Home » Best hotel credit cards for travel benefits and perks | CNN Underscored

Best hotel credit cards for travel benefits and perks | CNN Underscored

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Whether you are looking for a full fledged vacation or a close-to-home staycation, having the best hotel credit card can help you earn free nights and extra benefits during your stay. From complimentary nights to room upgrades, the right credit card can make your next hotel stay less expensive and more enjoyable.

Of course, the right card for you depends on what you are looking for. Do you typically stay at one hotel chain or are you looking for a card with more flexibility? With so many hotel credit cards available, we’ve gone ahead and listed out the best ones.

In addition to being one of the best airline credit cards, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card is a good option for earning and redeeming points on hotel stays. The card earns flexible Chase Ultimate Reward points which can be used to book free nights at thousands of hotels around the world.

On the earning side, the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns points based on the following structure:

  • 10 points per dollar: Hotels and rental cars booked through Ultimate Rewards.
  • 10 points per dollar: Dining booked through Ultimate Rewards.
  • 10 points per dollar: Lyft rides through March 2025.
  • 5 points per dollar: Air travel booked through Ultimate Rewards.
  • 3 points per dollar: Travel purchases (after the $300 travel credit).
  • 3 points per dollar: Dining worldwide.
  • 1 point per dollar: All other purchases.

On the redemption side, you have two different options when it comes to booking hotel reservations. The most flexible is booking through the Chase travel portal, where your points are worth a fixed 1.5 cents apiece. This means you can book any hotel and room type you’d like on any date.

Or, you can transfer your points at a 1-to-1 ratio to three different hotel partners: World of Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy or IHG One Rewards. You’ll often find the best value by transferring to World of Hyatt as the program usually has the best reward rates.

The card offers a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on the card within the first three months of opening your account. When using your points through the Chase travel portal, the welcome offer is automatically worth $900 towards travel. But if you transfer your points to a partner hotel or airline, you can stretch your value even further.

The card also has a set of benefits that help offset its $550 annual fee. Right off the bat, you’ll receive a $300 annual travel credit that you can use toward any travel purchase. This includes hotels and airfare, as well as everyday expenses like public transit fare and Uber rides.

Other statement credits include:

  •  Up to $100 for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck every four years.
  • $60 per year in DoorDash credits, dispersed at $5 per month.
  • $10 per month in GoPuff delivery credit (through July 2024).
  • One year of complimentary Instacart+ (must activate by July 31, 2024).
  • Up to $15 in monthly Instacart statement credits (through July 2024).

Travelers will also appreciate the card’s included Priority Pass membership, that includes access to thousands of airport lounges around the globe. The Sapphire Reserve is one of the few credit cards whose Priority Pass membership also includes access to Priority Pass restaurants where you can enjoy a meal credit at select restaurants before your flight.

Finally, the Sapphire Reserve includes extensive travel insurance. When you pay for a trip with your Sapphire Reserve, you’re covered with trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, lost luggage reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, rental car protection, travel accident insurance and emergency evacuation assistance.

Read CNN Underscored’s review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Learn more and apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Plates with food on a table at a restaurant.

If you aren’t looking to pay a $550 annual fee right away, you might want to consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card instead. This card works similar to the Sapphire Reserve but with slightly less perks a smaller $95 annual fee. It also offers the same 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Just like the Reserve card, the Preferred also earns Chase Ultimate Reward points and lets you redeem points in the same manner. However, there are a couple of differences in how you earn and redeem points with the card.

Namely, you’ll earn fewer points when you spend with the Sapphire Preferred. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 5 points per dollar: Travel booked through Ultimate Rewards.
  • 5 points per dollar: Lyft rides through March 2025.
  • 3 points per dollar: Dining worldwide.
  • 3 points per dollar: Select streaming services.
  • 3 points per dollar: Select online grocery services.
  • 2 points per dollar: Travel purchases.
  • 1 point per dollar: All other purchases.

You can transfer your points to the same hotel and airline partners at a 1-to-1 ratio as you can with the Reserve card, but your points are only a lower 1.25 cents apiece when redeemed with the Chase travel portal. This mean points earned simply from the sign-up offer are worth $750 if redeemed through the travel portal.

