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Hyatt Visa joins annual free night hotel credit card club and best hotel cards for low spenders

This week Hyatt Visa added a card member anniversary benefit of one free night at a category 1 to 4 hotel. A common complaint about the Hyatt Visa card since it launched in late 2010 was the lack of any incentive to retain the card after receiving the high value enrollment bonus offer for two free nights at any Hyatt worldwide. This new benefit remedies that complaint to a large degree.

Hyatt Gold Passport has hotels assigned to categories 1 through 6. Category 5 and 6 are relatively small number of hotels, but these are typically the best of the best and include many of the Hyatt resort hotels. The enrollment bonus of two free nights at any Hyatt is still the premier feature of the Hyatt card.

Benefits of Hyatt Visa

  • Enrollment Bonus = 2 free nights at any Hyatt to be used within one year (all new cardmembers)
  • Enrollment Bonus for current Hyatt Platinum elites = 2 free nights + 2 suite upgrade certificates for use on paid stays.
  • Enrollment Bonus for current Hyatt Diamond elites = 2 suite upgrade free nights with the exception of Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, Park Hyatt Sydney, Hyatt Regency Kyoto and Hyatt Regency Paris Madeleine that do not participate in confirmed suite upgrades.
  • Earning rate = 3 points per dollar at Hyatt,
  • 1 point per dollar for other transactions.
  • No foreign exchange fees.
  • complimentary Platinum elite status while a Hyatt Card member.

Which Hotel Credit Card is Best?

Hyatt ranks as one of the best hotel credit cards for persons who do not charge tens of thousands of dollars to a credit card. Ben Schlappig, Lucky at One Mile at a Time recently ranked best hotel credit cards and placed Starwood Preferred Guest American Express as his top pick followed by Hilton HHonors Surpass. The Points Guy surveyed hotel credit cards last week and based his analysis on $30,000 in credit card spend.

I see $30,000 on a credit card and think that might happen in five to eight years with my spend pattern. I could care less about SPG Gold elite after spending $30,000 in a year on the SPG American Express. I have been SPG Platinum for nearly a decade and rarely spend more than $3,000 a year at Starwood Hotels. Earning SPG Gold from hotel stays is something I can achieve for under $1,000 annually.

HHonors Surpass Diamond for $40,000 in credit card spend is an elite status I also held for many years with under $3,000 in spend per year at Hilton brand hotels. That is a more attainable route to HHonors elite for me.

5-Star Living on a 2-star Budget

For the low spender there is little benefit to the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card despite it being exuberantly touted across the blog world.  Sure the SPG AmEx card currently has a 30,000 points enrollment bonus. Read the fine print and the actual enrollment bonus is 10,000 points with an additional 20,000 points for charging $4,500 in the first three months.

The SPG AmEx does not confer instant elite status which is a standard benefit for most hotel credit cards. You have to spend $30,000 a year on the SPG AmEx to receive complimentary SPG Gold elite.

Complimentary Elite with Hotel Credit Cards

  • Hilton HHonors No fee Visa or no fee American Express = Silver 15% bonus points (normally requires 4 stays or 10 nights).
  • Hyatt Visa = Platinum 15% bonus points (normally requires 5 stays or 15 nights in a calendar year).
  • IHG Priority Club = Gold 10% bonus points (normally requires 15 nights or earn 20,000 points or pay $50 in a calendar year).
  • Marriott Visa (Signature or Premier) = Silver 20% bonus points (normally requires 10 nights in a calendar year).

Low Credit Card Value for Low Spenders

SPG American Express is a popular card for the versatility of Starpoints conversion into airline miles at the rate of 1 point = 1 mile for about two dozen airlines. I argue this is a minor benefit for a person charging less than $5,000 per year on a credit card. The points-to-miles exchange feature of SPG is a great program benefit, but there is no need to have the SPG AmEx for that benefit.

SPG has a minimum transfer requirement of 2,500 points for SPG members without Gold or Platinum elite status when exchanging points-to-miles. At the rate of 1 point earned per dollar charged to the SPG American Express (2 points/$1 for Starwood Hotel charges), the low spending consumer needs $2,500 in spend to make the minimum transfer of Starpoints to miles.

