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What’s the Best Card for Business Travelers Who Book Paid Hotel Stays?

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What’s the Best Card for Business Travelers Who Book Paid Hotel Stays?

Million Mile SecretsWhat’s the Best Card for Business Travelers Who Book Paid Hotel Stays?Million Mile Secrets Team

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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 CardHilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express, and Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Expressdoes one stand out over the other?

Terrific question!

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.

For example, you get automatic elite status with 2 of the 3 cards – AMEX Hilton Surpass and Chase Marriott.  This can get you room upgrades and late check-out during your personal and business stays.

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.

Business Travel Hotel Stays
Getting a Card to Pay for Your Business Travel Can Make Your Hotel Stays More Enjoyable.  And Some Cards Come With Extra Perks, Like Elite Status, You Can Use on Personal Trips

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

Link:   How to Find Out Which Hotel Card Is Right for You!

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

Link:   Which Hotel Cards Give You the Best Perks Like Room Upgrades & Late Check-Out?

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:

Business Travel Hotel Stays
Emily Likes Having Automatic IHG Platinum Elite Status With Her Chase IHG Card

Note:   The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card gives you automatic Gold status the first year you have the card.  After that, you must spend $10,000 per year on the card to keep the status.

Keep in mind, the benefits you get with elite status at each chain can vary.  For example, Hilton Gold elite status gets you:

Whereas Marriott Silver elite status comes with very limited benefits.  But Marriott Gold status comes with terrific perks like:

  • 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
Business Travel Hotel Stays
Marriott Gold Elite Status Gives You Access to the Executive Lounge for Free Hot Breakfast at Hotels Like the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina

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).

Business Travel Hotel Stays
The Recent Limited-Time AMEX Hilton Honor Surpass Offer Included a Free Weekend Night Certificate, You Could Use for a Free Night at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui, Which Regularly Costs $1,000+!

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.

Reader Senthil says he sometimes stays at Hilton hotels for work.  Besides the sign-up bonus, the AMEX Hilton Surpass card will also get him:

  • 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

And remember, AMEX only allows folks to earn the sign-up bonus for each card once per lifetime.

3.   Give Yourself Award Stay Options With a Large Hotel Chain Card

Link:   5 Reasons to Choose the AMEX Starwood Over the Chase Marriott Card

Because of the Marriott-Starwood merger, you can now use points from StarwoodMarriott, or Ritz-Carlton for free stays at any of the 3 chains.  Combined, there are 5,700+ hotels worldwide to choose from.

So if reader Senthil earns points at Marriott hotels from work trips, he can quickly add to his account balance with the sign-up bonuses from the AMEX Starwood or Chase Marriott card.

Then, he can combine points in his Starwood account to use for award stays at fantastic hotels like The St. Regis Punta Mita!

Business Travel Hotel Stays
Quickly Increase Your Starwood Points Balance With the AMEX Starwood or Chase Marriott Sign-Up Bonuses. Then, Use Points for Free Beachfront Stays at Hotels Like The St. Regis Punta Mita

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.

And AMEX restricts sign-up bonuses to once per card per lifetime.

4.   Consider Unique Aspects of Hotel Chain Loyalty Programs

Link:   Combine Your Hilton Points With Friends and Family Members for Free! 

Link:   Transfer Starwood Points to Airline Partners

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.

Then, combine your points for an amazing getaway to a hotel like The Grand Wailea.  Emily and I really enjoyed our stay here when we visited Maui!

Business Travel Hotel Stays
Pool Hilton Points for Free With Friends and Family and Then Book an Award Stay at The Grand Wailea

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

Link:   The Trick to Travel Flexibility: Transferable Points

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.

For example, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Cardyou can earn 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel purchases, such as hotel stays for work trips.

Business Travel Hotel Stays
Use the Chase Sapphire Preferred to Pay for Business Trip Hotel Stays and Earn 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards Points, Which You Can Transfer to Airline Partners Like Southwest!

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

Link:   Citi Prestige 4th Night Free Perk

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!

Business Travel Hotel Stays
The 4th Night Rebate With the Citi Prestige Perk Is an Amazing Perk That Can Save You Lots of Cash

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 stayNOT the actual cost of the 4th night.  And they’ll no longer refund taxes.

Bottom Line

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?

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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Sure, if you book your own travel and if you stay 4 nights, you could get a fourth night free; but is that ethical? Seems like I wouldn’t want to risk my job to get reimbursed $250 that at the end of the month I didn’t really pay. Sounds like stealing.

Million Mile Secrets

You should only do what you’re comfortable with. With the 4th night free perk, you will pay for 4 nights, but receive a statement credit for the cost of the 4th night.

When you travel for work but don’t get much of a say in the hotel choice, the first thing we need to clarify is: Do you have a company travel agent that books hotels for you, or do you get to make the reservation yourself? If you (1) get to make the reservation yourself and (2) you frequently stay for 4+ nights, Citi Prestige should be your go-to card. Its 4th-night-free benefit *requires* you to call Citi Concierge to make the booking, but the cash back comes in the form of a statement credit, so you could still file for the full reimbursement with your hotel bill.

Million Mile Secrets

You’re right!