Today we have a Reader Question concerning hotel loyalty programs and their co-branded credit cards that are available in many markets – are they worth it?
The good thing about hotel credit cards is that they are available more broadly than the airline cards and even the European and Asian market (select countries) is now covered with cards from Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton.
Our reader Jeff wrote to me, asking if it’s worthwhile to get a co-branded hotel credit card rather than another option and that his main concern was to keep the annual fee as low as possible.
Jeff is also a small business owner so that would make him eligible for a broader range of products such as the business cards which are widely available in the U.S. where he resides.
He didn’t specify any affiliation, but looking at the most interesting products in the U.S. there are plenty of options:
- Marriott Rewards Personal / Business cards from Chase and American Express
- IHG Rewards Premier Personal / Business cards from Chase
- Hilton Honors Personal and Business cards by American Express
- Hyatt Visa Personal / Business cards by Chase
As our reader said he wants to keep the annual fee low so I suggested to look at cards that range around $100 annual fee but also come with a free night certificate that absorbs the fee fully when used properly (when did you see a hotel room for under $100 recently, even under the best circumstance?).
Every card product has different features. I like that the IHG Rewards Mastercard offers a redemption discount and that the Hyatt Visa makes the account eligible for special promotions that regular members don’t have access to. The Marriott and Hilton cards that come with an annual free night for a rather low fee are a no-brainer to keep in the wallet.
One might also consider looking out for cards that give Hilton Gold status just for carrying the card. It is in my opinion, still the most valuable mid-tier status to carry, and the benefits are decent. Keep in mind that it won’t serve you much purpose if you pick a particular hotel brand and then you never end up staying there, so a chain with a good footprint that covers your travel pattern is imperative if you want to treat this as a keeper card.
In Germany, Deutsche Kreditbank (DKB) issues the Hilton Visa Card for 48 Euro per year, and that offers the Hilton Gold status as well. No free night though, and points earning potential on this card is really atrocious (but so are all cards in Germany).
Of course, if one is willing to spend a little bit more money, then getting the U.S. Hilton Amex Aspire Card for US$450/year and obtaining Diamond status as well as a $250 Hilton credit is a worthwhile thought.
These high-priced cards might be a great deal, but don’t fall into the trap of overspending and then not using all the benefits.
In South Korea, Marriott has also launched a competitive card product which might be worthwhile because Marriott has really expanded massively there.
Marriott also rolled out a card in Mainland China, and Japan has a long-established card product as well.
In the past, people outside the big credit card markets in North America were frustrated that the best offers weren’t available to them, and that’s still largely the case. Things are getting better, though.
You can usually find the best credit card offers on the hotel’s website directly, and most often, when you complete a (dummy) booking when you’re being offered a statement credit on top. Following random affiliate links on the internet to apply for credit cards is rarely going to get you the best deal.
Which credit card to get is always a highly individual decision, and that depends on many factors. If the aim is to spend as little as possible and get the most rewards, then a hotel card that carries a rather low (sub $100) fee and annual benefits such as a free night certificate and/or status is an excellent choice.
Card products are also very limited and if you live in such a captive market as Germany, where your choices are very limited, then even finding a very basic product such as the 48 Euro Hilton Visa with full Gold status is a gem. There are still much better bonuses and rewards available in the U.S. so if one can tap into that market, then even better.