Credit Card Expert Roundup #49 - What's your favorite hotel rewards credit card, and why?
Before credit card rewards programs catapulted to the point where they are today, travel experts would always say that the best thing you could do is to align yourself with one airline and one hotel chain. Even with the robust nature of credit card rewards earnings, this still holds true.
This week Jason touches on the topic when he asks a panel of experts the following:
What's your favorite hotel rewards credit card, and why?
Shawn Coomer - Founder and Managing Editor of Miles to Memories
While there are a few hotel rewards cards that I think are worth getting, the World of Hyatt credit card is my personal favorite. In my opinion World of Hyatt is the best hotel loyalty program and the World of Hyatt credit card has a few features that help customers get perks quicker when staying at Hyatt properties.
Beside the welcome bonus, the card comes with a free category 1-4 night each year plus the ability to earn another free night (category 1-4) after spending $15K on the card each year. The World of Hyatt credit card also gives 5 elite qualifying nights to cardholders and an additional 2 qualifying nights per $5K spent. In other words it helps on the road to elite status.
One of the drawbacks of Hyatt is the chain’s limited footprint, so this credit card helps me spend my way to elite status quicker. That has been hugely beneficial as a top tier Globalist in the program and makes the World of Hyatt credit card one of the most essential cards in my arsenal. I don’t use it as often for everyday spending, but since it gives me a free night every year, the annual fee is more than offset.
Greg Johnson - Owner of Club Thrifty
As somebody who travels frequently, my favorite credit cards typically include those that offer flexible points which can be used across multiple brands. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have love for co-branded hotel cards!
Personally, I’m a huge fan of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card! This card has a massive 150,000 point welcome offer which you’ll earn after making $4,000 in purchases during the first three months you have the card. It also provides some excellent earning potential on your spending – including a whopping 14x points on spending at Hilton resorts and hotels, 7x points at U.S. restaurants, 7x points on flights and select car rental companies, and 3x points on everything else.
Even better, the benefits cardmembers receive for staying at participating Hilton properties are hard to beat. The Hilton Honors Amex Aspire Card comes with a free weekend night certificate that can be used at nearly any Hilton property around the world once each year. (Our family has used ours in Edinburgh, Dubrovnik, and more.) It also comes with an annual $250 resort credit for purchases at a participating Hilton resorts (which we typically use for on-property dining), an annual $250 airline fee credit (which we like to use on baggage fees), and a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership which works at over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide (which we use constantly).
Finally, I absolutely love that the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card comes with complimentary Hilton Diamond Status. This status entitles you to room upgrades (when available), additional bonus points, and access to the Hilton Executive Lounge (when available). The Aspire Card does have a $450 annual fee, but – if you regularly stay at Hilton hotels – the massive credits and benefits more than make up for the cost of carrying the card.
Andy Shuman - Author of the Lazy Traveler's Handbook Series
My favorite hotel card is Hilton Surpass, which is a bit funny because I don’t currently have it. The reason is because I have Hilton Aspire and paying annual fees for both cards would be overkill. If it hadn’t been for the Hilton Aspire card, though, I wouldn’t have canceled the Surpass card. If you value the Hilton Honors program but can’t earn the mid-tier Gold Elite status, it’s the best hotel card for a non-top elite member.
Here is why. Hilton Honors is currently the only major hotel loyalty program that gives their Gold Elites free breakfasts and (in most cases) access to the lounge. And if you’re a Hilton Surpass cardholder, you get Gold status out of the box. I don’t want to go into math, but hotel breakfasts aren’t cheap, so you might be able to recoup the card’s $95 annual fee in just one stay, especially if you travel with the family.
Of course, there are more to the Surpass card. There is a decent welcome bonus and a generous rewards scheme, and the option to earn Diamond status by spending $40,000 annually. However, I believe getting a cheap Gold Status is the card’s most important benefit. In fact, I do have the top-tier Diamond status with my considerably more expensive Aspire card, and it isn’t much better, in my opinion.
Spencer - From the Military Money Manual
My favorite hotel credit card for military servicemembers at the end of 2019 is the American Express Hilton Honors Aspire card. Military servicemembers and spouses can get their annual fees waived under AMEX's generous interpretation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act or SCRA. Practically, that means the regular $450 annual fee on this card becomes $0 per year.
As an active duty military servicemember with the AMEX Hilton Honors Aspire card, I can now get Hilton Honors Diamond Status, the highest tier of Hilton loyalty, for free. That means free room upgrades, breakfast, and executive lounge access at all Hilton, Conrad, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Waldorf Astoria, and the other 10 Hilton brands properties worldwide.
You also get a free annual night certificate, good up to 50,000 Hilton Honors points, a $250 resort credit good for any room charges, food, drinks or services like spa at any Hilton resort.
The current welcome bonus on the Aspire card is substantial, potentially unlocking a week or more stay at some of the finest hotels in the world. With over 6000 properties worldwide, there's probably going to be a Hilton Honors property near you're next travel destination.
Since all of these benefits and features of the card are available for free to military servicemembers and their spouses, the Hilton Honors Aspire card is my favorite hotel credit card of 2019.
Zac Hood - Founder of Travel Freely
My favorite hotel card is the World of Hyatt Credit Card by Chase. I've always found really good value with Hyatt points both in the U.S. and abroad (We are staying at the Hyatt Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica next month!). Yes, the card has an annual fee, but the annual free night (Cat 1-4) more than justifies the fee. Plus, my wife also has a card so we combine for two free nights per year. Since we have a one-year old, those free nights keep us accountable to get out of town and go somewhere fun for at least a weekend.
In addition, I feel like the value of Hyatt points stay pretty consistent compared to other rewards programs. I can get good value for my points regardless of the hotel category. Hyatt can also be more generous than other programs when it comes to covering taxes and fees on award stays. Locally, we have used our Hyatt card and free night a few times to stay at the Hyatt Place in Keystone for a super deal at the height of ski season. Lastly, since Hyatt is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, Hyatt's program works well with my Chase Ink business cards. I can earn Ultimate Rewards with business spending and then transfer to Hyatt.