The best hotel credit cards: Top picks

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Best hotel credit cards

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Popular among frequent travelers, the best hotel credit cards offer generous rewards and desirable perks like free internet, free stays and flexible checkout options.

But not all hotel credit cards are created equally. Some cards will fit your travel patterns and preferences better than others.

CreditCards.com rounded up the best hotel credit cards for its Fall 2016 hotel credit card competition, which were then rated by a panel of judges to narrow the list down to the top three.

Here are the three best hotel credit cards:

1. Starwood Preferred Guest® from American Express

The Starwood Preferred Guest® credit card from American Express is a legend in travel circles, according to CreditCards.com. Its outstanding rewards and perks put it at the top of the list.

Highlights:

  • The Starwood Preferred Guest® card gives cardholders the opportunity to earn up to five Starpoints® for every $1 dollar spent on eligible purchases at participating Starwood hotels — two as a card member in addition to the two or three points as a Starwood Preferred Guest member.
  • This card offers two points per $1 on eligible purchases at Marriott Rewards®. On other eligible purchases, the Starwood Preferred Guest® card offers one point per $1.
  • If you spend $3,000 within the first three months, this card offers 25,000 bonus points.

Who should get this card:

The Starwood Preferred Guest® credit card from American Express is ideal for the traveler who frequents Starwood and Marriott hotels. You can redeem Starpoints® for free stays at more than 10 brands. And you can transfer points to more than 30 airline partners. There are no foreign transaction fees. If you want upscale hotel options and flexible reward redemption choices, this might be the card for you.

But while Starwood offers more than 1,200 hotels and resorts worldwide, you may find that you’re limited in hotel options when traveling, which is the main disadvantage to this card.

The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year, and the APR is a variable 15.74 percent to 19.74 percent.

RATE SEARCH: Compare the best travel and airline credit cards.

2. Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card

The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve card’s significant bonuses, points rewards system and travel perks earned it the second place spot on CreditCards.com’s list.

Highlights: 

  • For spending $2,500 within the first four months of account opening, the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve card offers two free weekend nights at a Hilton-brand hotel. Cardholders can earn another weekend night certificate each year for spending at least $10,000.
  • This card offers 10 points per $1 spent on hotel stays within the Hilton portfolio, five points per $1 spent on airline and car rentals and three points per $1 spent on general purchases.
  • Cardholders get travel perks including automatic gold status, airport lounge access, no foreign transaction fee, the fifth night free at every hotel stay and a 25 percent bonus on Hilton HHonors base points.

Who should get this card:

If hotel brands within the Hilton portfolio are your preferred place to stay when traveling, and you’re looking for great travel perks, this card could be a worthwhile choice. With big bonus opportunities and perks like free trip cancellation and interruption protection, lost baggage insurance and free Wi-Fi, it can certainly pay off.

But according to CreditCards.com, Hilton HHonors™ points tend to be worth significantly less than average, which is this card’s biggest downside.

It has a $95 annual fee and a variable APR of 15.74 percent.

RATE SEARCH: Compare the best rewards credit cards.

3. Club Carlson Rewards Visa Signature Card

Rounding out the list in third place is the Club Carlson Rewards Visa Signature card. It makes the cut for its big bonus opportunities.

Highlights:

  • The Club Carlson Rewards Visa Signature offers 50,000 bonus points with the first purchase on the card. It offers an additional 35,000 points for spending $2,500 on the card within the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Earn 10 points per $1 spend at Carlson Rezidor hotels and five points per $1 spent on general purchases.
  • This card offers a loyalty reward of 40,000 points each year you renew your card. You can earn one free night certificate for a stay when $10,000 is spent and the card is renewed.

Who should get this card:

If your hotel stays typically fall within the Carlson Rezidor portfolio of hotels — which is exceptionally large — and you can utilize the bonus offers, this card could be a good choice. Hotels in the portfolio include budget options like Country Inn and Suites up to more luxury hotels like Radisson Blu. Perks on this card include an automatic upgrade to silver elite status, 10 qualifying nights toward the next elite level, 15 percent bonus points on hotel stays, early check-in and late checkout.

Something to keep in mind if you’re considering this card is that Club Carlson points aren’t worth as much as the average card’s points, according to CreditCards.com. That can mean less savings overall.

This card has a $75 annual fee and a variable APR of 14.49 percent to 23.49 percent.

The bottom line:

The best hotel credit card for your situation comes down to your travel preferences. If your preferred brand is Starwood, then you’ll likely get the most benefit from the Starwood Preferred Guest® credit card from American Express. But if you enjoy Hilton or Carlson Rezidor, then cards specific to those brands are better choices.

Best Hotel Credit Cards — Top Picks
Card Annual fee Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest® credit card from American Express $95 Five Starpoints® for every $1 dollar spent at participating Starwood Hotels
Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve $95 10 points per $1 spent at Hilton Hotels
Club Carlson Rewards Visa Signature $75 10 points per $1 spend at Carlson Rezidor hotels

RATE SEARCH: Compare the best hotel credit cards.

Follow me on Twitter: @MitchStrohm

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