Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
Million Mile Secrets reader, Senthil, commented:
I travel quite a bit for work, but usually don’t get much of a say in the hotel. It’s typically Hilton or Marriott, but it depends on the work conference. Between the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card, Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express, and Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, does one stand out over the other?
The 3 hotel cards reader Senthil mention each come with valuable sign-up bonuses and ongoing perks that can help you get Big Travel. But the best card depends on your hotel stay preferences and travel goals.
But if you’re looking to earn flexible points to use beyond free hotel stays, you might consider the AMEX Starwood card. Because you can transfer Starwood points directly to ~30 airline transfer partners.
I’ll explain what folks should consider when comparing cards to earn the most rewards from hotel stays for business travel.
Rewards for Business Travel Hotel Stays
For folks like reader Senthil, getting a hotel card is a terrific way to boost the points you earn from business travel. Plus, using the card to pay for work trips and getting reimbursed by your company can be an easy way to meet minimum spending requirements.
Senthil mostly stays at Hilton or Marriott hotels. But others might stay at different chains. So I’ll share 5 things to consider when evaluating a card to pair with the rewards you earn from business travel, regardless of the hotel brand!
1. Cards With Automatic Elite Status
Earning automatic elite status from a hotel card can get you extra bonus points, free breakfast, room upgrades, and late check-outs.
If you’re only an occasional business traveler, this can be a neat perk. Because some chains require you to stay 40 or 50 nights to earn elite status!
Here are some popular hotel cards that come with elite status:
- Discoverist status with the The Hyatt Credit Card card
- Hilton Gold status with the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from AMEX
- IHG Platinum Elite status with the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card
- Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Gold status with the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card
- Marriott Silver status with the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Keep in mind, the benefits you get with elite status at each chain can vary. For example, Hilton Gold elite status gets you:
- 25% bonus Hilton points on stays
- Free breakfast at most Hilton hotels
- Free premium Wi-Fi
- Late check-out when available
- Room upgrades when available
- 5th night free on award stays
- 25% bonus points on stays
- 4:00 pm guaranteed late check-out at most Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels
- Free breakfast and lounge access at participating executive lounges
- Room upgrades when available
And Marriott Gold status usually requires you stay 50 nights in a calendar year.
Also remember, the advantage of earning elite status with Marriott or Ritz-Carlton is you can quickly link your loyalty Marriott and Starwood accounts to get an instant status match.
2. Look for Valuable Limited-Time Sign-Up Bonuses
Keep an eye out for any limited-time offers, which can be public or targeted. And be sure to check your snail mail because you never know what offers might pop up!
Recently, the AMEX Hilton Honors Surpass card offered a 100,000-point sign-up bonus and a free weekend night certificate after your first cardmember anniversary, which is the best public offer I’ve seen on the card (this offer is no longer available).
The AMEX Hilton Surpass currently has a sign-up bonus of 75,000 Hilton points after spending $3,000 on purchases within your first 3 months of account opening. This is not as good as the recent limited-time offer, but it’s still a decent deal.
- Free Hilton Gold elite status (free breakfast at certain hotels, upgrades when available)
- Free Hilton Diamond elite status after spending more than $40,000 in a calendar year (better upgrades)
- 12 points for every $1 spent at Hilton hotels
- 6 points per $1 spent at US restaurants, supermarkets & gas stations
- 3 points per $1 you spent on everything else
3. Give Yourself Award Stay Options With a Large Hotel Chain Card
Because of the Marriott-Starwood merger, you can now use points from Starwood, Marriott, or Ritz-Carlton for free stays at any of the 3 chains. Combined, there are 5,700+ hotels worldwide to choose from.
You can read my previous post with reviews of the current sign-up bonuses on both cards and 5 reasons why I recommend getting the AMEX Starwood card first!
Just be mindful of the application and sign-up bonus rules for each bank. For example, you’re unlikely to be approved for most Chase cards if you’ve opened 5+ cards from any bank (except these business cards) in the past 24 months.
4. Consider Unique Aspects of Hotel Chain Loyalty Programs
The perks of one hotel loyalty program might make you more inclined to earn points directly with one of their credit cards.
For example, you can now pool Hilton points for free with friends and family members. So you and a partner can each earn 75,000 Hilton points with the AMEX Hilton Honors Surpass offer.
Or you might prefer to earn Starwood points because you can transfer to ~30 airline partners. This way you have flexibility to book award stays or get free flights!
5. Earn Flexible Points to Use Beyond Free Hotel Stays
Your instinct might be to get a hotel card to enhance the hotel rewards your earn from business travels.
But consider you might have more travel options by getting a card that earns flexible points.
Then, you can transfer the points you earn to airline and hotel partners like Hyatt, Southwest, and United Airlines! This way, you’re NOT restricted to earning points with just one hotel chain.
Don’t Forget About the 4th Night Free With Citi Prestige!
Link: Citi Prestige
The Citi Prestige card might be the best card for business travelers depending on their travel schedules.
Because when you book hotel stays through the Citi Prestige concierge, you’ll get a rebate for the cost of the 4th night. So if you pay for your trips with a personal card and get reimbursed by your company, you can potentially profit with this benefit!
Note: Starting July 23, 2017, the amount you’ll get back for your 4th night will be based on the average nightly cost of your stay. NOT the actual cost of the 4th night. And they’ll no longer refund taxes.
If you book paid hotel stays for business travel, you can boost your points balance and enhance your stays by getting certain credit cards.
For example, with the AMEX Hilton Honors Surpass card, you can earn 75,000 Hilton points after meeting spending requirements. And you also get free Hilton Gold elite status which means free breakfast at most Hilton hotels.
But folks looking for more travel flexibility might consider the AMEX Starwood or Chase Marriott card. Because you can combine points in your Starwood account and transfer them directly to ~30 airline partners.
You might also consider non-hotel cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred to earn 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel purchases. Or get the Citi Prestige to save money on business trips with the 4th night free perk.
Which card do you use to book paid hotel stays for business travel?