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The Best Hotel Rewards Credit Cards for Business Travel in 2017

January 7th, 2017 /

I gazed longingly at the shiny money clip in my hand—two cards, a little cash, and not much else would fit. It was a stocking stuffer from my kids, and I already knew I’d never be able to use it. These days, my wallet must weigh fifty pounds, and between business cards, credit cards, flight rewards programs, and hotel loyalty cards, it feels like I’m carrying the entire business world in my back pocket.

While I dream of simplifying, as a small business owner, I already know there are too many pieces of plastic I’ll never be able to forgo. One of those is my hotel rewards credit card—when you spend half your working life away from home, the points add up quickly, and it just doesn’t make sense to pay any other way. If you’ve been putting off signing up, I’ve outlined my top three choices for 2017 below. I’m assuming you, like me, are loathe to add to your wallet clutter—any additions should be worthwhile.

best hotel rewards credit cards for frequent business travelers

Keeping a hotel rewards card in your back pocket will save you hundreds as a business traveler. Image by Flickr user Chris Potter (CC BY 2.0)

The Best Hotel Credit Card to Use in Combination with Your Flight Rewards Card

I am a huge proponent of travel rewards credit cards. But what I love even more? Creatively splitting my expenditures across a flight rewards card and a hotel rewards card so that I can get double points. If you enjoy this type of strategizing, I’d recommend looking into the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card.

The $95 annual fee is reasonable given the perks (and it’s waived the first year). After spending $3,000 in the first three months, you also get a hefty sign-up bonus of 25,000 points—this translates to roughly $625 at a Starwood hotel of your choice. You earn annual credit toward SPG Elite Status for five nights and two stays, plus Sheraton Club Lounge access. The free premium in-room WiFi is nice, too, although I often have access to this perk anyway, thanks to using the right hotel booking channels.  

But the real draw for this card is that it pairs so nicely with your existing flight rewards program. SPG Flights allows you to transfer points to miles on most airlines, with no blackout dates. And because SPG points offer a relatively high return (2.4 cents apiece compared to an average of less than a cent for other programs), you get a solid transfer value.

The drawback, of course, is that Starpoints are difficult to earn: You get five points per dollar at Starwood hotels and one point everywhere else. And if you want to reach accelerated SPG Gold status, you’ll have to spend $30,000 each year. If you go with this card, you basically just have to be diligent about dividing your spending between cards to max out your points.

best hotel rewards credit cards 2017

Keep a hotel credit card as a partner to your existing flight or general travel rewards card. Image by Flickr user Chris Potter (CC BY 2.0)

A Hotel Rewards Card for Those Who Don’t Fly

With Hyatts easily accessible and of decent quality, the Hyatt Visa is my pick for folks who drive more than they fly—or for those who already have a hotel rewards membership that they can further capitalize on with the addition of a credit card.

$75 after your first year is the lowest annual fee of all the cards on this list. This is also the only sign-up bonus that isn’t restricted to use at lower-end properties: You get two free nights at any Hyatt worldwide as long as you spend $1,000 in 3 months. I’d suggest taking advantage of this by staying a couple of nights at the Park Hyatt in New York City (a Category 7 property normally worth 39,000 points per night). And for the rest of your stays, you’ll get complimentary Platinum status as well as one free stay per anniversary year at a Category 1-4 property.

This card is pretty basic. You don’t get any flashy extras or discounts—but you aren’t really paying for that either. If you just want a simple way to get consistent hotel discounts at a consistently decent hotel chain, Hyatt is a good option.

best hotel reward cards for small business owners

No matter how many cards your wallet holds, there’s always one that comes out on top. Image by Flickr user Andres Rueda (CC BY 2.0)

The Fanciest (Read: Best) Hotel Credit Card

With an annual fee of $450, the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card is the most luxurious option on the list—and my personal choice. Chase updated this card back in August to include three free nights (at a Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton) after you spend $5,000 in three months. In other words, a single free night at a Tier 4 Ritz-Carlton might pay for your annual fee.

For comparison purposes, this card also earns you 5 points per dollar spent at Ritz-Carlton hotels and 2 points per dollar on flights, restaurants, and car rentals.

But wait… there’s more.  If you book your flights through Visa Infinite Discount Air, you get an unlimited $100 discount on domestic flights for 2+ passengers. And if loyalty status is your thing, you’ll be pleased to receive automatic Gold Elite benefits—maintainable by spending $10,000 each year after your first. Chase also rewards you with $300 in annual travel credit, which you can use to pay for upgrades or baggage and lounge fees.

If you use this card to get Global Entry privileges, they’ll credit you an additional $100. And as a cardholder, you get a Priority Pass Select membership that lets you access over 900 VIP airport lounges worldwide, on top of rental car discounts and a $100 credit toward hotel dining and spa services on stays longer than two nights.

The only downside (that I see) is that you’re “restricted” to staying in Ritz Carlton, Marriot, or Starwood hotels (which include Sheraton, W, and St. Regis). Honestly, I’m perfectly fine limiting myself to those options.

A hotel rewards card can be an incredible bonus when used in combination with other programs. Image by Flickr user Thomas Kohler (CC BY 2.0)

So there’s the dream: a money clip with a fantastic hotel rewards card, a lucrative flight rewards card, and maybe one company card (if absolutely necessary). Someday, I might reach that point. A New Year’s resolution for 2018, perhaps.

If good deals on hotel stays spark your interest, you should also try combining those credit card perks with a membership to JetLux Hotels: for an annual fee, you get discounts of 15-40% on luxury hotels across the country (you can also opt for a lifetime membership that, at $199, is probably less than you’d spend on a single night at a hotel). And the remainder of your hotel expenditures? You can cover them with your new plastic. Here’s to more free nights and even better business travel in 2017.

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