Which Credit Card Should You Pay For Hotel Stays With?

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As y’all know, I recently picked up the Citi Prestige® Card and Citi ThankYou® Premier Card. Both have generous sign-up bonuses, and have started taking up a surprising “wallet share” for me, as I’ve started using them for almost all my spend.

What has kind of surprised me and caught me off guard is that I’ve started using the Citi Prestige Card for virtually all my hotel stays. Both the Prestige and Premier offer 3x ThankYou Rewards points per dollar spent on hotels.

And as I’ve crunched the numbers for each major hotel chain, that has just about become my “go to” card for hotel credit card spend:

  • The Chase Hyatt Visa Card offers 3x Gold Passport points per dollar spent at Hyatt hotels. I value Hyatt points at ~1.5 cents each. So I’ll take the equivalent of a ~4.8% “cash” return over a return of ~4.5% in Hyatt points.
  • The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express offers 2x Starpoints per dollar spent at Starwood hotels. I value Starpoints at ~2.2 cents each. So I’ll take the equivalent of a ~4.8% “cash” return over a return of ~4.4% in Starpoints.
  • The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card offers 10x Gold Points per dollar spent at Club Carlson properties. I value Gold Points at ~0.4 cents each (even less after the devaluation). So I’ll take the equivalent of ~4.8% “cash” return over a return of ~4% in Gold Points.
  • The IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card offers 5x IHG Rewards Club points per dollar spent at IHG properties. I value IHG Rewards Club points at ~0.7 cents each. So I’ll take the equivalent of a ~4.8% “cash” return over a return of ~3.5% in IHG Rewards Club points.

Westin

Crunching the numbers kind of surprised me, since up until now I’ve typically used a hotel’s co-branded credit card for stays at their hotels.

The one exception is when using the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express at Hyatt properties in the US. That’s because you get both 5% cash back through the Amex OPEN Savings program, plus one Starpoint per dollar spent. That’s a return I value at ~7.2%.

Amex-Open-Savings

Bottom line

When I first picked up the Citi Prestige® Card and Citi ThankYou® Premier Card I did it mostly for the great sign-up bonuses, though I’ve found myself using the cards more and more, to the point that they’re almost the only cards I use nowadays.

Has anyone else switched most of their hotel spend to Citi?

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Comments

  1. Interesting. And really, the 1.6 cent valuation is low, since you earn AA miles on the tickets you buy via that channel.

  2. Lucky – do you know if Citi codes hotels.com in the hotel category, just like Chase does?

  3. This is interesting. Generally, since I am stuck with a United Hub, I use the CSP card to do all my hotel and airline bookings. I was planning to get one of the Citi cards for the signup bonus but I really have to start crunching the numbers to see if the Citi Prestige/Premier makes sense to use a lot even if you’re not an AA flyer. I really hope Chase steps up their products soon, it seems like they just keep taking away more benefits of their cards overall.

  4. Got my Prestige this week and have my first hotel stay is tomorrow. Will be moving all my hotel spend, about 60 nights a year, to the Prestige.

    I was using the CSP for the past year and it was great but I look forward to hitting my spend flr the signup bonus as well as getting the 3x points on Hotel stays.

  5. Seems like an especially good card for a disinterested spouse who just wants to use a single card since the Premier covers most routine bonus categories for daily spend. Except maybe grocery shopping which you should be doing yourself anyways (to get GCs).

  6. What about the Chase Marriott? It gives you 5 points per Marriott dollar spent and I value their points at 1.2c

  7. @Stannis I had my wife get the Premier for exactly that reason. I do pretty much all of the grocery shopping anyway (on Amex Everyday Preferred at 4.5x, at least when I’m not working on minimum spend on other cards) and it the Premier has solid bonuses in everything else.

  8. I would agree that most of my spending (other than hitting bonus’s) are going on my Citi Prestige card these days. I was considering the new Aviator card (You had to have the US airways card to get it) that offered 3 points per dollar on AA/US Airways tickets for $195/year fee. I am not thinking of downgrading this card to the cheapest card they offer because id rather the 4.8 cents per dollar than the 3 AA points.

    Hotel wise I put all my personal travel on this card. I wish they had a business version of this card so I could convince my company to get it for my hotel stays.

  9. Ben: I think you should consider the Citi preferred business account, which comes with a free (i.e., no fee) Citi Gold personal account, which in turn gives you a 15% percent per year bonus on all your earned Thank You Points. The Citi Gold normally has a $50K minimum to avoid monthly fees, but the business account’s minimum is only $15K for monthly fee waiver. That’s not a big number.

    Given your Prestige/Preferred spending, a 15% bonus isn’t anything to sneeze at.

    I just did the Gold thing since I have no business, but you do.

  10. @ Tony — Totally agree. Hopefully they come out with a business version of the card at some point.

  11. @ Real — If that’s what you value Marriott points then that would be the best option. Your valuation is about 50% higher than mine, though. I only value Marriott points at ~0.8 cents per point tops.

  12. I think the Arrival+ is the better choice for hotels/airfare. I’d rather earn ~2.2% on a hotel stay or airline ticket knowing that I can redeem the entire cost. Put another way, if you had plenty of miles in your Arrival+ plus account (say from the signup bonus), would you use the Arrival+ for a hotel purchase or would you still use the Premier or Prestige? If you don’t have enough Barclay miles or don’t intent to redeem it then yes, I would agree that Premier or Prestige is the way to go.

  13. @ Scott — If you want to reimburse yourself then definitely. But chances are most people don’t have enough Arrival miles to “fund” all their hotel stays.

  14. Hyatt gift card at the supermarket. Amex EveryDay Preferred gets you 4.5 points for each dollar. Can you beat this without a seasonal category bonus? You’ll be stuck flying on Southwest and staying at Hyatts this route, though.

  15. @ Left Handed Passenger — Without a seasonal discount on Hyatt gift cards I’d say that’s as good as it gets. That being said, don’t remember the last time I saw a Hyatt gift card at a supermarket.

  16. @Lucky – not sure what other stores gave Hyatt Gift cards but i have seen them at my local RI Stop and Shop.

  17. I have all these great credit card, but I use American Express Platinum to pay for my hotel because I exclusively book through Fine Hotel & Resort. I have received so many great multi-category upgrades from FHR program that I don’t think doing it another way could be better.

  18. Using @Lucky’s math, my return on the AMEX Surpass is 0.4 * 12 = 4.8% so everyone should consider getting the AMEX Surpass card and use it to pay for stays at Hilton properties…like I do. BTW, doesn’t this make the AMEX Surpass the most “valuable” hotel card in the business? 😉

    Anyway, I find bizarre the advice to use a particular card to pay for HOTEL STAYS simply because it would earn points that are valuable to use toward purchasing AIRLINE TICKETS. That would make some sort of sense if one does not also care about accumulating hotel points. Because I am always looking to accumulate botht hotel points AND airline miles, I always pay for my hotel stays with my best co-branded hotel card (AMEX Surpass: 12 points/$) and for my airline tickets with my co-branded airline card (United Explorer: 2 miles/$.) With my approach, I have always had more hotel points and airline miles than I have needed every year to do a big-time redemption that cost me almost nothing out of pocket.

  19. Hm, I see your point, although this is a bit different — your argument in the MR case was that you just didn’t think that MR “pay with points” is a good value, no matter what, and you’d rather pay cash for the ticket. But here, you are suggesting that a 1.6 cent refund on AA/US spend is the way you would want to use those miles.

    Perhaps a better way to think about it would be to add some “you earn points on the ticket” fluff to both the 1.43 cent Amex rate and the 1.6 cent Citi rate, and then compare that to other potential uses of those points. I’m not sure what exactly the “you earn points on the ticket” inflation factor should be, but let’s say 0.2 cents per point, so the Amex points are worth 1.63 cents and the Citi points are worth 1.8 cents — if one were to value SQ miles at 1.65 cents per point, it’s clear that SQ is a better use of MR points than pay with points, but not Citi points.

    I might be double-counting something here but to me this seems similar to the adjustment one makes to say “well, I could redeem 25,000 miles for a domestic coach AA transcon ticket, but if I bought that ticket I’d also earn 10,000 miles (assuming ExPlat status), so really the effective mileage cost is 35,000 miles.” If you transfer MR or Citi points to SQ and book an award ticket, you don’t earn any miles on that award, whereas if you use pay with points, you do, so you have to factor that in the equation somewhere.

  20. @ DCS

    Prestige would still be better than surpass because while they are equal earning 4.8% on the stays when you go to use the points from the prestige on the AA flight you get miles back on the flight since it is a “paid fare”. So if you ever fly AA prestige is the better card to use.

  21. @MAC — Well, I do not fly AA unless there is no *A option but you missed the point, which was pondering why anyone would want to pay for HOTEL STAYS with a credit card because it would earn points that are valuable for purchasing AIRLINE TICKETS. My previous comment states why this should be a puzzle for anyone who is not just gaga over credit cards but is serious about playing the mile/point game in a way that maximizes their score.

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