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I use my hotel credit card benefits to travel in luxury -- here are 5 ways to do it

March 16, 2021
12 min read
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It was only within the last couple of years that I dove into the world of hotel credit cards. For years, I was hyper-focused on transferable card points and airline miles. A coherent hotel credit card strategy just wasn't on my radar.

Many people newer to points and miles initially gravitate toward airline programs. That isn't a huge surprise — the ability to get to your destination for almost free is a logical first step. But what about once you arrive?

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Over the last two years (and yes, even domestically during the pandemic), I've been able to leverage hotel cards to radically change how I travel.

 

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While I still love staying at Airbnbs and vacation rentals in certain instances, hotels have given me the opportunity to have premium experiences — all while still on a relative budget.

This is, in part, thanks to some of the hotel cards that I have, including the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and the World of Hyatt Credit Card. The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Let's dive into the five ways these cards help me travel — and stay — better.

Taking advantage of elite perks

One of the best perks of hotel credit cards is automatic elite status that you get simply from having the card.

Forget about 60-night stay requirements or high levels of spending needed to get elite status. Many of those thresholds are tough to meet, although some elite thresholds have been lowered during the pandemic.

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The Canopy by Hilton Philadelphia Center City. (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

Thanks to hotel cards, you can enjoy some of the same awesome perks that even the most loyal guests experience. For instance, my Hilton Aspire card comes with Hilton Honors Diamond status. Although it comes with a steep $450 annual fee (see rates and fees), TPG values Diamond status at up to $3,000.

Since I am not a frequent Hilton guest, I don't estimate my status to be worth quite as much, but between free breakfasts, occasional suite upgrades, late checkouts and Executive Lounge access, I do get to make use of Honors elite benefits.

And no, you generally won't be treated differently just because you earned your hotel status from a credit card.

Related: Why I went all in on the World of Hyatt card

Cashing in on free nights and credits

Free night awards are the best perk with select hotel credit cards — and frankly, it's an underrated one.

Hilton cards

Besides Hilton Diamond status, the Aspire card offers one weekend night reward for each cardmember year (with more flexibility to use the credit on weekdays through 2021).

Even the most expensive Hilton properties (think: Conrads, Waldorfs and more) qualify to use this free night reward.

Waldorf Astoria La Quinta (Photo by Benji Stawski / The Points Guy)
La Quinta Resort & Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

The top-tier Hilton card also gives you up to $250 in annual credits for airline incidental fees and up to $250 in Hilton resort statement credits each year. That latter credit can be used even on room charges as long as Hilton defines the property as a resort.

Plus, when you book a two-night minimum stay at hiltonhonorsaspirecard.com, you’ll get up to $100 in credits at participating Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts.

Personally, all of these perks combined more than offset the Aspire’s annual fee — and it is one of the most valuable cards in my wallet

In fact, I used a reward night certificate in 2019 at the Waldorf Astoria Berlin, where cash rates were going for more than $450 a night. That's $450 in value merely from this one card perk alone — equal to the Aspire's annual fee (see rates and fees).

Related: 5 ways to maximize free hotel night rewards during the pandemic

World of Hyatt card

The World of Hyatt card offers an annual free night certificate at a Category 1-4 Hyatt property which you’ll receive every account anniversary. This can be worth much more than the card’s $95 annual fee, but note that it doesn't include more premium properties in the Hyatt portfolio.

The Confidante Miami Beach. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

I've used my free night reward at The Confidante in Miami Beach, an oceanfront property that can go for more than $500 per night on peak nights, such as during spring break.

I'll also get a second free Category 1-4 night after spending $15,000 in a year.

Related: Best uses of Hyatt free night certificates

Maximizing hotel and card promotions

Cobranded cards often run promotions to entice cardholders to utilize the specific hotel program and to spend money on the card. This is particularly true during the pandemic when fewer cardholders may be traveling.

The Miraval Berkshires. (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

For instance, I've taken advantage of several Hyatt promotions over the past year. Currently, Hyatt is awarding 2,000 bonus points for every two qualifying nights earned between March 1 and June 15, 2021. This is worth $34 based on TPG’s most recent valuation of World of Hyatt points (1.7 cents per point).

Even better, those with a World of Hyatt Credit Card earn an extra 500 points per two nights, for a total of 2,500 points earned for every two nights stayed. And you'll get a Category 1-4 free night certificate for the first 10 nights stayed. (Register here.)

Last year, I was able to take advantage of Hyatt promotions for getaways to the newly opened Miraval Berkshires, Andaz Scottsdale, Hyatt Residence Club Sedona and more.

Finally, don't forget about card-specific deals directly through the card issuer: Amex Offers and Chase Offers.

Leveraging transferable points

Another consideration is that both the Hilton Honors and the World of Hyatt programs partner with transferable points currencies.

Wyndhurst Manor in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

You can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to Hilton and you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt. Transferable points are a powerful tool. If you don’t have enough points with a specific program, you can easily shift points over from another program.

Best of all, both Hyatt and Hilton allow points pooling between accounts (although Hyatt has a clunky process that requires a PDF).

This is perfect for booking with friends or family. A friend can transfer from Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards to a hotel program and then combine points with you for a specific redemption. I've done that a few times to simplify how I get paid back when booking on points.

Related: How I traveled the world on points right before the pandemic

Staying at expensive (in cash) properties

My hotel credit cards have helped open the door to properties I wouldn't even have considered staying at previously.

For instance, last summer, I stayed at the Miraval Berkshires, an all-inclusive wellness property that commanded a nearly $3,000 price tag for a weekend stay.

However, because of a buy-one-get-one offer along with a 25% points rebate for having the World of Hyatt card (both offers have since expired), I was able to use just 48,750 points. (That's also my best hotel redemption ever, at 6.2 cents per point in value.)

With complimentary night rewards with Hilton, I also have my eyes set on the Conrad Koh Samui in Thailand once it is possible to do so. In non-pandemic times, a hotel of that stature can easily command $1,000 per night for a room. With a couple of reward night certificates and a stash of Hilton points, several days at an exclusive property like that is within reach.

Related: Best high-end Hilton redemptions

Bottom line

Over the past few years, I'm glad I've diversified my interest in points and miles to expand to hotel cards.

Thanks to these cards, a stash of Hilton and Hyatt points and a commitment to finding the best deal, I've been able to stay at some fantastic properties while on a (relative) budget.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.

Featured image by (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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    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.

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Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

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  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees