Best Hotel Rewards Credit Cards in 2021

The best hotel credit cards reward brand loyalty through room upgrades, free nights, early check-ins, late check-outs, bonus points, complimentary breakfasts and more.

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Like conventional rewards cards, hotel credit cards are designed to reward users. Some such cards come with annual fees, in which case you need to determine if you can offset the cost through rewards and benefits. A typical hotel credit card offers a higher-than-usual reward rate when you spend at any of its affiliated properties. It might offer other brand-specific benefits as well.

If you already favor a particular hotel brand over others, you may want to look for a card that carries its name. For instance, people who stay at Hilton hotels regularly may benefit by looking at what the different Hilton Honors American Express credit cards have to offer.

If, on the other hand, you travel extensively but don’t regularly book rooms at any one particular hotel chain, you might benefit from a travel rewards credit card. In this case, while you stand to earn rewards when you use your card to pay for your hotel stays, you’ll also earn rewards when you spend on other categories such as flight tickets and gas.

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MoneyGeek Quick Tip: Get a hotel rewards credit card only if you're sure you'll be able to justify paying its annual fee by earning adequate rewards and making use of the benefits it has to offer. Once you decide to get one, compare your options across factors such as annual fees, rewards and perks.

MoneyGeek’s Take: Top Hotel Rewards Credit Cards in 2021

MoneyGeek analyzes multiple factors to determine which hotel credit cards are the best. These include sign-up bonuses, introductory offers, rewards rates, fees, interest rates and additional features.

1

General Hotel Rewards Credit Cards

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited Card — The Chase Freedom Unlimited Card comes with no annual fees. It lets you earn 5% cash back on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • American Express Platinum Card — The American Express Platinum Card charges a sizable $695 annual fee. You earn 5x points when you book prepaid hotels through American Express Travel as well as when you book flights either directly with airlines or through American Express Travel. All other purchases come with 1x points. This card offers credits toward prepaid hotel bookings, airline fees, digital entertainment, Uber/Uber Eats, Equinox and Global Entry/TSA PreCheck.
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Co-Branded Hotel Credit Cards

  • American Express Hilton Honors Surpass Card — For a $95 annual fee, the American Express Hilton Honors Surpass Card offers 12x points when you spend at eligible properties within the Hilton portfolio. You get 6x points on dining at U.S. restaurants, on groceries at U.S. supermarkets and on gas at U.S. gas stations. All other purchases come with 3x points. Your card also comes with complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status.
  • Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier Card — The Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier Card comes with an $89 annual fee (currently waived for the first year). Spending at IHG Hotels and Resorts gives you the means to earn up to 25x points. Spending at restaurants, gas stations and grocery stores comes with 2x points, and all other purchases earn 1x points. You get complimentary IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite status, which brings with it a free anniversary night each year.
  • Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card — You need to pay a $95 annual fee if you get the Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card. You get to earn up to 17x points when you spend at participating Marriott properties. All other purchases come with 2x points. You get Silver Elite Status automatically, and you receive 15 Elite Night credits each year. Cardholders also stand to get free night awards on each account anniversary.
3

Business Credit Cards With Hotel Perks

  • American Express Hilton Honors Business Card — Getting the American Express Hilton Honors Business Card requires paying a $95 annual fee. You earn 12x points for purchases made directly through properties within the Hilton portfolio. You get 6x points on flights booked via Amex Travel or directly through airlines, on select car rentals, at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. gas stations, on U.S. purchases for shipping and on wireless telephone services purchased directly through U.S. service providers. All other purchases come with 3x points. All cardholders get Hilton Honors Gold membership status.
  • American Express Business Platinum Card — The American Express Business Platinum Card charges a $595 annual fee. It offers 5x points on flights and prepaid hotel bookings through Amex Travel, 1.5x points on eligible purchases of $5,000 or more and 1x points on all other purchases. All cardholders get access to the Fine Hotels Resorts Program and the American Express Global Lounge Collection. You also get annual statement credits toward CLEAR and Dell Technologies.

Best Hotel Rewards Credit Cards for September 2021

Credit card experts at MoneyGeek have scrutinized all the leading hotel rewards credit cards in the U.S. and compared them across categories such as annual fees, cash back and reward points, the value of your rewards and additional perks. While we’re quick to highlight the benefits, we shed light on each card’s possible drawbacks as well.

