Should You Bother with Hotel Credit Cards?

Earlier this year, my husband and I both signed up for the Hilton Aspire credit card to cash in on the insane perks — things like the 100K signup bonus, automatic Hilton Diamond status, $250 resort credit, $250 airline credit, and free weekend night. Later in the year, my husband also signed up for the Hilton Business credit card to earn an additional 100,000 points.

Between those bonuses, some remaining Hilton points from hotel stays, and regular spending, we now have around 680,000 Hilton Honors points.

Across other hotel credit cards and loyalty programs, we also have 300,000 Radisson Rewards points, around 10,000 starpoints, two free IHG nights to spend at any IHG property worldwide, and a free Hyatt night at a Category 1-4 property.

At the moment, these points are becoming difficult to use. I *am* planning a big Hilton trip somewhere, but I can’t seem to decide when and where. I also likely have more points than I need, since I was considering staying in a property that’s 95,000 points per night for four nights and getting a 5th night free.

I’m at a total loss for the Radisson Rewards, and the random free nights may not be used for a while.

This brings me back to the point of this post: Is pursuing hotel rewards and hotel nights worth it?

What I Love (and Hate) About Hotel Credit Cards

In a lot of ways, I think pursuing hotel points is absolutely worth it. The free nights many hotel cards offer make renewing the card and paying the annual fee is a steal in many cases. Plus, I can usually use our random free nights for hotel stays on the way to see our in-laws or for staging at a hotel the night before a flight. I also love racking up huge stashes of hotel points for fancy stays in hotels I wouldn’t normally pay for. With our Hilton Honors points, for example, I have flirted with the idea of spending five nights at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island or splurging for a few nights at the Rome Cavalieri Hotel in Italy when I go again next April.

Still, I definitely think you need to plan a little if you want to put hotel points to good use. Not only are hotel programs devaluing all the time, but it’s easy to forget you have points or free low-tier nights with some programs if you don’t keep track.

Another factor that makes it difficult for us to use hotel points is the fact we travel with our kids a lot. While you can use hotel points for stays in many destinations like the Caribbean and book a room for four, it is almost possible to use hotel points for a family in Europe unless you can book a suite or want to book two rooms. Most of the time, we prefer a condo with a few bedrooms when we travel with our kids anyway.

The Case for Flexible Rewards

This is part of the reason we focus a lot of our spending on flexible rewards cards — specifically cards affiliated with Chase Ultimate Rewards and my Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard. While Chase Ultimate Rewards lets you transfer points 1:1 to popular programs like Hyatt, IHG Rewards, Marriott, and Ritz Carlton, you can also book hotels — and even condos — through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.

I typically use my Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard rewards to book cruises and trains, but I have been known to use them for Airbnb stays, too.

Both of these options are a lot more flexible than hotel points, which are almost always good only for stays with a specific hotel brand.

The Bottom Line

Should you bother earning hotel points? I think it’s smart to rack them up if you have a plan to use them and also diversify with other types of programs. As for me, I’m done racking up hotel points for a while — at least until I can figure out how to spend the ones I have.

Do you rack up hotel points? Why or why not?

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