As you know I feature travel hacking tips for hotels and airlines in the UK. I am however conscious that I have a bunch of loyal US based readers, so today I have a treat in storie for you. Margie of DQ Family Travel is going to share some of her top tips for making hotel rewards credit cards work for you. Let’s see what she has to say…
Four US Hotel Rewards Credit cards
As much as general travel credit cards are useful for accumulating miles and points to ease the expense of travel, hotel rewards credit cards are a fantastic way to travel for less. Hotel credit cards often offer high sign up bonuses, free anniversary nights, bonus points on spending and other perks that make loyalty worthwhile.
While there are many ways to get from free hotel stays on traditional credit cards, using a hotel rewards credit card gives you more “bang for your buck” if you are loyal to the brand. Here are my recommendations on which hotel branded cards offer the most value and rewards for your money…
This is my favorite hotel credit card. Both my husband and I have one and we use them almost every time we travel. Marriott recently changed their credit card offerings. They now only have one personal and one business option, however, they still provide great value.
Sign up bonus
The current sign up bonus (as of 10/18) is 75,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months after you open your account. Plus, you earn 6 points per dollar spent on Marriott or SPG hotels, double points on any other spending and a free night each anniversary (up to 35,000 points).
Anne: I love the beds at the Marriott so this hotel is rapidly becoming one of my favourite loyalty programmes. It is even better since it merged with SPG bringing some real treats to the table such as the Nest Hotel in Seoul. I also recently stayed at the W in Beijing which was sublime. You can read that review here here.
Once you meet the minimum spending, 75,000 points can get you quite a few free nights outside major cities. Alternatively, you can usually redeem for about 2 free nights in a prime location (redemptions begin at 7,500 points). In addition, if you spend $200 on a hotel night using your credit card, you receive 1,200 points.
Although there is an annual fee of $95 for the card, it pays for itself with the free anniversary night. Essentially you are paying $95 for a free hotel night (aren’t the majority of hotel nights much more than that?).
Since I know that our family will travel, I see this expenditure as great value. Marriott is a trusted brand around the world, and if I do not have enough points for a free night, I will be more than happy to pay for their hotels and get 6x the points (which we do when we stay each year at the Marriott Crystal Shores in Marco Island, FL).
Free anniversary night
In addition, the benefit of both my husband and I having our own cards is that we get 2 “free nights” a year and since Marriott hotels are almost everywhere, it is easy to remain loyal to this brand.
Marriott Chase Partnership
Marriott is a Chase partner, and as I have the Chase Sapphire credit card, I can transfer those points to my Marriott account. The points post within one business day. This is one of the many smart ways to use the Chase Sapphire card, as it allows even more flexibility with how I manage my points.
This feature has been especially helpful when I check my Marriott balance to find out I am a few thousand points short of a hotel redemption. Very simply, I log into my Chase Sapphire account and within a few clicks, I can transfer as many points as I choose and redeem a free night.
I really love my Hyatt rewards credit card. Although the sign-up bonus (60,000 points) is not as high as Marriott’s reward credit card, the redemptions are lower. If you are willing to stay a few miles outside of the main city, you can book a free night for as low as 5,000 points. The card offers 4x the points on Hyatt properties, and along with the $95 annual fee comes a free anniversary night.
My favorite part about this card, however, is that their anniversary night has no restrictions. You can book a very high-end Hyatt property for the cost of your annual fee. Our family is always traveling and with this card, we get to stay somewhere expensive for under $100 a night (that is very rare).
In the two years we have owned this card, we have redeemed at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point, which is normally $300 a night. This hotel has 6 waterslides, 3 pools, nice rooms, and great restaurants. Staying here is one of the main reasons I love this card.
Hyatt Chase Partnership
Hyatt is also a Chase credit card partner, which means that you can transfer your points from Chase Sapphire and use it on a Hyatt hotel. The one downside with Hyatt is that they do not have hotels in smaller cities.
When traveling on a road trip, our family enjoys exploring smaller towns which rarely offer Hyatt properties. Hyatt works best when traveling to a larger city, as they have luxury options and more budget-friendly choices.
I discovered this hotel reward credit card last year when vacation planning. IHG is the group that owns Holiday Inn and Kimpton Hotels. I have become quite fond of this credit card and how much money I have saved due to staying at one of these hotels. First off, Holiday Inn hotels are underrated. Most people think they are a “lower tier brand”, yet each room I stayed in has been clean and in a good location.
IHG sign up bonuses
As of 10/18, there are 2 types of IHG credit cards offered (Premier and Traveler). For an $89 annual fee, the Premier card offers an 80,000 point sign up bonus (when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months after you open your account, a free night anniversary, 10x points on spend on IHG hotels, a $100 TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry credit, and other small perks (a 4th night free, higher status and discounts on point purchases). The Traveler card offers a much lower annual fee ($29), and a 60,000 point signup bonus, but no free anniversary nights or any other perks.
My opinion is that the Premier gives you much more value for your money. One of our favorite things about this card is that IHG properties are nationwide and in smaller cities (where we primarily travel). Because of this, we have gotten so many free nights from the sign-up bonus and we get one anniversary night that we try to use in prime locations that are usually much more expensive.
IHG Chase Partnership
Once again, IHG is a Chase hotel partner, and you can transfer points into your IHG account to be able to get free hotel nights when you are close to a redemption.
4. Choice Hotels
This hotel chain is the newest addition to my hotel rewards credit cards collection. It is also the only one that is not a Chase credit card partner.
Choice sign up bonus
I applied for this card because there was a sign-up bonus of 32,000 points with no annual fee. Although I do not mind an annual fee card, I felt that these were essentially “free points”. Also, Choice Privileges, the loyalty program, was rated #1 by USA Today’s Reader’s Choice Awards for budget-friendly accommodations.
Their options range from motel accommodations to smaller hotels and one luxury brand. One great thing about Choice Hotels is that they have locations in many cities (big and small), and by getting this credit card, you are getting at least 1-2 nights of free hotel stays (as there is no annual fee).
I am happy to say that I have already stayed at two of these hotels and although they certainly do not have any frills, they are clean and have a free breakfast.
Other hotel rewards credit cards
Overall, if you enjoy traveling for cheap or free, it is a no-brainer to sign up for hotel rewards credit cards. Although there are other options that did not make my list (Hilton, Starwood, and Ritz Carlton), I feel that these four hotel credit cards offer the most value and rewards for your money.
If you would like some other ways to save up on travel that does not involve signing up for credit cards, check out Fifive easy ways to save for travel.
Say hello to Margie of DQ Family Travel
Margie, today’s guest writer is a teacher turned family travel blogger. When she got married 12 years ago, her husband introduced her to the joys of traveling. With their two kids, they have traveled around the USA and their goal is to visit all 50 states before the kids graduate high school.
Margie started the blog to keep a record of their travels. She also wanted to share how they travel so frequently on a budget.
How cute is her family by the way? Feel free to connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. If you have any questions about hotel rewards credit cards pop them in the comments below and we will do our best to answer.