available on March 18, 2011)

  • 22,500 bonus points after first card use.
  • Two free night e-certificates will be deposited in Marriott Rewards account 6 to 8 weeks after card membership enrollment. Free Night e-certificate is valid for a category 1 to category 4 hotel. Certificate expires 6 months from date issued. 

Elite Status:

  • 10 nights credit every year ensures Silver elite status as long as cardmember.
  • Earn an additional elite status night for every $3,000 in card spend 

Benefits:

  • 15,000 points rebate when redeeming points for a 7-night stay in a category 7 (210,000 points) or category 8 hotel (240,000 points).
  • $25,000 in annual spend receives a one-time per year bonus of $100 Marriott Bonus Bucks coupon. Bonus Bucks coupon is valid six months and may be used for credit on a two-night hotel stay at JW Marriott, Marriott, Renaissance or Autograph Collection hotel. Coupon is not valid at other Marriott brands.

Earn Rate: (Marriott is weak on earn side) 

        3 points per dollar for:

  •  Marriott brand hotel stays, (credit card earn rate = 30% Marriott Rewards base points earn rate for hotel stays at most Marriott brands (10 points/$1) and 60% of base points earned at Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites brands (5 points/$1).

        1 point per dollar for:

  • All other purchases 

Annual Fee = $30, waived for first year of card membership.

 

Marriott Rewards Premier Visa Credit Card (Chase)

Interest 14.24%

Marriott Visa link 

Enrollment Bonus:  (This offer available on March 18, 2011)

  • 30,000 bonus points after first card use.
  • Free night stay e-certificate will be deposited in Marriott Rewards account 6 to 8 weeks after card membership enrollment. Free Night e-certificate is valid for a category 1 to category 4 hotel. Certificate expires 6 months from date issued. (Card renewal comes with category 1-5 hotel free night certificate as an annual benefit.) 

Elite Status:

  • 15 nights credit every year ensures Silver elite status as long as cardmember.
  • Earn an additional elite status night for every $3,000 in card spend

 Benefits:

  • Free night stay e-certificate every year on card account anniversary valid for category 1 to 5 hotels.
  • 15,000 points rebate when redeeming points for a 7-night stay in a category 7 (210,000 points) or category 8 hotel (240,000 points).  
  • No foreign exchange fee (new benefit effective March 31, 2011)

Earn Rate: (Marriott is weak on earn side) 

        5 points per dollar for:

  •  Marriott brand hotel stays, (credit card earn rate = 50% Marriott Rewards base points earn rate for hotel stays at most Marriott brands (10 points/$1) and 100% of base points earned at Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites brands (5 points/$1). 

        2 points per dollar for:

  • Airline
  • Dining
  • Rental car 

        1 point per dollar for:

  • All other purchases

Annual Fee = $65, waived for first year of card membership.

Loyalty Traveler comments:

Free Night Certificate

Marriott free night certificate is a good value enrollment benefit. The limitation is category 4 hotels means the value will likely be $125 to $200 for your free night. The renewal certificate allows use at Category 5 hotels which opens up the potential for higher class properties including some JW Marriott hotels. Priority Club Visa is the only other card offering an annual free night and the Priority Club free night can be used at any category hotel for a high value reward night.

Miles

Marriott Rewards has the best points-to-miles exchange rate of any hotel loyalty program when transferring over 100,000 points.

Starwood American Express has a better credit card earn rate for miles in most programs. 

Marriott Rewards elite strategy

Marriott Rewards elite status has high qualification levels compared to other hotel programs and only hotel nights are counted. Either Marriott Rewards Visa card provides the 10 nights for Silver elite qualification.

The 15 elite nights credit with the Premier Visa is a valuable benefit for Marriott members seeking to reach 50 nights for Gold elite or 75 nights for Platinum elite in combination with the current year’s elite rollover program.  A cardmember who does not reach 50 nights in 2011 for Gold elite will be able to rollover all nights above 10 nights needed for Silver elite in 2011 for the start of 2012.

How Marriott Rewards elite rollover works in 2011: Assume you stay 20 nights in 2011 at Marriott brand hotels. You finish 2011 with 35 elite nights credit (15 credit card nights + 20 hotel stay nights).

Elite rollover allows you to rollover 25 nights from 2011. These are the 25 nights exceeding the 10 nights qualification requirement for 2011 Silver elite of your 35 nights earned in 2011.  You start 2012 with rollover nights elite credit. You start 2012 with 25 elite nights and then earn 15 more nights when you renew your Marriott credit card.

 Gold elite status will only require 10 additional nights in 2012 after rollover nights and credit card elite nights. Platinum elite takes only 35 nights in 2012. And your 2012 earned elite status will carry over into 2013 through February 2014.

Important Note for Marriott Rewards: Rollover nights was introduced in 2009 and extended for 2010 and 2011. Rollover nights is not a guarantee for the 2012 membership year as the benefit might not be continued.

