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TPG reader Jim sent me a message on Facebook to ask about earning points during hotel stays:
“How do you recommend paying for meals at hotel restaurants? Should I pay with a card that has a dining bonus, or should I charge meals to my room?”
One way I maximize rewards from restaurant spending is by paying for meals with a credit card that earns a bonus on dining purchases. It’s an easy way to boost points to double, triple or, in some cases, even five times the normal rate (like with this year’s third quarter bonus on the Chase Freedom card). Hotel restaurants present an interesting opportunity, since you can often apply charges to your room rather than settle the bill immediately after eating. That’s helpful because it means you can effectively choose whether your meal is categorized as a dining purchase or a travel purchase.
Even better, however, is the fact that dining charges and other incidentals on your folio typically earn points just like charges for the room itself. That means you can double-dip by earning rewards from both the hotel and your credit card, which makes charging meals to your room a no-brainer.
For example, if you pay for your meal at a Hilton property with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (my usual card of choice for restaurant purchases), then you’ll earn two Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. On the other hand, if you charge the meal to your room instead, you’ll earn 10 Hilton HHonors base points per dollar, along with bonuses depending on your earning style, elite status level and any ongoing promotions. Plus, you can still earn those same two Ultimate Rewards points per dollar (since Sapphire Preferred earns a bonus on travel as well as dining).
Of course, in that scenario you’d be better off using a co-branded hotel card to pay for your room. The Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express earns 12 points per dollar spent at Hilton properties. Even though I value HHonors points at just 0.5 cents apiece (while I list Ultimate Rewards points at 2.1 cents apiece), the higher earning rate easily makes up for the difference. The same goes for Marriott, Hyatt, Starwood and other hotel chains if you have their respective credit cards.
Not all hotel restaurants will let you charge the bill to your room. In those situations, you can stick to whichever card you’d normally use for dining purchases, since your meal is unlikely to earn a hotel bonus from a co-branded card.
Check out these posts for more info on maximizing dining purchases and hotel stays:
- How Credit Card Issuers Classify Travel and Dining Purchases
- Maximizing Credit Card Bonus Categories to Earn More Points
- Points Intervention: Maximizing Hotel Stays
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards