Which Hotel Credit Card is Great for the Non-Business Traveler?

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If you don’t travel for business, choosing a hotel credit card can be a difficult decision. It largely depends on where you travel and the size of your lodging budget. This is our recommendation for some great hotel credit card options for non-business travelers.

Great Hotel Credit Cards: The Starwood Preferred Guest from American Express

Honestly, this is a tough decision (& why there are a few honorable mentions at the end of this article). Overall, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express is a great hotel credit card option for nearly any traveler.

Here are a couple reasons why:

  • Starwood SPG hotel points are very valuable and can be transferred out to airlines
  • Points can be redeemed for Starwood or Marriott property stays
  • Starwood reward nights require very few points
  • $95 annual fee waived the first year

SPG Amex Card Fees

The SPG Amex has an annual fee of $95 that is waived for the first year. The fee is a little higher than most hotel credit cards, but, you can easily offset the fee as you can earn and redeem points for free nights quickly.

There is also no foreign transaction fee which allows you to use this card across the globe.

SPG Amex Bonus Offer

The current welcome offer is the ability to earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of ownership. Free nights within the U.S. start at 5,000 points (category 2) like the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort in Florida. This bonus offer can be worth as much as 8 nights if you stay in category 1 properties abroad or 5 nights at U.S./International category 2 properties.

best hotel credit card for non-business travel

Stay at the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort for only 5,000 points per night!
Image Source: Sheraton

Keep in mind that American Express will only award this offer once to you. If you have already received the SPG Amex welcome offer in the past, you automatically disqualify for all future welcome offers if you re-apply for the SPG Amex in the future after canceling your account.

Earning SPG Rewards Points

As an SPG Amex cardholder, you automatically receive SPG Preferred membership status and credit (5 nights and 2 stays) towards upgrading to Gold status (requires 25 nights or 10 stays annually).

As a Preferred cardmember, you will earn:

  • 4 points per $1 spent on Starwood stays
  • 2 points per $1 on Marriott stays
  • 1 point per $1 on all other purchases

After reaching Gold SPG status, you will earn 5 points on each Starwood stay instead of 4 points per $1 spent.

Starwood Rewards Nights

Many hotel loyalty programs require 20,000 points minimum to book a reward night. With Starwood, you can stay at many quality .

You can redeem your Starpoints for the following luxury hotel brands:

  • Sheraton
  • Four Points
  • Aloft
  • Westin
  • W Hotels
  • Aloft
  • Element
  • St. Regis
  • The Luxury Collection
  • Le Meridien

If you don’t want to use your points within the Starwood portfolio, you can transfer your SPG points to Marriott on a 1:3 basis (1 Starpoint=3 Marriott points) to stay at any Marriott or Ritz-Carlton property. Marriott stays require more points per nightly stay, that’s why you get more Marriott points for transferring, and for signing up for the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card.

You can also transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott and then to Starwood, but it doesn’t always make sense. It’s also worth noting, with the merger between the two hotel chains it’s possible that the two credit cards are replaced by a new one, so taking advantage of these offers while they are still around is a good idea.

Additional SPG Loyalty Benefits

As an SPG Amex cardmember, you will also earn the following benefits when staying at Starwood properties:

  • Free In-Room Internet
  • Complimentary In-Room Bottled Water
  • Free Night Awards without Blackout Dates
  • 5th night free after redeemed 4 reward nights at any Category 3-7 hotel
  • Transfer points on a 1:1 basis to many airline loyalty programs

When staying at a Marriott property, you will enjoy benefits for the similar membership status within the Marriott Rewards loyalty program.

A HUGE perk of the Starwood program is the ability to transfer out SPG points to airlines. You will receive a bonus of 5,000 miles for every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer.

