Which Credit Card to Pay Hotel Stays at Each Chain and Non-Chain Hotel

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I don’t spend much time in hotels (here’s a breakdown of where I’m sleeping as I travel 365 days this year), but I’ve been looking at booking some upcoming hotel stays. I carry several co-branded credit cards, but as I’ve crunched the numbers, my Citi Prestige® Card has come out as a better option for paying the hotel stay in almost all cases.

That’s especially true if I’m looking at a four night hotel stay, since the Citi Prestige® Card offers the fourth night free on paid hotel stays, which is an ~25% rebate (more if you’re doing it right.)

But even on a one night stay at a chain hotel where I have the hotel’s credit card, the Citi Prestige® Card‘s 3x hotel category bonus is usually a better option. Since I value ThankYou Points at 1.8 cents each, getting three points per dollar is like a 5.4% return for me. I can either use the points for 1.33 cents off flights or transfer them to 11 types of miles.

Let’s take a look at some major chain and non-chain hotels to see the return from using a co-branded card versus the Citi Prestige® Card. In parentheses is the card I’d use for a stay at that hotel chain. If there is nothing in parentheses, I’d use the Prestige. Here are there rankings by number of affiliated hotels according to Wikipedia:

1. Wyndham (Wyndham card for American properties)
2. Choice (Choice card for American properties)
3. IHG
4. Hilton
5. Marriott
9. Club Carlson
10. Starwood (maybe SPG Card for American properties depending on how you use ThankYou Points)
15. Hyatt (SPG Business Card for American properties)
Non-chain hotels

1. Wyndham

The Wyndham card offers 5x points per dollar on Wyndham stays at the following brands:

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 3.26.25 PM

I value Wyndham points at 1.33 cents each now that you can book any Wyndham property for 15,000 points per night. That’s a 6.65 cents per dollar return from the Wyndham card versus 5.4% from the Prestige.

But the Wyndham card has a 3% foreign transaction fee that the Prestige doesn’t have, so only use the Wyndham card at American properties, not abroad where the Prestige offers more value.

2. Choice

The Choice card offers 15x points per dollar on Choice stays at the following brands:

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 3.32.26 PM

I value Choice points at 0.5 cents each. That’s 7.5% back.

But the Choice card has a 3% foreign transaction fee that the Prestige doesn’t have, so only use the Choice card at American properties, not abroad where the Prestige offers more value.

3. IHG

The IHG card offers 5x points per dollar on IHG stays at the following brands:

  • Candlewood Suites
  • Crowne Plaza
  • Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts
  • Holiday Inn Club Vacations
  • Holiday Inn Express
  • Hotel Indigo
  • InterContinental
  • Staybridge Suites

I value IHG points at 0.7 cents each. That’s 3.5% back.

I’d prefer to get 3x points by paying with the Citi Prestige® Card, which I value at 5.4% back.

4. Hilton

The Hilton Reserve offers 10x points per dollar on Hilton stays at the following brands:

  • Conrad Hotels & Resorts
  • Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts
  • Hilton Hotels & Resorts
  • DoubleTree by Hilton
  • Embassy Suites
  • Curio, A Collection by Hilton
  • Hilton Garden Inn
  • Hampton Inn
  • Homewood Suites by Hilton
  • Home2 Suites by Hilton
  • Canopy by Hilton
  • Hilton Grand Vacations

I value Hilton points at 0.4 cents each. That’s 4% back.

I’d prefer to get 3x points by paying with the Citi Prestige® Card, which I value at 5.4% back.

5. Marriott

The Marriott card offers 5x points per dollar on Marriott stays at 18 brands including Marriotts and Ritz-Carltons.

I value Marriott points at 0.4 cents each. That’s 2% back.

I’d prefer to get 3x points by paying with the Citi Prestige® Card, which I value at 5.4% back.

9. Club Carlson

The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card offers 10x points per dollar on Club Carlson stays at the following brands:

  • Country Inns & Suites
  • Hotel Missoni
  • Park Inn
  • Park Plaza Hotels & Resorts
  • Quorvus Collection
  • Radisson Hotels
  • Radisson Blu
  • Radisson Red

I value Club Carlson points at 0.4 cents each. That’s 4% back.

I’d prefer to get 3x points by paying with the Citi Prestige® Card, which I value at 5.4% back.

10. Starwood

The SPG card offers 2x points per dollar on SPG stays at the following brands:

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 3.47.17 PM

I value Starpoints at 2.5 cents each. That’s 5% back.

I’d prefer to get 3x points by paying with the Citi Prestige® Card, which I value at 5.4% back. But if you use ThankYou Points like cash toward American Airlines flights, they are worth 1.6 cents each, so you’d only get 4.8% back.

In any case, the SPG card has a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, so definitely use the Prestige at Starwood properties aborad.

15. Hyatt

The Hyatt card offers 3x points per dollar on stays at the following brands:

  • Park Hyatt
  • Andaz
  • Grand Hyatt
  • Hyatt Regency
  • Hyatt
  • HYATT CENTRIC
  • Hyatt Place
  • Hyatt House
  • Hyatt Zilara
  • Hyatt Ziva
  • Hyatt Residence Club

I value Hyatt points at 1.5 cents each. That’s 4.5% back.

However you can actually do better by using any American Express OPEN Business card, which offers 5% off Hyatt stays. The best would be the SPG Business card because you’d get 5% off plus 1 Starpoint per dollar (another 2.5%) for 7.5% back total.

Non-Chain Hotels

Definitely get 3x points by paying with the Citi Prestige® Card, which I value at 5.4% back.

Bottom Line

The Citi Prestige® Card is always the best card to book hotel stays of four nights with the fourth night free, and is often the best hotel card to book any stay.

The only hotel credit cards that offer a better return at their own hotels are the Wyndham and Choice cards, and those only offer a better return at American properties because of their foreign transaction fees.

Check out my review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many benefits like $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. The Amex Hilton Surpass card offers 12x points. 4.8% is not the 5.4% you calculate for the city card but it is still a lot closer.

  2. There’s another thing you haven’t considered. Quite a number of hotels (generally on the lower end) are part of the Visa Savings Edge business program. So by using a Chase Ink card with some of these hotels, you might get, say, a 5% rebate to your credit card statement PLUS 2x Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

  3. Are you calculating the annual fee in those numbers? The Prestige seems to have an equally prestigious fee per year.

  4. I haven’t ‘crunched the numbers’ – mainly because I probably wouldn’t do it accurately – but the issue I face when it comes to my international stays with Hilton, with whom I’m a Diamond member, is whether to use my HH Amex Surpass card which gives 12x points plus an additional 500 when booking/using an Amex card but with FTF of 2.75% or my newly acquired Chase Ink Visa that gives 2x points (which I’ll ultimately redeem for airline miles) AND no FTF. So I’m paying the FTF for the abltiy to get the most HH points possible. (I really don’t use the Amex card for any other purchases). Stupid of me for continuing to pay the extra FTF or just the cost of doing business to still get the best return on the earnings?

  5. The Citi Prestige has been a letdown for me, so far. The 1.6x for AA flights sounds great but I havent found a desirable flight yet that was within $500 of its Google Flights results on the Thank You page. The 1.6 is deceiving when the price is $500 higher.

    • Let me clarify: the AA 1.6 feature has been a letdown, I love having the card. Customer service is great, $250 credit was easy, and the golf benefit looks great.

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