Best Hotel Credit Cards for 2016
Do you know which hotel chains offer omelet stations with their free breakfast buffets? Do you have a list of which hotel fitness centers include free weights in their fitness centers? And do you know which hotels offer the best happy-hour specials?
Then you are a frequent traveler, whether you're hitting the road for business or pleasure.
And you need a top-of-the-line hotel credit card to squeeze the most financial value out of your road-warrior ways.
Fortunately, banks and credit unions offer a wide variety of hotel cards that can help you quickly earn rewards points and cash-back bonuses. Many of these cards come with low interest rates, few fees and valuable sign-up bonuses.
Here are some of the best hotel credit cards for 2016. Adding one or more of these cards to your wallet will make you not only a frequent traveler, but a smart one, too.
Best for generating rewards points quickly
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express comes with plenty of benefits. The biggest? It's easy to rack up the rewards points with this hotel credit card.
Start with a generous sign-up offer: You'll earn 25,000 bonus rewards points if you make $3,000 worth of charges in the first three months after receiving your card. That's an awfully tempting offer. Fortunately, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express comes with other benefits, too.
When you use this card to check in at one of the 1,200 hotels and resorts affiliated with it, you'll earn up to five Starpoints -- rewards points -- for each dollar you charge. The only problem? That 1,200 locations might sound like a lot. But when you compare it to the hotel choices offered by other rewards cards, it's not. That said, if you do find a hotel that you like in the Starwood Preferred Guest® network, you can earn a lot of rewards points in a short period of time. You can then turn these rewards points into free hotel stays.
You'll also receive perks that can save you a significant amount of money if you are a frequent hotel visitor. For instance, the card entitles you to free in-room, premium Internet access and free Boingo Wi-Fi services on up to four devices.
The downside: The biggest downside to this card? It's the relatively limited choices of hotels for which you'll qualify for rewards points. A wider selection would have been nice. Then there's the annual fee. You won't be charged an annual fee during the first year you use your card. But every year after, you'll be charged $95 a year for the card. That's fairly steep.
Best if you’re lucky for a quick free stay
The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Credit Card comes with a lot of perks. A nice one is the sign-up bonus: You'll earn two weekend-night certificates for free hotel stays if you make $2,500 in purchases within four months of opening your account.
In addition to the sign-up bonus, you'll also earn 10 HHonors™ Bonus Points for every dollar that you charge on hotel stays at Hilton hotels. You'll earn five bonus points for every dollar that you charge on airline and car rentals and three points for every dollar you spend on other purchases.
Once you've earned enough points, you can turn them into free hotel stays or redeem them for other merchandise and experiences.
Other perks associated with the card include express check-out services, complimentary in-room Internet access at Hilton hotels and a free fifth night when you stay at Hilton hotels for five days or more.
If you charge a lot on your card, you can earn other perks. If you charge $40,000 or more with the card in a calendar year, you'll earn an upgrade to HHonors™ Diamond Status. With this perk, you are guaranteed a room at a Hilton hotel when you make a reservation at least 48 hours before your arrival. You'll also earn a bonus of 50 percent on all the HHonors™ Base Points that you earn with the card.
The drawbacks: There aren't too many negatives with this card, the biggest being the annual fee. You'll have to pay an annual fee of $95 for this card. If you don't travel enough, this annual fee won't be worth the smaller amount of bonus points you'll earn. If you travel often, though, you'll probably earn more than enough free hotel stays to make the fee an acceptable cost.
You'll also need to stay in Hilton hotels if you want to earn the most points. That shouldn't be much of a problem, as Hilton runs plenty of hotels across the globe. But if you are traveling to a location without a Hilton hotel, this card won't prove as valuable.
Best if you love big sign-up bonuses
The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card doesn't skimp when it comes to a sign-up bonus. You can earn 80,000 bonus rewards points if you spend $3,000 with your card during the first three months of opening your account.
You'll also earn five rewards points for every dollar you charge at Marriott locations. That's a good offer: Marriott runs more than 4,000 hotels across the globe. You can also receive the same awards if you stay at a Ritz-Carlton hotel, a Marriott luxury partner.
The card's other rewards tiers are solid, if unspectacular. You'll earn two points for every dollar that you charge on airline tickets or at car rental agencies and restaurants. You'll nab one point for each dollar that you charge for all other purchases.
The drawbacks: The big drawback here is the same as it is for most of the top hotel credit cards: There's an annual fee. In this case, the card comes with a yearly fee of $85. If you think you'll spend enough on hotel stays and airline flights, than the fee shouldn't be a deal-breaker. If you don't travel that frequently, though, you're better off hunting for a rewards card that doesn't come with an annual fee and doesn't tie its greatest rewards points to hotel stays.
Best if you hate annual fees
The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® credit card is a bit of a compromise: It doesn't charge an annual fee. But it doesn't offer the most robust rewards program of available travel cards, either.
You will, though, earn 1.5 points for every dollar you charge on all purchases, even those not associated with hotels or air miles. And if you make at least $1,000 in purchases with the card within the first 90 days of opening your account, you'll nab 20,000 online bonus points. These points never expire.
You can then redeem your points to help pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars or baggage fees.
This card also comes with an introductory interest rate of 0 percent on all new purchases. After the first 12 months, this rate will adjust to 15.24 percent to 23.24 percent.
The drawbacks: You won't earn rewards points as quickly as you will with several of the hotel credit cards that charge annual fees. Earning 1.5 points per purchase is solid. But if you're a frequent hotel guest, you might generate far more rewards fees by with a card that provides you with five rewards points for every hotel dollar that you charge.
Best if you spend a lot of vacation time in restaurants
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers a generous rewards program for frequent hotel guests. You'll earn two points for every dollar you charge on both travel expenses -- including hotel stays -- and for restaurant meals. This means that if your vacations involve a lot of eating out in addition to staying at hotels, you can quickly earn a significant amount of rewards points.
You'll earn an additional point for every dollar that you charge on all other purchases.
The card comes with a big sign-up bonus, too. You'll earn 50,000 bonus points if you charge $4,000 with your card within the first three months of opening your account. As Chase says, that comes out to a healthy $625 in travel rewards when redeemed through the bank's Ultimate Rewards program.
You'll also get 20 percent off your travel costs when you redeem your points for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Chase gives this example: A flight costing $625 will cost you just 50,000 rewards points.
The drawbacks: It's nice to get two points for every dollar that you charge for restaurant meals. But it'd be even nicer to earn more than two points for each hotel dollar that you charge. You'll have to determine whether you eat out enough to justify the lower points awarded for hotel stays.
This travel rewards card also charges an annual fee, $95 a year, though there is no fee for the first year after opening your account.