Best Credit Cards With Hotel Rewards

The best credit cards with hotel rewards are not necessarily the ones that are co-branded with popular chains of hotels. For instance, if you do not limit your hotel stays to a single group of hotels, you might benefit by getting a travel credit card that offers a high reward rate for spending across hotels of different brands. In this case, you might benefit by earning rewards on your airline bookings as well.


  • creditApproved icon

    FEATURED

    Chase Freedom Unlimited
    An excellent no annual fee card that lets you earn unlimited cash back

    • ExcellentCredit Needed
    • $0Annual Fee
    • 1.5-5% Cash BackRewards Rate
    • 5xRewards Rate on Hotel
    • 1.5xRewards Rate on Groceries

  • American Express The Platinum Card
    A great rewards card for air travel with premium benefits

    • Good-ExcellentCredit Needed
    • $695Annual Fee
    • 1-5 Points per $1*Rewards Rate
    • 5xRewards Rate on Hotel
    • 1xRewards Rate on Groceries

Best Co-Branded Hotel Credit Cards

Co-branded hotel cards are ones that are linked to particular groups of hotels, with examples being the Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card and the American Express Hilton Honors Surpass Card. Most co-branded hotel cards offer higher reward rates when you spend at properties within the group. They also tend to offer brand-specific perks such as free nights, hotel credits and automatic elite status within the respective hotel loyalty program.


  • creditApproved icon

    FEATURED

    American Express Hilton Honors Surpass Card
    An excellent credit card for earning Hilton Honors points

    • Good-ExcellentCredit Needed
    • $95Annual Fee
    • 3-12 Points per $1*Rewards Rate
    • 12xRewards Rate on Hotel
    • 6xRewards Rate on Dining

  • Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier
    A fantastic card for earning rewards when you stay at IHG hotels and resorts

    • Good-ExcellentCredit Needed
    • $0 - 89Annual Fee
    • 1-25 Points per $1*Rewards Rate
    • 25xRewards Rate on Hotel
    • 2xRewards Rate on Dining

  • Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless
    An excellent card for earning reward points and free nights at Marriott hotels

    • Good-ExcellentCredit Needed
    • $95Annual Fee
    • 2 Points per $1Rewards Rate
    • 6xRewards Rate on Hotel
    • 2xRewards Rate on Dining

Business Credit Cards with Hotel Perks

Several business credit cards offer hotel-related benefits. These can come in the form of hotel reward program membership status upgrades, the ability to earn more points on hotel purchases and free hotel credits. However, the annual fee you need to pay often has a direct bearing on the benefits you get. For example, the Business Platinum Card from American Express offers cardholders Gold status within the Hilton Honors rewards program and Gold Elite status within the Marriott Bonvoy rewards program, among other perks, but comes with an annual fee of $595.


  • creditApproved icon

    FEATURED

    American Express Hilton Honors Business Card
    This business credit card is perfect for earning Hilton Honors points

    • Good-ExcellentCredit Needed
    • $95Annual Fee
    • 3-12x Points per $1*Rewards Rate
    • 12xRewards Rate on Hotel
    • 6xRewards Rate on Dining

  • American Express Business Platinum Card
    A good business card for premium travel benefits

    • Good-ExcellentCredit Needed
    • $595Annual Fee
    • 1-5 Points per $1*Rewards Rate
    • 5xRewards Rate on Hotel
    • 1xRewards Rate on Dining

How We Rank Hotel Rewards Credit Cards

Our lists of the best credit cards are based on publicly available data from card issuers and other reputable sources like the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. We review each card's fees, interest rates, rewards, benefits and more to assign a rating for each feature. These ratings are stack ranked and weighted for each card category to determine our top selections for each type of user. Because card details change regularly, we revisit our data each month to update our ratings, recommendations and other card information as needed. Learn more about our data collection and ranking process.

