Which hotel credit card is the most rewarding for everyday spend?

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Most rewarding sign-up bonus
Most rewarding perks and annual bonuses
Most rewarding for spend


Okay, we’ve established (hopefully) that hotel credit cards are great cards to keep long term for their annual bonuses, but are they worth using for everyday spend? Admittedly this is highly subjective (just as the other installments have been), though I’ll try to put a value to points in each program and based on that figure out the percent return on everyday spend. Again, valuing points is highly subjective, though you can always plug your own valuations in to determine your value. For the most part I’ll be using this post from March of this year as my basis for valuing hotel points.

As I prefaced my other posts, I’ll sorta kinda be putting them in the general order from what I consider to be the best(ish) perks to the worst(ish) perks (so what I’m saying is that I don’t think the first card is objectively better than the second card, but I do think the first card is objectively better than the fifth card):

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express
Annual fee: $95, waived the first year
Points earned: 2x points per dollar spent at Starwood properties; 1x point per dollar spent on everything else
My value per point: 2.2 cents

The Starwood card remains one of the most rewarding for everyday, non-bonused spend. I think Starpoints are conservatively worth 2.2 cents each, so getting a 2.2% return on everyday spend is pretty tough to beat.

Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card and Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa Card
Annual fee: $75
Points earned: 10x points per dollar spent at Club Carlson properties; 5x points per dollar spent on everything else
My value per point: 0.4 cents

Some people will say the Club Carlson card is the single most rewarding credit card for everyday spend, while others will disagree. You get 5x points per dollar spent on everything, so at a valuation of 0.4 cents each, that’s a 2% return. However the single biggest perk of having the card is that when you redeem points for two nights the second night is free, so if you plan your travel correctly you’re potentially doubling the value of your points, to 0.8 cents each. If that’s how you do the math, that’s an amazing 4% return on everyday spend.

Chase Hyatt Visa Card
Annual fee: $75
Points earned: 3x points on Hyatt spend; 2x points on dining, airline, and car rental purchases; 1x point per dollar spent on everything else
My value per point: 1.6 cents

Hyatt points are among the most valuable hotel points currency on a per point basis. That being said, for the most part there are better cards out there for everyday spend. The card does offer 2x points on dining, airline, and car rental purchases, so you’re getting 3.2% of value on those categories. However, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 2x points on dining and all travel purchases. Best of all, those points can be transferred to Hyatt. So not only do you get 2 points per dollar spent, but you get a more flexible points currency.

Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card
Annual fee: $95
Points earned: 10x points per dollar spent at Hilton properties; 5x points per dollar spent on airline and car rental purchases; 3x points per dollar spent on everything else
My value per point: 0.4 cents

The Citi Hilton Reserve does offer 5x points per dollar on airline and car rental purchases bringing the return to 2%. And they offer three points per dollar on everyday spend for a return of 1.2%. This card simply isn’t worth it unless you’re shooting for one of the threshold bonuses, like a free weekend night after spending $10,000, or Diamond status after spending $40,000. Both can be more than worthwhile (especially the free weekend night after spending $10,000, since that can be redeemed for a hotel that would cost 95,000 points per night).

Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Annual fee: $85
Points earned: 5x points per dollar spent at Marriott; 2x points per dollar spent on airlines, car rentals, and dining; 1x point per dollar spent on everything else
My value per point: 0.8 cents

With Marriott you’re looking at a return of 1.6% on bonus categories and 0.8% on everyday spend. Unless you’re putting money on the card to requalify for status (since the card offers one elite qualifying night for every $3,000 spent) this probably isn’t worth putting spend on.

IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card
Annual fee: $49, waived the first year
Points earned: 5x points per dollar spent at IHG properties; 2x points per dollar spent on gas, groceries, and at restaurants; 1x point per dollar spent on everything else
My value per point: 0.5 cents

At best you’re looking at a return of 1.4% on their “bonus” categories of gas, groceries, and restaurants, and at worst you’re looking at a return of 0.5% on everyday spend. Pass.

Fairmont Visa Signature Credit Card
Annual fee: $95, waived the first year
Points earned: 5x points per dollar spent at Fairmont; 2x points per dollar spent on airlines, car rentals, and on transit; 1x point per dollar spent on everything else
My value per point: 0.5 cents

Much like the Marriott and Priority Club cards, the Fairmont card simply doesn’t offer much of a return for everyday spend. The added challenge is how difficult it is to rack up Fairmont points, since they don’t have many transfer partners. The one perk potentially worth pursuing is a free night after spending $12,000 on the card.

Conclusion

I find it really interesting that hotel credit cards offer huge annual bonuses that make you want to keep the cards long term, but not much of an incentive to spend much money on them.

I think the Starwood American Express remains the best card for everyday, non-bonused spend for someone looking to earn an extremely flexible points currency.

If you’re into staying at Club Carlson properties and do so in two night increments, the return you get from spend on that card is unbeatable, hands down.

Other than that there are generally better cards out there for everyday spend. All of my dining and (non-airfare) travel spend goes on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. My airfare, gas, and grocery purchases all go on the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express. My cell phone, internet, cable, and office supply store purchases all go on the Ink Bold® Business Charge Card. Aside from that my non-bonused spend goes towards reaching minimum spend thresholds on credit cards or otherwise mostly on the Starwood American Express.

I’m curious, does anyone use a hotel credit card for their everyday spend?

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Comments

  1. Yeah, pretty much use Amex SW, also because of their excellent warranty and purchase protection. But for other non-bonused spend, i go to Office Max and buy gift cards with my Ink for merchants i know i will use, like Starbucks, Amazon, cinemas, and the like. My wife and I also love the Nordstrom Cafe, so we buy Nordstrom gift cards too at 5x.

    I used to use my Chase Freedom for the 10/10, but now that the 10 bonus points/purchase is gone, will probably only use that for the quarterly bonus categories.

  2. I think the Hyatt card is a good substitute for people who don’t want to pay the CSP annual fee. Obv, you get the free Cat 4 nt. But they’ve also had a spend bonus twice this year: extra 5K pts for $3K spend.

    For big spenders: $40K will get 5 stays/10 nights towards elite status, which may help…

  3. I forgo the extra bonus on dining etc. by the Sapphire, as I just have so many UR points via one Sapphire and 4 ink cards for me and my spouse.

    If I’m not trying to meet a spend threshold, it’s SPG Amex for me. I need hotel points a lot more than airline points and Starwood is my preferred chain as I’m Platinum. Hyatt is becoming much stronger, but still has a lot of holes in it’s locations.

    If Hyatt fit my travel better, it would probably steer me more to Sapphire. (I do use the Ink for telecommunication though, 5x is just too rich a bonus to ignore).

  4. I’m actually using my Hyatt card full time right now. I was offered a 12k point bonus for putting $10k on it in 3 months. I considered not going for the bonus, but I just wiped out my Chase and United balances with an award, so I don’t feel the incentive to put every dollar on my sapphire/bold cards.

  5. I use the Hilton Reserve card to get that extra night. I am trying to reach 10,000 since this is my first year, but I get sick very often and I have to spend money at CVS…

  6. I’m using the Hilton HHonors Surpass Card only for the grocery category bonus. Even though I burned some points pre-devaluation, my HHonors account still has much more critical mass (e.g. towards an award redemption) than either my Membership Rewards or SPG accounts. I would LOVE to earn more Starpoints. However, my everyday spend is pretty much spoken for with Dining/Travel on my Sapphire and everything else on my United Club Card (1.5x points for all spend).

  7. I put most of my non-bonus everyday spending on the Amex SPG card. Those points are just so valuable and so versatile. I’d put more everyday spend on my Club Carlson cards if I didn’t already have more of their points than I know what to do with (thanks to recent lucrative promotions).

  8. Affiliate links galore? Why not just have a Paypal link so people can send you money directly…?

  9. Ben,

    I don’t have everyday spend. I’m still getting enough new cards that I have to work to meet minimum spend requirements. For example, the AmEx Biz Rewards Gold card required $10k spend in 4 months. That was work. I recently just got the Lufthansa M&M card, which required $5k in three months.

    When I’m not doing that, I’ve got enough cards either offering retention bonuses or spend incentives. Citi usually offers me an extra 4 points per dollar spent on the next $5k in spend. I just got an offer from Chase for 10k bonus UR points for spending $5k in 90 days. I also had an offer from US Airways mastercard for getting 15,000 bonus miles after spending $750/mo for May, June, and July. I had yet another offer from Chase Hyatt Visa to get 5,000 Hyatt points after spending $3k in 90 days.

    So… I don’t remember the last time I actually had to buy something where I was working toward a new spend requirement or a promotion of some sort.

  10. What hotel chains do Amex MR transfer to? For someone like me, the IHG card seems like an attractive option, since gas and groceries are what I spend more on than anything else, I mostly travel within the US, hotel expenses are what I find to put more of a limit on my travels than airfares, because they offer a slightly higher return than Chase Freedom (1.4% vs 1.1%), and since IHG is in a lot of places the other chains are not. We we recently traveled to Southern Colorado/Northern New Mexico, and while Durango was well stocked, when we ventured out to Alamosa, Chama, and Antonito, a Holiday Inn in Alamosa was the nicest place we could find at a reasonable price. My parents are Marriott Vacation Club members and they still got the IHG card for the sign up bonus and because they’ve found several places in their travels that have IHG properties but not Marriotts.

    My concern with Starwood and Hyatt is they’re much more limited in where they are vs Marriott, IHG, Hilton etc…for example they were no where in that area of Co and NM.

  11. @ TJ — Membership Rewards has quite a few hotel transfer partners, the issue is just that the transfer ratios aren’t especially good. Points can be transferred to Starwood at a 3:1 ratio, Hilton at a 1:1:5 ratio, and Choice at a 1:1 ratio.

  12. I normally use the SPG Amex for everyday spend (I don’t chase category bonuses on other cards because having most of my charges on one card simplifies my record keeping). But right now I’m using Club Carlson for everyday spend (and booking 2 night stays in expensive places I plan to visit in the next year, like London and Manhattan, while the bonus award nights are still available). (I won’t be saving CC points for speculative use, since the bonus is too good to last.)

  13. @Lucky – while I’m guessing Choice is a good option for a budget traveler, sounds like for the person who knows they want hotel stays, IHG may provide the best bang for the buck for middle class every day spend (groceries and gas) unless I’m reading your math wrong.

    One area I’ve noticed Chase UR and the Sapphire Preferred being a better option is recently I was looking for local hotels here in Orlando for a possible staycation with a friend a month or so from now, and most of the nicer hotels here are very poor award redemptions within their respective programs (redemption less than 1 cpp), and using UR has both required fewer total points and offered a redemption value greater than 1 cpp. Maybe the Barclay’s World Arrival card would be a worthwhile look here as well with it’s 2ppd accrual on all spending, as well as giving a rebate on redemptions?

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