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What is the best HOTEL credit card for long-term spending? (Part 2)

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This is the 2nd part of my analysis into which of the UK hotel-branded credit cards are worth keeping for the long-term.  If you missed Part 1 yesterday, I recommend that you click here to read it before carrying on.

Today I looking at which cards perform best if you are a big spender, able to put £25,000 per year through your card.

Return for spending £25,000 (25% overseas, 5% with the hotel chain that issues the card):

Compared to our £10,000 spend analysis yesterday, there is no change to the results for the first three cards – Hilton, Marriott, free IHG card – because none of these cards offer a bonus for hitting a spend target  (click through the blue links to read my full review of each card):

Hotel logo

Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa:
Base spend: 50,000 points @ 0.3p = £150
Extra points on £1250 of Hilton spend: 1250 points @ 0.3p = £3.75
Fee: nil
Extra benefit: Spending £10,000 triggers a free Hilton HHonors Gold card
Return to cardholder: £153.75 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: 25,000 points @ 0.5p = £125
Extra points on £1250 of IHG spend: 1250 points @ 0.5p = £6.25
Fee: nil, you also receive IHG Gold status – this has no real value however
Return to cardholder: £131.25 (0.52% of spend)

Marriott Rewards MasterCard:
Base spend: 25,000 points @ 0.5p = £125
Extra points on £1,250 of Marriott spend: 1250 points @ 0.5p = £6.75
Extra points on £6,250 of foreign spend: 6250 points @ 0.5p = £31.25
Fee: nil, you also receive Marriott Silver status – this has only very modest benefits however
Return to cardholder: £163 (0.65% of spend)

The return on the IHG Rewards Club Black Visa falls.  It was a 2.8% return when you spent £10,000 – this is the ‘sweet spot’ because it triggers the free night voucher which is potentially worth £250.  Beyond £10,000 of spend, your return falls away.  When you spend £25,000:

IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa (paid card):
Base spend: 50,000 points @ 0.5p = £250
Extra points on £1,250 of IHG spend: 2,500 points @ 0.5p = £12.50
Extra points on £6,250 of foreign spend: 12,500 points @ 0.5p = £62.50
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: £325 of points + £250 of free night – £99 fee = £476 (1.9% of spend)

The only card to improve its return at £25,000 of spending is the SPG Amex.  When you hit £25,000 in a year, you receive a voucher for a free weekend night in a Category 1-4 Starwood property.  Unfortunately these hotels are generally poor – not weekend break destinations unless the Excel conference centre is a weekend break target for you! – and I only value the voucher at £75.

Spending £15,000 also triggers a free Starwood Gold card.  This has a number of benefits but the only one of real value is free internet (you can choose between a free drink, bonus points or free internet).  At £25,000 spend the numbers are:

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express:
Base spend: 25,000 points @ 1.5p = £375
No foreign or SPG spend bonus
Fee: £75, you also receive SPG Gold status – the main monetary benefit of this is free internet
Extra benefit:  Free weekend night for £25,000 spend at a Category 1-4 hotel, valued at £75
Return to cardholder: £375 of points – £75 fee + £75 free night value = £375 (1.5% of card spend)

As you can see, even at £25,000 of annual spending, the Starwood Amex delivers £100 less of value (net of fee) than the IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa card.  In reality, though, anyone who has the IHG Black card is likely to stop using it when they hit the £10,000 target to trigger the free night and then move their spend elsewhere.

In the US, the Starwood Amex was the best loyalty credit card for many years and it is still very well regarded.  With an overhaul it could become a real winner here as well.  At the moment, if you want a hotel credit card to hold long-term alongside an airline card you should focus on IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa as these two articles show.

(Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.)

Comments (16)

  • D9 says:

    I don’t have a marriott cc so do correct me if I am wrong. However, I thought the card came with 10 elite nights. Yes this gets you silver status, but more importantly they contribute to obtaining/keeping gold or platinum status, which, in Asia at least, are very worthwhile. (Eg last night in KL upgraded to a suite, and given access to an empty lounge with a 4hr cocktail/food offer)

    • Rob says:

      You are correct, I simplified things for clarity. My full review of the card does outline it correctly.

  • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    I appreciate the benefits of keeping your spend model simple, but I’d argue that anyone spending >6k abroad each year would want to invest in a no-fx card, so you should perhaps at least caveat the IHG numbers with the £180 fx fees that would be a real cash cost. In reality, I agree that you’re more likely to use the offshore spend to help hit the £10k.

    • Rob says:

      Not necessarily. I don’t have an FX free card to keep down card numbers – I know I should – and for a lot of HFP readers foreign spend is reimbursable business travel in part.

      • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

        I was half considering citing you as the exception!

        • Rob says:

          No FX fee cards have proved unsuccessful, unfortunately. I don’t actually know anyone who has one amongst my circle of heavy traveller oddly.

          Given the size of the hotel bill we will be paying in Germany in August, I should get onto it. Our last few holidays were hotel redemptions so card spend was more modest.

          • Alan says:

            Interesting – by comparison quite a lot of the folk I know have got one – perhaps the difference between Scots and Londoners though 😉 If only we could have the lovely setup they have in the US of Amex with lots of benefits AND fee-free FX!

  • Lostantipod says:

    Spot on Raffles… I have some of these cards and stop using them when I reach the £10k threshold. Fortunately the anniversary dates of my cards (including BA PP) are staggered through the year, so I just move from one to the next .

  • sandgrounder says:

    I was at the Aloft near Excel for a two day break to see Katy Perry at the O2 in May. I quite enjoyed it, we took the cable car over to the venue, had a walk round the docks and watched the planes land at LCY. It was nice and chilled for a London visit, and right next to the DLR station.

  • Adam W says:

    Given that in a previous post you state that “most readers are waiting to redeem them for a free meal in The Shard”, I wonder just how realistic this analysis can be if you are basing it on an overseas spend of 25%! It seems that you assume that most of your readers don’t actually seem to travel that much but think that 25% of their spend happens overseas. It does not compute!!!

    • Alan says:

      Although spending abroad and being able to use Shangri-La vouchers at one of their few properties (compared to most hotel chains) may not have much overlap 😉

    • Rob says:

      Shangri La hotels are few and far between. I have stayed in one in 25 years of travel!

      • Adam W says:

        That’s irrelevant as you don’t need to be a hotel guest to redeem the voucher. How many cities have you visited that have at least one Shangri-La property?

    • Scotlish says:

      Considering the lack of Shangri-La hotels that there are outside of Asia, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that most British readers (this is a largely British site I believe) would wait to get a booking at Gong/Ting at Shangri-La at The Shard rather than go to the next closest place which would appear to be in Paris or wait until they’re in Asia or the Middle East which has the highest concentrations of Shangri-La properties compared to the Americas and Europe.

      • Rob says:

        79 per cent UK readers, a figure which remains wierdly fixed month after month! US is the 2nd biggest with 8 per cent and wierldy Germany 3rd (and they are not all my wifes relatives!).

  • Paul says:

    Am I the only one having problems trying to make an application for the Hilton Visa?