While airline reward credit cards enjoy more attention, hotel reward credit cards can be surprisingly valuable. The reason is that airlines are making fewer seats available for mileage awards, and charging more miles for privilege of doing so.
On the other hand, many hotel chains now offer any available standard room for an award, with no blackout dates or capacity controls. Many programs also have airline partners that you can transfer points to, so you have more options on how to spend your points. Here is an assessment of the value the major hotel loyalty programs, and their co-branded credit cards.
Starwood Preferred Guest
The Starwood Preferred Guest program includes over 1,200 hotels and resorts, in nearly 100 countries, over nine brands: St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, W, Le Meridien, Westin, Sheraton, aloft, element, and Four Points.
SPG is a favorite among frequent travelers due to the high points value of Starpoints (around 2 cents per point). Free award nights start at 2,000 Starpoints with no blackout dates. Upgrades start at 1,000 Starpoints. If you redeem five nights, you get the fifth night free (except for Category 1 and 2 hotels). You can also get 50% off regular RACK rates by spending 1,000 Starpoints and booking up to 5 nights.
Hilton HHonors includes more than 4,200 hotels and resorts worldwide include brands such as Conrad, Canopy, Curio, DoubleTree, Embassy suites, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites, Home2 Suites, and the Waldorf Astoria. Hilton HHonors points are worth about a half a cent each.
Award nights start at 5,000 HHonors points, with no blackout dates. Silver, Gold and Diamond elite members receive every 5th night free on reward stays of 5 consecutive nights or more.