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Ask the Experts: Are Hotel Credit Cards Worth It?

Portrait photo of Dan Jin, an Asian female with dark hair. She is wearing a cream colored blazer and is posed in front of a dark gray background.

Dan Jin

There are a number credit cards out there offering hotel and travel rewards, but are they actually worth it? How do you know which one to choose, or if a hotel credit card is right for you?

Wallet Hub reached out to Dan Jin, associate professor in Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management in an “Ask the Experts” Q&A all about hotel credit cards.

Here is the segment, reprinted from Wallet Hub.

Even the best hotel credit cards usually are not among the best or most popular cards overall – why do you think that is?

The thing is, even though those fancy hotel credit cards may seem alluring, they often do not stack up when you compare them to the big shots in the credit card world. The ones that everyone is raving about. So why is that the case? It is probably because most people want cards that give them more flexibility and options. Hotel cards can be quite limiting. They are great if you are a frequent traveler and loyal to a specific hotel chain, but for the average person, it is better to have a card that offers rewards and perks that can be used in multiple places. People want to be able to use their rewards for flights, dining, shopping, and not just for a few nights in a hotel. So, that is why those hotel credit cards do not usually make it to the top of the popularity charts.

Who should get a hotel rewards credit card?

Is there a minimum number of nights a person should spend in hotels per year to justify getting one? Well, it really depends on your travel habits and preferences. If you find yourself staying in hotels regularly, a hotel rewards credit card can offer some great advantages. These cards typically provide perks like free nights, room upgrades, complimentary breakfast, access to exclusive lounges, and other hotel-related benefits. So, if you are someone who enjoys and values these perks and intends to make use of them frequently, a hotel rewards credit card could be a good fit for you. However, if you only stay in hotels occasionally or infrequently, the benefits may not outweigh the costs or annual fees associated with these cards. In such cases, it might be more sensible to opt for a general travel rewards credit card that offers a broader range of rewards and benefits that can be utilized in various ways, not just limited to hotels.

How much is flexibility worth when it comes to credit cards and travel rewards? For example, how much more does a branded hotel credit card need to offer to be a better deal than a card with rewards that are good for travel at any hotel?

To outweigh the benefits of a card with rewards that are good for travel at any hotel, a branded hotel credit card needs to offer substantial additional value. This could come in the form of enhanced rewards rates for hotel stays, exclusive perks like complimentary upgrades or late check-outs, access to elite status within the hotel loyalty program, or unique experiences that are specific to the hotel brand. To determine whether a branded hotel credit card is a better deal than a card with broader travel rewards, you need to consider a few things. First, assess the value of the rewards and perks provided by the hotel credit card. For example, does the card offer substantial discounts on room rates, free nights, or exclusive amenities that you frequently utilize? Next, compare the benefits of the hotel credit card against the rewards offered by a general travel credit card. Calculate the monetary value of the rewards you can earn with both cards and consider the redemption options available. If the hotel card’s rewards and perks outweigh the advantages provided by the general travel card, considering your specific travel patterns, it might be a better deal for you. However, keep in mind that the value of flexibility is subjective and varies from person to person. Some individuals prioritize the convenience and familiarity of a specific hotel brand, while others prefer the freedom to choose any hotel based on the best deals and locations. It eventually depends on your travel priorities, loyalty to a particular hotel chain, and your willingness to trade flexibility for potentially enhanced benefits and rewards.

What are the most important things to watch out for with hotel rewards?

When it comes to hotel rewards, keep an eye on blackout dates, expiration policies, the value of your points, and any restrictions or limitations to make sure you get the most out of your rewards.