Hotel credit cards with the best non-hotel category bonuses
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Hotel credit cards offer a variety of compelling benefits, including automatic elite status, on-property credits, anniversary free nights, and, at the premium level, airport lounge access and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursements.
However, several of the best hotel credit cards go beyond that and accrue bonus points on both hotel purchases and at other categories of merchants, such as grocery stores and gas stations. That means cardholders can rack up points to redeem for free nights even faster.
Here is a roundup of the best cards by category.
|Spending Category||Card||Earning||Welcome offer||Annual fee|
|Airfare||Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card||7x on flights booked directly or through Amex Travel||150K points after you spend $4K in the first three months||$450 (see rates and fees)|
|Dining||Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card||3x at U.S. restaurants||Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.||$450 (see rates and fees)|
|Groceries||Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card||6x at U.S. supermarkets||130K points after you spend $2K in the first three months||$95 (see rates and fees)|
|Gas||Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card||4x at U.S. gas stations||75K Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months||$125 (see rates and fees)|
|Telecommunications and shipping||Hilton Honors American Express Business Card||6x on U.S. wireless telephone services and shipping||130K points after you spend $3K in the first three months||$95 (see rates and fees)|
|Other||The World Of Hyatt Credit Card||2x points on fitness club and gym memberships||Up to 50K after you spend $6K in the first six months||$95|
Now for the details on each. We picked the winners based not only on the multiplication factor of points per dollar, but also on TPG’s current valuations of each point currency.
Earning: This card racks up 7x points per dollar on flights booked through Amex Travel or directly through airlines, as well as on car rentals and at U.S. restaurants. That’s roughly a 4.2% return on spending based on our most recent valuations. It earns 14x points per dollar on Hilton purchases and 3x points per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
Current welcome offer: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within the first three months of card membership.
Annual fee: $450 (see rates and fees)
Other reasons to consider it: Aside from being a top earner, this card is positively packed with perks. Each year, it bestows a free weekend night redeemable at most Hiltons around the world plus $250 in statement credits for eligible purchases at participating Hilton resorts. Its third annual benefit is a $250 credit for airline incidentals such as checked bags and seat selection each calendar year. It confers automatic top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond status and Priority Pass lounge access, too. You can transfer your Hilton Honors points to 40 airline partners, although we don’t recommend doing this because of poor valuations, such as 10,000 points for only 1,500 American Airlines AAdvantage miles.
Read our full review of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card here.
Runners up: Among the other hotel credit cards that offer multiple points per dollar on airfare are:
So really, if airfare is one of the categories in which you make a lot of purchases, you have your pick of hotel credit cards with which you can up your earning.
Dining and restaurants: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
Earning: This premium hotel card earns 3x points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, 6x on Marriott purchases and 2x on everything else.
Current welcome offer: Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Annual fee: $450 (see rates and fees)
Other reasons to consider it: Cardholders receive a free night award each year, worth up to 50,000 points, and $300 in statement credits each account year for eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels. They get up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee refunds and receive Priority Pass lounge access and automatic Marriott Bonvoy Gold status. Qualifying stays of two nights or more at The Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis properties are also eligible for up to $100 in credit for incidental charges. Terms apply.
Read our full review of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card here.
Runners up: This is another popular category in which several hotel credit cards earn multiple points per dollar.
The World Of Hyatt Credit Card earns 2x per dollar on dining worldwide. That’s about 3.4% back on spending, based on our estimates, and could be more useful for international travelers since it’s not restricted to U.S. restaurants. Read our full review here.
Groceries: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Earning: This card takes top ranking in this category thanks to an unbeatable 6x points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets, equivalent to about 3.6% back on spending. Cardholders can also accrue 12x points on Hilton purchases, 6x at U.S. gas stations and 3x on everything else.
Current welcome offer: Earn 130,000 bonus points after you use your card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
Annual fee: $95 (see rates and fees)
Other reasons to consider it: The card comes with automatic Hilton Honors Gold status and 10 Priority Pass lounge passes each year. Cardmembers who spend $15,000 or more on purchases in a calendar year are gifted with a free weekend night, while those who hit $40,000 are upgraded to Diamond status.
Read our full review of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass card here.
Gas stations: Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
Earning: It might surprise you to see a business credit card ranking here, but it takes home the top spot thanks to earning 4x points per dollar at U.S. gas stations — around a 3.2% return on spending. It also earns 4x at U.S. restaurants, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping. It earns 6x on Marriott purchases and 2x on everything else.
Current welcome offer: Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months
Annual fee: $125 (see rates and fees)
Other reasons to consider it: Cardholders receive complimentaryMarriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status with your Card. Plus, earn Gold Elite status after making $35,000 in eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year.
Read our full review of the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card here.
Runners up: This is another popular bonus category for hotel cards in particular. So alternatively, you might want to consider:
Telecommunications, shipping, work expenses: Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
Earning: Not only does this card earn 12x points per dollar on Hilton purchases, but it rakes in 6x (worth around 4.2% back) on a diverse array of business-related expenses, including wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. shipping purchases. It also earns 6x at U.S. restaurants and gas stations, on car rentals booked through select agencies and on flights booked through Amex Travel.
Current welcome offer: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.
Annual fee: $95 (see rates and fees)
Other reasons to consider it: Cardmembers receive 10 free Priority Pass lounge visits a year and automatic Hilton Honors Gold status, with the ability to spend their way up to Diamond, just like with the Surpass.
See our full review of the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card here.
Runner up: The Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card is a close second, and could actually be the top contender depending on which chain you’re more loyal to. That’s because, in addition to earning 6x points on Marriott purchases, it earns 4x (around 3.2% back) at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. shipping purchases. It earns 2x on everything else. Read our full review of the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card here.
The reason this card wins out in perhaps the vaguest of categories is that it earns a rather unique bonus: 2x points at fitness club and on gym memberships. That is around 3.4% return on spending according to our calculations, and is unique not only among hotel credit cards, but with rewards cards in general.
Earning: This card takes home 4x bonus points per dollar on Hyatt purchases; 2x points per dollar at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from airlines, local transit and commuting, and fitness club and gym memberships; and 1x point per dollar on everything else.
Current welcome offer: Up to 50,000 bonus points — 25,000 after you make $3,000 in purchases within three months of account opening, plus an additional 25,000 bonus points after you make $6,000 in purchases within six months.
Annual fee: $95
Other reasons to consider it: This card’s most compelling benefit is probably the a anniversary free night at a Category 1-4 property it offers each year. Cardholders can earn a second one by spending $15,000 or more on the card in an account year. It also comes with automatic Discoverist status
Read our full review of the World of Hyatt Credit Card here.
Runners up: The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card comes in second place not because it offers a specific bonus in another category, but because it accrues a respectable 2x points per dollar on all non-Marriott purchases. Read our full review of the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card here.
Even more than airline credit cards, hotel credit cards offer the opportunity to earn bonus points on a dizzying assortment of other purchase categories including restaurants, gas, airfare, telecommunications and more.
Which hotel credit card is right for your needs will depend on which bonus categories you can maximize. Look at your typical purchase activity and then choose the card that will rack up the points fastest so you can redeem them toward free nights. Don’t forget about these cards’ other benefits, either, since perks like airport lounge passes and Global Entry reimbursements are also worth considering.
Featured image by Neustockimages/Getty Images.
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