There are two big expenses when you travel: airfare and hotels. Fortunately, both are laughably easy to get for next to nothing. A glamorous hotel stay is often the more costly item. Many of the best credit cards for travel come with welcome bonuses and ongoing benefits that can unlock free nights in five-star resorts (or regular old hotels, if that’s your choice). But which card is right for you?

It depends mostly on your travel goals. I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the best hotel credit card offers, so you can open the one that will fulfill your travel dreams.

Best hotel credit cards 2019

  • Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card: Best for easy-to-redeem rewards
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card: Best limited-time offer
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Best for Marriott hotel stays
  • Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: Best for top-tier hotel elite status
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Best for families
  • The World of Hyatt Credit Card: Best for a balance of value and comfort
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card: Best for no annual fee

Summary of the Best hotel credit cards of 2019

Best hotel credit cards

Capital One Venture Card

Best for easy-to-redeem rewards

Current bonus: The Capital One Venture card comes with 50,000 Venture miles (worth $500 in travel) after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months.

Insider tip

Capital One Venture miles are worth one cent each. You can use Capital One miles for nearly any travel purchase, from purchases you’d expect, like airfare, rental cars and hotels, to more obscure expenses. For example, if you purchase Disney theme park tickets through Undercover Tourist, people have reported the charge counting as travel and being able to erase the charge with their miles. This is one of the secret best ways to use Capital One miles.

Benefits and perks

When you spend with this card, you’ll earn two Venture miles per dollar spent on all purchases. That’s effectively 2% back. You’ll also earn 10 Venture miles for every dollar you spend on hotel stays booked and paid for through the Hotels.com link (through January 31, 2020). To redeem your Capital One rewards miles for travel, just make a purchase like you normally would with your card. Then, you have 90 days to sign in to your account, find the travel purchase and “erase” it with your miles.

You can also transfer Capital One miles to 15 airline partners, which give you the potential to get much more than one cent per mile in value. Transferring miles is the way to go if you want to book expensive international business-class awards with your miles. For example, you could transfer 84,000 miles to Avianca (at a 2:1.5 ratio) and book a one-way business-class flight with its Star Alliance partners. That flight would easily be worth a few thousand dollars.

The card also comes with a Global Entry and TSA PreCheck fee credit. These are trusted-traveler programs designed to help folks spend less time (and experience fewer headaches) at security checkpoints. With TSA PreCheck, you can pass through security without taking off your shoes, belt or light jacket. You also won’t need to remove your laptop and liquids from your bag.

When you pay for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck with the Capital One Venture, you’ll get a statement credit waiving the fee (between $85 and $100).

Some cards charge fees for swiping outside of the U.S., but this card has no foreign transaction fees.

Annual Fee

The card’s $95 annual fee is waived the first year. With the great welcome bonus, it’s a definite no-brainer for the first year.

Why it’s worth it

This card is particularly good if you want to stay at a hotel that doesn’t have a loyalty program, like boutique hotels or a hotel off the beaten path. During a trip to Mexico, my wife and I stayed at an amazing hotel called Beloved Playa Mujeres. The hotel doesn’t have a loyalty program or a co-branded credit card, but if you have the Capital One Venture, you can use your points to cover the cost any hotel. Just buy your nights and erase the purchase with your Venture miles later.

Note that the card’s return is effectively 2% back, which you can earn with some no-annual-fee cards. You can transfer your points to various airline partners for a better return, but otherwise you’ll have to decide if the card’s other benefits are worth the yearly fee.

Total value

$500 the first year.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card

Best limited-time offer

Current bonus

There is a limited-time offer of 100,000 bonus Marriott points after you spend $5,000 with your Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card in the first three months from account opening.

Insider tip

Marriott points transfer to 40+ airlines, including many valuable loyalty programs with difficult-to-earn airline miles. This presents some interesting opportunities to maximize your Marriott points’ value without booking hotel rooms. For example, you can converted Marriott points into Alaska Airlines miles and used those miles to book business-class flights with Cathay Pacific. The best part of using Alaska Airline miles is that you can add in a free stopover on one-way award flights (or two on a round-trip award), so you can book a stopover in Hong Kong for no extra miles.

