Here is a data driven analysis for comparing hotel loyalty program credit cards as a follow-up to yesterday’s post on credit card benefits. Interestingly as annual spend goes up the Priority Club Visa drops in value while SPG American Express increases in value. It appears I shortchanged Goldpoints plus Visa in my earlier analysis when I placed it lowest of nine cards. This valuation analysis places Goldpoints plus above Marriott Rewards basic Visa, however, there is the consideration of higher value enrollment bonuses for Marriott Rewards and the size of the Marriott Hotel chain in the U.S.
Four Credit Card Spending Scenarios
The hotel loyalty program credit card spend tables show four scenarios for different levels of annual credit card spend in various categories for earning hotel points ($6,000, $13,000, $24,000, and $48,000).
One or none of these scenarios may apply to your particular spending pattern. Adjusting the spending categories to your specific situation will allow you to make your own individualized chart to determine the best hotel loyalty program credit card for your needs.
To minimize variables in these charts I only consider points earned from credit card spend and I do not consider additional base and bonus loyalty points earned from paid hotel stays or elite status gained from hotel cards. See yesterday’s post for details on each credit card’s benefits.
The points earned with each credit card are based on annual spend scenarios and a set amount in different spend categories. The total points earned per year was tabulated based on the four spending scenarios.
The Value of Hotel Points
These tables use the numbers from Lucky’s One Mile at a Time blog post reprinted in the August 2010 InsideFlyer magazine, The Value of a Mile or Point.
Hilton HHonors = 0.7 cents per point or $7/1,000 points
Hyatt Gold Passport = 1.5 cents per point or $15/1,000 points
IHG Priority Club = 0.6 cents per point or $6/1,000 points
Marriott Rewards = 0.8 cents per point or $8/1,000 points
Starwood Preferred Guest = 2.5 cents per point or $25/1,000 points
In general these hotel point values seem to be reasonable working valuations for hotel points.
I could argue that Hilton is valued a little too high and Priority Club a little too low based on hotel reward categories and the actual cost of many hotels in these categories. These values could easily be reversed to Priority Club at $7/1000 and Hilton at $6/1,000. The fact that it is possible to get cheap points at the cost of $60 for 10,000 Priority Club points by booking a Cash and Points award and then cancelling it does not lower the value of points in Priority Club to that level for most redemptions.
I will argue that it is much easier to find an InterContinental Hotel for 40,000 points that would cost more than $280 per night ($7/1,000 points) compared to finding a category 6 Hilton Hotel for 40,000 points that would have cost more than $280 per night ($7/1,000 points). But that is another discussion.
The hotel point values in Lucky’s article are sufficiently accurate to illustrate the value of points earned in the various programs from credit card spend.
Lucky did not include Carlson Hotels Goldpoints plus in his valuations.
Carlson Goldpoints Plus = 0.4 cents per point or $4/1,000 points
I used $4/1,000 points based on a category 2 hotel running around $80 for 20,000 points and a category 4 hotel for 40,000 points costing around $160. I think the value of Goldpoints are typically in the $4 to $5 range for 1,000 points. Goldpoints also has the feature of giving a 10% discount on the cost of free nights after the first night of a multi-night stay. The second night of a category 4 hotel stay is just 36,000 points.
Added-value of annual free nights with Priority Club Visa and Marriott Premier Visa
The points value for Priority Club Visa and Marriott Premier Visa need to be adjusted for the annual free night offer with card membership renewal. I converted the free night certificate to a cash equivalent value for these two cards.
Priority Club allows the free night to be redeemed at any hotel. I assume the value of the annual free night certificate is 40,000 points. This gives the Priority Club Visa card an additional annual value of $240. This value is added to the annual credit cards point value.
Marriott Rewards free night is worth 25,000 points at a category 5 hotel. I give the annual certificate a $200 added value in the tables.
Earning Categories for Credit Card Spend
Carlson Hotels Goldpoints Plus Visa (U.S. only)
- 5 points per $1 spent at Carlson Hotels worldwide
- 4 points per $1 on all other purchases
Hilton HHonors American Express (U.S.) – No annual fee
- 6 HHonors bonus points per US$1 spent at Hilton Worldwide hotels, grocery stores, gas stations, drugstores, home and wireless phone, cable, internet.
- 3 HHonors bonus points on all other purchases
Hilton HHonors Surpass Card American Express (U.S.)
- 9 HHonors bonus points per US$1 spent at Hilton Worldwide hotels
- 6 HHonors bonus points per US$1 spent at grocery stores, gas stations, drugstores, home and wireless phone, cable, internet.
- 3 HHonors bonus points on all other purchases
Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature (U.S.)
- 6 HHonors bonus points per US$1 spent at Hilton Worldwide hotels.
- 3 HHonors bonus points at gas stations, grocery stores and drugstore.
- 2 HHonors bonus points on all other purchases
Hyatt Chase Visa Card (U.S. residents only)
- 3 Gold Passport bonus points per US$1 spent at Hyatt brand hotels worldwide.
- 1 Gold Passport bonus point per US$1 on all other purchases
Priority Club Chase Select Visa Card (U.S.)
- 5 Priority Club bonus points per US$1 spent at IHG hotels worldwide.
- 3 Priority Club bonus points per US$1 at gas stations, dining and grocery stores.
- 1 Priority Club bonus point per US$1 on all other purchases
- Annual free night e-certificate (valid for any IHG brand hotel worldwide)
Marriott Rewards Signature Visa from Chase
- 3 Marriott Rewards bonus points per US$1 spent at Marriott brand hotels worldwide.
- 1 Marriott Rewards bonus point per US$1 on all other purchases
- 5 Marriott Rewards bonus points per US$1 spent at Marriott brand hotels worldwide.
- 2 Marriott Rewards bonus points per US$1 spent on airlines, dining and rental cars.
- 1 Marriott Rewards bonus point per US$1 on all other purchases.
- Annual free night certificate (category 1-5 hotels). First year is a category 1-4 e-certificate.
Starwood Preferred Guest American Express
- 2 bonus Starpoints per US$1 spent at Starwood Hotels and Resorts worldwide.
- 1 bonus Starpoints per US$1 per US$1 on all other purchases.
If I add the rankings for each of these scenarios and treat them like a golf score, then the hotel loyalty credit card rankings comes out to this:
- HHonors Surpass American Express
- HHonors American Express
- Priority Club Visa
- SPG American Express
- Marriott Premier Visa
- HHonors Visa
- Hyatt Visa
- Goldpoints Plus Visa
- Marriott Visa
There are many variables when choosing a hotel loyalty program and credit card. This is just one comparison with each card matched up on the same playing field using the same spend levels and categories. Your personal spend and hotel stay pattern may lead to different conclusions.