Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

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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 (June 2023)

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 £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 13th June, the sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card is doubled to 60,000 Membership Rewards points – and you get £200 to spend at Amex Travel too! Apply here.

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

60,000 points AND a £200 Amex Travel voucher until 13th June! 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

Get a 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.

EDIT: Applications for this card are temporarily suspended due to IT issues with the British Airways On Business SME loyalty scheme.

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 bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year 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.

  • Colin MacKinnon says:

    Hi Raffles,

    You wrote:

    “value from other Amex-branded travel cards (BA Amex 1.5 Avios per £1, Virgin Black 2 miles per £1, American Airlines 2 miles per £1 etc)”

    Where can I get 2 AA miles per £ – favouring them much more than BA now.

    • Rob says:

      Typo, sorry! I was thinking of the VS card.

    • Brendan says:

      You get 1.5 miles per £ using the AA Amex. It’s also supposed to be double that for buying fuel and grocery shopping but not sure if people actually get it!

  • Britbronco22 says:

    You forgot to include the 2k per year you get for free on the Marriott card if you keep it active. No harm in keeping this card.
    Also if you deduct the fees it’s not fair to claim the BA Amex earns 1.5% as you should deduct the £150 fee to be consistent.
    Last time I checked Hilton also provides Silver with no minimum spend requirement, I have received upgrades for Silver before, so not totally worthless.

    • Rob says:

      That’s true but of course you would (at £10k) have triggered the 241 on the BAPP Amex.

  • Fenny says:

    I know this is about long term spend, but Hilton give a voucher for a free weekend night after £750 spend. That’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

    • Roger says:

      Every year? I don’t think so! AFAIK it’s an introductory bonus.

      • Fenny says:

        Yes, but it’s still worth having in the first year.

        • Roger says:

          Sure, but the thread title is ‘What is the best HOTEL credit card for long-term spending? (Part 1)’.

          In my book, ‘first year’ does not mean ‘long-term spending’. I have the HHonors card, had the first year hotel night and see no future nights for £750 spend coming up.

  • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    1) Would you ever use these cards at the hotel chains? They will all take Amex, so most people here would use an Amex card with a better rewards rate. You could probably make the same argument for foreign spend if you had e.g. a Clarity card.

    2) The IHG Black Visa is heavily swung by the £250 for the free night. No doubt that’s a fair cash price, but the value might well be lower, especially if you’ve (presumably) got quite a few points with IHG.

    • Rob says:

      IHG points never expire so you don’t necessarily need to discount the value.

      Technically I should have valued the free night at £200, I suppose, since the ‘cash and points’ trick lets you buy 50k IHG for $350 which would cover any free night – although that does not skew the overall conclusion. And only a few people know about the ‘cash and points’ trick ….

  • mrtibbs1999 says:

    Where can I get the IHG card from Raffles? I’m very interested in getting one?

    • Rob says:

      They were meant to be relaunched on 23 June. Old cardholders have got the new one but they are delaying reopening applications for reasons no one quite understands.

      • mrtibbs1999 says:

        That’s very strange. Hopefully we will find out the reason soon.

      • nick says:

        How odd. I applied for the new hhonors card on 1 July and have been accepted, seems odd that barclaycard are delaying the relaunch of ihg, which was supposed to be ready earlier

        • Fenny says:

          I’ve had trouble with the Barclays site registering my new HHonors card due to site problems. Not bothered trying this last week.

          • Ken says:

            I too have had problems with the HHonorcard change over, to the extent I had to phone up to make a payment,. Really annoying and they still haven’t answered my emails.

          • Paul says:

            I’ave been trying to apply for a hhonors card the last two days but getting no where. The site keeps popping up with a sign saying no new applications accepted until July 1st…

          • Elena says:

            Good I am not the only one that has problems, I was going to give them a call and check.

      • George says:

        Latest on the IHG cards from Barclaycard via Tweeter is September

        I guess Priority Club veterans can claim exclusivity for the summer months now!

  • Roger says:

    I found the summary useful , even if my AAdvantage AmEx only gives me 1.5 AA miles per £.

    Andrew makes two good points. I would only use a hotel credit card for introductory bonuses. Other cards give a better return
    Now if any of these cards charged 0% for foreign spend, that could be a different matter, but I’m not holding my breath.

  • Boi says:

    Very nice summary, on that front can I ask which cards give >= 0.5% cash back? I am still on the look out for a visa card with good returns. even one with fee free foreign spend….

  • lostantipod says:

    I do the same sort of analysis and reach pretty much the same conclusion, but with different assumptions. This led me to keep my Hilton card but give up my Marriott card, and when the time comes, I’ll reapply for a new account bonus :).

    There are some other factors I take into account as well. The Hilton Gold status and the Platinum status from the PCR Black Visa drive a points multiplier on stays , which has some value (and I also assume more stays p,a, based on my work travels, so this has more weight on the £ outcome). All these cards also attract a 3% FX fee when used overseas, which I also take into account as an “opportunity cost”, because there are FX fee-free cards out there. Finally, I would add that the Hilton Gold membership can result in the occasional upgrade which is of some nominal value (eg. Gold status helped me blag my way up from a single-bed room I had booked on points – my mistake , although the website was not clear on this – up to a standard newly renovated room)

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