Earning 20,000 points for airline miles with a 25% bonus (20,000 Starpoints = 25,000 miles) may be a goal that takes years of credit card spending to reach. In contrast to credit card spend,  I estimate I earn  about 50,000 Starpoints per year with $2,000 in hotel stays and often I earn the equivalent of many more points through SPG free night promotions.

Even though the SPG AmEx has one of the best earning rates in terms of point value per dollar charged to the credit card, the card member charging less than $5,000 per year is not getting that much benefit compared to the value of points in other hotel credit cards after spending $5,000.

$5,000 = 5,000 Starpoints = about $125 to $200 in hotel value when used for a Category 2 hotel night (3,000 Fri/Sat or 4,000 points weekday.) Use 4,800 points for Cash & Points Category 5 hotel with $90 cash and the value might be $200+ in savings for a $300 a night Starwood Hotel.

$5,000 = 5,000 Starpoints = 5,000 frequent flier miles = $50 to $100 value.


Best Credit Cards for Low Spenders Offer Annual Free Night

Priority Club Visa = 1 free night every anniversary year good for any IHG hotel globally. 30,000 to 80,000 points enrollment bonus has been offered in past year. I received the 80,000 points offer several times.

Hyatt Visa = 1 free night every year for a category 1-4 hotel. Enrollment bonus is two free nights at any Hyatt.

Marriott Rewards Premier = one free night every year for a category 1 to category 5 hotel. Enrollment bonus is a certificate good for just category 1 to 4 hotels and 50,000 bonus points which are sufficient for any top-tier category 8 Marriott globally and almost any Ritz-Carlton Hotel. One drawback of the free night certificates compared to Hyatt and Priority Club is a six month expiration after certificate is issued.

The value of a free night is worth more than the annual fee for these three hotel credit cards. There is no requirement to be a big spender to get good value from the Priority Club Visa, Hyatt Visa or Marriott Premier Visa cards. The fact that the earn rate in hotel points for general spend categories with these three cards is less than the value of general spend points for the Hilton American Express Surpass or HHonors no fee cards and the SPG American Express card is not a significant factor for a person who spends less than $5,000 per year on a credit card.

Comparing credit cards based on $3,000 in hotel spend annually

  • HHonors Surpass = $3,000 x 9 points = 27,000 HHonors points (one category 3 hotel night)
  • SPG American Express = $3,000 x 2 points = 6,000 Starpoints (two category 2 weekend nights or two category 3 Cash & Points nights).
  • Hyatt Visa = $3,000 x 3 points = 9,000 points (one category 2 night).
  • Priority Club Visa = $3,000 x 5 points = 15,000 points (one Holiday Inn/Holiday Inn Express night or 3 PointBreaks nights)
  • Marriott Premier Visa = $3,000 x 5 points = 15,000 points (one category 3 night).

There really is very little difference in the value of points based on $3,000 of hotel spend on the hotel chain’s cobranded credit card. It is hard to argue any of these point values are significantly better than another in terms of the value of the free night earned from credit card spend.

Comparing credit cards based on $5,000 annual spend in general categories

  • HHonors Surpass or no-fee AmEx = $5,000 x 6 points (cable, wireless, internet, gas, groceries, drugstores = 30,000 HHonors points (one category 4 hotel night, about $150 to $200 value).
  • SPG American Express = $5,000 x 1 points = 5,000 Starpoints (one category-5 Cash & Points nights, about $200 value).
  • Hyatt Visa = $5,000 x 1 points = 5,000 points (one category 1 hotel night, about $100 to $150 value).
  • Priority Club Visa = $5,000 x 2 points (gas, groceries, dining) = 10,000 points (2 PointBreaks nights or Points & Cash, about $100 to $200 value).
  • Marriott Premier Visa = $5,000 x 2 points (airline, dining, rental car) = 10,000 points (one category 2 night or category 3 PointSavers, about $100 to $150 value).

