I use my hotel credit card benefits to travel in luxury — here are 5 ways to do it
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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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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.
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.
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.
Even the most expensive Hilton properties (think: Conrads, Waldorfs and more) qualify to use this free night reward.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Leveraging transferable points
Another consideration is that both the Hilton Honors and the World of Hyatt programs partner with transferable points currencies.
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.
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
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.
Featured photo of the Park Hyatt Aviara by Chris Dong/The Points Guy.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.
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