Benefits and perks

The best Marriott Bonvoy Boundless benefit is the annual free night certificate (valid at hotels costing up to 35,000 points) you get each year you renew your card. With this certificate you can book up to Category 5 hotels on standard and off-peak dates. Unfortunately, now that the Marriott award chart includes peak pricing there are certain days where your free night won’t be valid at Category 5 hotels.

Just having the card will get you Silver Marriott Bonvoy elite status for as long as you hold the card, and each year you’ll get 15 elite night credits.

The card also doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees and provides a handful of useful coverages. You’ll get secondary rental car insurance, purchase protection, lost luggage insurance and trip delay coverage.

Annual fee

This card has a $95 annual fee.

Why its worth it

Marriott has more hotel rooms than any other hotel chain in the world, so if you’re looking to use hotel points for free nights you can’t go wrong with Marriott. And right now, the Bonvoy Boundless card has the biggest bonus of any of the Marriott credit cards, so it represents the best opportunity to earn Marriott points.

This card has a smaller annual fee that then the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (see rates and fees) or the Bonvoy Brilliant card (see rates and fees) and it has better benefits than the no-annual-fee Bonvoy Bold card. So it’s the perfect middle of the road option.

Total value

Marriott points are usually worth ~.8 cents each toward hotel stays, so the bonus alone is worth ~$800. After you deduct the $95 annual fee you’re still getting over $700 in value the first year. The annual free night certificate can easily be worth more than the annual fee, so it’s an easy card to justify keeping long term.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex

Best for Marriott hotel stays

Current bonus

With the Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, you can earn 75,000 Marriott points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months of account opening.

Insider tip

One of the most valuable benefits a credit card can have is a statement credit, but often these credits only apply to very specific purchases or are otherwise difficult to use. That’s not the case with the Bonvoy Brilliant’s up to $300 in credits at participating Marriott hotels. This credit even applies to room rates and can apply to meals from the hotel restaurant that are charged to your room.

Benefits and perks

When you spend with this card, you’ll earn six Marriott points per dollar at participating Marriott hotels, three Marriott points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines and two Marriott points per dollar on everything else.

The welcome offer isn’t the only reason to get the card. Cardholders also have access to a host of other perks that can save you money and make your travel easier. In addition to the annual Marriott statement credit of up to $300, you’ll also get an annual free night (at participating Marriott hotels worth up to 50,000 points) after you renew your card.

You’ll also get complimentary Marriott Gold status and up to $100 in property credits when you book direct using a special rate for a two-night minimum stay at Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis hotels. Check out this guide for an in-depth look at the rest of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex benefits.

Annual fee

The card comes with a $450 annual fee (see rates and fees).

Why it’s worth it

If you stay at a Marriott hotel at least once a year, this card is worth it for the annual free night and annual statement credit of up to $300. If you use the free night at an otherwise expensive hotel and add in the value you’ll get from the annual statement credit, the annual fee is well worth it.

You can redeem Marriott points for award stays at these hotel brands:

Total value

The bonus alone is worth $600 (at .8 cent per point). Including the $300 in annual Marriott credits and the free night certificate (worth $250 conservatively), that’s still $700 in value once you subtract the $450 annual fee.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Best for top-tier hotel elite status

Current Bonus

With the Hilton Aspire, you’ll earn 150,000 Hilton points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership. That’s a lot of Hilton points.

Insider tip

This card comes with Diamond status (the highest tier) for as long as you hold it. In addition to the free breakfast, upgrades (when available) and bonus points this status gets you, when you have any level of Hilton elite status Hilton award bookings get the 5th night free. The 5th night free applies to every 5th night on reservations of up to 20 consecutive nights and you can use it an unlimited number of times. In addition to the elite status requirement, you’ll also need to be booking a standard room entirely with points (not cash and points or using any free night certificates).