Top Rating Criteria for Hotel Rewards Credit Cards

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Hotel Reward Rate
signupBonus
Sign-up bonus
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Annual Fee

Quick Tips for Comparing Hotel Rewards Credit Card Offers

All hotel credit cards serve the basic purpose of giving you access to credit, but their features and benefits vary greatly. As a result, it is important that you pay attention to different aspects before selecting one. Factors that require your attention include:

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    Description
  • Group of hotels
    Unless you already have a favored chain of hotels, you need to determine which one might work best for you. Bear in mind that a few big hotel companies own some of the smaller ones, which gives you access to a wider pool of properties across segments. For instance, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Staybridge Suites, Atwell Suites and Indigo Boutique Hotels are part of the InterContinental Hotel Group – and Chase offers an IHG-branded card. Some of the brands that fall under the Marriott umbrella include St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton, Courtyard, Westin, Renaissance and Fairfield.
  • Free nights
    A number of hotel cards offer one or more free nights per year, and you may use them to offset any possible annual fee. While you might automatically qualify for a free night, some cards require that you spend at least a predetermined amount per year to qualify.
  • Upgrades and other brand-specific perks
    With some hotel credit cards, you can expect complimentary room upgrades depending on availability. Some cards offer elevated membership status with their linked hotel loyalty programs, thereby opening up even more benefits, such as early check-ins, late check-outs and complimentary breakfast.
  • Annual fees
    While some hotel credit cards come with no annual fees, others charge over $400 per year. When you choose a premium credit card with a high annual fee, you need to determine if the rewards you earn and the benefits you stand to enjoy will offset this cost.
  • Foreign transaction fees
    You’ll want to pay particular attention to this if you plan to use your card outside of the U.S. cards that come with foreign transaction fees require that you pay 2% to 3% of each international transaction as fees. However, some hotel credit cards charge no foreign transaction fees.
  • APR
    You need to look at the annual percentage rate (APR) if you plan to maintain a revolving balance in your account from one month to the next. If you do, you might consider getting a credit card with a low APR instead of a hotel card. APRs that apply on purchases and cash advances are typically different, with cash advance APRs being noticeably higher. Some cards come with intro APR offers on purchases and balance transfers, in which case you pay no interest for a predetermined time period. Outstanding balances at the end of this period start accruing regular interest.
  • Sign-up bonus
    Some hotel credit cards come with great sign-up bonuses, giving you the means to earn a significant number of reward points in one go. To earn such bonuses, you typically need to spend a minimum amount within a predetermined time period.
  • Reward rates
    Reward rates vary from one hotel rewards card to the next, and cards with high annual fees tend to offer higher reward rates. For instance, the no-annual-fee American Express Hilton Honors Card lets you earn 7x points per dollar on every eligible Hilton purchase. In contrast, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, which comes with an annual fee of $450, offers 14x points per eligible Hilton purchase. When it comes to the worth of your reward points, this typically depends on how you’re redeeming them, with examples being free nights, statement credits, points transfers, gift cards, merchandise and travel.
  • Value of points
    The reward points you stand to earn through different hotel credit cards vary in value. In addition, they are typically lower in value than points earned through regular rewards cards. As a result, you need to determine the actual dollar value of the points you earn as well as how they’d translate into free nights. An easy way to calculate how much your reward points are worth is to divide the dollar value of the reward by the number of points you need to claim a reward. For example, if you need 40,000 points to book a hotel stay worth $500, you divide 500 by 40,000. In this case, you get $0.0125 or 1.25 cents, which is what your one reward point is worth. In addition, you typically get the best value for your points when you redeem them for hotel purchases, and their value tends to diminish if you transfer them to an airline rewards program or redeem them in other ways.
  • Added perks
    Additional benefits may come in the form of complimentary travel insurance, free airport lounge access, priority boarding, hotel credits, airline fee credits, purchase protection and extended warranties.
Hotel Rewards Credit Cards Compared at a Glance

Compare the best hotel rewards credit cards across important parameters such as hotel reward rates, standard reward rates and annual fees.