Every $3,000 in credit card spend earns a free night. $40,000 in credit card spend earns 13 elite night credits with Marriott compared to HHonors Diamond elite with the Hilton Surpass American Express. Big spenders may prefer the Hilton American Express for top elite status at $40,000 annual spend.

2011 is a great year to try the credit card/rollover strategy outlined above to earn high elite status with Marriott Rewards for far fewer than 75 hotel nights in a calendar year.

 

Starwood Preferred Guest  American Express Personal and Business Credit Cards

SPG American Express link

Both cards have same benefits and terms.

Interest 15.24%, although 2.90% for first six months of membership. 

Enrollment Bonus:  Up to 25,000 bonus points. (This offer available on March 18, 2011)

  • 10,000 bonus points after first card use.
  • 15,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 in first six months of card membership. 

Elite Status:

  • 5 nights and 2 stays elite credit every year as long as cardmember.
  • You can also earn SPG Gold status by spending $30,000 or more on your Card in a calendar year.

Earn Rate: (Comparatively high earn rate for a hotel loyalty card) 

        2 points per dollar for:

  • Starwood Hotels brand hotel stays; credit card earn rate = 100% Starwood Preferred Guest base points earn rate for hotel stays at Starwood brands (2 points/$1). 

        1 point per dollar for:

  • All other purchases

 Other benefits: 3rd night free at participating Sheraton Hotels.

Loyalty Traveler note: Sheraton 3rd night free is not clearly a unique card benefit since anyone can book third night free rates at several Starwood Hotels brands using these extended stay discount rates for Hotels and Resorts.

http://www.starwoodhotels.com/promotions/promo_landing.html?category=GENDRE_H

http://www.starwoodhotels.com/promotions/promo_landing.html?category=GENDRE_R 

Annual Fee = $65, waived for first year of card membership.

Loyalty traveler comments: SPG is the program if you really want options to convert your hotel points to a variety of airline miles. Marriott Rewards and Goldpoints plus have better points-to-miles exchange rates for high transfers, but the SPG credit card favors the person who earns more points from credit card spending than hotel stays.

United, Continental and Singapore Airlines offer a poor exchange rate with SPG. You might prefer the Hyatt or Marriott card for these airline programs. Hyatt has the same or a better exchange rate for many airline partners but the earning rate is better for general purchases using the SPG program card compared to the Hyatt card. 

Starwood added an elite credit benefit in 2010 with 5 nights and 2 stays. This reduces the qualification for SPG Gold to just 8 stays or 20 nights per year. $30,000 in card spend also earns Gold elite. Platinum elite normally requires 25 stays or 50 nights. Platinum elite requires 23 stays or 45 nights for SPG AmEx cardmembers.

SPG members with both a personal and business SPG AmEx receive 4 stays and 10 nights annual elite credit. This benefit applies to a maximum of two cards per member.

The earn rate for the SPG card is good for cardmembers desiring miles across a variety of programs where 20,000 points = 25,000 miles. An airline credit card is likely to offer better earn rates for a specific airline. The advantage of SPG is more than 20 airline partners with 1:1 exchange rates and the flexibility to transfer points-to-miles with a variety of airlines you may need for a trip.

 

Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature and Platinum Credit Card (Barclays)

Interest 13.24% or 16.24% or 19.24%; 0% introductory 6 months.

Wyndham Rewards credit card link 

Enrollment Bonus:  (This offer available on March 18, 2011)

  • 12,000 bonus points after first card use (no fee card) 

Elite Status:

  • Wyndham Rewards does not have elite status levels. 

Earn Rate:

(Wyndham is comparatively weak on earn side for hotel stays but good value for all other purchases) 

        3 points per dollar for:

  •  Wyndham brand hotel stays, (credit card earn rate = 30% Wyndham Rewards base points earn rate for hotel stays at most Wyndham brands (10 points/$1) and 60% of base points earned at Hawthorn Suites brand (5 points/$1).

        2 points per dollar for:

  • All other purchases 

No Annual Card Fee = $0.

Loyalty traveler comments:  Wyndham Rewards Visa credit card is actually a high value card for people interested in airline miles. All purchases earn 2 points per dollar and Wyndham hotel brands earn 5 points per dollar. Wyndham Rewards has a fixed points-to-miles exchange rate at 2.5 points = 1 mile. Most of the hotel loyalty cards shown here only give 1 point per dollar for most purchases.  

Wyndham Rewards is essentially giving 0.8 miles/dollar. SPG gives 1.25 miles per dollar for 1:1 airline partners points-to-miles transfers at the 20,000 points level and 1 mile per dollar at lower transfer levels.  Wyndham Rewards Visa is a good back-up card for miles with 17 airline partners. $4,000 in credit card spend earns 4,000 miles through SPG American Express or 3,200 miles for Wyndham Rewards Visa cardmembers.

