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One of the most exciting developments in the hotel loyalty industry in early 2018 came via Hotels.com and Capital One, announcing a new partnership whereby cardholders of the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card will earn 10x miles on purchases made at Hotels.com/venture. This catapults these two cards to near the top of the list of best hotel credit cards, but how do they stack up to other popular options when you’re looking to book expensive, luxury hotel stays? This post will attempt to answer that exact question.

For the sake of this analysis, we’ll use three examples of luxury resorts to illuminate the value that you’d get using four popular travel rewards credit cards through four different booking channels:

Note that the focus of this analysis will be on hotels that do not participate in one of the large hotel loyalty programs (like Starwood Preferred Guest or World of Hyatt). Generally speaking, when you book through a third-party site like Amex Travel or Hotels.com, you won’t earn points nor will you earn credits toward elite status, though the Citi Prestige is generally an exception. As a result, we’ll zero in on high-end resorts that’ll set you back some serious dough.

Capella Hotel, Marigot Bay. (Photo courtesy St Lucia Hotels And Resorts)
If you’re looking to get a great return at luxury resorts like Capella Hotel, Marigot Bay, there are a few credit cards to consider. Photo courtesy of St Lucia Hotels And Resorts.

In addition, it’s important to note that this breakdown can’t be a simple black-and-white analysis. There are several complicating factors that come into play. For starters, rates aren’t always consistent across booking channels, and a few of the above cards offer added perks that don’t always have a tangible value associated with them. For this reason, we’ll look at three examples to help illustrate the decision-making process for your next luxury hotel stay.

Let’s start with a quick summary of the four cards and five booking channels we’ll use for this analysis before diving into our examples:

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

This card typically flies under the radar a bit due to the fact that it awards fixed-value points (rather than using a transferable currency). However, since the card now awards 10 miles per dollar spent at Hotels.com, it’s a great option for these stays, especially since the 10x earning rate can be stacked with the Hotels.com Rewards program, allowing you to earn credit toward free nights based on the value of your stay. The miles you earn can be put toward future travel at a rate of 1 cent apiece.

The Platinum Card from American Express

The Amex Platinum regularly appears near the top of our list of top travel rewards credit cards thanks to an array of benefits. The card underwent a significant refresh in March 2017, adding Uber credits, new earning rates and (unfortunately) a higher annual fee. While you can book prepaid hotels through Amex Travel and earn 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent, this analysis will focus on booking via the Fine Hotels & Resorts program. While these purchases will only earn you 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent, they also include added perks like complimentary breakfast, space-available room upgrades and an on-property amenity (like a spa or dining credit).

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Sapphire Reserve made waves in the travel rewards credit card market with it was first introduced in August 2016 with an incredible sign-up bonus (since reduced to 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening), triple points on both travel and dining purchases and a $300 annual travel credit, to name a few. One of the lesser-known perks on the card is access to the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, allowing you to earn both 3x points and enjoy added perks similar to those offered by the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program. The properties we’ll consider below participate in this program.

Citi Prestige Card

The final card we’ll consider is the Citi Prestige Card. This option offers 3 ThankYou Rewards points per dollar spent on hotel purchases, but you’ll also enjoy the fourth night free on paid hotel stays of four nights or longer. Though this perk was devalued slightly in 2017 to be based on the average nightly rate rather than the fourth night’s rate and now excludes taxes and fees, it still represents a terrific value proposition for hotel stays of 4+ nights.

The Methodology

Complimentary breakfast is just one perk that can make a stay more rewarding, if you use the right credit card, that is.

Now that we’ve given an overview of the cards and channels we’re using, let’s take a look at the methodology we’ll be using for this analysis. As mentioned above, we’re going to compare the four cards at three sample luxury resorts around the world. For each of these, we’ll come to a “Final Cost” calculated as follows:

Total Cost – Value of Points Earned – Value of Additional Discounts – Value of Additional Perks = FINAL COST

In other words, we’ll take what you’d pay through each of the four booking channels and then remove all of the value you’d get from using that particular credit card and booking channel, as those represent “discounts” or “cash back” on your stay. All of these values will be included in tables for each of the example resorts, allowing you to conduct a side-by-side comparison.

Note that this does require some assumptions when it comes to the value-added perks of booking through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts as well as Chase Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, so here those are:

  • Complimentary breakfast: $15 per person per night (based on double occupancy)
  • Early check-in: $10 per stay
  • Late check-out: $15 per stay ($25 for guaranteed)
  • Welcome drink/snack: $10 per stay
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi: $10 per night
  • Property amenity (spa treatment, dining credit, etc.): face value
  • Space-available room upgrade: $50 per night

You may disagree with these assumptions, so feel free to adjust them accordingly. I’ve given you access to the spreadsheet I created for this analysis at the bottom of the post, and this even includes a worksheet labeled “TEMPLATE” for you to input your own details on your next luxury stay.

