1. One thing that you could have listed was the foreign fees, if any, charged by each of the cards. I know the Hyatt doesn’t charge any but I don’t know about the others.

  2. Great report. PC card sign-up bonus is 60k on their site.

    Hilton Surpass is 40k after first purchase and an additional 20k after 8 stays in 18 months. If you click the “apply now” link from Amex, it will show up in the left column

  3. I think another determining factor is current elite status with a hotel chain…as this content is typically for people who don’t have anything. Elite benefits on award stays is also another factor. The Hilton Surpass comes with Gold status, which means free breakfast and internet. Over the course of an average 4-5 night award stay, this is a huge added value. For this, I would rate it higher than the SPG card for earning hotel stays.

  4. Thanks for this very useful post.

    Here’s my question: how does what you already have by way of cards affect the rank order above? For instance, I already have an Amex Plat, which gets me SPG Gold. And I have the Amex Delta Reserve card which takes care of my airline miles pretty well (I’m a Platinum Medallion on Delta).

    Also, to echo David’s point above, how does current status enter the analysis? I tend to be able to get to HH Silver status each year on my own, so my feeling is that the HH Surpass could be the way to go for the first year Gold status except I doubt I’d ever get back up to Gold again.

    Any advice would be welcomed.

  5. The current SPG Amex offer expring 8/22/11 is $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $65. Probably need to correct your article…otherwise great info!

  6. Thanks for the useful info once again, Lucky! How about a question, though: How long do you have to use initial or annual “free nights”? I got teh Marriott card in December, and had to use my “free night” within 6 months.

  7. @ rich — Good point. For what it’s worth, each hotel chain has a card without foreign exchange fees except Starwood, as far as I know.

    @ Pegasus — I had no clue! Any clue where I could find those details, because I can’t seem to find them.

    @ David — Great point, but then again the Gold status is only valid for the first year. It’s always a tough balance between writing to someone with no current loyalty and someone that might already have top tier status with a chain.

  8. @ Chris — For Hyatt it’s within a year, as far as I know. The other chains (other than Marriott) give points as the sign-up bonus, and at renewal I believe the free nights are typically valid for a year.

  9. @ Ian — The value would really depend on the specific program, in my opinion. First of all, I’ll have to take issue with your use of the Delta American Express. 😉

    On to your point, though, I think if you have top tier status or mid tier status that’s actually valuable (like Marriott Gold or Hilton Gold) there’s a huge incentive to stick with the primary card for the program you’re loyal to. However, for less valuable mid tier status levels (Priority Club Gold or Starwood Gold or Hyatt Platinum) I’d say you’re best off sticking to a program that gives you the best benefits without factoring in those elite tiers.

    But top tier status really does make a huge difference when it comes to the overall experience, so I’d say there’s a huge incentive to go with the card of the program you have top tier status with (though not necessarily SPG Gold).

  10. Now that Hyatt offers one free cat 1-4 night per year for cardholders, would you switch the rank order of the Hyatt card and the PC card? I’m in the market for a new MC/Visa with no foreign exchange fees, and I’m diamond with Hyatt and platinum with PC. I’m really debating between the two.

  11. @ Corey — That’s a real toughie. The annual benefit is equally valuable to me with both cards — with Priority Club I can redeem for truly any InterContinental hotel, with the major downside being that they don’t technically honor elite benefits on award stays. With Hyatt I can redeem at some very nice hotels (like the Park Hyatt Melbourne) and get full elite benefits, but a lot of hotels are excluded.

    I’d go for the Hyatt card simply because I find the points more valuable when you decide to spend money on the card. The Priority Club earnings rate isn’t very good, while Hyatt points are valuable, even when you’re only earning one point per dollar.

    But you really can’t go wrong either way…

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