There are plenty of other attractive options, though, and a great deal depends on your travel and spending habits. To identify the best hotel credit cards, WalletHub’s editors regularly compare more than 1,500 credit card offers based on their expected hotel savings and select the top offers for different types of travelers.
Best Hotel Cards
|Credit Card||Best For||Initial Bonus|
|Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card||Hilton||130,000 points|
|The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card||Business||130,000 points|
|IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card||Initial Bonus||125,000 points|
|Best Western Premium Credit Card||Best Western||80,000 points|
|Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card||Marriott||75,000 points|
|IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card||No Annual Fee||60,000 points|
|Wyndham Credit Card||Wyndham||45,000 points|
|World of Hyatt Credit Card||Hyatt||30,000 points|
In general, the best hotel credit cards tend to have big initial bonuses and ongoing rewards that allow you to quickly rack up free nights. But you also have to consider your lifestyle and spending habits. That means you should only get a specific hotel’s credit card if it’s affiliated with a chain you patron regularly or could easily commit to moving forward. It also means getting a card with good rewards at any hotel if you like to shop around for the best hotel deals.
On that note, there aren’t many hotel rewards credit cards for people with fair, limited or bad credit. So if you have less-than-good credit, your options are likely limited to secured cards as well as credit cards with rewards that don’t emphasize hotel stays.
You can see if your credit is good enough for elite hotel rewards by checking your latest credit score for free on WalletHub. You can also check out our editors’ picks for the best overall rewards credit cards to see which of hotel cards made the cut.
How to Get Free Hotel Stays with the Best Hotel Credit Card for You
- See How Much You Spend on Hotel Rooms: You need to determine whether hotel reservations represent a big enough portion of your total spending to warrant getting one of the best hotel credit cards tied to a specific chain. After all, a card offering everyday cash back or general-purpose travel rewards could also help you save on hotel stays, plus everything else you buy. And such a card would provide much more flexibility.
The basic rules of thumb are that you should only make a co-branded hotel card your primary spending vehicle if you spend at least 20 nights in that chain each year. Supplementing an existing card with hotel plastic when a big initial bonus is available could be a great move as well. But you should have plans to use that bounty for a hotel stay within six months of account opening. Otherwise, the points could lose value or be forgotten over time.
- Decide How Long You Want to Keep Your New Card: Your plans for a new hotel credit card will dictate how you evaluate offers. If you think you’ll have the card for only a year or two, then you should focus more on initial rewards bonuses. But if you have no timetable for closing your account, regular rewards earning rates and ongoing amenities such as room upgrades will be more important.
- Double-Check Hotel Point Redemption Values: There’s often little rhyme or reason to the number of points needed to book a free night. The clearest trend you’ll find is that reward nights during peak season and weekends tend to provide the least value. Hotel credit card users also have several other redemption options. They often include gift cards, merchandise, statement credits and special experiences.
Figuring out how much hotel points are worth, whether redeemed for free nights in your favorite destinations or something else, is essential to getting good value from your earnings. This may seem like a lot of work. But it’s worth it if you want to avoid money-losing surprises.
- Learn About the Reward Night Booking Process: Start by confirming that a given hotel chain actually has properties in all your favorite travel destinations. Then check out customer reviews as well as the redemption page on the chain’s website. Feedback from previous guests is a great screen against obvious limitations. And doing a little digging online gives you the chance to scan the fine print for less obvious drawbacks.
- Improve Your Credit Score: The best hotel credit cards require at least good credit for approval. So if your score is less than 700, you may want to hold off on applying for a bit while you improve your standing. You can check your latest credit score for free on WalletHub, as well as learn from personalized credit improvement advice.
General-Purpose Credit Cards with Large Hotel Networks
Instead of being affiliated with one specific hotel brand, several credit cards have ties to a network of hotels, allowing cardholders to easily earn, transfer and redeem with any of those hotels. You can find some notable examples of travel rewards credit cards with that sort of framework below
American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts: 1,000+ hotels across more than 60 brands, at which people with The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express receive special perks.
Chase Hotel Partners: IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy and World of Hyatt. Chase credit card users can transfer points to these hotel loyalty programs at a 1:1 ratio. Two of the best cards for transferring points to Chase’s hotel partners are Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
Best Hotel Credit Cards for Automatic Status
|Hotel Chain||Card Name||Automatic Status Level||Annual Fee|
|Wyndham||Wyndham Credit Card||Wyndham Platinum||$75|
|Best Western||Best Western Premium Credit Card||Best Western Platinum Elite||$89|
|IHG||IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card||IHG Platinum||$89|
|Hyatt||World of Hyatt Credit Card||Hyatt Discoverist||$95|
|Marriott||Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card||Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite||$450|
|Hilton||Hilton Honors Aspire Credit Card||Hilton Diamond||$450|
It’s also a good idea to get acquainted with the major hotel loyalty programs if you’re thinking about applying for a hotel credit card tied to a particular chain. Some hotel rewards programs are better than others, just like hotel credit cards.
What Is the Best Hotel Rewards Program in 2021?
Wyndham Rewards is the best hotel rewards program, according to WalletHub’s research, because it offers the most rewards value per $1 spent by its members as well as flexible redemption options. Wyndham Rewards points are worth roughly 1.17 cents on average, per our calculations. Wyndham has solid geographic coverage, too, with 9,000 hotels and resorts across more than 80 countries.
Best Hotel Rewards Programs:
Compare the Best Hotel Rewards Programs:
|Hotel Rewards Program||Best For||Number of Hotels||WalletHub Score|
|Marriott Bonvoy||International Travel||7,205||61.01|
|World Of Hyatt||Fewest Earning Limitations||896||57.42|
|Best Western Rewards||Points That Won’t Expire||4,500||63.71|
|Wyndham Rewards||Rewards Value||9,200||72.40|
|IHG Rewards Club||Transfer Partners||5,800||45.11|
|Best Western Rewards||Redemptions Options||4,500||63.71|
Methodology for Selecting the Best Hotel Credit Cards
To select the best credit cards for hotel rewards, and make sure the list stays up to date, WalletHub’s editors regularly compare more than 1,500 credit card offers in search of the top deals for different types of hotel-goers. Given that hotel guests have differing needs, both from their plastic (or metal) and their lodging, the best hotel credit cards cannot be one size fits all.
As a result, we consider credit cards with standout general-purpose travel rewards, good for stays at any hotel, in addition to hotel credit cards affiliated with a specific chain. Furthermore, we try to include at least one hotel rewards card for each credit level, from bad to excellent, along with options for students and small business owners.
When comparing hotel-specific credit card offers, we calculate the amount that a frequent traveler would earn in rewards with each card over two years, minus any applicable fees. We assume $36,506 in annual spending, including $4,105 spent on hotels – five times what the average person spends on hotels per year, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
We then rank the cards to identify the most rewarding option overall. We also calculate the value of each card’s initial bonus, minus the first year’s annual fee, to determine which card offers the most free nights upfront. For cards that offer initial rewards bonuses, we include the bonus if a cardholder would earn it by spending an average of $700 per month for up to four months. And for our heavy-spender category (10X the average person's hotel spending), we double the expected spending. Any other bonuses past the four-month mark that require spending to earn are included in calculations if the spending requirement can be met based on the standard spending assumptions we used.
In selecting the best credit cards for rewards at any hotel, we focus on two-year rewards earnings after annual fees. We also try to include at least one no annual fee option for people who don’t want to pay extra for the pleasure of earning hotel rewards.