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  • Card Name
    Card Type
    Everyday Reward Rate
    Rewards Rate at Hotels
    Annual Fee
  • 1.
    Chase Freedom Unlimited
    Hotel Rewards Card
    1.5-5% Cash Back
    5x
    $0
  • 2.
    American Express The Platinum Card
    Hotel Rewards Card
    1-5 Points per $1*
    5x
    $695
  • 3.
    American Express Hilton Honors Surpass Card
    Co-branded Hotel Card
    3-12 Points per $1*
    12x
    $95
  • 4.
    Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier
    Co-branded Hotel Card
    1-25 Points per $1*
    25x
    $0-89*
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MONEYGEEK EXPERT TIP

Choosing the right hotel credit card is extremely personal to you. Don’t sign up for a card because a friend recommends it to you. It is best to analyze your hotel staying habits and needs, along with your personal finances, to find the right card for you. — Brett Holzhauer

MoneyGeek’s Quick Guide to Understanding Hotel Rewards Credit Cards

Hotel credit cards are affiliated with a particular group of hotels, and you stand to earn higher rewards when you spend at any of the properties that are part of the group. Depending on the card you select, you might get other benefits such as free nights and hotel credits. Upgrading cardholders’ hotel reward program membership tiers are also a common feature.

You may benefit by getting a hotel rewards credit card if you’re:

  • A frequent business traveler: If your business takes you to specific places, you might consider getting a hotel credit card linked to a hotel chain with properties in the cities or towns you frequent. This gives you the means to capitalize on your business spending, and you may also benefit by using some premium services for free. You might also consider looking at what different business credit cards have to offer.
  • A vacationer: If you like taking off to go on vacation every so often, a hotel credit card might be worth your while. You get multiple alternatives to choose from if you like vacationing in luxury. Budget vacationers and road-trippers have options too. If you prefer to keep your vacation expenses low, you might consider looking at what Wyndham Rewards cards, Best Western Rewards cards and the Sonesta World Mastercard have to offer.
  • A loyal traveler: If you prefer staying at hotels from a particular group, check if there’s a credit card that complements its loyalty program. This way, you get to maximize your rewards-earning potential.
  • Looking for perks: A hotel credit card might work well for you if you feel you may make use of benefits such as room upgrades, free nights, complimentary breakfast and hotel credits.

How Do Hotel Credit Cards Work?

A hotel credit card is typically linked to a specific chain of hotels, be it Hilton, Marriott, IHG, Wyndham or Best Western. When you use a co-branded card at any of the group’s properties, you stand to earn more reward points than you would as just a member of the hotel’s loyalty/reward program.

For example, when you use the Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card at participating Marriott properties, you earn 10x points as a Marriott Bonvoy member, 6x more points as a Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit cardholder, and an additional 1x points because of the Silver Elite Status that comes with your card.

Depending on the card you have, you may redeem your reward points for free nights or as statement credits, use them to purchase merchandise or gift cards, or even transfer them to an airline frequent flyer program.

Most hotel credit cards offer very basic reward earn rates when you spend outside of the group’s properties. However, this is not a constraint with the best travel credit cards that let you earn higher rewards no matter which hotel you stay at, as well as on other categories such as air travel and dining.

The Pros and Cons of Hotel Rewards Credit Cards

Hotel reward credit cards come with advantages and disadvantages, and it’s best to look at both before applying for one.

Pros
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    Welcome offers

    A number of hotel credit cards give you the means to earn a significant number of sign-up bonus points as long as you spend at least a given amount within a stipulated time frame.

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    Higher reward rates on hotel purchases

    When you use your hotel credit card to spend at hotels it is associated with, you can expect to earn higher-than-usual rewards. For instance, the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card offers up to 25x reward points on IHG hotel stays, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card offers up to 17x points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, and the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card offers 12x points when you stay at Hilton properties.

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    Free nights

    You may redeem your bonus and base reward points for free hotel nights. Some cards offer one or more free nights on your account anniversary and if you spend a preset amount within a given time frame. However, depending on the card you get, there might be limitations on how you can redeem your points for free nights.

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    Membership status benefits

    You usually need to spend a minimum number of nights at hotels of a particular group each year before you can move up the membership status of its loyalty program. Hotel credit cards give you the means to move up the status ladder much faster. For instance, the Hilton Honors Card comes with automatic Hilton Honors Silver status. The Hilton Honors Amex Surpass Card comes with Gold status. And you get Diamond status with the Hilton Honors Aspire Card. The World of Hyatt Credit Card from Chase comes with automatic Discoverist status. Membership status-specific benefits you may enjoy include higher bonus points, late check-outs, room upgrades, executive lounge access, free premium Wi-Fi and food and beverage credit.

