One of my hands down favorite cards, that I just about never use, is the Chase IHG Hotel card. I have said over and over here on the blog and at different seminars that as long as Chase does not change the card in any way I will keep it till the day I die and keep paying the reasonable $49 yearly fee with glee. Why? It really is simple. Value.
As you can see from the above I recently used a soon to expire cert at the Crown Plaza LAX airport. It is by no means an amazing hotel but it is very near the airport, the shuttle runs 24hrs a day and the rooms are clean and beds are comfortable. As a Platinum in the past (as a perk of the IHG card btw) I got into the club lounge with free breakfast and evening snacks and drinks (including beer and wine). Now you have to “Spire” elite (what a stupid name) to get in but that is the way of hotel devaluations as of late.
Anyway, I would not pay $120 to stay at the Crown Plaza but since I had a cert about to expire anyway it was a great value to me. These certs can be highly restricted as to when you can use them at an IHG hotel but the key thing is you can use them at just about any hotel in the system including high end hotels like Intercontinental locations – that is, they do not restrict them by category or such that other hotels do.
For example the Chase Marriott Signature hotel card does not reward you with status but stay credit to help you reach status faster much the same way the AMEX SPG cards do as well (i.e. if you hold both personal and business SPG you could get 4 stay credits and 10 night credits towards status). This has it’s perks if you are close to earning status but all but worthless if you only stay a few nights a year – in the latter case then “instant” status is better for you. EDIT: You do get 15 stay credits = Silver status.
But the Marriott card also comes with a free night perk but notice the e-mail alerting me to my free night. Yep, it is category restricted and HIGHLY restricted at that since all 6-9 category hotels are a no-go. What is better, the IHG unrestricted version with limited availability or the Marriott that simply blocks you?
Beyond the restrictions we have to consider value and I am really on the fence here with my Marriott card. With the category restriction I am hard pressed to more than, maybe, break even with the cost of the $85 annual fee and the value of the free night. Plus, with no instant status, the stay credits do not really benefit me either.
Then we have the other cards like the US Bank Club Carlson Hotel card. This card, in the past, had amazing free night perks as well as a bunch of other amazing perks. Now they simply give you 40,000 bonus points for paying the $75 yearly fee (and instant Gold status). Here we have a hybrid of the free night approach. Having points gives you lots of flexibly but does also not give you any room but does not restrict you either and depending on the price of the hotel it could mean a number of free nights (or points and cash nights). Plus, the annual fee is even a bit between the two cards mentioned so far. An interesting approach.
So is there a best choice in all of these options and are all of them worth holding? Much of it depends on your stay patterns. For me, being a hotel free agent, I like the instant status options. Also, being flexible, I like unlimited hotel choices or the choice to mix it up. Bottom line I am likely dumping my Marriott card this year.
That just leaves SPG. For now I will keep paying that card’s yearly fee because SPG points are still, without question, one of the most valuable travel points in the travel space. One day with the Marriott merger I am sure that will change but until then I will keep that hotel card as well (but I really wish I could get the current new card bonus).
So what do you think. Are hotel cards worth the fee? Will you keep (or get) SPG AMEX cards with the current limited time 35,000 point promotion that ends 4/5? What about the Club Carlson or Marriott cards? Let us know in the comments below! – René