Updated on Aug 23, 2018

Best Hotel Cards for 2018

Bonus, budget or best overall? Find the hotel credit card that has what you're looking for.
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Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, the best hotels are usually the most accommodating. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a hotel credit card that’s just as considerate? We’ve reviewed the market and put together a rundown of the best hotel credit card for 2018. These hotel credit cards can help you earn free stays, book travel, and more. Just take a look and, if you see something you like, apply online in minutes.

Money360's top pick for the best hotel credit card

  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express APPLY NOW
    Partner Offer
    Best for earning free hotel stays Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
    Apply Now on American Express's secure website
Partner Offer Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Best for earning free hotel stays

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Rewards Summary 6 points for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels.
Annual Fee $95 (waived first year)

Current Offer 75,000 Bonus Points
Signature perk Global Assist® Hotline
Highlights Provided by American Express Show Highlights
  • Earn 75,000 Bonus Points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 6 points for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels and 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 points) at a participating hotel. Select hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
  • Issuer: American Express
  • Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, then $95 See Details
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 27.24% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 17.74% - 26.74% Variable See Rates & Fees
  • Penalty APR: 29.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

We recommend the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express for frequent guests at Starwood® properties who want flexible air travel rewards on top of generous hotel rewards. When it comes to high-earning rewards redeemable for nights and flights, very few cards come close to this one.

How to use it
  • Book with Starwood/Marriott properties. Every $1 spent on eligible purchases at participating SPG® or Marriott Rewards® properties is worth 6 points; earn 2 points per $1 spent on other eligible purchases.
  • Collect a big bonus. Earn points by making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. You’ll get 75,000 Bonus Points. Terms Apply.
Consider this

This card comes with an annual fee of $95. For some people, that might seem steep but, if you’re a frequent leisure and business traveler who enjoys the SPG® and Marriott Rewards® establishments, this card will more than make up for the cost. Plus, the annual fee is waived for the first year.

Why you'll love it

If you’re a loyal customer of SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels, think about reserving room in your wallet for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. Used correctly, it combines the best qualities of a hotel card and an all-around travel card.

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Our favorite hotel credit cards: summed up

Best for... Credit Card
Earning Free Hotel Stays
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express Partner Offer
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Apply Now

Hotel Credit Card FAQ

Let’s explore some answers to frequently asked questions about hotel credit cards.

When comparing the best hotel credit cards, you’ll want to pay close attention to a few things:

  • Annual fee – Look for a card with a low annual fee. Most waive the cost for the first year.
  • Signup offer – Taking advantage of a signup offer can be a lucrative way to fund your travel.
  • Rewards – Take a look at the rewards structure and make sure it aligns with your purchasing habits to ensure you’re earning maximum rewards.
  • Expiration – Points or rewards may expire after a certain length of time. Make sure the details fit your travel habits.

Are hotel credit cards worth it?

How often you travel is a key determiner in whether or not you will be able to make the most of a hotel credit card. If you travel a lot and don’t often stay with friends or family, then a hotel credit card can certainly come in handy. This usually means you’ll have plenty of opportunities to charge your stays to a hotel credit card making it easy to earn points fast and put those toward free hotel stays and more.

Are hotel credit cards safer than cash?

Generally-speaking, hotel credit cards can be considered safer than using cash for a number of reasons. Primarily, a hotel credit card can be canceled if lost or stolen and replaced rather quickly, depending on the provider. That’s not something you can rely on when it comes to untraceable cash.

Another reason that hotel credit cards are safer is that many now come with multi-layered security. Take the EMV chip you might have seen on recent cards. This chip produces a unique transaction code for a particular purchase when authenticated. This means an identity thief cannot replicate that same code for a different purchase without raising flags.

Other reasons that hotel credit cards are safer than cash are as follows:

  • Easy monitoring of transaction history
  • A swipe of the card for a purchase is less conspicuous than fumbling for cash in your wallet
  • Some cards – such as the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card (currently unavailable) – offer additional perks like travel insurance and lost luggage reimbursement

If you have a hotel credit card with a particular provider, you should them to find out more. They can give you all the information you need on the specific safeguards of any hotel credit cards you have through them.

How do hotel credit cards work?

Hotel credit cards function in a manner similar to most other credit cards. However, what makes these cards different from the rest is the type of rewards. Whereas other credit cards might offer percentages of cash back on everyday expenses, hotel credit cards reward your spending at hotels. This is especially true in the case of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card (currently unavailable)

With these two cards, you receive points for every dollar you spend at their participating properties. These points can then be redeemed for free hotel stays at participating properties as well as travel through affiliated airlines.

Who should get a hotel credit card?

Hotel credit cards can make a great travel companion. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, if you find yourself traveling often, then a hotel credit card is a wise choice. Not only can a hotel credit card be beneficial during domestic trips, many offer deals and perks at international properties, as well.

What is a hotel credit card guarantee?

While not limited specifically to hotel credit cards, understanding a hotel’s credit card guarantee is important. This credit card guarantee works by the hotel taking your card at the time a reservation is made. Under the guidelines of these guarantees, no charges are made to your credit card so long as you check in as planned or cancel by the deadline.

Which hotel credit card is the best?

This is largely based on your own personal preference when it comes to rewards rates and particular hotel chains. Typically, the best hotel credit card for you is one that helps you earn points the quickest without forcing you to deviate from your spending habits. You’ll also want to choose a hotel credit card that offers rewards that fall in line with your particular lodging of choice.

Should I get a hotel credit card or travel credit card?

For the most part, you can earn rewards on travel-related purchases with either a travel or a hotel credit card. The main difference comes when you need to redeem those rewards. With a hotel credit card, you might only be able to redeem those points for free hotel stays. Travel credit cards can be a little more flexible by comparison in that you could redeem your rewards for travel, hotel stays, car rentals, etc.

How do I earn points?

There are a couple of different ways that you can earn points with a hotel credit card. Booking stays at participating hotels is usually the most common way. Some hotel credit cards also grant you points when you book travel through participating airlines. And then, of course, there are hotel credit cards where you can earn points just by using them on your everyday purchases.

What is Elite Status and how do I earn it?

Many co-branded hotel credit cards have their own programs where you can “unlock” extra perks based on how often you use the card, sometimes called “Elite Status.” Elite status benefits may include upgraded rooms, free breakfast, late checkout, bonus points, and more. Check with the card providers as these programs, benefits, and requirements are subject to change

Can I earn rewards by flying?

Yes. Each of our hotel credit cards offers an abundance of airline partnerships and generous point-to-mile transfer rates. Furthermore, some cards like the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express can make you eligible for Crossover Rewards with SPG® and Delta SkyMiles®. Be sure to visit these cardholders’ websites to learn more about possible rewards

Do hotel points expire?

The answer to this question can vary depending on the card and the policies associated with it. Generally, your hotel points tend not to expire so long as your card account demonstrates qualifying activity within a certain threshold. This qualifying activity includes staying at any participating hotel, redeeming rewards, etc.

Which hotel credit card earns the most points?

As it stands, Marriott/Starwood and IHG offer some of the highest earning potential when it comes to hotel credit cards. Combining over 40 brands and thousands of individual locations worldwide, it’s easy to see why. However, the rewards rates can change based on the brand you’re staying with, and you’ll want to check with the individual hotel credit card providers for specifics.

How many points do I need for a free night?

When it comes to earning free nights, redemption rates can vary by location and brand. Just as some rooms are more expensive at one franchise than another, some hotels require more points for free nights.

Here’s a quick guide to each hotel’s category or tier, and what it takes to earn free nights:

Free nights with Marriott
Hotel Tier Points (per night) PointSavers (per night)
1 30,000 20,000
2 40,000 30,000
3 50,000 40,000
4 60,000 50,000
5 70,000 60,000
Free nights with Starwood
Category Starpoints® (per night)
1 2,000 – 3,000
2 3,000 – 4,000
3 7,000
4 10,000
5 12,000 – 16,000
6 20,000 – 25,000
7 30,000 – 35,000

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