Yesterday I gave my recommendations for the best airline credit cards out there so today I thought I would pass along my recommendations for hotel credit cards. Airfare and hotel costs are the two most expensive aspects to a vacation and if you’re able to offset those with miles and hotel points, your out-of-pocket expenses become minimal.
My two favorite hotel programs are the Hyatt Gold Passport program and the Starwood Preferred Guest program (Sheraton, Westin, etc.). Hyatt has an affiliated credit card issued by Chase that comes with many benefits. The sign up bonus includes 1 free night at any Hyatt property after using the card once and a second free night after spending $1,000 on the card. The free nights are not restricted to a certain category so these can be very valuable. For example, the Hyatt in Paris or the Maldives can run over $1,000 a night. Additionally, you get one free night certificate (in a category 1-4 hotel) every year you keep your card open. This card does come with a $75 annual fee that is not waived for the first year, but clearly that fee can be well worth the expense if you use the certificates wisely. In a future post I will pass along my advice on how to get your free nights in a suite versus a standard room. We will be using our free night certificates at the Grand Hyatt in Kauai, a property we fell in love with on our second honeymoon.
The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card is one of my favorite cards. However, their sign up bonus by comparison to their competitors is not stellar. You get 10,000 points after first use and then an additional 15,000 points after spending $5,000 in 6 months. But the sign up bonus is not why I recommend this card. The benefits of this card are many, but the primary benefit is that you can transfer these points directly into almost any airline frequent flyer program out there. This is great if you are a few miles short of what you need for a specific award. They also give you an additional 5,000 points for free if you transfer 20,000 at a time. Of course you can also use these points at Starwood properties. My favorite use of these points is for free hotel stays at the Westin in St. John, USVI. This hotel can run up to $559 per night which is unattainable for us using cash, but we’re able to stay there for free using our Starwood points. I save my Starwood points for this purpose alone. If you plan on signing up for this card, let me know, I’d love to “refer” you. I would get 5,000 Starpoints if you signed up for the card using my referral link.
Another great credit card, also issued by Chase, is the Priority Club card. This card gets you free nights at hotels like Holiday Inn and Crown Plazas (just ho hum), but also at Intercontinental properties like the Intercontinental Thalasso-Spa Bora Bora which can run over $1,000 per night. This card gives you 80,000 Priority Club points upon first use and the $49 annual fee is waived for the first year. The standard offer is 60,000 points, but if you sign up for a Priority Club membership (free, www.priorityclub.com) and then enter your information along with this promo code (ORDHAQ5KCY) at this link and watch the accompanying 3 minute video, you will be brought to a page to apply for the 80,000 point card. The Intercontinental Thalasso-Spa Bora Bora costs 40,000 points per night. The redemption rate will be increasing to 50,000 points in the next few months, but regardless, that’s a great option. Of course there are a lot of other great Intercontinentals out there that are great options as well. For those of you who may be interested in staying in an Intercontinental but do not have enough points for a complete stay, I will be writing about how you can buy Priority Club points for less than what it would cost you to pay for the room directly in a future post. The card also comes with a free night certificate each year on the anniversary of your card opening.
These are my three favorite hotel credit card offers out there right now. The Hilton has several cards out there as well, but given their redemption rates, the offers aren’t stellar. However, there are several airline programs from which you can transfer miles into Hilton points. This is a little more complicated so I’ll save the details here for a future post, but if you have a need for Hilton points soon, send me a message and I’ll let you know how to best acquire those points.
Marriott, until just recently, was offering a 70,000 point card plus a free night in a category 1-4 hotel, but that offer appears to have decreased to 50,000 points now. Given that a higher offer was out there, I would wait until it comes back before applying for the Marriott card unless you have an immediate need for Marriott points.
This brings me to an important point. With almost every card you sign up for, you are only eligible for the bonus once. So, if you sign up for a Priority Club card now at 80,000 points and 6 months from now they offer a 100,000 point card (highly unlikely, but you never know…), you are ineligible to receive the bonus for this new card because you already received a sign up bonus. There are exceptions, but those exceptions are rare. One of those exceptions, with Chase, is that if a better offer comes out within 90 days of your application, they will credit your account the difference. So, it is important to still keep track of what offers are out there! Additionally, Citibank generally allows you to receive the same bonus if you wait at least 18 months between applications, but Chase and American Express are known to deny bonuses for repeat applications. So, pick your cards wisely! I’ll be posting in the future about my recommendations for keeping track of your credit cards so you know when you might be eligible for another bonus, when to cancel a card, etc.
I hope you are starting to see how easy it is to have a very cheap but often luxurious vacation by leveraging your awesome credit score!