Benefits are a different too. The card provides up to a $50 statement credit for hotel stays purchased through Ultimate Rewards and a 10% anniversary points boost. So if you earn 100,000 points with your card (not including the welcome bonus), you’ll earn 10,000 bonus points at the end of the year.

Other Sapphire Preferred benefits include:

  • Six months of complimentary Instacart+ (must activate by July 31, 2024).
  • Up to $15 in Instacart statement credits per quarter (through July 2024).
  • Up to $10 in monthly GoPuff statement credits.

The Sapphire Preferred has many of the same travel insurance benefits the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The only major differences are that the card doesn’t have emergency evacuation insurance and trip delay coverage doesn’t kick in until you’ve been delayed by 12 hours.

At under $100 per year, beginners might find this to be the perfect beginner rewards card. And with a great loyalty program, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a card this good with the same out of pocket cost.

Read CNN Underscored’s review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Learn more and apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Wide shot of curtains blowing in wind in luxury suite at tropical resort.

The Platinum Card® from American Express is often considered the gold standard of travel credit cards, in large part due to its wide array of hotel benefits. This includes complimentary elite status and access to an exclusive hotel booking platform that gives you extra perks at many hotels.

On the rewards side, you’ll earn Amex Membership Reward points with this card, letting you redeem travel at a fixed redemption through Amex’s travel portal. Plus, you can transfer your points to many airline and hotel loyalty programs.

The card earns 5 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel (up to $500,000 per calendar year) and on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel. Meanwhile, all other purchases earn 1 point per dollar spent.

Because of this, you might find the Amex Platinum to be the a great card to have simply for the benefits alone and not necessarily for your everyday spending.

Speaking of benefits, you’ll receive complimentary elite status with two major hotel loyalty programs: Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy. Simply link your accounts to your Amex Platinum and you will receive Gold status with both programs so long as you have the card. These statuses include space-available room upgrades and various other benefits.

The Amex Platinum also includes access to Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts (often called “Amex FHR”) which gives you elite-like benefits when you book select hotels through Amex Travel. Some benefits include late check-out, an on-property resort credit and even complimentary room upgrades. Better yet, the card includes up to $200 in annual statement credits toward prepaid Amex FHR and Hotel Collection bookings.

Cardmembers also receive complimentary access to American Express Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs (when flying Delta) and Priority Pass airport lounges (not including Priority Pass restaurants). You will also be reimbursed up to $100 for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every 4 to 4.5 years.

The Amex Platinum also includes offers a variety of statement credits:

  • Up to $200 in annual airline incidental fee credits.
  • $200 in annual Uber credits, dispersed in a series of $15 credits per month with an extra $20 in the month of December.
  • Up to $100 in Saks Fifth Avenue credit.
  • Up to $200 annually for prepaid bookings at Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection properties made through American Express Travel.
  • Up to $189 in statement credits for a Clear membership.
  • Up to $240 in annual statement credits on eligible purchases or subscriptions with Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM or The New York Times.
  • Up to $300 in annual statement credits on purchases of select Equinox Fitness Club monthly memberships or a digital subscription to the Equinox+ app.
  • Up to $155 in annual statement credits for Walmart+ memberships.

Despite its benefits, the Amex Platinum’s hotel redemptions aren’t as good as competing cards. You can convert Amex points at a 1-to-1 ratio to Marriott Bonvoy and IHG One Rewards points and at a 1-to-2 ratio to Hilton Honors. Oftentimes, you’ll get a better value redeeming Amex points for airfare by transferring to partners like Air Canada and Delta.

But with many statement credit opportunities, it’s easy to offset the Amex Platinum’s large $695 annual fee (see rates and fees). Plus, the card’s welcome bonus, hotel benefits and airport lounge access make the card a solid choice for frequent travelers who want an upgraded experience on the road.

Read CNN Underscored’s review of the Amex Platinum Card.
Learn more and apply for the Amex Platinum Card.

A room at the Conrad London St. James.

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card is one of the better mid-tier hotel credit cards. With just a $95 annual fee and a handful of great benefits, this is a card you’ll want to have in your wallet every time you stay at a Hilton property.