The 5th night free perk is one of the best ways to use Hilton points.

Benefits and perks

This card comes with one free weekend night each year, which you can use at almost every Hilton locations except for these properties. You’ll get an additional weekend night if you spend $60,000+ on your card in a calendar year. So you could end up with a whole weekend at a five-star hotel in a prime destination, like the London Hilton on Park Lane, which costs $450+ per night.

The card also earns the most Hilton points for spending at Hilton hotels of any card (14x points) and you’ll get 7x Hilton points at U.S. restaurants, on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, and car rentals booked directly with select car rental companies. For all other purchases made with the Hilton Aspire you earn 3x Hilton points.

The card comes with up to $250 in airline incidental credits and up to $250 in statement credits at participating Hilton resorts every year. If you max out those benefits alone, you’ll get a value $50 greater than the annual fee. The Hilton resort credit is valid for almost any purchase made at the 240+ participating locations, except for advance purchase or non-refundable rates.

You’ll get a $250 credit to use at Hilton resorts, like the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Island of Hawaii. (Photo by dirkr/Shutterstock)
You’ll get a $250 credit to use at Hilton resorts, like the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Island of Hawaii. (Photo by dirkr/Shutterstock)

I probably wouldn’t take full advantage of the airline incidental fee credit, which reimburses for things like checked baggage and seat upgrades. But the other benefits of the card make it worth the fee, especially if you don’t have a credit card with airport lounge access. You’ll get unlimited free Priority Pass lounge visits for yourself and up to two guests (enrollment required) as long as you hold the card, and no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees).

You can also get $100 in credits on qualifying charges (room rates and fees do not qualify) for every stay of two or more nights at Waldorf Astoria or Conrad hotels. But you must book through the Amex Hilton Aspire card website or by calling (855) 292-5757 to verify that you’re eligible for the credit. If you book over the phone you’ll need to use the code “ZZAAP1.”

Annual fee

The card has an annual fee of $450 (see rates and fees).

Why it’s worth it

I know big annual fees can be scary, but what’s even scarier is losing money because you neglected to crunch a few numbers. The Amex Hilton Aspire comes with a mountain of benefits that make it worth the extra cost. The weekend nights alone can easily make it worth paying the annual fee.

The Hilton Honors program can be lucrative because it’s so easy to earn Hilton points and the perks you get with Diamond status, like free breakfast, can save you money. If you like staying with Hilton, this card is truly a no-brainer. The statement credits and top-tier elite status can transform your Hilton stays.

Total value

Hilton points are worth at least .5 cents for most award night redemptions, so the Aspire card’s bonus is worth $750 in hotel stays. The card’s airline and Hilton resort credits are worth up to $500, but not everyone will be able to easily use the full credit, so I’ll be conservative and value them at $300. The value of the annual free weekend night will vary depending on what hotel you use it at, but it wouldn’t be hard to save $300 on a one night stay at a decent hotel.

Add that up and subtract the annual fee and you’re sitting on $900 in value the first year. That doesn’t even include any value you will get from having Diamond status. On a recent two-night stay my co-worker got $70+ in free breakfast for two people thanks to the Diamond status he has because of this card. So it’s very realistic to get $1,000+ in value the first year and $100s in value above and beyond the annual fee year after year. I have this card and in my opinion it’s one of the best travel rewards credit cards.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

Best for families

Current bonus

If you’re a Hilton fan, you need to take the Hilton Surpass card seriously. You can earn 125,000 Hilton points after you spend $2,000 in purchases with your new card within the first three months of opening your account.

Insider tip

There are lots of cards that come with unlimited airport lounge access, along with big annual fees. But if you travel only five to six times a year you won’t necessarily need unlimited lounge access. This is where the Surpass comes in. With the card you can enroll in Priority Pass and receive 10 lounge visits each membership year. You can bring guests along, but each person counts as one visit, so that’s 5 lounge visits for you and a guest each year. You get that with an annual fee that is less than $100 (see rates and fees).

