There is a reason Traveldealalert.com rates the Hyatt Visa Card the #1 Hotel Rewards Affinity Credit Card. In addition to the fact the Hyatt Gold Passport program is one of the strongest of any hotel chain (see my article 3,000 Gold Passport Bonus Points with Hyatt Visa Card), the Hyatt Visa Card offers you two free nights at any Hyatt in the world when you sign up for the card and spend at least $1.000 in the first three months of account ownership. I signed up for the cars last February. I am now enjoying two nights at the incredible Park Hyatt New York for the price of “on the house”. Be advised that the more expensive Hyatt properties make it a little challenging to cash in your free nights, but as long as your are tenacious you should get be to score free nights at the hotel of your choice. You can sign up for the Hyatt Visa Card by clicking here. I have also included my review of the major hotel rewards affinity credit cards below.
The Best Hotel Affinity Credit Cards Reviewed
Anyone who travels even a little bit gets bombarded with a seemingly endless array of frequent flyer mileage and hotel frequent guest program credit card offers. They all seem great at first glance but when you dig down which ones are the best. Today we are going to run down the best of the hotel frequent guest reward program credit card deals.
Hyatt Visa Card — Rating A+ (Average Bonus Value $1629)
The best perk of the Hyatt Visa Card is that you get two free nights in any Hyatt property worldwide after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months after opening the account. You also get 3 Hyatt Gold Passport points for every dollar you spend at a Hyatt hotel, 2 Hyatt Gold Passport points spent at restaurants, on airline
tickets (purchased directly from an airline) and at car rental agencies, and 1 Hyatt Gold Passport point on all other purchases. In addition, if you sign up for the card while making a Hyatt reservation (but before completing your purchase) you should get an additional $50 statement credit.
A couple of additional kickers, Hyatt automatically upgrades you to Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum status (for as long as you hold the card) with its 15% point bonus, complimentary internet, 72 hour room guarantee, expedited check-in and preferred reservation line. The Hyatt Visa card entitles you to forgo foreign transaction fees on international purchases. Additionally, there is no annual fee for the first year ($75 a year after that). Plus you get one free night in a Category 1-4 Hyatt on each card member anniversary–an excellent deal for the $75 annual fee.
Bonus Value–Two nights at Park Hyatt Paris–Vendome $799 a night ($1598 value) or two nights at Park Hyatt Chicago $475 a night ($950 value) or two nights at the Park Hyatt New York $983 (value $1966). Remember, your two free nights must be used within one year of card issuance or you lose them.
Starwood Preferred Guest American Express–Rating A (Average Bonus Value $962)
The SPG American Express card earns you 25,00o Starpoints after you spend $3,000 on the card in the first three months. The introductory annual fee is $0 and $95 a year thereafter. You earn up to 5 Starpoints for each dollar spent at participating SPG hotels (2 points from the card and 2 to 3 points from your stay). You also receive a 5,000 point bonus when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to the nearly 30 participating airline frequent flyer programs (usually on a one to one basis). Minor benefits include a small leg up toward SPG Gold status (a 5 night and 2 stay credit) and some of the regular AMEX card benefits like purchase protection, dispute resolution, return protection and car rental damage and loss insurance.
Summary of Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Features
The excellent Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card has the following features:
- $0 introductory annual fee and $95 a year thereafter (recently raised from $65)
- Earn up to 5 Starpoints for purchases at SPG hotels (2 pts from the card and 2 to 3 pts from your stay)
- Earn one point per dollar for all other purchases
- Enjoy a 5 night/2 stay bonus toward SPG Elite status
- Free in-room Premium Internet at participating SPG hotels
- Complimentary unlimited Boingo Wi-FI for up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 hotspots worldwide
- Redeem Starpoints for airline miles on nearly 30 airline frequent flyer programs
- Roadside Assistance Hotline (third party costs are your responsibility)
- Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance when you use your card to reserve and pay for the vehicle rental with the card, and decline the CDW at the counter (check your card agreement for details)
- Global Assist Hotline
- Travel Accident Insurance
- 30,000 Starpoints Bonus when you sign up and spend $3,000 in the first three months of card membership
- No foreign transactions fees on international purchases
Bonus Value–Two nights at W Hollywood in Los Angeles $310 a night ($620 value) or two nights at the Westin Chicago River North $459 a night ($918 value) or two nights at the Sheraton New York Times Square $599 ($1198). Starwood has no hotels in Paris so we substituted Los Angeles.
Marriott Rewards Visa Card–Rating B (Average Bonus Value $882)
My original rating for the Marriott Rewards Visa Card was a C+. However, that’s when the Marriott Rewards Visa Card offered only 50,000 Marriott Rewards bonus points (with a required $1,000 minimum spend in the first three months plus one free night in a Category 1-4 hotel after account approval with no annual fee).