One of the card’s best perks is automatic Hilton Honors Gold elite status. This is a step below Hilton’s highest Diamond status level, but you’ll still get space-available upgrades, food and beverages credits for two guests, a fifth night free on award nights and the possibility of hotel lounge access if you’re upgraded to the executive lounge floor.

Other card member perks include a free night certificate when you spend $15,000 on your card within a calendar year and 10 free visits each year to Priority Pass airport lounges worldwide.

As you might expect, the card earns Hilton Honors points. Here’s how many points you’ll earn:

  • 12 points per dollar: Hilton hotels and resorts.
  • 6 points per dollar: U.S. restaurants, takeout and delivery.
  • 6 points per dollar: U.S. supermarkets.
  • 6 points per dollar: U.S. gas stations.
  • 3 points per dollar: All other purchases.

Right now, the card offers 150,000 points when you spend $3,000 on purchases within three months of opening the account. Offer ends 4/5/2023.

Read CNN Underscored’s review of the Hilton Honors Amex Surpass.

Pool at the Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa.

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card is one of those cards you’ll want to hold on to year-after-year. With a free anniversary night starting your second year as a cardmember, it’s easy to come out ahead even with the $95 annual fee.

You can redeem the card’s annual free night award at any Marriott hotel that costs up to 35,000 points for that night. And if you want to book a hotel that costs more than this, you can top off the award with up to 15,000 points from your account.

Since the annual fee is $95 per year, as long as you are able to redeem your free award night at a hotel that costs more than this, you’ll come out ahead. According to frequent-travel site, The Points Guy, Marriott Bonvoy points are worth 0.84 cents apiece, which makes the free night certificate worth around $290 a year.

Another perk of this card is that you’ll receive complimentary Silver Elite status simply for being a cardmember. While this is the lowest-level status in the Marriott Bonvoy program, having some status is better than nothing when checking in for your hotel stay. If you spend $35,000 on the card during your cardmember year, you’ll upgrade to Gold Elite status.

With the current sign-up bonus, you can earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on the card within the first three months of opening the account. This is more than enough for a few nights at many mid-tier Marriott properties.

Read CNN Underscored’s review of the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless.

Earn free nights at any brand in the IHG portfolio with the IHG Premier card.

The IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card is chock-full of benefits for frequent IHG guests, and it’s currently offering its best-ever welcome bonuses. Right now, new cardmembers can earn 175,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on the card within the first three months after account opening.

Similar to the Marriott Bonvoy credit card, the IHG Premier also offers a reward night every year on the card’s anniversary. You can use this reward night at any property that costs up to 40,000 points per night. Plus, you can always use points from your account to make up the difference in points with no maximum amount.

For example, if you are looking to stay at a high end property costing 75,000 points per night, you can redeem this certificate along with 35,000 points from your account. With IHG points worth half-a-cent apiece according to The Points Guy, the certificate is worth roughly $200 per year. This completely offsets the card’s $95 annual fee.

The card comes with many other strong benefits too, such as IHG Platinum status, a complimentary fourth night free when redeeming points and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit. IHG Platinum elite status includes benefits like room upgrades, a welcome amenity and late check-out.

Read CNN Underscored’s review of the IHG Rewards Premier.
Learn more and apply for the IHG Rewards Premier.

Pool view from a room at the Park Hyatt Maldives.

If you often stay at Hyatt properties, The World of Hyatt Credit Card will provide great perks and even help you reach elite status and milestone benefits quicker.

With the card, you’ll automatically earn Discoverist status — Hyatt’s lowest-tier status level. Plus, you’ll earn five elite nights towards status every year, and an additional two elite nights for every $5,000 spent on the card.

The card will also award you a reward night every year, starting with the second year you have the card. On your account anniversary year, you’ll receive a certificate that can be redeemed at any Category 1-4 Hyatt property. Plus, you can earn a second certificate after you spend $15,000 on the card within a calendar year.

Read CNN Underscored’s review of the World of Hyatt Credit Card.

Click here for rates and fees of The Platinum Card from American Express.

Looking for a credit card that earns travel rewards? Check out CNN Underscored’s list of the best travel credit cards currently available.

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