Now that those items are out of the way, let’s dive in!

Stay #1: Thursday May 24 – Monday May 28

Hotel: The Peninsula Beverly Hills

Room Type: Villa, 1 king bed

Summary Table:

Venture/Hotels.com Amex FHR Chase LHRC Prestige
TOTAL COST $4,325.60 $4,325.60 $4,325.60 $4,325.60
Earnings 43,256 4,326 12,977 12,977
Value of earnings $432.56 $82.19 $272.51 $220.61
Additional discounts $372 (via future Hotels.com
Rewards redemptions)
N/A N/A $930 (via 4th
night free)
Complimentary breakfast N/A $120 $120 N/A
Early check-in N/A $10 $10 N/A
Late check-out N/A N/A $15 N/A
Guaranteed late check-out N/A $25 N/A N/A
Welcome drink/snack N/A N/A $10 N/A
Complimentary Wi-Fi N/A $40 N/A N/A
Property amenity N/A $100 $100 N/A
Upgrade N/A $200 $200 N/A
Total Rewards $804.56 $577.19 $727.51 $1,150.61
RETURN ON SPENDING 18.6% 13.34% 16.82% 26.6%
FINAL COST $3,521.04 $3,748.41 $3,598.09 $3,174.99

As you can see, all four of these cards offer a terrific return on your spending when you complete this four-night stay at the Peninsula Beverly Hills. Interestingly enough, all four booking channels had the exact same price for the selected room, which isn’t always the case. In this example, the Citi Prestige comes out on top with a return of 26.6% thanks mainly to the 4th Night Free benefit. This by itself knocked almost $1,000 off the actual cost of the room.

The second most lucrative card was the Capital One Venture thanks to the new partnership with Hotels.com. You’ll earn 10x miles on the purchase, a value of $432.56 towards a future redemption. In addition, you essentially earn $93 per night of future redemption credit with Hotels.com, since those rewards are based on the average nightly rate across 10 nights. When you add those together, you get a return of 18.6%.

Chase and American Express bring up the rear. Even though they provide some valuable additional perks, they just can’t compete with the discounts and earning rates of the other two.

Stay #2: Saturday June 30 – Saturday July 7

Hotel: Grace Bay Club (Turks & Caicos)

Room Type: One-Bedroom Suite

Venture/Hotels.com Amex FHR Chase LHRC Prestige
TOTAL COST $9,223.20 $9,223.20 $9,223.20 $9,223.20
Earnings 92,232 9,223 27,670 27,670
Value of earnings $922.32 $175.24 $581.06 $470.38
Additional discounts $756 (via future Hotels.com
Rewards redemptions)
N/A N/A $1,080 (via fourth
night free)
Complimentary breakfast Included for all guests
Early check-in N/A $10 $10 N/A
Late check-out N/A N/A $15 N/A
Guaranteed late check-out N/A $25 N/A N/A
Welcome drink/snack N/A N/A N/A N/A
Complimentary Wi-Fi N/A $70 N/A N/A
Property amenity N/A $100 $100 N/A
Upgrade N/A $350 $350 N/A
Total Rewards $1,678.32 $730.24 $1,056.06 $1,550.38
RETURN ON SPENDING 18.2% 7.92% 11.45% 16.81%
FINAL COST $7,544.88 $8,492.96 $8,167.14 $7,672.82

For this property, we looked at a relaxing seven-night stay over the Fourth of July holiday, and as you can see, the Capital One Venture Card earned the top spot. Once again, this is due to the solid rate of return on both the spending (10x miles) and the credits towards a future Hotels.com Rewards redemption. Note that the overall return (18.2%) is slightly lower than before simply because the Hotels.com Rewards credits are based solely on the room rate, not taxes and fees. The Grace Bay Club has a higher portion of the total cost going toward these fees, thus lowering the amount you’d get towards a future Hotels.com stay.

The Citi Prestige drops to second, since the value of the fourth night free benefit peaks at a four-night stay but is then diluted as your stay gets longer. But what’s really interesting is that the Sapphire Reserve comes in third and the Amex Platinum is a distant fourth. In this particular example, the Platinum Card is really hurt by its dismal earning rate on Fine Hotels & Resorts purchases. In addition, it’s worth noting that all guests receive complimentary breakfast at this particular property, so another area that typically brings value to the Amex Platinum is removed from the analysis.

