Update: Some offers mentioned below may have changed or are no longer available. View current credit card offerings from our partners at CardCritics here or on the issuer’s website.
If you aren’t a travel insider, you may not know that for about 20 years, the Starwood American Express card was one of the most powerful travel rewards credit cards in the world. It used to offer one Starwood point per dollar spent, and those points could be used for free nights or transferred to airline miles. But then Marriott bought Starwood, slashed the value of the legendary rewards this card offered and eventually phased it out in February.
Existing cardholders will receive a new card with the Marriott Bonvoy name, which is what the combined rewards program is now being called. But this card is just a shadow of what the old card used to be, as it offers the equivalent of two-thirds of the old card’s rewards. So instead of continuing to pay the annual fee for the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card, here are some of the best rewards credit cards that you should be using instead, depending on what kinds of perks you’re looking for.
1. To Earn Lots of Free Night Stays: World of Hyatt Card From Chase
I’m a huge fan of this Hyatt credit card, which offers new applicants up to 50,000 bonus points. First, you earn 25,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening, and an additional 25,000 bonus points after you spend $6,000 total on purchases within the first six months of account opening. You also earn 4x points for purchases at Hyatt Hotels, 2x points at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline, local transit and commuting as well as fitness club and gym memberships — plus one point per dollar spent elsewhere.
But what makes this one of the best credit cards for rewards is how valuable those points are. You can stay in many Hyatt Place and Hyatt House properties for as little as 5,000 points per night, although most are 8,000 points and a small number are 12,000 or 15,000 points. There are also many Grand Hyatt and Hyatt Regency Properties for 12,000 or 15,000 points per night, but some are higher. The all-inclusive Hyatt Ziva and Zilara properties are between 20,000 and 25,000 points per night.
I also love that you get Hyatt’s entry-level Discover status, as well as five night-stay credits that will be added toward your higher status levels. Finally, you get one free night every year at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort every year after your cardmember anniversary, and you can earn an extra free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort if you spend $15,000 during your cardmember anniversary year. So by the time you’ve spent $15,000, you’ll have earned two free nights plus at least 15,000 bonus points, which could be redeemed for as many as three more free nights. That doesn’t even include the 50,000 points you get from the sign-up bonus — pretty amazing for a card with a $95 annual fee.
2. To Earn Lots of Points From Travel: Chase Sapphire Reserve
This card offers bonus points on all travel and dining expenses, including stays at any hotel. These points are worth one and a half cents each toward travel booked through Chase, or you can transfer them to airline miles or points with hotels including Marriott, Hyatt and IHG. You also get a $300 annual travel statement credit, a $100 Global Entry fee credit and a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership. There’s a $550 annual fee for this card but think of it as a $250 net cost after the $300 annual travel fee credit. And if that’s too steep for you, consider the $95 Sapphire Preferred card which offers bonus points on travel and dining, but doesn’t have the fee credits or lounge access.
3. To Get Instant Top-Tier Status: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
If you want to be treated like royalty every time you stay at a hotel, then you need top-tier elite status. You could get Ambassador Elite status with the Marriott Bonvoy program by staying 100 nights a year and spending $20,000 at their hotels. Or, you can just get the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and enjoy Hilton Diamond status from day one. This status offers you free breakfasts, executive lounge access, room upgrades, late checkouts and a bunch of other perks.
You also get 150,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $4,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. Other benefits of the Hilton Aspire card include a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, a $100 Hilton on-property credit and a $250 airline fee credit. There’s a $450 annual fee for this card. If that’s too expensive, think about the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend card for $95. It offers you instant Gold status plus Diamond status when you spend $40,000 per year, making it one of the credit cards with the best rewards.
Click through to read more about how you can use credit card rewards to get a kitchen upgrade.
More on Credit Card Rewards
- Best Cash-Back Credit Cards
- The Top 10 Most Exclusive Black Cards You Don’t Know About
- How to Travel the World for Practically Free
- Watch: Top Hotel Reward Programs That Can Save You the Most Money
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