A common question is – which hotel card is the “best” keeper card? The answer to this question essentially YMMV. It ultimately depends on various factors such as: what chains are available in places you wish to visit, what brands you prefer, how important status is to you, how much do you value certain points, how much AF, if any, you are willing to pay, and so forth.
Now, as far as I am concerned, below is how I generally rank my keeper hotel cards. Please do note that I am generally open to paying AF granted I think I will get “good” value out of the card. Before you pass judgement on my choices, do understand that what I find to be “good” value might not necessarily be the same for you. That said, here is the list:
- AF $49 (waived first year)
- Signup bonus: 60k-80k (plus $50 credit)
- you can generally get Chase to match you to 80k offer. However, they will not match you $ value. Sometimes, you will see $ offer when you attempt to book through IHG site.
- Annual free night (any hotel)
- Platinum status
- key benefits include extended check-out, free internet, no expiration of points, complimentary room upgrade, and 50% bonus earning rate. You can check out all the benefits by clicking here.
Why is this card an absolute must have?
- The AF is rather low yet the annual free night is of rather high value. There is no category restriction for annual free night, so you could redeem it at fairly expensive hotels, including Intercontinental brand. For example, InterConentinental Bora Bora Thalasso can cost approximately $ 1k a night but can be booked with an annual free night.
- Additionally, every quarter some IHG hotels fall under pointbreaks offer and will only cost 5k a night. Obviously, not all these hotels will work for you but when they do it is pretty good deal. You can click here to see which hotels currently fall under pointbreaks.
- This card is excellent for couples. For $98, you could spend a weekend at an excellent hotel. I would highly suggest you try to sync your card anniversary date. In other words, if your card anniversary is January then try to have your SO signup around the same month.
- AF $75 (waived first year)
- Signup bonus: two days at any Hyatt property (+5k for AU)
- Annual free night (up to category 4)
- Platinum status
- key benefits include free internet, late checkout, 15% bonus earning rate, and free upgrade. You can check out all the benefits by clicking here
Generally speaking, IHG card is ranked as #1 hotel card. After that, in my opinion, it is largely YMMV. Some folks rank Marriott #2 but I choose to put Hyatt as #2 on this list. Why?
- While (in comparison to Marriott) Hyatt properties are limited, I value the luxury aspect of it quite a bit. As a general rule of thumb, category 4 Hyatt is far better than category 5 Marriott property that comes with Marriott cards.
- Hyatt points are of good value. Hyatt card is one of the few hotel card that I would use at the corresponding hotel. 3 Hyatt point/$ is generally better than 2 UR (from CSP) or 3 TYP (from Prestige or Premier) per $ you would earn from a hotel stay.
- I do not feel guilty about transferring UR to Hyatt. In fact, Hyatt is one of my preferred transfer partner. It is often possible to get ~ 2 ccp from Hyatt points.
- As with IHG, if you and your SO have the card, then a weekend at Hyatt category 4 for 2 x 75 = $150 is a solid deal for many.
Club Carlson Business (US Bank)
Some of you are probably flipping why Club Carlson is ranked #3 on my list. You’re probably yelling “BOGO is dead!” and “this card isn’t good anymore”. Well, I have good reasons for listing it as high as I have. You can read it on detail in my previous post.
Why didn’t Marriott make the cut?
First, let me make it clear – if I had to choose a 4th card, Marriott would be my choice. However, since I am already investing a decent chunk of money with other three cards, I can hardly justify getting yet another hotel card where annual free night certificate expires. Additionally, while Marriott has a lot of properties, the annual free nights aren’t as easy to redeem, Marriott category 5 isn’t all that impressive, the AF is higher than above mentioned card, and the status that comes with the card is near useless.
Why didn’t Hilton Reserve make the cut?
While Hilton Reserve gives a free night, you really have to spend 10k to get there. Although Reserve gives you gold status (yay free breakfast!), you can get the same status by holding Hilton Surpass or any Amex Platinum card. Additionally, Hilton often runs status match so it isn’t difficult to get high status with them (I currently have diamond).
Why didn’t Fairmont make the cut?
Fairmont is an excellent keeper card, granted you often stay at Fairmont. But their properties are very limited, their entire brand is on the high end of things, and they don’t have any loyalty points of their own.