This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – View the current offers here.

I get a ton of e-mail from readers asking for advice on how to maximize their points earning, whether it’s for personal use, business or both. This week, we’re featuring a new Points Intervention series where I help individuals and small-business owners get their awards earning on track.

Intervention: Carissa Reiniger Episode 5

This week I’m working with Carissa Reiniger, a small-business owner who hasn’t been using points and miles to her advantage. Yesterday Carissa wanted to know when it’s appropriate to use a business credit card vs. a personal credit card.

Today, we turn our attention to hotels.

points intervention

Hotel Stays Earn Points

Three years ago, Carissa spent 280 nights in hotels, but because she hadn’t set up accounts with any points-earning programs, she got zero points out of it. A huge missed opportunity like this makes me cringe!

Although Carissa has recently cut back on her travel, she still spent 50 nights in hotels last year, again earning zero points. Her only strategy during all this time, as she told us in episode 1, was to find the cheapest room rate as quickly as possible.

Booking Directly with a Hotel vs. an Online Travel Agent

To book hotels, Carrisa relied largely on online travel agent (OTA) Hotwire, and her loyalty was rewarded with a VIP phone number for customer service — a benefit which she says got her “basically nothing.” You can certainly save money by booking your stays through OTAs such as Hotwire, Orbitz, Expedia, and more, but in my experience you’re not going to get the nicest rooms, and in most cases you won’t be allowed to earn points on your bookings.

By booking directly with the hotel, you can often get a similar room rate, and if you have elite status with its loyalty program, you can also get free perks such as room upgrades. And if you book your room with a co-branded hotel credit card, you’ll earn more points than you will on any other purchase.

By using Hotwire, Carissa was essentially saving $5 on the room rate but paying for Wi-Fi, parking and other extras, as well as missing out on perks including free breakfast, bigger rooms, early check-in and late check-out. Definitely not worth the trade-off, if you ask me.

However, know that sometimes it pays to use OTAs, as long as you include your hotel loyalty program account number in your reservation when booking a property within that brand; even if you don’t earn points, the OTA might recognize your elite status. It can be a bit hit or miss though — while I love saving on last-minute bookings using the Hotel Tonight app (use referral code BKELLY99 to instantly earn a $25 credit), you likely won’t receive SPG elite credits and perks.

Choosing the Right Hotel Loyalty Program

When looking at hotel points programs, first consider where you travel most often to determine which hotel groups have coverage in those areas. Marriott and Hilton have fairly big footprints, and while Starwood Preferred Guest’s is smaller, the elite program is one of the strongest out there. For Carissa, her 50 nights a year qualify her for SPG Platinum status, which comes with great perks such as room upgrades, comped Wi-Fi, a welcome gift upon arrival and late check-out.


Hotel Credit Cards

Whether you book directly or through third-party channels, use a co-branded hotel credit card, as they’re one of the most lucrative means of earning points. When Carissa starts building her credit card strategy, throwing in one or two of these hotel cards can save her tons of money and increase her stash of points.

I recommend Starwood Preferred for its various levels of Platinum elite status, which you can earn faster by using the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and its business version, the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express. For mid-tier elite status with perks such as club lounge access and free breakfast, I’d suggest Hilton Gold status, which is an automatic benefit for cardholders of the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card and Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express. Carissa’s choice between these co-branded cards will depend on how each fits her travel needs and spending.

This series isn’t over just because it’s Friday! Monday Carissa and I will talk about elite status matching, and on Tuesday we’ll wrap up what she likes to call her “points slap-around” — and define a plan of action.

Episode 1: How To Start Earning
Episode 2: Maximizing Your Miles
Episode 3: Choosing the Best Transferable Points Program
Episode 4: Personal vs. Business Credit Card

If you or your small business needs a Points Intervention, email

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Aside from the 75,000 points welcome bonus, Amex recently made huge improvements to the Business Platinum Card, including the fact that you will now earn 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more, earn 5x on flights and eligible hotels at and cardholders will receive a $200 airline fee credit each year.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Welcome Offer: Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points.
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
  • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
  • Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.
  • Get one year of Platinum Global Access from WeWork. With this membership, you can access 300+ premium, inspiring workspaces in 75+ cities. To get this exclusive offer, enroll between 2/15/2019 and 12/31/2019.
  • Terms Apply
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.