Hotel-branded cards are gaining on their airline competitors, offering travelers valuable extras like free nights, VIP status, and easy ways to earn extra points.
Sign-up rewards for airline credit cards held steady for the past few years, generally ranging from 25,000 to 50,000 miles. But hotel cards have been giving record sign-up bonuses this year: the Hilton HHonors Surpass American Express and the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Business cards each offered 100,000 points for meeting the initial spending requirement, enough for a night at a top hotel.
Several hotel cards do better than the usual one mile per dollar spent. The IHG Rewards Club Select card, for instance, pays double points on gas, groceries, and dining. Both the Marriott Rewards Premier and the Hyatt Visa earn two points per dollar spent on restaurants and car rentals as well as airline purchases.
While airline cards come with benefits like free checked bags and priority boarding, many hotel cards now simply bestow full elite status. The Hilton HHonors Citi Reserve and American Express Surpass cards make you a Gold guest—with 25 percent bonus points on hotel stays, free Wi-Fi, late checkout, complimentary breakfast, and more.
Some hotel cards offer annual free nights to cardholders. IHG cardholders get one night every year at any of the brand’s properties, even the pricey InterContinental Paris-Le Grand (from $549 per night). The Hyatt Visa’s complimentary stay is only good for hotels in specific categories, but that includes some luxury resorts, like the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo in Costa Rica, where rates can be over $400 per night.
Rebates and Boosts
Many hotel cards incentivize customers with bonuses and rebates on the earning and redemption side of the equation. For example, the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Visa gives cardholders with a 10% bonus on points earned on purchases each year, while the IHG Rewards Club Select card refunds cardholders 10% of the points for award redemptions.