My top 3 picks for the best cobranded hotel credit card
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I have five hotel credit cards. And my husband has another five hotel credit cards. But, we believe each of these 10 cards provides enough perks to justify paying its annual fee for the foreseeable future. In particular, most of these hotel credit cards offer an annual free night that can more than justify the annual fee before even considering any other perks.
However, readers and friends often ask me what hotel card is best. My answer typically depends on the person’s preferred hotel loyalty program loyalty, budget and travel style. After all, the best hotel card for me may not be the best hotel credit card for you.
But, each year at the TPG Awards, we name one best hotel credit card. So, today I’ll discuss three hotel credit cards I believe could reasonably win the title of best hotel credit card for the 2021 awards. In doing so, I’ll present arguments for why each of these cards is best.
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My picks for the best hotel credit card
- Winner: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
- Runner-up: IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
- Third place: 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.
Before diving into why I think each of these three cards could be named the best hotel credit card, let me first discuss why no Marriott Bonvoy cards are listed above. My husband and I each have two Marriott Bonvoy cards. And we get great value from the annual free night award and 15 elite-qualifying night credits our cards provide each year. Indeed, earning 30 elite-qualifying nights from Marriott credit cards each year helps us maintain mid to high Marriott Bonvoy elite status tiers.
But, the three cards discussed in this article each have one or more key aspects that could justify the card being best. And although having at least one Marriott Bonvoy card is undoubtedly recommendable for Marriott loyalists, I don’t believe any Marriott Bonvoy cards offer a show-stopper benefit that would justify naming it the best hotel card.
The Hilton Aspire is easily the best hotel credit card, at least in my eyes. After all, the card offers top-tier Hilton Diamond status as long as you hold the card. Plus, the card offers other perks, including annual statement credits and one weekend night reward each year that can more than offset its $450 annual fee (see rates and fees).
In this section, I’ll discuss in detail why I believe the Hilton Aspire is the top hotel credit card.
The Hilton Aspire Card won the editors’ choice award for best return on hotel spend at the 2019 TPG Awards. After all, 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. That’s better than the 6% return I’d earn with my typical go-to card for booking hotels, the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
The Hilton Aspire also offers 7 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants, which equates to a 4.2% return.
Top-tier Hilton Diamond status
Many hotel credit cards can help you earn elite status or even provide low to mid-tier status. But, the Hilton Aspire provides top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond status. And Hilton Diamond status offers some excellent benefits when staying with Hilton.
In particular, Hilton Diamond status provides valuable benefits, including:
- Complimentary breakfast
- Space-available room upgrades up to one-bedroom suites
- Executive lounge access when available
- 100% elite status bonus on all the Hilton Honors base points you earn
My husband and I have enjoyed excellent upgrades and buffet breakfasts due to his Diamond status, including during stays at the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton in Penang, Malaysia and the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Fiji.
Annual weekend night reward
Hilton Aspire cardholders get one weekend night reward each year to use at almost any property worldwide. And cardholders can earn a second weekend night reward each year after spending $60,000 on purchases in a calendar year.
Many hotel credit cards offer annual free night certificates. But, most programs cap annual free night rewards to particular point ranges or categories. As such, the Hilton Aspire free night reward is unique and extremely valuable because you can use it at almost any Hilton property.
- Up to $250 Hilton resort credit each cardmember year for eligible purchases at participating Hilton Resorts
- Up to $250 airline fee credit each calendar year for incidental charges charged by an airline of your choice to your card
- Up to $100 Hilton on-property credit when you use your card to book an eligible two-night minimum stay at participating Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts through HiltonHonorsAspireCard.com or by calling Hilton Honors and referencing code ZZAAP1
- Priority Pass Select membership (enrollment required)
However, suppose you’re looking to add a Hilton Honors credit card to your wallet now. You may consider the lower annual fee Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card. As such, although I think the Hilton Aspire Card is a better long-term choice for Hilton loyalists.
Check out our full Hilton Aspire card review.
The IHG Premier Card provides many benefits that can justify the card’s modest $89 annual fee. Combining these benefits makes the IHG Premier Card a solid contender for the best hotel card. Here’s a quick look at the most valuable aspects of the IHG Premier Card.
Anniversary reward night
The benefit that most easily justifies the card’s annual fee is the anniversary reward night that is valid at hotels costing 40,000 points per night or less. Although you can’t stay at high-point aspirational properties such as the InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso using your certificate, there are still plenty of properties where you can get excellent value.