Stay #3: April 13 – April 15

Hotel: Hotel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel (Paris, France)

Room Type: Grand Premier King

Venture/Hotels.com Amex FHR Chase LHRC Prestige
TOTAL COST $3,349.88 $3,352.09 $3,361.83 $3,352.09
Earnings 33,499 3,352 10,085 10,056
Value of earnings $334.99 $63.69 $211.80 $170.96
Additional discounts $304.53 (via future Hotels.com
Rewards redemptions)
N/A N/A N/A
Complimentary breakfast N/A $60 $60 N/A
Early check-in N/A $10 $10 N/A
Late check-out N/A N/A $15 N/A
Guaranteed late check-out N/A $25 N/A N/A
Welcome drink/snack N/A N/A N/A N/A
Complimentary Wi-Fi N/A $20 N/A N/A
Property amenity N/A $100 $100 N/A
Upgrade N/A $100 $100 N/A
Total Rewards $639.52 $378.69 $496.80 $170.96
RETURN ON SPENDING 19.09% 11.3% 14.78% 5.1%
FINAL COST $2,710.36 $2,973.40 $2,865.03 $3,181.13

The final example looks at a luxury property in Paris for just a two-night stay. What’s interesting about this one is that the prices weren’t exactly the same (likely to do with fluctuating exchange rates, since some quotes the rates in Euros and others in US dollars). However, we see a similar face in the top spot: the Capital One Venture. For this example, since the taxes and fees make up less than 10% of the booking, the overall return jumps to slightly above 19%. Hopefully you’re seeing a pattern here; with this new partnership, regardless of your hotel and how long your stay is, you’ll be getting an 18-19% return on every reservation you make.

Chase grabs the second spot and Amex comes in third, as the two provide similar perks at the property and are thus differentiated by the earning rate on the purchase. Finally, the Citi Prestige brings up the rear with a relatively paltry 5.1% return. Because this stay is just two nights, you’ll miss out on the terrific 4th Night Free perk.

What does this all mean?

If you’ve reached this point of the article, congratulations! That was a lot of calculations we threw at you, but it’s all meant to frame your decision on which credit cards are best for luxury hotel stays. Here are the major takeaways:

  • If you want miles/credits for future travel, book with the Capital One Venture through Hotels.com. Thanks to the card’s partnership with Hotels.com, you’re essentially guaranteed a return of almost 20% on every hotel reservation you make.
  • If your stay is four or five nights, book with the Citi Prestige. The 4th Night Free benefit makes the Citi Prestige a very lucrative option for stays of four or five nights. However, if you’re staying three nights or less (or six nights or more), I’d encourage you to look at another option, since the return on your spending will drop significantly after that point.
  • If you really value on-property perks, compare the Amex Platinum and Sapphire Reserve. These two premium rewards credit cards offer competing programs for luxury hotels, and while there’s some overlap, there are many properties that partner with only one or the other. When you’re looking for a specific destination, take a look at which resorts participate in each program, and review the different perks they offer.
  • Don’t forget about booking directly. As I mention above, there are many points-earning properties available through these channels, and you’ll likely forgo points and elite status credits by using the above sites. In addition, you may find that booking directly with resorts that don’t have a loyalty program could open up additional perks like “Stay 4 nights, get 1 free.” Always check the individual property’s website for special offers that are only available by booking directly.

If you’d like to undertake a similar analysis or review my number-crunching, feel free to download my Excel spreadsheet. On the TEMPLATE sheet, simply input the number of nights and the price breakdown you find across the various sites, and the spreadsheet will do the rest! You can also adjust the values in the Assumptions sheet if you disagree with how I valued the added perks.

Bottom Line

When you’re looking to book a luxury resort, chances are you’re paying more attention to the amenities it offers to ensure you have a terrific stay. However, selecting the right credit card and booking channel is just as important. As you saw from this analysis, you can easily get a return of up to 25% on certain cards, and others offer valuable on-property perks to make your stay even more enjoyable. Hopefully this has given you a framework to use as you plan your next trip.

Featured image courtesy of The Stones Legian Bali.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

New! Earn unlimited 10x miles on hotel stays booked at hotels.com/venture. Pair that with the Hotels.com Rewards program and you'll essentially be getting 20% off of hotel bookings! With the 50,000 mile sign-up bonus you'll be getting the equivalent of $500 and you'll have the flexibility to redeem those miles on any purchase for airfare, hotel stays, car rentals and more.

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More Things to Know
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • New! Earn 10 miles per dollar on hotels when you pay with your Venture card at hotels.com/venture; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
14.24% - 24.24% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Balance Transfer Fee
$0
Recommended Credit
Excellent, Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are 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.

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