The current Marriott Rewards Premier Card offer comes with 80,000 Marriott Rewards bonus points (the minimum spend is upped to $3,000 in the first three months), but does impose an $85 annual fee which is not waived in the first year and you lose the one free night in the Category 1-4 hotel. Although I am not in love with this Marriott Rewards Premier Card offer (and the quiet change in key terms of the offer), the maximum bonus value is still higher than before. You still earn 5 points for every dollar spent at any Marriott hotel (or partner hotels), 2 points for every dollar spent on airline tickets (purchased directly from the airline), and at car rental agencies and restaurants, and 1 point per dollar everywhere else. There are still no foreign transaction fees and the card has an embedded chip for protection. Additionally, you get 15 credits toward your next Elite membership level upon card approval and every year after your account anniversary. Finally, you still get one free night in a Category 1-5 hotel for each year you renew your Marriott Rewards Premier card. Be very careful to monitor the date when your free bonus night (not your Marriott Rewards points) expires.
Bonus Value–One night at the Paris Marriott Champs Elysees Hotel (45,000 points) $783.63 a night ($783.63 value) or two nights at the JW Marriott Chicago (40,000 points) $459 a night ($918 value) or two nights at the Courtyard New York Manhattan/Fifth Avenue (40,000) $499 a night ($998 value). I added $200 to the value of the Paris Marriott Champs Elysees Hotel stay value for the 35,000 remaining bonus points and subtracted the $85 annual fee from the Average Bonus Value.
Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card–Rating C (Average Bonus Value $503)
Our original article analyzed The Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express with its 60,000 point bonus (after a $3,000 minimum spend in the first three months of card membership) and a $75 annual fee. The Hilton HHonors Surpass Card gives you a rather generous 12 HHonors points for each dollar spent at Hilton portfolio hotels, 6 HHonors points for each dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations, and 3 HHonors points for all other dollars spent. The Hilton HHonors Surpass Card earned a Traveldealalert.com rating of D (Amex recently added a free basic Priority Pass membership to the Surpass Card that would raise the rating to a C–).
The new Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card has a 75,000 HHonors point bonus, a $2,000 minimum spend requirement in the first three months and no annual fee. Spending on the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card earns you a less generous 6 HHonors points for each dollar spend at Hilton portfolio hotels, 3 HHonors points for spend at supermarkets, drug stores and gas stations and 2 HHonors points for all other purchases. You also get a complimentary upgrade to HHonors Silver status and an upgrade to Gold status if you spend $20,000 or more in a year.
The problem is that HHonors is a weak program (and seems to get weaker all of the time) so the extra points don’t really get you that much. For example, one night in Paris at the Hilton Paris Opera (September 16, 2015) hotel was recently quoted at 148,269 HHonors points (or $413 per night). That’s an absolute joke. I could let it go if it was just a random international problem with European hotels. However, the same thing happens here in good old USA. The Hilton Garden Inn New York/Times Square Central was recently quoted at 161,640 HHonors points per night (or $449 per night). The West 57th Street by Hilton Club was quoted at a ridiculous 215,388 HHonors points (or $550 a night). I haven’t seen this type of inconsistency at any of the other major rewards programs. The HHonors really needs to get its act together because it is well on its way to irrelevance. Just like the Argentine Peso nobody is going to want to hold the HHonors currency when the issuer feels free to devalue at any time.
Bonus Value–One night in Paris at the Hilton Paris Orly Airport (69,883 points) $267 a night ($267 value) or one night in Chicago at Palmer House Hilton (50,000 points) $399 a night ($399 value) or one night in New York at Hampton Inn Manhattan/Times Square Central (70,000) $519 a night ($519 value).
Comparing the cards is not an easy task. There are some slight differences in features of the cards–the real difference is in the size of your bonus. To properly value the non-bonus features we are assigning a $75 value to an automatic upgrade to elite status, a $50 value for a card that charges no foreign transaction fees and a $75 value for the ability to convert hotel miles to airline miles. Minor card features are assigned no value. I’m assuming that most people want to use their free miles or nights to splurge on something they wouldn’t ordinarily buy for themselves. Accordingly, we have assumed you will book luxury properties with your bonus. We have also spread the comparison geographically using Chicago, New York and Paris as the test cities (Starwood has no Paris properties so we substituted Los Angeles). The Average Bonus Value is calculated by the averaging the cost of the most expensive hotel room you can access with your bonus in each of our test cites. Then we add or subtract the feature bonuses set forth above. We will subtract any first year annual fee charged by the card company from the Average Bonus Value. All prices quoted were for stays beginning September 16, 2015.
Please note that if you want to redeem your miles at more moderate hotels the results of the ratings could change dramatically.