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What Credit Card Should I Be Using for Hotel Incidental Charges?

Jan. 30, 2018
5 min read
What Card Should I Be Using for Hotel Incidental Charges
What Credit Card Should I Be Using for Hotel Incidental Charges?
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Starting today, "Reader Questions" will be answered twice a week — Tuesdays and Thursdays — by TPG Assistant Editor Brendan Dorsey. Brendan has been with TPG for a year and a half and hails from Northern California.

A common question many people ask is, "what's the best credit card for a particular purchase?" This was TPG reader Ross' dilemma regarding a recent points stay at a hotel in Hawaii, and purchases he charged to his room...

[pullquote source="TPG Reader Ross"]I am staying at the Marriott in Waikoloa, HI and booked using points from my Chase Sapphire Reserve. When I go to check out of the hotel should I pay the bill (drinks / food / any room charges) with the Amex Platinum I gave the desk when I checked in or the Sapphire Reserve?[/pullquote]

We need to break down this question into two parts. First, does Ross have to use his American Express Platinum Card, which he gave to the Marriott Waikoloa when he checked in, even though he booked the stay with points from his Chase Sapphire Reserve? And second, what card should he use to pay for his hotel incidentals, i.e.: for food, drinks and any room charges?

Let's start with the first question. The answer is pretty simple: no, Ross doesn't need to use his Amex Platinum just because he gave it to the desk when he checked in. He also doesn't need to use his Chase Sapphire Reserve for incidentals, even though his stay was paid for with Ultimate Rewards points.

The Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. Image courtesy of Marriott.

The more complicated question is the second one. Which card is the best to use for hotel incidentals?

In Ross' case. he's asking whether he should use his Amex Platinum or Chase Sapphire Reserve. The Platinum card gets 5x points on hotels, but that's only when booking through Amex Travel for prepaid hotels. Meaning once Ross actually gets to the hotel, his Platinum would only earn 1 point per dollar.

Ross will have better luck if he uses his Sapphire Reserve, which gets 3x points on all travel and dining purchases. So anything he buys at the property — be it from the poolside bar or hotel spa — and charges to his room will likely code as a hotel purchase, and should net him the 3x points.

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It's also important to note how much different points are worth, which you can find in TPG's monthly points valuations. Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards are both quite valuable and flexible when it comes to redemptions. Membership Rewards points are worth 1.9 cents apiece while Ultimate Rewards are worth 2.1 cents.

Let's say Ross charges $300 to his room during his stay. Not only will the category bonus be higher if he uses the Sapphire Reserve, but the points are worth more:

CardPOint BonusHotel Chargespoints earnedValue earned
Chase Sapphire Reserve3x$300900$18.90
The Platinum Card® from American Express1x$300300$5.70

As we can see, Ross will be getting significantly more value if he uses the Sapphire Reserve — a full $13.20 more.

Now, not everyone is going to have this particular card combo, as both of these are premium cards with high annual fees. But what you can personally take away from this question is that when you're staying at a hotel, make sure you're using a card that gets bonus points or miles on travel or hotel purchases.

Lower annual fee cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card both get 2x points (miles on the Venture) on all travel purchases. In Ross' case, since he's staying at a Marriott, he could also use a card like the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, which would get him 6x points on all purchases at a Marriott or Starwood property. Or if he had a Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card, that would net him 5x Marriott Rewards points on any similar transaction. You could even use a card like the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card that comes with a $250 Hilton Resort statement credit if you're staying at an eligible Hilton property.

So if you've booked a hotel with points or a certain card, just make sure you look through your wallet once you actually get to the property and figure out which card gets the highest category bonus for travel or hotel purchases — it can mean a real difference in return. Thanks for the question, Ross, and if you're a TPG reader who'd like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured image by Getty Images

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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

60,000 points
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more