Additional Amex SPG Card Benefits

For being an American Express cardholder you can enjoy the following complimentary card benefits:

  • Complimentary Boingo wi-fi hotspot access
  • Complimentary Roadside Assistance
  • Rental Car Collision Damage Waiver
  • Extend Manufacturer’s Warranty up to 1 year for eligible purchases

Is the SPG Amex a Good Hotel Credit Card For You?

Does the SPG Amex sound like a good fit for you? If so, excellent! SPG Starpoints are some of the most valuable travel points you will find. They are easy to redeem because the redemption requirements are so low.

The SPG Amex is even more valuable because you can transfer the points to stay at any Marriott. You selection for hotel reward nights just suddenly expanded to 5,700+ possible destination from the existing 1,200+ Starwood properties.

Honorable Mentions to the SPG Amex

While the SPG Amex is the best overall hotel credit card, it’s not for everybody.

If you are looking for a more affordable loyalty program with more locations, these additional hotel credit cards are worth alternatives.

Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card (Expired)

If you primarily stay at Marriott properties instead of Starwood hotels, the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card is currently offering a record 80,000 bonus Marriott points.

The Marriott Visa has an annual fee of $85 but you receive an annual anniversary night that easily offsets the fee. And, you receive complimentary Silver Elite Status and earn 5 points on Marriott & SPG stays, 3 points on airline, rental car, and restaurant purchases, 1 point for everything else.

IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card (Expired)

If you like to stay at the Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, or Candlewood Suites brands, the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card is a great option. Plus, you can stay at select IHG properties for only 5,000 points as part of the program. The average nightly stay at post properties ranges from 15,000 points to 25,000 points.

The annual fee of $75 (waived the first year) gives you one free anniversary and complimentary Platinum membership status. You also earn 5 points on IHG stays, 2 points for gas, groceries, and restaurants, and 1 point on everything else.

Hilton Honors Surpass from American Express (Expired)

There are two different Hilton credit cards from American Express. It also has one of the more robust purchase rewards programs too as you earn 12 points on Hilton stays, 6 points at U.S. restaurants, gas stations, and supermarkets, and 3 points for all other purchases. You also receive complimentary Gold status and automatic 500 point bonus when you make a Hilton reservation online.

Hilton Honors Credit Card from American Express

The final hotel credit card recommendation is the no-fee Hilton Honors Credit Card from American Express. This is one of the best hotel credit cards that don’t charge an annual fee.

Despite not having an annual fee, you get free Hilton Honors Silver status. When you spend $20,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year. Regarding purchase rewards, you earn 7 points on Hilton stays, 5 points at U.S. restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores, and 3 points on all remaining purchases.

You might like either of the Hilton credit cards if you like staying at the Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites, or Garden Inns (in addition to the Hilton Hotels & Resorts).

Mary Renking

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Which Hotel Credit Card is Great for the Non-Business Traveler?
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About the Author

Mary Renking
Mary writes about how to book travel with award miles & points, reviews top travel credit cards, and basic rewards news.

3 Comments on "Which Hotel Credit Card is Great for the Non-Business Traveler?"

  1. Johnny, I admit I just scanned the article, but here are my thoughts
    I agree SPG is best overall, but rarely get to stay at SPG properties – just transferred 80k to Korean Air for 100k towards JFK-ICN-SYD n 1st on B747-8 & A380 #RTW17
    I have Hliton Reserve for Gold status getting breakfast & possible upgrade with lots of locations
    I have IHC for $49 annual fee with free night – used it at Intercontinental Park Lane in London. I’m also an Ambassador for 19k points annual renewal with BOGO weekends, also used at Park Lane Hong Kong, Sydney, Tokyo, New York TS, and for the August Eclispe, Kansas City on the Plaza
    I have Hyatt card for free night annually, using for a night at a Hyatt Resort in a couple weeks
    I’d have Marriott card but Chase 5/24.

    Really a fun hobby. Happy Father’s Day BTW!

  2. One little note: Amex Hilton No-Annual-Fee card gives automatic Silver, not gold.

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