To have and to hold


Recently I’ve fallen in love with two old friends.  No, I’m not talking about my true love, Ink Bold, or her equally fantastic twin, Ink Plus.  I’m actually talking about two cards that I hold, but almost never use…

Priority Club Visa

I was attracted to this card over a year ago by a generous 80K sign-up offer which I spent for cash & point nights at the InterContinental London Park Lane hotel.  One of the cool features of the Priority Club visa is that it gives you a 10% rebate on all points used, so I eventually got some of those points back for later use.

Since then, I haven’t thought much about the card.  I certainly don’t use it for regular spend since I value other point programs more highly, and I value earning 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar much more highly.  Recently, though, I paid the card’s $49 annual fee and then received my annual free night voucher.  I needed a one night stay in Manhattan anyway, so I applied the voucher for a free night at the InterContinental Times Square (which was wonderful, by the way).

Suddenly, I was once again loving this card that I had long neglected.  Thanks to paying its small annual fee, my family stayed in a $400+ per night hotel.  And, since I have Priority Club Platinum status (which is given automatically to cardholders), the InterContinental upgraded us to a higher floor, and gave us water and a fruit plate as a Platinum welcome gift (which was, indeed, very welcome).

2012-08-12 17.50.15

Think about this, by simply holding onto this card and paying the $49 annual fee, you get a free night at any Priority Club hotel worldwide, free Platinum status, and a 10% rebate on all points used.  This card is definitely a keeper!

Marriott Premier Visa

I picked up this card last November when I was lured in by a 70K sign-up bonus.  Until recently, those points (and others that I earned from actual stays) sat in my account unused.  This past week, though, I found I nice use for those points.  After dropping off our son at a camp in Northern Michigan, my wife and I spent a night at the Inn at Bay Harbor, which happens to be a category 5 Marriott Renaissance resort.  Instead of paying over $350 per night plus taxes and resort fees, we redeemed 25,000 points.  In return, we were upgraded to a beautiful lake view room and given free hot breakfast.  I’m not sure what criteria they use to decide who gets free breakfast, but I did notice some Trip Advisor reviews in which people with Marriott Silver status got this benefit.  Since the Marriott card gives you Silver status automatically, free breakfast at this resort might be automatic for cardholders.

2012-08-19 17.23.29

We enjoyed our stay so much that when we headed north again at the end of the week to pick up our son, we stayed 3 more nights.

I haven’t received my annual free night from my Marriott Visa yet, but I’m now excited about it.  It gives me a free night at any category 5 Marriott hotel.  This means that I can stay a night at this resort every year for just $85 (the card’s annual fee).  While this card isn’t as valuable as the Priority Club card, it is close.

Like a sign-up bonus without the credit pull

I regularly sign up for credit cards just to get the awesome sign-up bonuses so many cards offer.  What I love about these hotel cards is that in addition to great signup bonuses, you get benefits every year without having to do anything but pay the annual fee.  The Priority Club free night can be optimally used at a hotel that would otherwise cost 50,000 points per night.  If you use it this way, it’s almost like getting 50,000 points every year for simply paying the annual fee.  Similarly, the Marriott free night can be used at a hotel that would go for 25,000 points per night.  So it’s like getting 25,000 Marriott points per year for paying the annual fee.  The Hyatt Visa Signature card also offers a free night each year up to category 4 (equal to 15,000 points), so this one is high on my list for a future churn.

My goal is to get all three of these cards for myself and for my wife.  That way, in addition to the sign-up bonuses, we will get a combined 6 nights per year towards fantastic vacations every year going forward.  The combined annual fees across all 6 cards will come to $418.  When you consider that one night at some of these hotels would otherwise cost this much or more, it’s a great value.

All three of these cards are Chase cards.  Chase is known to shut down cards over time for lack of use so it’s a good idea to use these cards occasionally.  I plan to use these cards only for spend within the corresponding hotel chain so as to maximize points earned.  While that won’t amount to much, I’m hoping it will be enough to keep Chase happy with me as a customer.

Free nights, but with spend required

The Priority Club, Marriott, and Hyatt cards each give a free night each year (after the first year) regardless of whether you’ve actually used the card for spend.  Two other cards worth mentioning are the Fairmont Visa Signature card and the Hilton HHonors Reserve.  The Fairmont card requires $12K annual spend to receive a free night that can be used at any Fairmont hotel in the world.  The Hilton card requires $10K annual spend to receive a free weekend night that can be used at almost any Hilton hotel in the world.  Both of these cards have great signup bonuses and perks that may make them worth keeping past the first year, but they’re not “no brainers” the way the others are.  I’m sure I’ll signup for each of these cards eventually, but I’m not sure whether I’ll keep them beyond the first year.

Summary of annual costs and benefits

The following benefits ignore signup bonuses.  The point here is to look at hotel cards that offer sign-up-like bonuses every year after the first year simply by paying the annual fee.

  • Priority Club Select Visa: $49 per year.  Free night at any Priority Club hotel. Automatic Priority Club Platinum Status.  10% rebate on point redemptions.
  • Marriott Rewards Premier Visa: $85 per year.  Free night at any category 1 through 5 Marriott.  15 nights elite status credit (enough for Silver status which isn’t worth much).
  • Hyatt Visa Signature: $75 per year.  Free night at any category 1 through 4 Hyatt. Automatic Platinum status (free internet!).
  • Fairmont Visa Signature: $95 per year.  Free night at any Fairmont after $12K annual spend.  Two free lounge visits per year.
  • Hilton HHonors Reserve: $95 per year.  Free weekend night at almost any Hilton property after $10K annual spend.  Automatic Hilton Gold status (free internet, and free breakfast and room upgrades at many properties).  This card is notable as the only one on the list that is not a Chase card (this one is from Citibank).

From this day forward

There’s something really fun about using points and free nights for fantastic redemptions.  I love the idea of getting these free nights every year with no effort whatsoever.  So, yes, I love my Priority Club and Marriott cards, and will likely love my Hyatt card too once I get one.  That being said, you won’t see me using these cards day to day.  These are cards to have and to hold, and to keep in a drawer until they’re needed.

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