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Should You Get a Hotel Credit Card? Here's How to Decide

Motley Fool - Sat Oct 14, 2023

A woman in a pool at a luxury hotel overlooking the ocean.

Image source: Getty Images

If you want to earn points you can redeem for free stays, a hotel credit card could be the answer. Many popular hotel chains, including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, and IHG, have valuable credit cards tied to their loyalty programs.

You might be asking yourself just how frequently you need to stay at a specific hotel chain for one of its credit cards to be worth it. Although this may be surprising, you don't need to be a frequent guest to get your money's worth from a hotel card.

Here's when a hotel credit card is right for you

Hotel credit cards offer hotel-specific benefits. For that reason, the more you stay at a hotel chain each year, the more you'll get out of one of its credit cards. But that doesn't mean a hotel card is only a good idea if you stay there often. If you stay at a hotel at least once per year, you could benefit from a hotel credit card.

Here's why: Many of the best hotel credit cards offer an annual free night certificate. The cards that offer this benefit also charge annual fees, but you can easily come out ahead just from the free night alone.

For example, there are several hotel cards with $95 annual fees and annual free night certificates. If you get one of those cards and use your free night at a hotel charging $200 per night, then you're already up $105. And that's just one perk. There are plenty of other benefits hotel cards offer, which can include:

  • Welcome offers where new cardholders can earn a large number of bonus points for reaching a spend requirement
  • Big bonus points on purchases at the hotel
  • Complimentary elite status in the hotel's loyalty program, entitling you to special benefits

Benefits tend to be more impressive with hotel cards that have higher annual fees. But there are good hotel cards starting at about that $95 range, so you have options if you're looking for one that doesn't break the bank.

I used this very approach when deciding if I'd get a hotel credit card. Before I opened it, I thought about whether I'd be staying at that hotel over the next year. I was, and that made my decision pretty easy. After that, it was just a matter of comparing that hotel's credit card options and picking the one with the benefits I liked the most.

If you're not sure about hotel credit cards…

There are also more general travel credit cards that aren't tied to any hotel loyalty programs. For example, cards in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program earn points that you can transfer to any of Chase's airline or hotel partners. You can also use those points to book cash travel purchases through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal.

Other card issuers, including American Express and Capital One, have similar rewards programs. These give you more redemption options than you'd have with a hotel credit card. You could potentially use your points for hotel stays, airfare, or other types of travel purchases. With a hotel credit card, you'll need to use your points for stays at that specific hotel.

It's easy to get your money's worth from a hotel credit card. If it offers an annual free night certificate, you shouldn't have any trouble getting back more than what you paid for an annual fee. But if you aren't sure how often your travel plans will involve the same hotel chain, consider other travel cards with more flexible points and rewards programs.

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