If hotel stays are your primary interest and not miles, then consider the array of benefits offered by other cards, particularly the high annual value of Priority Club Visa or Marriot Rewards free night and reward nights rebates or Hilton HHonors American Express award night discounts and elite status.

Loyalty Traveler concluding note:  

This post has a lot of data. This is my initial post on credit card comparisons. I will follow up in coming days to provide more analysis in terms of ranking cards based on a variety of factors.

Reader input about any errors or omissions will be appreciated.

25 Responses

  1. This is a 62,5000 points link for Hilton Amex: https://www262.americanexpress.com/apisites/microsite/apply/hilton-hhonors-card/71-1000-54?returnUrl=http://www.americanexpress.com

    I applied in December, got the card in January and all points in February. Link is from Frugal Travel Guy’s blog. As a bonus- I have had this card in the past, canceled it last fall and still received all bonus points for the new card.

  2. This is per Amex: “You can also earn SPG Gold status by spending $30,000 or more on your Card in a calendar year.”

  3. Does SPG has the benefit of “Earn an additional elite status night for every $3,000 in card spend “? A typo?

    Comment by Sleepingworm on March 19th, 2011 at 2:02 pm
  4. Choice Privileges is now offering 24,000 points with your first use of the card and 8,000 more points after your first paid stay at Choice hotel. Still no annual fee.
    More details can be found by clicking on “terms and conditions” on this application form:

    https://www.barclaycardus.com/app/japply/WebAppGate.jsp?obchannel=006&campaignId=1398&clickid=&outboundAdLocation=020&sqGroup=20&prodidreq=CCVVS27024&obcreative=0000000&product.IowaEnable=true&ibchannel=03&partnerid=1615&appcreative=02714&landcreative=000000&referrerid=BofA0311&listid=&obadloc=020&landpage=00000&campaignid=0001398&VASPPP=CPDC0013&legacy=true

  5. @D – Thanks. I added this provision.

    @Sleepingworm – Thanks. That was an error carried over from the Marriott card terms.

  6. Ric,

    Another great analysis.

    Still looking forward to a comparison of Hyatt GP point vs SPG point values for the frequent flyer/stayer that primarily uses hotel points for award stays. :)

    Thanks,
    David

  7. [...] post at Loyalty Traveler reminded me that I haven’t yet dug into hotel or airline loyalty programs in too much detail. [...]

  8. With the “Other benefits” of the SPG card: 3rd night free at participating Sheraton Hotels”, you will have 5 night credit toward SPG elite status, which means you can stay 20 nights to gain the Platinum status instead of 25 separate nights. So it may be helpful for mattress run.

    Comment by Sleepingworm on March 20th, 2011 at 5:11 am
  9. Another helpful comparative point would be how much each credit card charges for foreign conversion fee. I believe the Chase Intercontinental and Hyatt cards (and several other Chase cards) now have no foreign conversion fee which is a big savings and determining factor of which card to use when traveling abroad.

  10. “The no fee American Express no-fee card has most of the benefits of the HHonors American Express Surpass card ($75 fee) with the exception of the ability to earn HHonors Gold elite with $20,000 spend or HHonors Diamond elite with $40,000 annual spend.”

    Great post and very informative for someone trying to find a great card! Thanks for all your analysis. It’s invaluable.

    Has the no-fee HHonors AMEX removed the upgrade to Gold with $20K spend? That has been a benefit for as long as I can remember.

  11. Sleepingworm is incorrect as to stays for platinum. It would be 23 stays, not 20, with the 2 stays/5 nights towards elite status.

  12. Ken, yes, the Gold VIP status is still there with $20,000 spent with the American Express Hilton Card.

    Ric, great analysis. I revisted which card I wanted (with all the new offers) and agreed with your points: HHonors stinks if you want to transfer to airline miles, and the Hilton Surpass card is only worth the annual fee if the cardholder spends at least $5000 _at Hiltons._

    I have a theory about the elite status benefit. Any road warrior spending enough to justify these cards is going to make elite status without the card. So I think the elite status is included to get big spenders to switch over from competitors programs, without losing their status. E.g.- Why else would the HHonors Surpass card only give Gold status the first year?

    Anecdotally, as a current HHonors VIP, and an American Express cardholder, neither company has ever marketed the Surpass card to me, but I do get offered the 62500 bonus points for the no fee Amex Hilton card.

    The cards are a nice bonus for members of a loyalty club, but I doubt any, even the SPG, are worth switching brands to get.

  13. Nybanker, can you show me your math?

    Mine is:
    Total you need 50 nights to reach platinum status.
    50/5 = 10 times stay.
    Each stay has 2 paid nights.
    Hence total you need 10 * 2 = 20 paid nights to reach platinum status.

