Which Hotel Brand Credit Card is Right for Me?

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Flights are huge savings for us when it comes to travel hacking but another area where we see big savings is on hotel stays. One of my favorite things about travel hacking is being able to stay in fancy hotels that would normally be outside of my budget. My mom and I have saved thousands of dollars by using hotel points that we have earned from credit card bonuses.  Due to COVID-19, you may not be hopping on a lot of flights and instead, you may be taking some road trips where some hotel points may come in handy. There are four major hotel chain brands, each with their own credit cards, Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, and IHG. Let’s compare the four major hotel brand credit cards so you can see which is the best fit for you. If you are like us you will eventually hold credit cards from many, if not all of these brands!


Things to Consider When Choosing a Hotel Brand Credit Card

When it comes to choosing a hotel card there are some things you may want to take into consideration like:

  • Brand Loyalty- Do you typically book a certain hotel brand? If so, then it makes sense to open a credit card with that brand.
  • Vacation Destination- If you are trying to travel hack a certain destination then you want to make sure the hotel card you pick has hotels in that destination. For example, if my goal is to go to Hawaii then I probably won’t be opening an IHG card for that trip. IHG doesn’t have any luxury resorts in Hawaii and when I go to Hawaii I prefer luxury over budget hotels.
  • Current Signup Bonus- Many hotel credit cards will offer limited-time increased signup bonuses. I like to time my applications with these bonuses. Hyatt is the exception, I haven’t seen them offer an increased bonus in a couple of years. Marriott seems to offer limited-time bonuses a couple of times a year. A standard Marriott offer is 75,000 points after $3,000 in spend but that offer periodically goes up to 100,000 points after $5,000 in spending.
  • Business Travel- Do you or your spouse do some travel for work? Does your work prefer you to stay with a certain hotel brand? If so, it makes sense to open a card with that brand.
  • Are You a Business Owner?- If you own your own business then you can also look into business credit cards.
  • Chase 5/24 Count- If you have opened 5 or more cards in the last 24 months then Chase will not approve you for any more of their cards. Two of the Marriott cards listed below, the World of Hyatt card, and IHG card are issued by Chase so you would not be approved for these cards. If you are over 5/24 you could apply for one of the Amex issued Marriott cards or a Hilton credit card which is also issued by Amex.


Marriott Hotel Credit Cards

Marriott has a very large footprint all over the world with 30 brands and over 7,000 hotels globally. Their award chart offers peak, off-peak, and standard pricing. If you can travel off-peak you will save a lot of points. There are four Marriott credit cards you can choose from, two issued by Chase and two issued by American Express. You won’t be able to open both a Chase and American Express card, you will need to choose just one brand. Marriott has a great benefit of your 5th night free when booking award stays. Currently, all Marriott cards are offering a bonus of 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in 3 months with the exception of the Chase Marriott Bonvoy Bold Card which offers 30,000 points after spending $1,000 in 3 months.


Chase Marriott Bonvoy Bold

This is Marriott’s no-annual fee card. This card is the only Marriott card that doesn’t come with the annual free night certificate. You also can’t hold this card and any other Marriott card (including the other Chase Marriott card). For this reason, I would not choose to open this card.


Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless

The Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless is Marriott’s personal credit card. The standard offer on this card, and all Marriott cards besides the Bonvoy Bold, is 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in 3 months. At the time of writing, there is a limited time bonus of 100,000 points after $3,000 of spending in 3 months! There is an annual fee of $95 but this card also comes with a free night certificate each year on your account anniversary, valued at up to 35,000 points. This card also has a different signup bonus of 3 free nights with each night being valued up to 35,000 points a night. The card earns 6x the points at Marriott hotels and 2x the points on all other purchases. My mom finds good value with this anniversary-free night every year. She can always use it on a room worth closer to $200/night.


American Express Marriott Bonvoy Business

American Express issues the Marriott business card. This card has an annual fee of $125 and also comes with a free night each year valued at up to 35,000 points a night. With this card, you’ll earn 6x the points at Marriott hotels, 4x at gas stations, restaurants, wireless phone services, and shipping purchases. You’ll earn 2x the points on all other purchases. Again, that free night can be well worth the annual fee.


American Express Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant

This is Marriott’s premium credit card. As such it comes with a hefty annual fee of $450 but some awesome benefits that make this fee worth it if you can utilize the benefits. This card comes with $300 worth of statement credits for purchases made at Marriott hotels. You can use these credits towards nights, fees, dining, or any other on-property expenses. If you utilize this benefit each year then the fee drops to $150. With this card, you’ll also get an annual free night certificate valued at up to 50,000 points. These two benefits alone will pay for your annual fee but you’ll also get lounge access and receive a statement credit for TSA Precheck or Global Entry.

girl lounging on daybed at Marriott Wailea Beach Resort

I’ve used Marriott points to stay at the Wailea Beach Resort in Maui two times now.


My Thoughts

I like the American Express cards the best because you can hold both the Bonvoy Business and Bonvoy Brilliant. If you go the Chase route you are limited to just one Marriott card. I also like the bonus spending categories for the Amex Marriott cards. Both Chase and Amex offer the ability to refer your friends to your Marriott card, allowing you to earn bonus points. The current referral offer with the Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless is not the same offer you will find on the Chase website though…the referral offer is 3 free nights valued at 35,000 points each. Depending on how you plan to use these points, you may prefer one offer over the other. To get into more detail about the Marriott credit cards and how their award chart works, check out this post.


Hyatt Hotel Credit Card

World of Hyatt Credit Card

Hyatt keeps things simple! There is only one Hyatt credit card, The World of Hyatt Card, which is issued by Chase. Hyatt is the only program that doesn’t offer a free night after so many consecutive award nights. What Hyatt does offer is no resort fees on award stays and this can be a big saving! I really like Hyatt because I can transfer my Chase Ultimate Rewards into my Hyatt account. I can do this with Marriott and IHG as well but it’s not a good value. It is a good value with Hyatt because of Hyatt’s reasonable award chart. Nights start at just 5,000 points a night. One of my favorite resorts, the Grand Hyatt Kauai costs 25,000 points a night. If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Reserve or Ink Business Preferred then the World of Hyatt Card would be a great fit for you.

The World of Hyatt card has a bonus of 25,000 points after spending $3,000 in 3 months plus you can earn another 25,000 points after you spend an additional $3,000 within the first 6 months. It has a $95 annual fee but comes with an annual free night certificate at a category 1-4 hotel. You can also earn another free night if you spend $15,000 on the card in a year. The card earns 9x the points at Hyatt hotels, 2x the points on airfare purchased directly from the airline, transit, restaurants, and gym memberships. To learn more about the Hyatt card and why I love it, check out this post.


Back of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Kauai at dusk

The Grand Hyatt Kauai is a great place to use your Hyatt points!



Hilton Hotel Credit Cards

Hilton offers four credit cards- a no annual fee card, a personal card with a $95 annual fee, a business card, and a luxury card. What is great about Hilton is they allow you to hold each card which gives you the potential to rack up a lot of Hilton points! Add your significant other to the mix and you can REALLY accumulate a lot of Hilton points. As a holder of any Hilton card, you will get your 5th night free on award stays. Hilton cards are issued by American Express which means these cards fall under the “once per lifetime” rule…meaning you can’t receive the bonus on these cards more than one time. Hilton also makes it easy to get elite status. Just by holding the Hilton Aspire card, you will have Diamond Status, Hilton’s top tier status. If elite benefits are important to you then Hilton may be the way to go! Below I’ll give you a breakdown of each card but if you would like a more detailed guide to the Hilton cards, check out this post.


Hilton Honors American Express Card

This is Hilton’s no annual fee card. It currently has a welcome offer of 75,000 points after you spend $1,000 in 3 months. It earns 7x the points at Hilton properties, 5x at gas stations, restaurants, and gas stations, and 3x the points everywhere else. As a no annual fee card it does not come with an annual free night.


Hilton Honors Surpass Card

The Surpass card has a current offer of 125,000 points after spending $2,000 in 3 months. This card has a $95 annual fee but comes with some great benefits! As a cardholder, you’ll receive Hilton Gold Status which includes things like room upgrades when available and free breakfast. You’ll also get 10 Priority Pass lounge passes each year. If you spend $15,000 on this card each year you will be given a free weekend night certificate that can be used at almost any Hilton property.


Hilton Aspire Card

The Aspire is Hilton’s luxury card. It currently has a welcome offer of 150,000 points after spending $3,000 in 3 months. This card has a high annual fee of $450 but some really great benefits. To start off you’ll get $250 in form of statement credits to use at Hilton properties. You’ll also get $250 worth of statement credits for incidental purchases made with one qualifying airline. This includes things like baggage fees, flight change fees, upgrades, and in-flight purchases. You’ll also get Hilton Diamond status which includes room upgrades, free breakfast, and access to executive hotel lounges where you will find free drinks and food. This card also comes with Priority Pass so you can access airport lounges all over the world. With this card, you’ll also receive a free weekend night certificate each year on your account anniversary which can be used at almost any Hilton property!


Hilton Bora Bora

You can use your free weekend night certificate to stay at the Conrad Hilton in Bora Bora!


Hilton Honors Business Card

The Hilton business card has a current welcome offer of 125,000 points after spending $3,000 in 3 months. This card is very similar and offers the same benefits as the Hilton Surpass card.


IHG Hotel Cards

IHG Premier Credit Card

IHG stands for Intercontinental Hotel Group. These include brands like Intercontinental, Kimpton, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites, and more. The IHG card is offered by Chase and has a current offer of 125,000 points after spending $3,000 in 3 months. With this card, you’ll earn 25x the points at IHG hotels, 2x at gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores, and 1x on all other purchases. This card has an $89 annual fee. It also comes with an anniversary-free night valued at up to 40,000 points. You’ll also get a statement credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck with this card. As a cardholder, you will get the 4th night free on award stays. Another feature of this card is you will get Platinum Elite Status. This includes things like room upgrades, late check-out, free internet, and more. My mom was able to get upgraded to a suite and an amazing free buffet breakfast while in Dubai, all for holding this card. You can learn more about the IHG card here.


IHG Dubai for free using hotel credit card points

My mom stayed at the IHG Dubai, got breakfast, and a room upgrade all for free!



Bottom Line

Between these four major hotel brands, you will find a lot of credit card choices! We recommend going with an annual fee card, you won’t get as big of a signup bonus or lasting benefits (like an annual free night certificate) from a no annual fee card. Remember the things to consider that were listed at the beginning of this post when trying to decide which card is right for you. As always, send us an email anytime if you’d like a more personalized recommendation.



Main Image: Hilton Conrad Punta de Mita, Mexico. Courtesy of Unsplash.


hotel brand credit cards pinterest graphic


Hilton Conrad Punta de Mita

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