5 reasons why now may be a great time to open a hotel credit card

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The world we live in nowadays is a stationary one. Coronavirus cases intermittently spike from random locations throughout the country. Several areas are enforcing 14-day quarantines for those who cross state borders. There are full continents in which Americans are presently not welcome.

Who in their right mind would open a hotel credit card at a time like this??

I would. My coworkers would. Most miles and points enthusiasts would. In fact, we ARE. And I’ll give you five reasons you should consider doing the same. Now may actually be the best time to open travel credit cards!

Travel WILL be back. Prepare for it now. (Photo by StevanZZ/Shutterstock)

Big bonuses

Banks have always been grappling for your loyalty. The more money you spend on their cards, the more profitable you are as a customer.

To this end, card issuers are releasing big welcome bonuses for their cards. For example:

  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card – Earn 125,000 bonus points + 1 free night (valued up to 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 in the first three months from account opening (total of up to 175,000 bonus points).
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card – Earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

On top of that, some customers are being targeted for a 150,000 point bonus for the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card — 25,000 points higher than usual.

And it’s more than just welcome bonuses — Many hotel credit cards also offer bonus points for select spending categories. For example, the Chase Marriott cards will earn 10 points per dollar at gas stations and on restaurants (including takeout and delivery) through September 15, 2020. That is exponentially more than normal!

All this to say, when credit card issuers are struggling, they’re going to pull out all the stops to get you to open a card. Expect to see giant (maybe even unprecedented) bonuses in the very near future for the credit cards associated with your favorite hotel chain.

The information for the Hilton Surpass has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Hotels are publishing great promotions

On a similar note, hotel chains are dying for your business. Lining these months of tumult with silver are some of the best hotel promotions we’ve ever seen — good enough to coax you out of your house and into a hotel room (while being smart, of course).

For example, through October 8, 2020, Hyatt is currently offering:

  • Up to 25% rebate on award nights (25% rebate for those World of Hyatt Credit Card, 15% off for general World of Hyatt members)
  • Free parking (could save you $40+ per day, depending on your hotel)
  • Bonus points on dining (Hyatt cardholders earn 5 points on eligible non-stay dining spending with their card)

Plus, you can use Hyatt points to stay a night at five-star Miraval hotels and get the second night free. Stack that with Hyatt’s 25% rebate, and you’re getting a discount of at least 50,000 points on a two-night stay!

Get huge discounts on domestic award stays at luxury hotels, like the Hyatt Miraval Arizona. (Image courtesy of Hyatt Miraval Arizona)

Another example of a next-level hotel promotion is Marriott’s temporary changes to elite night credits. They’ve deposited 50% of the nights required for the status you earned in 2019:

Elite status earned in 2020Annual status requirements50% elite night credits deposit
Ambassador Elite100 qualifying nights AND US$20,000 stay spend50 elite night credits
Titanium Elite75 qualifying nights38 elite night credits
Platinum Elite50 qualifying nights25 elite night credits
Gold Elite25 qualifying nights13 elite night credits
Silver Elite10 qualifying nights5 elite night credits

I achieved Marriott Platinum status last year, so I received 25 bonus elite nights in my account. When we began to see the effect of COVID-19 on the travel industry, I gave up all hope of reaching Platinum status again this year. But with 25 free nights in my account, Marriott has convinced me to book all my 2020 hotel stays with them.

If you earned any kind of elite status last year, this is a promotion that may be effective enough to earn your business more often, since you’re already flirting with earning status again. But it may also compel you to open a Marriott credit card. See, if you’ve got a Marriott personal card, you’ll receive 15 elite night credits each year. And if you’ve got a Marriott small business credit card, you’ll receive an additional 15 elite night credits every year.

So what does this mean? If you had Marriott Gold status last year, you’d receive 13 bonus elite nights with Marriott’s promotion. But with a Marriott personal and small business card, you could catapult your way up to 43 elite nights — just seven nights from the prestigious Platinum status!

Note: No matter how many Marriott personal cards you hold, you’ll only receive a total of 15 elite night credits from them. You’ll need to hold a Marriott business card and a Marriott personal card to earn 30 elite nights a year through credit cards alone.

Easier-to-use points and statement credits

The true substance of hotel credit cards goes far beyond their enticing welcome bonuses. They’ve got ongoing benefits that make them extremely valuable, and easily worth paying their annual fees.

However, these benefits are often travel related, which isn’t so useful in the age of “essential travel only.” That’s why hotel credit card issuers are expanding their card perks so that they’ll benefit non-travelers, too. Here are some stellar examples:

  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (see rates and fees)
    •  The annual statement credit of up to $250, normally valid only when eligible purchases are made at Hilton resorts, can now be redeemed for purchases at U.S. restaurants (takeout and delivery included) from June to August 2020
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
    • The annual statement credit of up to $300, normally valid for eligible purchases with Marriott, can now be redeemed at U.S. restaurants (takeout and delivery included)

The information for the Hilton Aspire card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

We often suggest that the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is one of the greatest hotel credit cards because you can use the rewards you earn at any hotel chain. You aren’t married to a specific brand when you collect Capital One miles (you can use Capital One miles for anything travel related).

More valuable free night certificates

Annual free hotel nights are the best part of hotel credit cards. I currently pay the annual fees on four hotel credit cards because they each come with a free night. Unfortunately, it’s a smidge harder to use those free nights at this time.

Again, hotel credit cards are one step ahead of you. Marriott, Hyatt, and IHG are extending the expiration date on your annual free nights. Hilton is, too, but it’s going even further.

The Amex Hilton Aspire comes with one weekend night reward each year (valid for stays on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday). All of these certificates unexpired as of March 11, 2020, as well as new certificates issued through Aug. 30, 2020, will not expire until August 31, 2021. Also, any weekend night reward issued through December 31, 2020, can now be used on any day instead of strictly the weekend.

This is the second outstanding move with the Amex Hilton Aspire — it’s THE card to open before 2021. The other lower-annual-fee Hilton credit cards that come with a free night certificate after a certain amount of spend will also have free night certificates extended through 2021 and will be usable any day of the week.

The Amex Hilton Aspire’s free night certificates have become a whole lot easier to use. (Photo by Eric Helgas)

Hotel points aren’t just for far-flung adventures

Don’t be afraid to earn hotel points right now, just because flights from the U.S. to Paris and Venice are halted right now. Whether you’re collecting for the future or your soul requires a vacation right now, hotel points will serve you. There are plenty of domestic aspirational properties to quench your wanderlust — many likely within a reasonable driving distance!

My wife and I had a staycation in a nearby city with Marriott points. We had a blast and saved about $250 per night.

Hotel cards are probably your best bet right now, actually. They’re better than airline cards, because you don’t have to board a plane. In my experience, you can socially distance with no issue in hotels right now. Hardly anyone is there. Make sure you look at local guidelines, news and hotel policies to see how crowded a hotel might be.

In fact, your likelihood for upgrades may increase, since many rooms are empty. I will say that this hasn’t been my personal experience. One hotel actually refused to upgrade me (even with a Suite Night Award) because their manager had instructed them against it. They said they were trying to recoup money from the COVID-19 drought (FYI Marriott, snubbing your loyal customers from receiving good treatment is NOT the way to go about this).

Maybe your experience will be better. In general, the emptier the hotel the better elites are treated.

All this being said, it is important to note that if you’re not comfortable traveling or have an underlying health condition that you may not want to even risk a socially distant staycation at a hotel. To be clear: the CDC states that “staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick.” Obviously, you’re least at risk inside your own brick and mortar. Make sure to keep up to date on state and local guidelines and consult with your doctor before traveling. If you do travel make sure to wear a mask, take social distancing precautions and constantly wash your hands.

Bottom line

Though it may seem against your better judgment, hotel credit cards are a solid investment right now. You can build your stash of points in anticipation for when the travel industry is back on its feet; you can accrue handfuls of annual free nights; you can make sure your hotel points don’t expire; you can get closer to elite status by racking up elite night credits; you can redeem hundreds and hundreds of dollars in statement credits for purchases at restaurants, grocery stores, and more.

Let us know if you’ve got a hotel points strategy during the coronavirus travel restrictions! And subscribe to our newsletter for more info like this delivered to your inbox once per day.

For rates and fees of the Amex Hilton Aspire, click here

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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