It’s no secret that I have a lot of credit cards – it’s the easiest way I earn points and miles in my everyday life. While I love sign-up bonuses, retention bonuses, and no-annual-fee cards, there are some cards that I plan on keeping around for a very long time… even after the first free year, or when all retention bonus offers have been exhausted.
Rather than bombard you with every card I plan on keeping in my wallet, I’ll break it down by category to include in separate posts: hotel, airline, and other points-earning cards.
Today’s post focuses on the 4 hotel-branded credit cards that are never leaving my wallet. Why? because they’re “worth it” beyond just the sign-up bonus… annual fee and all.
Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card
- The Scoop: Receive 50,000 Gold Points after your first purchase, and 35,000 points once you spend $2,500 within the first 90 days, Gold status with Club Carlson, 40,000 bonus points each year you renew your card, 10 points per dollar at Club Carlson properties, 5 points per dollar on purchases everywhere else. $75 annual fee.
- How I’ve Used the Card: Dad and I used his card for free nights (redeem one night, get one night) at both the Radisson Blu and Radisson hotels in Sydney where nights were easily $300 a pop. Most recently, I booked 3 nights at the Radisson Blu in Aruba (nights were pricing out at ~$500) for an upcoming trip in April using points (50,000 points for two nights, and then I used a free-night voucher). This card is king when it comes to free-night redemptions.
- Why it’s “Worth It”: Receiving 40,000 points each year you pay the $75 annual fee pays for itself and more.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
- The Scoop: Receive up to 25,000 bonus points after $3,000 spend within 6 months. You can use SPG points for free nights at Sheraton, Westin, Le Meridien, W Hotels, Luxury Collection, St. Regis, Four Points, aloft & element hotels. Members can also transfer points into miles on over 30 different airlines, including Aeroplan, American, Alaska, ANA, American, Asia Miles, British Airways, Delta, Flying Blue, Emirates, Hawaiian, Singapore, US Airways and Virgin Atlantic, along with a 25% bonus for very 20,000 points transferred into airline miles (for instance, 20,000 SPG points=25,000 American Airlines miles). Earn 5 points per dollar at Starwood properties, and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
- How I’ve Used the Card: I’ve used this card for both free nights (some examples include W Hong Kong and the Westin Grand Cayman for my destination wedding) and airline mile transfers (I transferred 20,000 SPG points into 25,000 AAdvantage miles). I really do love the versatility of the card.
- My Tips: Sync this card to your Twitter, Facebook, or Foursquare account to take advantage of money-saving “sync” offers at popular retailers. Participate in American Express promotions, such as Small Business Saturday, for “free money” in the form of statement credits. To maximize redemption value, consider transferring SPG points into your preferred airline’s loyalty program.
- Why it’s “Worth It”: Even though I pay the annual fee on the card each year, in all honesty, I make that money back and more each year by participating in many AmEx sync promotions and offers.
Hyatt Credit Card (public offer)
- The Scoop: includes 2 free nights at any Hyatt in the world after spending $1,000 in 3 months. You also get an annual free night certificate valid at any category 1-4 hotel, lifetime Platinum status with Hyatt for as long as you’re a card member, as well as no foreign transaction fees when using the card abroad. Earn 3 points per dollar at Hyatt properties, 2 points per dollar at restaurants, airline tickets purchased directly from the airline, and car rentals, and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
- How I’ve Used the Card: I used my two free nights at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, where a standard room sells for over $560 a night in June. I also redeemed Hyatt GoldPassport points for a 4-night stay at the beautiful and new Andaz Maui at Wailea.
- My Tips: There’s also the same credit card offer that comes with a $50 statement credit, if you apply on Hyatt.com. To access that offer, you’ll have to pretend to book a room, and on the last screen there will be an offer for the Hyatt Credit Card with a $50 statement credit. If you’re not yet a Hyatt Diamond member, consider requesting a Hyatt Diamond Trial before using your free nights so you can experience Hyatt Diamond benefits during your stay such as free breakfasts and possible room upgrades. Also, this wouldn’t be my choice of card for typical day-to-day spend, but use it once in a while to keep your Hyatt points active.
- Why it’s “Worth It”: There’s a $75 annual fee, but each year, the card provides a free room night at any Hyatt up to category 4 (so it essentially pays for itself).
IHG Rewards Visa (via FlyerTalk thread)
- The Scoop: 80,000 bonus points after spending $1000 in first 3 months, no annual fee the first year ($49 thereafter), free night certificate every year valid at any IHG hotel, top-tier Platinum status, 10% points rebate on any redemptions, no foreign transaction fees, earn 5 points per $ spent at IHG hotels, 2 points per $ spent on gas, groceries and dining, and 1 point per $ on everything else.
- How I’ve Used the Card: I absolutely love when IHG releases their PointBreaks list, and I am having fun with their current “Big Win” promotions. Between the 80,000-point sign-up bonus and all of my earnings from the Big Win and other various IHG promotions, my IHG balance is pretty impressive. I most-recently spent 2 nights at the Hotel Indigo in San Jose, Costa Rica for just 5,000 points a night.
- My Tips: While this card isn’t great for earning on daily every-day spend, I do use it while staying at IHG properties.
- Why it’s “Worth It”: It always surprises me how seldom people rave about this gem of a credit card. First of all, the 80,000-point sign up bonus can technically be “worth” 16 free nights, if booked from the 5,000 points-a-night PointBreaks list that comes out several times a year, but on top of that all, the $49 annual fee after the first free year allows you to have a free-night certificate valid at any IHG property worldwide (including the InterContinental Thalasso in Bora Bora, where rooms easily cost $800 a night!). The card also grants you, top-tier Platinum status, no foreign transaction fees, and a nice 10% rebate on IHG points redeemed during the year.
So there you have it – all 4 of those hotel credit cards have earned a permanent place in my wallet. Earlier this year I said goodbye to the Citi Hilton Reserve Card (and downgraded to a no-fee Citi Hilton Card) because I didn’t feel it was “worth it” to pay yet another annual fee on the card.
While I have my fair share of Chase cards at the moment, I’ve got my eye on one more hotel card for next time…
Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card (public offer)
- The Scoop: 70,000 Marriott Rewards points after spending $1,000 within three months; one free night at any category 1-4 property upon account approval, 5x points per dollar spent at Marriott, 2x points per dollar spent on airlines, car rentals, and dining; annual free night at any category 1-5 property; 15 night credits towards status annually upon account anniversary; additional one night credit towards status for every $3,000 spend, no foreign transaction fees, $0 annual fee first year, then $85
- How I’ve Dad Has Used the Card: Dad has been a Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card holder for over 20 years. For as long as I can remember, we have used his Marriott Rewards points and free night certificates on every family vacation to date. In fact, his yearly free night certificate from having this card saved the day on our trip to Portland (related post), enabling us to get a same-day reservation in a beautiful category-4 downtown hotel.
- My Tips: Like I said about the Hyatt Credit Card, this would not be my first choice of card for everyday spending, but it’s good to keep around for the yearly free night benefit.
- Why it’s “Worth It”: After the first year, it’ll have an annual fee of $85, but having the yearly free-night certificates essentially pays for the card itself (you’ll most likely save even more – most category 5 Marriott hotel properties go for well over $150).
Which hotel credit cards have earned a permanent place in your wallet? Any similarities to my list?
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