Many of us aren’t currently doing much traveling, but we are still earning points through credit card spend. This brings up the question of which cards to use and which types of rewards to focus on.  Nick recently took a look at some current hotel credit card promotions and answered the question of whether it was better to earn 12X Hilton points or 6X Marriott.  In this post, I stepped back to look at normal non-promotional card earnings.  Specifically, I wanted to see how much credit card spend is normally required to earn free nights at various hotel chains.  To keep things simple, I tackled this question only for Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott.

What’s New

The original version of this post was published on May 14th 2018.  Since then there have been significant changes to credit card bonuses, and I’ve re-thought how to identify mid-tier hotels.  Most importantly, the new version considers the fact that points can be transferred from Amex Membership Rewards to Hilton (1 to 2) or to Marriott (1 to 1).  Here are the specific changes and additions to this post:

  • Updated card names (previously listed Starwood Preferred Guest cards, for example)
  • Removed old Hyatt Visa Signature card and added World of Hyatt card
  • Added Chase Ink Unlimited card.
  • Added a number of Amex Membership Rewards cards.  With the Blue Business Plus offering 2X everywhere (up to $50K spend), and the Amex Gold Card offering up to 4X, the new numbers in this post are very different from before.
  • Changed the mid-tier hotel targets.  Previously I estimated the number of points required for a mid-tier hotel by using our Reasonable Redemption Values and an average hotel night cost.  In the new version, I picked a mid-tier category that is actually available on the award charts (or, in Hilton’s case, is a common award cost).

Credit Card Options

The following credit cards can be used to earn points in each hotel program:

Hyatt Point Earning Cards

Cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points are included next because Chase points can be transferred one to one to Hyatt as long as you have one of the cards with a fee.  In other words, you can earn 5X rewards with the no-fee Freedom and/or Ink Business Cash card and then move those points to a card with a fee (Sapphire Reserve, for example), then transfer to Hyatt:

Hyatt Best Options for Spend

  • No Category
    • 1.5X: Freedom Unlimited or Ink Business Unlimited
  • Gas
  • Office Supply Stores
    • 5X: Ink Business Cash (Up to $25K/year)
  • Dining
    • 3X: Sapphire Reserve
    • 2X: Hyatt, Sapphire Preferred, Ink Business Cash
  • Travel
    • 3X: Sapphire Reserve, Ink Business Preferred (Up to $150K/year 3X categories)
    • 2X: Hyatt, Sapphire Preferred
  • Rotating Categories
    • 5X: Freedom (Up to $1,500 per quarter)

Hilton Point Earning Cards

Cards that earn Amex Membership Rewards points are included next because Amex points transfer 1 to 2 to Hilton (and sometimes more when Amex offers a transfer bonus).  To calculate the number of Hilton points earned with each card, simply double the card’s earning rate.  For example, the Amex Gold Card earns 4X points at restaurants and so you can say that it earns 8X Hilton points at restaurants:

American Express® Business Gold Card

Earning rate: Earn 4X on the two categories where your business spends the most each billing cycle from the following categories: ⚬ US purchases at restaurants ⚬ Airfare purchased directly from airlines ⚬ U.S. purchases for advertising in select media ⚬ U.S. purchases at gas stations ⚬ U.S. purchases for shipping ⚬ U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers. 4X applies to first $150,000 in combined purchases in your two categories each calendar year, 1X point per dollar thereafter and on other purchases. Terms apply.
American Express® Gold Card

Earning rate: 3X points for flights booked with airlines or on amextravel.com ⚬ 4x points at US Supermarkets (up to $25K in purchases, then 1x) ⚬ 4x at restaurants worldwide ⚬ 1X points on other purchases. Terms apply.
American Express® Green Card

Earning rate: ⚬ 3X on travel & transit (including flights, hotels, taxis, and rideshares) ⚬ 3X dining ⚬ 1X points on other purchases. Terms apply. See
The Amex EveryDay Preferred Card (with 30 purchases per billing cycle)

Earning rate: Earn 50% more points: Use your Card 30 or more times on purchases in a billing period and get 50% more points on those purchases less returns and credits. With 30 or more purchases, earn: 4.5x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1.5x) ⚬ 3x points at US gas stations ⚬ 1.5x points on other purchases.
The Platinum Card® from American Express

Earning rate: 5X points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel ⚬ 5X points for prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel

Hilton Best Options for Spend

  • No Category
    • 4X: Blue…

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