A number of factors influence how much you enjoy a trip, whether traveling on business or vacation. For many, a good hotel experience is key to happy travel, since it’s very hard to overcome a disappointing hotel stay. Often, it’s the perks — or lack thereof — that color your opinion of your lodgings. That’s where a hotel rewards credit card can help.
The best hotel rewards cards not only earn you points toward a free hotel stay, but many come with additional perks such as room upgrades, complimentary meals, and in-room WiFi. Here’s our list of the nine best hotel credit cards for 2017.
Best Overall Hotel Rewards Card
A good hotel rewards card provides a range of offers and bonuses in addition to extra features that save you money and make your hotel stay more enjoyable. We’ve examined all the pros and cons of the top hotel cards, and identified the best ones for you:
We named the Chase Sapphire Preferred as the best overall hotel rewards card for 2017 because it does everything well. You get a generous number of bonus points when you meet the new-account purchase requirements or add an authorized user, especially considering its modest annual fee.
The points can be used for dining, cash, or gift cards — but you get extra point-power by redeeming them for travel booked through Chase. The points you earn with your Sapphire Preferred Card can be transferred to any Chase travel partner for additional flexibility.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card also gets bonus points for style; the unique metallic card has a great design and feel.
Best Hotel Sign-Up Bonuses
You earn a sign-up bonus by spending the required amount on purchases during the initial period after opening the account. For example, a card might offer you 50,000 points or miles if you purchase $5,000 in goods and services during the first three months.
Th Capital One Venture Rewards Card offers a great trade-off between bonus miles and required spending. The card rewards are flexible — you redeem a statement credit to use your miles, and there are no restrictions on hotel brands or airlines. Flyers will appreciate the fact that there are no blackout dates. The ratio of miles rewarded to dollars spent is excellent.
There is no limit on how many miles you can earn, and the miles never expire. Foreign transactions are fee-free.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard is one of the few chip-enabled cards with PIN capability, a near-necessity for international travelers. For example, you need PIN capability abroad to use a self-service card reader, say, to pick up your tickets at an airport kiosk. The card features a generous sign-up bonus and miles per dollar spent, as well as a good balance transfer program.
As an extra bonus, the card rebates some of your redeemed miles so you can use them again on your next purchase. You can apply miles to any hotel, cruise line or airline. There are no foreign transaction fees.
4. Chase Sapphire Reserve
A level above the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Sapphire Reserve card comes with a lot of perks for the frequent traveler, including an annual travel credit and a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®. Additional features include:
50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in first 3 months
- Up to 3X points per dollar spent on travel and dining
- 50% bonus on travel when points are redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
You can apply for a Chase Sapphire Reserve card through the online application. Keep in mind, the Sapphire Reserve card will have more stringent requirements for approval than the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
Best Hotel Rewards Programs
A good rewards program offers generous rewards as well as easy redemption, with a limited number of blackout dates or unavailable room types.
The Chase Freedom pays generous cash back on purchases within the quarterly bonus categories, up to the capped amount. All you have to do is opt into the bonus category each quarter. It also has an excellent introductory interest rate on purchases and balance transfers, as well as a low spending requirement for its introductory bonus.
The sign-up bonus is modest but easily earned, and there is a separate bonus for signing up an authorized user. Cash-back rewards don’t expire as long as you keep the account open.
Best Branded Hotel Rewards Cards
A branded card carries the name of a company, separate from the bank issuing the card. In most cases, the points you use will only be redeemable through the branded company and its partners. Here’s a look at the top options.
6. Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
One of the largest hotel chains in the world, Marriott offers more than 5,700 properties across the globe. The Marriott card also comes with a hefty sign-up bonus and 5X points for hotel stays. Filling out a quick online application can give you access to all the benefits, including:
80,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases during the first 3 months
- 7,500 bonus points for adding an authorized user and making a purchase in first 3 months
- Free overnight stay every anniversary
Thanks to a merger in 2016, you can also exchange your Marriott Rewards points for Starwood points, adding more than 1,400 properties to an already large portfolio.
7. Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card
Often associated with glitz and glam, staying at a Ritz Carlton hotel can be a luxurious way to spend your travel. You can make your stay a little more affordable by earning Ritz-Carlton Rewards points on all of your purchases.
Two complimentary nights at any participating Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton hotel after $4,000 spent in first 3 months
- 5X points for spending at participating hotels, 2X on all other purchases
- $300 annual travel credit automatically applied to statement
To see if you qualify for the Ritz Carlton Rewards credit card, fill out the simple online application. In most cases, you should receive a decision in minutes. After the 2016 merger, you can also use your Ritz Carlton Rewards card to earn points at more than 1,400 Starwood properties.
How to Choose the Best Hotel Offer for You
Hotel rewards cards (and the perks that go with them) are perfect for frequent travelers and voracious vacationers — or those who simply want to take advantage of a great sign-up bonus to earn a free hotel stay. Whatever your motivation, you can likely find a hotel card that fits the bill.
If you know you’ll be making big-ticket purchases during the introductory period, pick the card with the best sign-up bonus. If you regularly travel abroad, you’ll want to select a card with no foreign transaction fees. Otherwise, choose the card that gives you the most perks and most generous rewards — for the least money.
Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.