Of course, IHG’s switch to dynamic pricing means you won’t always be able to use your anniversary night at properties that sometimes offer award nights for 40,000 points or less per night. But, I’ve had luck using the up to 40,000 point anniversary nights at properties that typically price above 40,000 points per night by searching for awards daily. For example, I booked two nights in late 2021 at the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort using up to 40,000 point anniversary night certificates when the award price temporarily decreased.
IHG Rewards Platinum status
- Complimentary room upgrades
- Extended checkout
- Elite rollover nights
- 50% bonus earnings on top of base points
I have Platinum elite status through the IHG Premier. And although there are several ways IHG should improve its loyalty program, I’m usually successful in getting a room upgrade to a higher floor or elevated room type and late checkout when I ask at check-in.
The fourth-night reward perk of the IHG Premier card allows you to pay zero points for every fourth night on reward stays of four nights or longer. Although this perk isn’t helpful if you don’t redeem IHG points for stays of four nights or longer, this benefit provides significant value to me since I live on the road as a digital nomad.
My husband and I each have IHG Premier Cards. In 2019, we used the fourth-night reward perk provided by these cards on 11 award stays. We saved 185,000 points thanks to this perk, which TPG’s valuations value at $925. If you’re doing the math, this means we redeemed about 555,000 IHG points in 2019. Of course, there are many ways to earn IHG Rewards points. But, to fuel this level of spending, we often take advantage of IHG promotions and buy points during periodic IHG buy points promotions that offer a 100% bonus.
The IHG Premier Card also offers some other valuable benefits, including:
- 10 points per dollar spent at IHG properties (5% return); 2 points per dollar spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants (1% return); 1 point per dollar spent on everything else (0.5% return)
- 20% savings when you purchase IHG points with your card, but not through Points.com
- Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit every four years
- Earn 10,000 bonus points after you spend $20,000 on purchases and make one additional purchase each account anniversary year
Check out our full IHG Premier credit card review and apply now for the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card with a sign-up bonus of 125,000 bonus points, plus a reward night after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
The primary argument for the World of Hyatt Credit Card is that you can spend on the card to reach top-tier status. I don’t think this perk is enough to beat out the Hilton Aspire Card, which provides top-tier Hilton Diamond status as a cardmember benefit without requiring extra spending. Even so, in this section, I’ll discuss how you can use the World of Hyatt Card to reach Globalist status.
Earn World of Hyatt Globalist status through spending
One perk of the World of Hyatt Credit Card is five qualifying night credits toward your next tier status every year. Plus, 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 typically requires 60 tier-qualifying nights, 100,000 base points or 20 meetings or events per year. So, if you want to qualify for Hyatt Globalist on nights and have the World of Hyatt Card, you could typically :
- Stay 55 nights
- Stay 49 nights and spend $15,000 on your card
- Stay 39 nights and spend $40,000 on your card
- Stay 19 nights and spend $90,000 on your card
- Stay zero nights and spend $140,000 on your card
However, World of Hyatt has decreased the requirements to qualify for Globalist status in 2021 to 30 tier-qualifying nights, 50,000 base points or 20 meetings or events per year. As such, World of Hyatt cardholders can qualify for Hyatt Globalist in 2021 on nights as follows:
- Stay 25 nights
- Stay 19 nights and spend $15,000 on your card
- Stay 13 nights and spend $30,000 on your card
- Stay five nights and spend $50,000 on your card
- Stay zero nights and spend $65,000 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 through spending.
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 usually earn 1 bonus point per dollar, on up to $15,000 in the first six months of account opening (3.4% return); 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
Comparing my top picks for best hotel credit card
|Hilton Aspire Card||IHG Premier Card||World of Hyatt Card|
|Annual fee||$450 (see rates and fees)||$89||$95|
|Return from credit card spending with the associated hotel loyalty program||14 points per dollar spent (8.4%)||10 points per dollar spent (5%)||4 points per dollar spent (6.8%)|
|Annual reward night value (based on TPG’s valuations)||Almost any property ($900 based on maximum standard reward night cost of 150,000)||40,000 points ($200)||Category 1-4 ($255)|
|Complimentary status||Diamond (worth $3,025)||Platinum (worth $880)||Discoverist (worth $160)|
|Why this card is best||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 anniversary night each year, almost-top-tier Platinum status and a fourth night reward when redeeming points for stays of four nights or longer||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 the Hilton Aspire 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 you can use at almost any property and top-tier Diamond status, make the Hilton Aspire Card the best hotel card in my book.
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 credit card for you depends on your preference. In particular, if you prefer to stay with a specific hotel loyalty program, you should consider whether getting a cobranded card with this program would be beneficial since many provide elevated earning, free nights, elite benefits and onsite credits.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.
Featured photo of the Hilton Rose Hall Resort by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy.
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