5 Signs Your Hotel Credit Card Is a Waste of Money

I love a good cobranded hotel credit card. Indeed, I have several. But the main reason I like them so much is that they pay for themselves. (I travel often enough that the free night awards alone make my hotel cards earn their keep.)

But that isn’t necessarily true of every card for every cardholder. And if your hotel card isn’t pulling its weight, you may need to move on. Here are some of the signs.

1. You don’t stay at (those) hotels often

This is likely obvious, but the first sign you don’t need a hotel card? You haven’t stayed at any hotels this year. If travel is off the menu for a while, it might be a good idea to retire your hotel credit cards.

Even if you are traveling, if you have a cobranded hotel card but aren’t staying with that brand, then you may need to rethink your card strategy. A lot of the value from hotel cards are the hotel-related perks, so if you’re not using those, you’re likely paying an annual fee that isn’t worth it.

2. You don’t eat breakfast at the hotel

A very popular perk of some of the best hotel cards is elite status, especially status good enough to score free breakfast. A breakfast at a fancy hotel can easily top $30 a person, so getting it for free can offer some great value.

However, not everyone hangs around the hotel for breakfast. You may rather get started on your adventures and pick up food while you’re out. (Theme parks wait for no pancake.) Or perhaps you always choose hotels that offer a free continental breakfast to all guests, regardless of status, and can’t use the perk if you wanted to.

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Either way, you shouldn’t count the potential breakfast credits as part of the value of your card, since you’re not using them. This could be the feature that makes or breaks a card (in terms of the annual fee‘s value), making your hotel card cost more than it’s worth.

3. You don’t care about upgrades

Another very popular perk that comes with elite status is room upgrades. Depending on the property — and your status level — room upgrades can mean anything from a higher floor or better view, all the way up to a suite with its own bedrooms.

As with anything else, of course, this is only worth something if you actually value it. If all you want is a place to sleep and shower, you probably don’t care about the quality of the view.

Similarly, you may stay in budget-friendly hotels that don’t offer upgrades. At the other end, perhaps you always book the best room in the place as it is. In both cases, this perk adds no value to your probably quite-pricey hotel card.

4. You have a general travel rewards card

There are several great travel rewards credit cards on the market that can offer some of the perks of cobranded cards that may make your hotel card less valuable. So if you have one of these cards, you may not need to pay extra for a hotel card.

For example, if you have The Platinum Card® from American Express, you can enroll and receive complimentary status with both Marriott (Gold Elite) and Hilton (Gold). (Terms apply; enrollment required.) You can also transfer your Membership Rewards points to both hotel loyalty programs to book free stays.

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Along that vein, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card could be useful if you want to transfer points to Hyatt, Marriott, or IHG rewards programs. Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer 1:1 to all three programs.

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5. You aren’t eligible for the welcome bonus

If you don’t have a hotel card yet but are considering applying for one, this is a major point to consider. All of the best hotel cards have excellent welcome bonuses that can be worth several free nights. But that’s only if you’re eligible for them.

Most issuers have rules about how often you can earn a bonus on a particular card. American Express is the most strict, allowing you to earn one welcome bonus per card per lifetime. Most other issuers limit you to one bonus per card family per 24 to 48 months. (You can typically find this information in the fine print on a card’s web page. It will say something like, “This product is available to you if you do not have this card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months.”)

Another point to consider is whether you can actually earn the bonus. Most require you to spend a certain amount of money on your new card within the first few months of ownership. If you can’t comfortably meet that requirement (without excess spending), you may want to look at different cards.

The annual card audit

I beat this drum a lot, but it bears repeating: Everyone should audit their credit cards at least once a year. Make sure that every card you own is giving you more value back than you’re paying for it in annual fees. With so many options out there for great rewards and perks, there’s no reason to keep cards that aren’t providing value around.

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