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.