If you are an avid traveler, it’s likely that you’ve been tempted to apply for a hotel credit card at one time or another. The best hotel cards out there offer a variety of benefits for everyday and travel spending, giving consumers the opportunity to earn rewards such as free hotel stays and upgraded accommodations.
But are these rewards all they are advertised to be? Let’s explore what hotel rewards credit cards are and how this type of loyalty program may or may not benefit consumers.
What are hotel rewards credit cards?
Hotel credit cards enable the holder to book free nights at a variety of hotels around the world. They advertise fantastic rewards and exclusive cardholder perks (late checkouts, loyalty program status upgrades, free in-room internet, etc.) to enhance your travel experience. When searching for the best hotel credit card that is going to give you the most for your spending habits, experts recommend keeping these criteria in mind:
- Available introductory point bonuses and your ability to meet the card’s initial spending requirements.
- Rewards for different spending categories, and how this fits in with your day-to-day spending.
- Hotel upgrades, add-ons, and perks to make your stay more enjoyable.
- Annual, as well as foreign, transaction fees. Will the card give you enough value to justify these fees?
What’s the big deal?
At this point, you may be thinking that a hotel rewards credit card sounds like a pretty great deal – but is it really? The travel industry is one of the largest industries in the US, contributing a total of 1.5 trillion dollars to the GDP in 2015. While it may seem that they certainly have enough money to give away a night or two, that’s just not how big business works. In fact, with the amount of money that it costs to simply maintain a luxury hotel, they aren’t likely to start giving away rooms for free anytime soon.
Generally speaking, rewards cards often have the highest APRs, in part to help pay for all of the points, fancy hotel stays, and miles they are dishing out. As such, hotel rewards cards probably aren’t the best idea if you find yourself in a situation where you need to carry a revolving debt for a period of time. In fact, experts say that in some circumstances the fees can far outweigh the benefits of reward and loyalty credit cards.
When is a hotel reward credit card a good idea?
While anyone who chooses to join a rewards or loyalty program should do so with caution, there are steps that consumers can take to make the most of out of their hotel rewards credit card. Before you apply for a credit card, it’s important to understand the offer, along with the card’s terms and agreements. Read through the fine print before you apply to help you understand just what type of contract you are entering into.
Whenever possible save large purchases for low-interest cards. You may feel like you are missing out on your “rewards,” but you’ll probably save more than that free night stay would have been worth anyway. You know that your “frequent-flyer miles” are far from free, so save your reward cards for small purchases that you know you can pay within the month’s billing cycle.
Different people have different opinions about what the “best” hotel credit card is. No card is universally superior to another. Just like any other credit card you apply for, you’ll want to understand your commitment and make the best choice for your spending habits and style.