    Comment by Sleepingworm on March 21st, 2011 at 4:30 am
  14. Sorry! I think the total paid nights should 18 nights to reach to SPG platinum status with the “2 stays/5 nights towards elite status” promotion since the SPG card has already given you 5 elite-nights credit.

    Comment by Sleepingworm on March 21st, 2011 at 4:39 am
  15. @Sleepingworm – you have me confused.

    SPG Platinum requires 25 stays or 50 nights in a calendar year. The SPG American Express card offers 5 nights and 2 stays elite credit per year as a card benefit.

    SPG Platinum takes 23 stays or 45 nights for a cardmember. It is possible to have both a business card and personal card to reduce the overall hotel requirement to 21 stays or 40 nights in a calendar year.

    Assume someone has one SPG American Express card and needs 23 stays or 45 nights.

    A stay can be one night.

    The minimum requirement for SPG Platinum as an AMEX cardmember with one card is 23 nights if qualifying by stays or 45 nights if qualifying on nights (and fewer than 23 stays).

  16. @Ken and @Joseph – Thanks for the HHonors AmEx no fee Gold elite for $20,000 correction. I am amazed this benefit isn’t found on the promotion page or application form anywhere. At least I didn’t see it mentioned for the AmEx no-fee card.

    The SPG AmEx card Gold elite benefit for $30,000 in spend. I see this benefit in this link for the card. http://www201.americanexpress.com/getthecard/learn-about/Starwood-Preferred

    @LIH Prem – I will try and write up a SPG and Hyatt comparison this week. I do not recall ever doing a comparison limited to just these two programs.

  17. [...] Loyalty Traveler Analysis of Hotel Rewards Credit Cards [...]

  18. Ric,

    Sorry for the confusion! It’s my misunderstanding. That “2-nights stay/ 5-nights credit” promotion is available only once a year.

    Please ignore my input before.

    Comment by Sleepingworm on March 21st, 2011 at 6:54 pm
  19. Sharon – USA Today has this article on credit card foreign exchange fees.

    http://travel.usatoday.com/news/story/2011/03/Travelers-fume-over-credit-card-currency-conversion-fees/45149186/1

    Finding out the fees on each card would be useful. I don’t know if I will get around to that survey.

    Nerdwallet.com just published this analysis showing cards with no FOREX fees and the foreign exchange fee amounts with different cards:
    http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/2011/credit-card-no-foreign-transaction-fee/

  20. What credit card would you choose to maximize award hotel nights (any chain) for a visit to Europe next year? I don’t care about status just “free” nights. Total spend over the next 12 months will be about $30K.

    Thanks.

  21. @Phil – The best hotel chain depends on where you are going in Europe and what kind of hotel you desire.

    $30,000 in hotel spend will get you 30,000 Starpoints + sign up bonus. Let’s say you accrue 55,000 Starpoints. That is 5 nights in a category 5 hotel for 48,000 points. There are nice options in Europe with category 5 hotels. Cash & Points will stretch your points for even more nights. Starwood Hotels has many historic Luxury Collection properties.

    HHonors American Express with $30,000 will earn around 240,000 points. You can book a 6-night stay at an HHonors category 7 hotel for 225,000 points.That is the highest category level and opens up the option for just about any Hilton in Europe. You can also look for PointStretcher options which reduce the standard award rate by 40%.

    Marriott Rewards has its new AC brand with about 90 hotels across Spain. Marriott is probably the best choice if your travels are focused on Spain.

    Choice Privileges has the most hotels in Scandinavia. 84,000 points in Scandinavia will get five to eight free nights.

    Hyatt gives you two free nights and $30,000 would earn another two free nights at most properties.

    My advice is to consider where you will be traveling and check hotels in those areas. Find a hotel or hotels where you can use points to save.

    The credit card points will only cover four to eight nights and the best values tend to be extended stay options. If you are not staying 4 or more nights in any single location, then your best bet is probably to try for discount awards with Marriott PointSavers and SPG Cash & Points to stretch points.

    InterContinental Hotels Group has had 2 nights for price of 1 rates in Europe the past few summers that are one of the best hotel rate deals I have seen.

    Also keep an eye out for a new Club Carlson credit card. I assume they will be coming out with a new credit card this year. Radisson is one of the premier hotel chains for Europe with extensive geographic coverage.

  22. [...] thinking about two cards, the Amex HHonors (62,500 points for Hilton family hotels, as described by Loyal Traveller) and Chase Sapphire reward [...]

  23. [...] Loyalty Traveler Analysis of Hotel Rewards Credit Cards (March 19, 2011) [...]

  24. [...] Loyalty Traveler Analysis of Hotel Rewards Credit Cards(March 19, 2011) [...]

  25. [...] Loyalty Traveler Analysis of Hotel Rewards Credit Cards(March 19, 2011) [...]

home top