Cons
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    Annual fees

    Hotel credit cards that offer high reward rates and a slew of benefits typically come with high annual fees. For instance, the Chase World of Hyatt Credit Card comes with a $95 annual fee, as do the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless and Hilton Honors American Express Surpass cards. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card charges a $450 annual fee.

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    Limited to single network

    With a hotel credit card, its benefits are mainly limited to hotels that belong to a single network. This can be a problem if your travels take you outside of big cities, where finding hotels from specific chains might be challenging. Besides, network size matters as well. For instance, you’ll find considerably more properties linked to the Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors loyalty programs when compared to the World of Hyatt loyalty program.

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    Limitations in redeeming rewards

    Some hotel loyalty programs place restrictions on how you can redeem your rewards, and these apply to reward points you earn through your hotel credit card. The IHG Rewards Club follows capacity control, wherein only a given number of a hotel’s standard rooms are made available for reward redemptions each night. This is also the case with the World of Hyatt program for its suites and Small Luxury Hotels of the World properties. The Hilton Honors program does not have a capacity control policy for standard rooms. With the Marriott Bonvoy program, hotels may offer a limited number of standard rooms available for awards on specific days.

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    No flexibility in rules

    If you get a complimentary free night upon signing up or on your account anniversary, you might need to use it within 12 months. With the other free nights you earn, there might be limitations surrounding which type of properties you may use them with and when. Hotel credits you receive might be property-specific and subject to lapse after a given time period. In addition, whether or not you might be able to redeem your rewards for statement credit, travel or gift cards, or convert them to airline miles depends on the card you get.

What Can You Expect From Hotel Credit Cards?

Using a hotel credit card gives you the ability to earn higher rewards when you stay at any property that is part of the same group. In addition, the best hotel rewards credit cards also come with noteworthy sign-up or welcome bonuses. For instance, the American Express Hilton Honors Surpass Card offers 150,000 bonus points if you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months and an additional 50,000 points if you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first six months.

Annual fees of hotel rewards cards tend to vary based on the perks and features they offer. With some cards, this fee can be upward of $500. Very few hotel credit cards come with no annual fees, and examples of ones that do include the American Express Hilton Honors Card and the Wyndham Rewards Earner Card from Barclays.

If you plan to maintain revolving balances in your account from one billing cycle to the next, the annual percentage rate (APR) requires your attention. This is because it affects how much you pay as interest charges. In such a scenario, you need to consider if the card’s rewards and benefits would outweigh not just its annual fee but also how much you pay as interest.

Is It Worth Getting a Hotel Credit Card?

Getting a hotel credit card might be worth your while if you can make the most of its rewards and benefits. If you already favor one brand of hotel over others, selecting a suitable card becomes relatively simple. If this is not the case, determine if you might be okay limiting your options to hotels from a particular group. If so, you may consider getting a hotel credit card. If not, a regular travel card might work better for you.

When there’s an annual fee involved, you need to determine if the rewards you earn and the benefits you stand to enjoy would offset this cost.

People who might benefit by getting a hotel rewards credit card include those who remain loyal to a particular group of hotels as well as those who frequently travel (for business or pleasure). While seekers of luxury have different options to choose from, so do budget travelers and road trippers.

FAQs About Hotel Rewards Credit Cards

Here are answers to some other commonly asked questions about hotel rewards credit cards.

Expert Advice

  1. How can consumers determine whether a hotel credit card is worth it for their lifestyle? Who is best suited for a hotel credit card?
  2. What should consumers keep in mind when it comes to hotel credit cards and their rewards?
Dr. Corey Cole
Dr. Corey Cole

Assistant Professor of Finance at Eastern New Mexico University

Next Steps

Now that you know how hotel credit cards work and the benefits they have to offer, determine if getting one might work well for you based on rewards, perks and fees. If you wish to earn higher rewards across categories that extend beyond hotels, consider looking at what the best travel rewards cards have to offer.

About the Author


expert-profile

Rajiv Baniwal has been writing about different financial topics for over 15 years. Meticulous in his research, he makes sure he provides accurate and up-to-date information. His areas of expertise include mortgages, personal loans, credit cards, insurance and international money transfers.


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*Rates or fees may vary or include specific stipulations. We recommend visiting the card issuer’s website for the most up-to-date information available.
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