Over the years we’ve amassed quite a collection of hotel credit cards. While it’s worthwhile to sign up for new cards and their sign-up offers, some cards don’t make the cut and are on the chopping block after 1-2 years. Hotel co-brand cards are a different breed from airline co-brand cards or cards that earn transferrable points. That’s because they offer perks for keeping the cards, including hotel status and free night certificates or loyalty points.
While I evaluate each card to determine if I’m going to keep it from year to year, I don’t think I’ve ever compared them to each other. That is, until now.
Here’s a list of our hotel co-brand cards from worst to first.
#9 – Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant AMEX
There was no benefit of this card that was worth paying a $650 annual fee. It places last on the list because I recently closed our account.
#8 – Marriott Bonvoy Premier Visa
This relic is the precursor to the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card. For the $85 annual fee, I receive a 25K Marriott free night certificate. I still have time to decide if I want to cancel this card or upgrade to the Ritz Carlton Visa.
#7 – Marriott Bonvoy AMEX
This is the remnant of the SPG AMEX card. The benefits have changed to match the Chase Bonvoy Boundless card so you get a 35K free night certificate every year for the $95 annual fee. I can easily find a $200 hotel room that’s typically available for 35K to 40K points. Since Marriott lets you add up to 15,000 points to a free night certificate, I consider this card value to be prepaying $100 for a Courtyard or Springhill Suites room.
It’s also a card that, if I cancel, I can never get back since AMEX can no longer offer an entry-level Marriott Bonvoy card as part of the agreement with Chase.
#6 – IHG Select
The no-longer-available IHG Select Mastercard is a dinosaur. It’s another card where, if I close it, we can never get back. That’s why I have no intention of canceling it for now.
For the impossibly low annual fee of $49, we get a free night good at any hotel charging 40K IHG One Rewards points or less. That takes many of the luxury hotels out of the mix but we were able to stay at the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport, Holiday Inn Express in Walnut Creek, CA and the Holiday Inn on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with these free nights.
This card also offers a 10% rebate on all point redemptions, which stacks with the benefits of the IHG Premier.
#5 – Hilton Honors Surpass American Express
The Hilton Honors Surpass card’s benefits aren’t as simple as a free night certificate but might be extra valuable. Cardholders get automatic Hilton Gold status, which is the sweet spot of the Hilton program since it includes upgrades and a food and beverage benefit. Cardholders also get a free night for spending $15,000 in a calendar year. Unlike other cards, this free night has few limitations so you’re free to use it at most Waldorf Astoria or Conrad hotels if you can find space, regardless of how many points the room would cost otherwise.
I’m going to earn that certificate this year, and I’ll let you know how much value we were able to get from it.
#4 – Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business
This card is similar to the Marriott Bonvoy AMEX in that it’s no longer available to new applicants since AMEX has the right to offer new business cards for Marriott. For an annual fee of $99, I get a 35K free night certificate with the ability to add 15K to book a room.
What puts this card higher on the list is that Marriott Bonvoy allows members to stack the 15 status night credits from their personal and business co-brand cards. By keeping this card and a personal card, I’m 30 nights toward the 50 nights required for Platinum status.
If I cancel this card, I’d have to get a Marriott Bonvoy Business AMEX which would cost $125 yearly for similar benefits.
#3 – IHG Premier
This is currently the best IHG co-brand card available. For the $99 annual fee, cardholders get automatic Platinum status in the IHG One Rewards program. They also receive a 40,000-point free night certificate with the ability to add an unlimited number of points to book a free night. To me, that means you’re buying 40K points for $100, which is a steal since I’d be willing to pay 2x as much.
In addition, cardholders get the 4th night free on award stays plus $100 in United TravelBank funds. Did I forget to mention that the IHG Premier also pays for TSA Precheck/Global Entry every 4 years?
#2 – Wyndham Earner Business
We were recently approved for the Wyndham Earner Business card but it’s one that I think we’re going to keep for the long term. That’s because this card offers things we don’t get from other cards. For starters, it’s a great card to earn Wyndham Rewards, with 8X points on Wyndham stays and gas station purchases and 5X on utilities, marketing and advertising.
The card also pays 15K Wyndham Rewards points every year. In 2022, I was able to redeem 15,000 points for a hotel room costing over $200, which is double the $95 annual fee.
In addition, the Wyndham Earner Business card provides automatic Wyndham Diamond status. While that’s nice, you can match that status to Caesars Rewards Diamond which can be quite lucrative if you want to go from casino to casino and match that status between programs.
#1 – World of Hyatt Visa
The World of Hyatt Visa from Chase is currently my favorite co-brand hotel card. For the $95 annual fee, cardholders get a free night at a category 1-4 property. In addition, you can earn an additional free night for spending $15,000 on the card per calendar year. We recently used our free nights to stay at the Grand Hyatt Washington DC, which saved us $950.
Cardholders also get automatic Discoverist status, which isn’t great but will get you free bottles of water.
When I started to rank my cards, I figured that the Hyatt card would be #1 because of the value you can get from a category 1-4 free night certificate. I wasn’t expecting the Wyndham card to capture the #2 slot but when I looked at all the card offers, it provides oversized value for the $95 annual fee.
For the other cards, I mostly view them as a way to prepay $100 or less for hotel rooms that list for over $200. If I could find more IHG hotels for 40K points or less, the IHG Select card would rank much higher on the list.
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