Final Word: There are some great value credit cards for the low spender. Hyatt Visa ($75), Priority Club Visa ($49) and Marriott Premier Visa ($85) are three cards that provide a high value annual free night incentive that more than pays for the credit card annual fee. Big spenders may find great value in SPG and Hilton HHonors American Express, but these three Visa hotel co-branded credit cards will give you a hotel free night value every year for a small fee.



  • Katherine August 5, 2011

    Thank you! Finally, someone else realizes that the SPG card isn’t the right one for everybody. I could never justify it, even with the “low” spend of $4,500 in 3 months – that is more like 6-9 months spend! Couple that with only 2 people in a room for reward nights and clearly I am not the target consumer for their brand.

  • Oliver August 5, 2011

    Excellent post.

  • Rapid Travel Chai August 5, 2011

    Superb to see an analysis for regular people. The SPG card 5,000 point bonus for transferring 20,000 is breathlessly hyped throughout the blogosphere but that is only likely to be relevant to many of us once every several years. I have been trying to compare offers with elite status and/or free nights and low fees, and you did the work for me! I particularly like the no annual fee Hilton option.

  • David August 5, 2011

    I agree. This is why I couldn’t justify the SPG AX $65 annual fee, but gladly paid $49 for the Priority Club VISA renewal fee, which has no international transaction fees, and 1 free night at any IHG property.

  • richard August 6, 2011

    Using my Hyatt all the time but could not find any hotels with available nights despite trying. No issue with getting my Marriott…looks like Hyatt has blackouts with its category hotels and Marriott less so. Now back to using my Marriott credit card.

  • Craig August 9, 2011

    I overlooked the Foreign transaction fee difference:

    $3k in spend oversees at SPG properties: ~1 free night at a cat 3-4, $100 in foreign transaction fees. USELESS

    Even though I’m SPG plat, I use my Hyatt card at SPG.

    With Hyatt card: $3k spend (Even at SPG properties!!): 3,000 points, no foreign transaction fees.

    Hyatt card at Hyatt properties abroad is the best deal of course.

  • Ric Garrido August 10, 2011

    I just saw my 3% transaction charges on SPG AmEx statement for June’s trip to Canada.

    Chase Visa with Hyatt, Priority Club or Marriott is definitely a savings on international travel.

  • SEG August 11, 2011

    While widely reported, why is it that I don’t see the annual free night mentioned in any official Hyatt or Chase correspondence? I recently got an email from Chase asking me to join doesn’t list it… and the list of benefits on Hyatt’s web site doesn’t mention it.

    If you apply, not listed. What’s up?

  • Ric Garrido August 11, 2011

    @SEG – I do not know the answer for why the anniversary free night benefit isn’t shown on credit card website yet.

    I received direct confirmation on the anniversary night benefit from a Hyatt Hotels PR contact Thursday August 4 in response to my direct question on the new credit card anniversary benefit for a free night.

  • Leonard016 August 12, 2011

    May I ask how you can get 50k spg pts for $2k spent in spg hotels?

  • Ric Garrido August 13, 2011

    I do not want to go through my actual statements, but here is how I view a typical year’s earning for hotel stays averaging $100 per night.

    25 paid hotel nights on one-night stays for SPG Platinum elite membership:

    $2,500 x 3 points (2 base points/$1 + 1 elite point/$1) = 7,500 points.

    20 stays at full service hotels x 500 points/stay Platinum bonus + 5 stays at Four Points/element/aloft x 250 Platinum bonus = 12,500 points

    Assume typical promotion bonus of 1,000 points per stay = 25,000 points

    Best Rate Guarantee claims – I regularly post about how I find BRG claims with Starwood and earn 2,000 points per BRG reservation. About 1 of 3 hotel reservations I make with Starwood are BRG claims.
    8 BRG claims x 2,000 points = 16,000 points.

    That is 61,000 points for $2,500 or just under 50,000 points for $2,000.

    That is typical earning I see with Starwood Preferred Guest. I have lots of one night stays to earn points and I tend to burn points for extended stays and redeem lots of Cash & Points awards with my earned points.

    2009 and 2011 were even more lucrative as I earned many high category free nights with SPG free night offers in addition to the points.

  • Leonard016 August 14, 2011

    Ric: thanks for sharing!

