My picks for the best hotel cobranded cards

Dec 12, 2019

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The TPG Awards ceremony earlier this week featured two types of awards: those chosen by the TPG editorial staff and those chosen by readers. The response from our readers was amazing, with more than 100,000 of them voting.

Clearly, they love their loyalty programs and have some favorite picks for credit cards.

As a digital nomad since June 2017, I have my own thoughts about which cards benefit me the most — especially those cobranded hotel credit cards that provide a free night each year.

My picks for best hotel cobranded 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.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

The Hilton Aspire won the editors’ choice award for best return on hotel spending at the 2019 TPG Awards. Based on TPG’s valuation of Hilton points at 0.6 cents each and the card’s massive earning rate of 14 points per dollar spent at Hilton properties, the card offers an excellent 8.4% return on hotel spending.

Related: 4 reasons why the Hilton Aspire Card is the best premium card for families

The Hilton Aspire also offers seven points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants, which equates to a 4.2% return. The card also will gain some important travel protections on Jan. 1, 2020, when Amex adds additional protections to some of its cards.

Besides strong earning rates at Hilton properties and on select other purchases, the Hilton Aspire offers two benefits that I believe make it the best cobranded hotel card: complimentary top-tier Hilton Diamond status and one weekend night reward each year.

Top-tier Diamond status provides useful benefits including complimentary breakfast at all hotels, space-available room upgrades up to one-bedroom suites, executive lounge access when available and a 100% elite status bonus on all the Hilton Honors base points you earn. My husband JT and I have enjoyed excellent upgrades and buffet breakfasts due to his Diamond status at multiple properties this year, including the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton in Penang, Malaysia and the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Fiji.

(Photo by Katie Genter / The Points Guy)
We were upgraded to an ocean front beach bungalow at the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton in Fiji. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Cardholders get one weekend night reward each year that can be used at almost any property worldwide. With all other cobranded hotel credit cards now capping annual free night rewards to particular point ranges, this makes the Hilton Aspire’s free night reward rather unique. Cardholders also can earn a second weekend night reward each year after spending $60,000 on purchases in a calendar year. JT and I spent his first weekend night reward at The Conrad New York Midtown earlier this year, and I’m planning for something even more impressive next year.

Related: Maximizing Hilton Amex free night certificates

The Hilton Aspire also provides many other benefits that can help justify the card’s $450 annual fee (see rates and fees) including:

  • $250 in statement credits each year for eligible purchases at participating Hilton Resorts
  • $250 airline fee credit each calendar year for incidental charges that are charged by the airline to your card
  • $100 Hilton on-property credit when you use your card to book a two-night minimum stay at participating Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts through HiltonHonors.com/aspirecard
  • Priority Pass Select membership

Check out our full card review and apply now for the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card with a 150,000-point bonus (after you spend $4,000 in the first three months).

IHG REWARDS CLUB PREMIER CREDIT CARD

The IHG Premier Card provides many benefits that can each justify the card’s modest $89 annual fee. The combination of these benefits causes me to believe the IHG Premier Card should be runner-up for the best cobranded hotel card.

The benefit that most easily justifies the card’s annual fee is the anniversary free night that is valid at hotels costing 40,000 points per night or less. Although you can’t stay at high-point aspirational properties like the InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso using your certificate, there are still plenty of properties where you can get excellent value, such as the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa and the InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort in Vietnam.

Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy
The InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort is a beautiful property. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

You’ll also get Platinum elite status as an IHG Premier cardholder. Platinum status is the second-highest level of elite status with IHG and provides benefits including complimentary room upgrades, extended checkout, elite rollover nights and 50% bonus earnings on top of base points. I have Platinum elite status through the IHG Premier, and am usually successful getting a room upgrade to a higher floor or elevated room type as well as late checkout by asking at check-in.

The fourth night free on awards perk of the IHG Premier card may not be useful to readers who don’t usually stay for four nights or longer — but it is perhaps the most valuable perk of the card for me. In 2019, JT and I have used the fourth night free benefit on 11 award stays to save 185,000 points, which TPG’s valuations value at $925.

The IHG Premier Card also offers some other useful benefits including:

Check out our full card review and apply now for the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card with a bonus of 125,000 bonus points plus a Reward Night after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

World of Hyatt Credit Card

The main argument for the World of Hyatt Card being the best hotel cobranded card is that you can spend on the card to reach top-tier status. Specifically, you’ll receive five qualifying night credits toward your next tier status every year, then you can earn two additional qualifying night credits toward your next tier status every time you spend $5,000 on your card. Hyatt’s top-tier Globalist status requires 60 nights, 100,000 base points or 20 meetings or events per year. If you want to qualify for Hyatt Globalist on nights and have the World of Hyatt Card, you could:

  • Stay 55 nights
  • Stay 50 nights and spend $15,000 on your card
  • Stay 40 nights and spend $40,000 on your card
  • Stay 20 nights and spend $90,000 on your card
  • Stay zero nights and spend $140,000 on your card

So, if you have the World of Hyatt Card and are working toward earning Globalist status, you can see where you stand near the end of each year and get the remaining nights you need though spending.

Related: Why the World of Hyatt credit card is great for family travelers

The World of Hyatt Card has other benefits that may provide value and justify its $95 annual fee:

  • 4 points per dollar spent with Hyatt (6.8% return); 2 points per dollar spent on local transit and commuting, restaurants, cafes and coffee shops, airline tickets purchased directly from the airline and fitness club and gym memberships (3.4% return); 2 bonus points per dollar total on purchases that normally earn 1 bonus point per dollar, on up to $15,000 in the first six months of account opening; then 1 point per dollar spent on everything else (1.7% return)
  • One free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort every year after your cardmember anniversary, and earn an extra free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort if you spend $15,000 during your cardmember anniversary year
  • Complimentary World of Hyatt Discoverist status

Check out our full card review and apply now for World of Hyatt Credit Card

Comparing top picks for best hotel cobranded card

Hilton Aspire Card IHG Premier Card World of Hyatt Card
Annual fee $450 (see rates and fees) $89 $95
Return at associated hotel brand 14 points per dollar spent (8.4%) 10 points per dollar spent (5%) 4 points per dollar spent (6.8%)
Free night value (based on TPG’s valuation of points) Almost any property ($570 based on maximum standard point value of 95,000) 40,000 points ($200) Category 1-4 ($255)
Complimentary status Diamond (worth $3,025) Platinum (worth $880) Discoverist (worth $150)
Argument for why this card should’ve won A free weekend night at almost any property each year, solid return on spending at Hilton, complimentary top-tier Diamond status, a $250 annual Hilton resort credit and a $250 annual airline fee credit A 40,000-point free night each year, almost-top-tier Platinum status and a fourth night free on awards Ability to spend to earn status (including top-tier Globalist status) and a Category 1-4 free night each year

Sure, the Hilton Aspire Card has the highest annual fee of the cards in the table above — but it comes packed with benefits that can pay off even if you only stay at Hilton properties a few times each year. This fact, combined with the weekend free night each year that can be used at almost any property and top-tier Diamond status, make the Hilton Aspire Card the best cobranded hotel card in my book.

Bottom line

You should be able to get more value than the annual fee from any of the cobranded hotel credit cards discussed in this guide. So, the best hotel cobranded card for you depends on your preference. In particular, if you prefer to stay at a particular brand, you should consider whether getting a cobranded card with this brand would be beneficial since many provide elevated earning, free nights, elite benefits or onsite credits.

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

Featured photo by The Points Guy.

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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.