What’s the Best Hotel Card for US Travel?

We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

What’s the Best Hotel Card for US Travel?

Million Mile SecretsWhat’s the Best Hotel Card for US Travel?Million Mile Secrets Team

We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

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 S commented:

If you could choose 1 hotel card for someone new to miles and points, which would it be?  For travel mostly in the US?  Thanks.

There are lots of terrific hotel cards available, so it can be hard to choose.  The best ones for you depend on your travel goals, S!

If you’re traveling domestically, you’ve got plenty of options for booking free or cheap stays at hotels.  There are hotel programs that are good for pricier stays in bigger cities or resorts.  Others are a better choice if you spend time in small towns or in rural areas.

What's The Best Hotel Card For US Travel
Family Travel? Luxury Resorts? Or Budget Accommodations? The Best Hotel Card Depends on Your Goals!

Let’s look at which cards S should consider for travel within the US.

How to Decide on the Best Hotel Card for US Travel

Link:   How to Find Out Which Hotel Card Is Best for Me

Link:   Hot Deals – Hotel Credit Cards

There is no ONE best hotel card for US travel.  Before you decide which hotel program to collect points in, consider:

  • Do you travel to big cities, resort areas, or locations further off the beaten path?
  • Can you stay in clean, comfortable hotels with fewer amenities?  Or would you prefer to treat yourself to fancier stays and elite perks like free breakfast and room upgrades?
  • Would you rather stretch your points for the most stays?  Or are you happy with fewer nights in upscale hotels?
What's The Best Hotel Card For US Travel
Many Hotel Brands (Both Luxury and Budget Chains) Offer Free Breakfast – but Not All Are This Fancy

Some chains are focused on luxury brands or boutique hotels which cost lots of points per night.  And there are credit cards that can get you free nights quickly at top-tier hotels which can otherwise cost hundreds of dollars!

1.   Narrow Down Your Options

Start by looking where you want to go.  If your travel plans include trips to big cities like New York or Chicago, you’ll find lots of hotel choices with pretty much any major chain.

But what if you’re saving up for a family reunion in Boise?  Planning to visit your college student in Ithaca?  Or hoping to spend spring break in Pensacola?  Smaller cities often have fewer chain hotels.

What's The Best Hotel Card For US Travel
Traveling to Ithaca? You Can Only Book Award Nights at Choice, Club Carlson, Marriott, and Wyndham Hotels

I always check Hotel Hustle (which will even tell you if award nights are available) or Award Mapper to see which hotels can be booked with points in a certain city or town.

2.   Fewer Luxury Nights or More Budget Stays?

Some hotel cards, like the Fairmont Visa Signature Card, Chase Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card, and Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card offer 2 nights at almost any of their hotels (Ritz-Carlton and Hilton have exceptions) as a sign-up bonus after meeting minimum spending requirements.

What's The Best Hotel Card For US Travel
Use Your Free Hyatt Nights at the Grand Hyatt New York, Which Often Costs ~$400+ per Night!

It makes sense to use these for more expensive hotels and resorts, because you’ll get the most value.  But use your nights for the hotel stays that are important to you!

Other cards, like the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card or Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card, offer a set number of points as a sign-up bonus.  So it’s up to you whether you use them for 1 or 2 fancy stays or spread them out for more nights in less upscale hotels.

And if you frequently travel to smaller towns, your only choices might be hotel chains like Best Western, Choice, or Wyndham.

What's The Best Hotel Card For US Travel
Budget Hotel Chains Like Choice Can Still Be Comfortable! And You’ll Often Get Perks Like Free Breakfast, Even Without Elite Status

They’ve got their own credit cards too, like the Best Western Rewards, Barclaycard Choice Privileges, or Barclaycard Wyndham Rewards (which just increased its sign-up bonus!)

3.   Consider Flexible Points

If you want to keep your options open, cards that earn transferable points are your best bet.

For example, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio from cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Plus, and Chase Ink Bold (no longer offered) to Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, and Ritz-Carlton.

Or, if you have 1 of the cards mentioned above, you can combine points you earn from the Chase Freedom or Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card then transfer them to hotel partners.

Remember, you can also redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points (as long as you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Ink Plus® Business Credit Card, or Chase Ink Bold) at a rate of 1.25 cents per point for paid hotel stays, including non-chain hotels.

American Express Membership Rewards points are useful, too, because you can transfer them to Best Western, Choice, Hilton, and Starwood Preferred Guest (but not always at a 1:1 ratio).

Note:  The Best Western partnership is ending on January 1, 2016.

Here are cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards points:

Cards that earn Citi ThankYou points like the Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier aren’t as good a choice for hotel transfer partners.  That’s because you can only transfer points to Hilton at a 2:3 ratio.

However, folks with the Citi ThankYou Premier can use their Citi ThankYou points to book paid hotel stays at a rate of 1.25 cents per point.  Again, this could be a good option for folks who prefer non-chain hotels.

Don’t forget the AMEX Starwood cards (Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express) Starwood has hotels (both high-end and budget) in many cities.

What's The Best Hotel Card For US Travel
Starwood Hotels Like the Westin Atlanta Airport Are a Terrific Deal at 3,000 to 4,000 Starwood Points per Night!

Starwood points are flexible because you can use them for Starwood hotel stays, or transfer them to 30+ airlines.  And when you transfer 20,000 Starwood points to most airlines, you’ll earn a 5,000 airline mile bonus!

Keep in mind, Marriott will be buying Starwood hotels.  So the AMEX Starwood cards might go away soon.

Bottom Line

If you’re traveling in the US and want to use points for free or cheap hotel stays, you have lots of options!

There’s no 1 best hotel card.  The best cards for you depend on where you’re travelling (big cities or small towns), how you like to travel (luxury, budget, or somewhere in between!), and whether or not you have firm travel plans.

My favorite cards earn transferable points, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  Even if I don’t know where my next trip will take me, I know that I’ll have a choice of hotel chains to transfer my points to!

What’s your favorite hotel program for stays in the US?

If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 25,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in an RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another update!

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

More Info

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! :)

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

2comments

by Newest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

I was tentative in Marriott Rewards (but signed up anyways because of the Ritz-Carlton 2 night promotion). I have been very happily surprised. Interestingly, as Darius points out, they are taking over Starwood SPG, so that would be the only other one that I would most likely be interested in. They are flexible with “retention” to keep a Platinum member, which I got 3 years ago and have been happily staying at Renaissance, Marriott and the occasional Ritz-Carlton splurge (4 nights=5 nights, one free) so my last redemption was 5 nights in the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul, where the GM was most accessible (Unusual for a hotel of that stature.)

I highly recommend the Ritz-Carlton Card as you can maintain the 50 night a year Gold status with 10K spending, and 75 night a year with $75K spend/year, as well as with the $300 ANY airline credit (you don’t have to choose one like Amex Platinum), it’s after that a $95 annual card fee.

Very happy with Marriott rewards — easy to book, huge options (all price-point range). Love that we can randomly splurge for ritz Carlton…been doing Marriott rewards for at least a decade. Highly recommend it.