Benefits and perks

With this card you’ll earn 12x Hilton points at Hilton hotels or resorts; 6x Hilton points on eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations; and 3x points for all other eligible purchases.

You’ll receive complimentary Hilton Gold status, which comes with bonus points for hotel stays, room upgrades when available, free breakfast and lots more. No other mid-tier credit card offers elite status that guarantees free breakfast. Hilton’s terms say the free breakfast applies to yourself and one additional guest, but many report getting a free meal for their kids, too. At the very least, breakfasts for kids are usually discounted, so you could use the freebies for the adults in your party and pay only for the additional children’s meals.

Because the card has no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees), it’s good to use for hotels abroad.

If you’re a big spender who likes staying with Hilton, this card is up your alley. You’ll earn one free weekend night after spending $15,000 on purchases each calendar year, and if you spend $40,000 in a calendar year, you’ll earn Hilton Diamond status. That will help you rack up Hilton points way faster (100% bonus on base points), and the upgrades and free breakfasts will revolutionize your hotel experience.

Annual Fee

The card has a $95 annual fee (see rates and fees).

Why it’s worth it

Traveling with a large family is an entirely different proposition compared to a solo trip. There’s often a lot of juggling and logistics to manage, so making sure your hotel stay is as comfortable as possible is key to making your vacation a success. The Amex Hilton Surpass stands above the rest for families, because it comes with family-friendly perks without an astronomically high annual fee.

Hilton is an ideal chain for families to focus on, because they’re one of the largest in the world — you can find a Hilton brand hotel just about anywhere you go, including:

Total value

The intro bonus is worth $625 in Hilton stays (at .5 cents per point), so you can’t go wrong applying for this card. If you can spend $15,000 on the card each year, the free weekend night you’ll earn is easily worth double or triple what the annual fee will cost you. Even if you won’t spend that much on the card, the free breakfast you’ll get with Gold status and the 10 Priority Pass lounge visits are worth more than what you’ll pay to keep it.

The World of Hyatt Credit Card

Best for a balance of value and comfort

Current bonus

With the World of Hyatt credit card, you can earn up to 50,000 Hyatt points after meeting tiered spending requirements. You’ll earn 25,000 bonus Hyatt points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening your account and another 25,000 bonus Hyatt points after you spend an additional $3,000 (for $6,000 total) on purchases within the first six months of opening your account.

Insider tip

Hyatt has an ongoing Brand Explorer promotion where you can earn free nights valid at Category 1-4 hotels for every five different Hyatt brands you stay at. The best part of this deal is that award stays count. These awards pair perfectly with the free nights you can earn with the World of Hyatt card because they are all valid at Category 1-4 hotels

Hyatt has been adding new brands and is now up to 17, which means you can earn up to three free nights. This promotion doesn’t reset every year. Paid stays made after Mar. 1, 2017 and award stays made after Jan. 1, 2018 count.

Benefits and perks

With this card, you’ll earn 9x Hyatt points at Hyatt – 4 bonus points per dollar when you use your card at Hyatt hotels and 5 base points per dollar earned as a World of Hyatt member. You’ll also earn 2x Hyatt points at restaurants, airline tickets purchased directly from the airlines, local transit and commuting, and on fitness club and gym memberships, and 1x Hyatt point on everything else.

Every year you keep the card you’ll get a free night at a Category 1-4 hotel. You’ll get an additional free night at a Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel after spending $15,000 in an anniversary year.

This card comes with Discoverist Hyatt status, which gives you 10% bonus base points per stay, upgrades to a preferred room based on availability at check-in, late checkout when available and more. Plus, you’ll be able to climb the elite status ladder quickly because you’ll receive five qualifying-night credits every year and two qualifying-night credits after every $5,000 you spend on the card.

This card has no foreign transaction fees.

Hyatt hotels include:

Annual fee

This card has a $95 annual fee.

Why it’s worth it

Hyatt is a Million Mile Secrets staff favorite. They have great hotels with a balance of value and comfort and the Hyatt award chart is extremely generous.

