I’ve mentioned before that many of my husband’s relatives come to me for credit card advice. Here is a recent email from one of them:
I was wondering if you could suggest a good card offer. We have to pay $2,300 in taxes and were thinking that’s a good opportunity to get some points. I am not sure if airline or hotel bonuses are better. We won’t be able to use miles for a while. Do you have any suggestions for what is good right now? Also, thank you so much for the gift and the gift card. I ordered a baby tub. :)”
As you’ve probably figured out, this person is having a baby and won’t be able to do a whole lot of travel within the next few years. Normally, my advice to families is to pursue cash or mileage sign-up bonuses before going after hotel points. But there are exceptions, and this is one of them. I know this person’s spending habits and the fact that she uses debit card and cash for everything and really doesn’t like credit cards. So, I had to stick to recommending offers that wouldn’t require more than $2,000 in minimum spending.
In this particular case, IMO hotel bonuses make the most sense. I also didn’t want them to deal with certificates that happen to have expiration date. So, it seemed better to go after hotel points. There were three cards to consider: Chase IHG MasterCard, Chase Marriott Rewards Premier credit card and Citi Hilton HHonors Signature Visa. You can read about all of them here
Since this family lives in Florida, without hesitation, I recommended Chase IHG MasterCard in each of their names. Incidentally, it’s the only one out of the three that doesn’t pay me referral. Citi offer was recently added to my affiliate channel. Miracle of miracles! Side note: many times cards that don’t pay me commission one day, will the following day. Please, always double check before applying in case you want to support my site.
Anyway, I couldn’t in good faith recommend any other card. And I think if you are in a similar situation where you are looking to get a decent hotel points’ offer, this should be your top pick. I wrote about some issues with IHG program here (with link to info on how to apply for 80K sign-up bonus) and here But in spite of all its flaws, this is an excellent card to keep long-term.
You get a rebate of 10% on all of your redemptions and Platinum status that is far from being worthless, no matter what hobby experts say. And best of all, for $49 renewal fee, you’ll get to stay in any IHG property in the chain. And there are lots of them. This particular family lives in Florida and can use the certificate at any beachfront Holiday Inn. BTW don’t pay any attention when I complain about breakfast at Holiday Inn Express. Sure, it’s not spectacular, but it’s free, and it’s better than most breakfasts I usually have at home.
However, there are situations where you might want to consider those two other offers instead. One of them: you hate IHG hotels. And I’m not being sarcastic or judgmental. If you don’t like this brand and try to avoid it like a plague, then no reason to get IHG offer. You deserve to be happy on your vacations.
Another reason: perhaps you have a ton of IHG points already and have a hard time using them up as it is. Maybe destinations you are thinking about visiting don’t have any decent IHG hotels, so you have to look elsewhere. With that:
Consider Marriott offer if:
1) You really like Marriott brand. Duh! I’ve never stayed in any Marriott hotel that wasn’t nice and where rooms were not well-appointed. I love Residence Inn for family travel, and even a lowly Fairfield Inn will usually be a notch above Holiday Inn Express.
In spite of upcoming overall devaluation, there are many Marriott properties in US that cost only 7,500 or 10,000 points per night. No, none of them are resorts at the beach, but the value is still there. Need to visit in-laws but don’t want to stay at their house? These points could come in handy.
With “5th night free” benefit, you can get 2 rooms at a category 2 property just from one bonus. That’s a nice incentive for large families who can’t fit in one room. See corresponding categories and properties here Keep in mind, this information will change as of March 24th
Sure, nice Marriott properties can be expensive, but there are bargains to be had. If you like golf, check out this World Golf Village Renaissance St. Augustine resort It costs only 20,000 points and rates hover around $240 per night. So, just one bonus will pay for a 5-night getaway. You can even bring kids along if you wish. I love this area and historic St. Augustine itself. There is so much to do!
2) You need to top off your balance to make a “flight+hotel package” redemption. This is probably the most compelling reason to apply for Marriot offer. If you need extra points so you can qualify for Southwest Companion Pass, definitely consider it.
Consider Citi Hilton offer if:
1) You like Hilton brand. I know it sounds obvious, but so many things in this hobby are totally subjective. I always chuckle when blogs pronounce Amex Delta 50,000 mile sign-up bonus to be worthless. Why? You can redeem it for $500 off Delta flights, and for Delta-hub captive it’s anything but worthless.
Anyway, if you like Hilton and are reasonably sure that you’ll be able to use HHonors points in a near future, by all means, consider it. I wrote about Amex Hilton Surpass offer (another decent bonus at the moment), and the same principles will apply to this card as well. Keep in mind, you can only get Amex sign-up bonus once per lifetime. With Citi, you are eligible once your current Hilton card has been cancelled for over 18 months. So, the choice is yours. Read my post for more on this topic.
2) You can’t (or don’t want to) apply for Chase offers at this particular time. Perhaps you already have several cards with that bank and are not sure you’ll be approved for any more. If you are just looking to accumulate hotel points speculatively, Hilton offer is a decent one. For now.
3) You don’t like to pay an annual fee upfront. Marriott offer comes with $85 fee, not waived.
In general, I recommend you have some sort of a plan when it comes to hotel points. This is the most vulnerable hobby currency, and you may be stuck with points that are worth half of what they were just 2 years prior. Still, for families who don’t fly a whole lot, and who are looking for ways to do a road trip on a budget, these offers certainly make sense.
Readers, are you planning to apply for any of these cards?
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.