Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

What is the best hotel credit card for long-term spending? (Part 1)

Links on Head for Points may support the site by paying a commission.  See here for all partner links.

Today and tomorrow, I am going to take a look at the four major hotel credit cards – Hilton, Starwood, Marriott and IHG Rewards Club – to see if any of them are worth keeping in your wallet for the long term.

This analysis ignores the value of any sign-up bonus as I am keen to look beyond that and see if any of these cards deserve a permanent place in your life.

This was a complex analysis because the cards offer a different mix of features:

Some offer bonus points when you spend abroad

Some offer bonus points when you spend with the hotel chain that issued the card

Some offer extra benefits for hitting a certain annual spend threshold – and often these benefits are intangible and tricky to value

Two of the card carry an annual fee

You also need to put a cash value on the points earned.  This is my valuation model:

Hilton HHonors – 0.3p per point

Marriott Rewards and IHG Rewards Club – 0.5p per point

Starwood Preferred Guest – 1.5p per point

With Hilton, Marriott and IHG these valuations are based roughly on the points required for a £250 per night five-star hotel.  With Starwood, who charge a disproportionate premium for their top hotels, I have based it on a high-end four star whilst also remembering that you can convert 1 SPG point into 1.25 airline miles.

Apart from Marriott, I have made multiple bookings for all of these chains in 2014 so I am happy with my numbers.  If you don’t agree, it is easy enough to slot in your own valuation.

Today I want to look at the return you get for spending £10,000 on each of these cards.  Tomorrow I will look at the impact of spending £25,000.  I have assumed that 25% of the spending takes place abroad and 5% is in hotels linked to the card issuer.

Full details of the benefits and earning rates for each card can be found in the reviews I link to below (click the blue link for the review).

Your return for spending £10,000

Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa:
Base spend: 20,000 points @ 0.3p = £60
Extra points on £500 of Hilton spend: 500 points @ 0.3p = £1.50
Fee: nil
Extra benefit:  Spending £10,000 triggers a free Hilton HHonors Gold card
Return to cardholder:  £61.50 plus a Hilton HHonors Gold card (0.61% of spend plus the value of HH Gold, this has value as you will receive free internet and free breakfast)

IHG Rewards Club Visa (free version):
Base spend: 10,000 points @ 0.5p = £50
Extra points on £500 of IHG spend: 500 points @ 0.5p = £2.50
Fee: nil, you also receive IHG Gold status – this has no real value however
Return to cardholder: £52.50 (0.52% of spend)

IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa (paid card):
Base spend: 20,000 points @ 0.5p = £100
Extra points on £500 of IHG spend: 1,000 points @ 0.5p = £5
Extra points on £2,500 of foreign spend: 5,000 points @ 0.5p = £25
Fee: £99, you also receive IHG Platinum status – this has only very modest benefits however
Extra benefit:  Spending £10,000 triggers a voucher for a free night at ANY IHG hotel.  I assume you use this at an InterContinental for a room worth £250
Return to cardholder: £130 of points + £250 of free night – £99 fee = £281 (2.8% of spend)

Marriott Rewards Mastercard:
Base spend: 10,000 points @ 0.5p = £50
Extra points on £500 Marriott spend: 500 points @ 0.5p = £2.50
Extra points on £2,500 of foreign spend: 2,500 points @ 0.5p = £12.50
Fee: nil, you also receive Marriott Silver status – this has only very modest benefits however
Return to cardholder: £65 (0.65% of spend)

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express:
Base spend: 10,000 points @ 1.5p = £150
No foreign or SPG spend bonus
Fee: £75, you also receive SPG Preferred Guest Plus status – the benefits of this are intangible (4pm check-out, ‘enhanced’ room)
Return to cardholder:  £150 – £75 = £75 (0.75% of card spend)

The results of this analysis are not great news, to be honest.   The stand-out winner is the IHG Rewards Club Premium card which, even adjusting for the £99 fee, would get you £281 of ‘value’ for spending £10,000.

The other cards do not perform incredibly well.  If you can find a Visa or Mastercard cashback card paying 0.5% or more then – as cash is more flexible than points – I would choose that over the Hilton, Marriott or free IHG cards.

The SPG Amex is especially poor at the level of £10,000 annual spend.  You can easily get 1.5%+ of value from other Amex-branded travel cards (BA Amex 1.5 Avios per £1 plus the value of the 241 voucher at £10000 – albeit with a £150 fee, American Airlines / Lufthansa / Etihad 1.5 miles per £1 on a free card etc) compared to 0.75% here.

Tomorrow, I look at whether a heavy spender of £25,000 per year gets a better return or not as various bonuses kick in.


How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (May 2024)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £15,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital on Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital on Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,000 points bonus – plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and FREE for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (31)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • What's the Point says:

    I am always a bit surprised that IHG, Hilton and Marriott don’t offer AMEX cards in the UK.

    • Rob says:

      …. especially as Barclays has now started issuing Amex cards. I expected the relaunched Hilton and IHG cards to be a double pack, but no.

  • nerd. says:

    As per a previous commentor, I wouldn’t use any of these cards for overseas spending given the high fees (happy with my Halifax Clarity credit card for that!)

  • Andy says:

    The HHonors Gold card works for me as four x breakfasts per day is worth a fair bit (2 x adults and 2 x kids) – especially on our Florida trip. The points earned with the £10K spend also help here as a couple of Hilton resorts offer the Points + money option so we can get a room for $40+8000 points (for example). I don’t the card for overseas spend though due it’s 2.99% loading.

  • Lostantipod says:

    Your capital one analysis is not like for like – this thread is about long term spend and excludes first year benefits in arriving at its answers. I don’t recall what They were, but the IHG card came with first year benefits on top of the analysis used at the start of the thread.

    • SingingDwarf says:

      My comment does include detail of long term spend – it does not concentrate on first year benefits only.

      I did however forget to include the annual fee in my calculations. In my defence, it was late though!

      As they say, cash is king! Hotel chains devalue points frequently, usually by more than inflation devalues cash!

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.