  • BostonFlyer August 15, 2011

    Wow I did not know that Priority club came with free hotel night every year. Ric does this free night also apply the first year as well? I also think Chase Sapphire preferred is great card giving two points per hotel stay (non loyalty hotels), and ability to transfer to hotel loyalty programs.

  • […] I shouldn’t have panned the card earlier this […]

  • Ric Garrido August 23, 2011

    @BostonFlyer – Free night certificate is not offered as an enrollment bonus. I did just receive the 80,000 points Priority Club Visa offer again today.

    Here are the PC free night certificate terms:
    “3. Free Night Certificate. Please allow 4 weeks from your account anniversary date each year for the Anniversary Free Night e-certificate to be mailed to you. (“Anniversary” is the date that is twelve months after your enrollment date, and the same date each twelve months thereafter.) Annual fee applies after the first year. For pricing details, please see Pricing & Terms. Chase may close your credit card account or suspend your right to use your credit card account, at any time for any reason, including account inactivity. A valid email address is required in order to receive your Anniversary Free Night e-certificate. The e-certificate will be emailed to the address that is on the Priority Club Member Profile at that time. You must maintain a current, valid email address in your Member Profile and opt in to receive Priority Club e-communications in order to receive the Anniversary Free Night e-certificate.

    Anniversary Free Night e-certificate is valid at hotels in the Priority Club Rewards Family of Brands and must be redeemed, and stay must be completed, within 12 months from date of issue. Anniversary Free Night e-certificates are valid for one standard room night rate and applicable taxes only. Rooms are limited, subject to prior sale and availability of allocated resources and may be unavailable during high demand periods. All reservations that will utilize the Anniversary Free Night e-certificate must be booked by calling the Priority Club Service center at 888-211-9874.You must present the e-certificate at check in either in printed format or on your mobile device. E-certificates may not be transferred, extended beyond the expiration date, redeemed for cash, or re-credited for points. Individual hotel’s cancellation policy applies to the use of the e-certificate. Cancellation fees apply if cancellation is made outside of the hotel’s cancellation time period. Anniversary Free Night e-certificate rules and regulations are subject to change. Chase is not responsible for offer fulfillment.

    4. 10% Rebate. Please allow 4-6 weeks after Reward Night stay for rebated points to be deposited into your account, and 4-6 weeks after date of redemption for all other (non-Reward Night) redemption items. Maximum number of points to be rebated not to exceed 100,000 points in a calendar year. Priority Club reserves the right to reverse rebated points when redemption item has been returned. In order to receive points for redemption rebates, you must be a U.S. Priority Club Visa Card holder and your Priority Club account must be in good standing. Chase is not responsible for offer fulfillment.

  • Nick September 10, 2011

    Great post Ric. I have always kept the SPG card since I like the program and it’s so highly recommended, but might not renew next year due to the foreign transaction fees and just keep Priority Club and Marriott cards for the annual free night certificates instead.

  • […] credit cards. Ric Garrido at Loyalty Traveler, the expert on hotel loyalty programs, has a great post on hotel credit cards for $3,000 and $5,000 annual spend. Ric says, “I see $30,000 on a […]

  • Bohemiana January 2, 2012

    I don’t understand how you get 2000 points for with the Best Rate Guarantee claims. Do you mean you get 2000 points if you find a better price for the same room OR do you get 2000 points every time you book a room at the best rate? I called SPG and they didn’t know anything about 2000 points.

  • Ric Garrido January 3, 2012

    @Bohemiana – Starwood Preferred Guest has a Best Rate Guaranteee that gives the member a choice of 10% off the lower rate or SPG matches the lower rate and gives member 2,000 Starpoints.

    The best thing about the SPG Best Rate Guarantee is a member can make a claim before booking a Starwood Hotel reservation.

    About 1 of 3 Starwood Hotels I stay is on a BRG claim where I found a lower rate on a different travel site, applied the BRG claim, SPG approved the claim and I received 2,000 points and the lower rate I found.

  • […] Hyatt adds annual anniversary free night benefit for Hyatt VISA card renewal members valid for one night in category 1 to category 4 reward hotel. LT post August 5, 2011. […]

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