A unique perk of using Hyatt points is that you don’t have to worry about blackout dates. If Hyatt is selling a standard room, you can reserve it with points. There are some quirks and exceptions at certain hotels where you’ll inexplicably have difficulty finding available rooms (Andaz Maui). But I’ve found this benefit to be extremely valuable.

I spent a night at the Hyatt House Charleston Historic District during the Great American Eclipse. The hotel was packed and rooms were selling for $500+ per night. I was able to reserve a room for just 12,000 Hyatt points. That’s a value of ~4.1 cents per point ($500 per night/12,000 Hyatt points).

Because this is a Category 3 hotel, you can use the annual free night that comes with The World of Hyatt Credit Card. That offsets the annual fee many times over. If you see a base hotel room available on the Hyatt website but it’s not showing any available reward nights, you can call Hyatt and they’ll book the room for you.

Total value

Hyatt points are the most valuable hotel points you can earn and are typically worth ~1.7 cents each, which makes this card’s bonus worth $850 in Hyatt stays. I’ve used a handful of Category 1-4 Hyatt award night certificates and it’s not hard to book a $150+ night stay. So once you subtract the annual fee you’re getting over $900 in value the first year.

But if you’re making the best use of your Hyatt points, it is easy to blow that number out of the water. You can reserve astronomically expensive hotels with Hyatt points, like the five-star Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, for 30,000 Hyatt points per night. Rooms at that hotel can go for $900+ per night.

Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card

Best for no annual fee

Current bonus

The Chase Marriott Bonvoy Bold comes with a welcome bonus of 30,000 Marriott points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Insider tips

Marriott has an ongoing promotion know as PointSavers, which allows you to book a select number of hotels at discounted award rates. The PointSavers list usually isn’t very extensive (33 hotels at the time of writing). But you can find some deals if you’re lucky: Category 1 PointSaver hotels at only 4,000 points a night. This deal could be even better if you’re able to combine it with Marriott’s “Stay 5, pay for 4” perk.

Benefits and perks

When spending with this card, you’ll earn 3x Marriott points at participating Marriott hotels, 2x points on travel and one point per dollar on all other purchases. The Bonvoy Bold card comes with 15 elite night credits each calendar year, which qualifies you for Silver Marriott Bonvoy elite status.

Annual Fee

This card has no annual fee.

Why it’s worth it

It’s good that Marriott is giving us more credit card options. More options means more ways to earn points. This is certainly a bare-bones card, though. In exchange for no annual fee, you won’t get any fancy perks that you’ll find on other Marriott cards, like annual free nights, statement credits and the like.

Do the math to see if it’s actually worth paying an annual fee. If not, the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card is no slouch, as it’s an easy way to keep your Marriott points from expiring and the 15 elite night credits get you most of the way to Gold status, which requires 25 nights.

Total value

At a value of .8 cents per point this card’s bonus is worth $240.

Summary of best hotel credit cards

There are plenty of options when it comes to hotel cards, but these are the current best hotel cards of 2019:

  • Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card: Best for easy-to-redeem rewards
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card: Best limited-time offer
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Best for Marriott hotel stays
  • Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: Best for top-tier hotel elite status
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Best for families
  • The World of Hyatt Credit Card: Best for a balance of value and comfort
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card: Best for no annual fee

If you wan to earn a bunch of points in a hurry, consider the limited-time Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card offer of 100,000 points after meeting minimum spending requirements — a solid offer for a card with only a $95 annual fee. But you don’t like the hassle of juggling different hotel points or searching for available reward nights, you might prefer the Capital One Venture, which you can use for any hotel stay, not just the chain hotels that have loyalty programs.

If you’re looking for a high-end experience, consider the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex or Amex Hilton Aspire Card. Both come with premium perks like complimentary elite status and hundreds of dollars in statement credits at participating hotels. The $300 in Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex credits that team member Meghan gets with her Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex makes it one of her favorite hotel credit card perks because it’s so easy to use.


This story was originally written on Million Mile Secrets. For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets daily email newsletter.