While many of us like to redeem for the aspirational hotel award, many times we also look to the mid-range hotels. There are a variety of reasons we may do that, but a two simple ones are often availability and location. In the US, the high-end properties are typically located in or near the major population centers of the US. If your trip is bringing you to Tallahassee, Florida, chances are very good you are not going to be able to redeem for a high-end property.
There are a lot of hotel credit cards out there – check out this post about the Battle of the Hotel Credit Cards to give you all the information you need about which ones offer what. While it is nice to accumulate points in a variety of programs, it can also be helpful to know what single card may give you your best bang for the buck in your redemptions.
This post will break down which chains have the largest footprint in the US for the mid-range hotel class as well as a look at what the cards would give you for extras.
Which Hotel Credit Card To Get For Mid-Range Hotels
I chose the following hotel categories on a variety of factors, but the big factors were getting middle category hotels that one could redeem at least two nights for using the sign-up bonus (without needing to factor in the minimum spending amount). Another factor was selecting categories that were high enough yet still eligible for free hotel certificates that had category limitations on them (Hyatt and Marriott).
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Breaking Down The Numbers
As you can see, Hyatt is really the smallest for the mid-range hotel numbers in the US. This translates to a smaller probability of you finding a Hyatt hotel in that range on a trip outside of medium-major cities in the US. Now, they do have several hotels in the Category 1-2 range as well, but we are focusing on the mid-range hotels so will not take those into account.
At the high end, we have Wyndham with a staggering 5,585 hotels in the US! How is that possible? Well, with their new rewards shakeup in April, it made all of their hotels at a single category for redemption sake and that redemption level is 15,000 points per night. Of course, this includes thousands of hotels that would be equivalent to any of the other hotels’ category 1s and 2s, but that number represents “mid-range” redemption since all are priced the same.
Marriott and Hilton are really the ones that would be near the top of the list with the amount of mid-range hotels they have around the US. Club Carlson, IHG, and SPG certainly have a better showing than Hyatt, but they are still not in the same ballpark as Marriott and Hilton from a pure numbers’ standpoint.
Winner In Numbers (in the mid-range category) – Marriott and Hilton
Pouring In Card Extras
Now that we see what the numbers look like for mid-range hotels in the US, what other benefits do these hotel cards bring to us that may help us with these mid-range hotels?
For starters, there are two hotel cards that have annual free nights that are category limited – Hyatt and Marriott. The Hyatt card’s anniversary night is good for Category 1 – 4 while the Marriott card is good for Category 1 – 5. Club Carlson and Wyndham give points for anniversary bonuses and those can be used for their flexibility of category redemption and/or points and cash mixtures.
IHG reigns supreme with the free night by giving a single free night at any category hotel! The Hilton Reserve card does the same but, it is only good on weekends and you need to spend $10,000 in a calendar year first to get that. SPG gives nada – no free nights or points on your card anniversary.
As for the winner in this little section, everyone but the SPG card gives nights or points but I think the edge would go to Club Carlson (with the 40,000 point bonus) for their flexibility in letting you book multiple nights, a single night in a higher category, or using points and cash together
Many of the cards give mid-tier elite status for holding a particular hotel card. To see a thorough breakdown with the cards and elite status, check out the Battle of the Hotel Credit Cards to see it all.
I will say that, as far as a card that gives meaningful status without having to do any stays or spending to earn it, the Hilton cards (Hilton Surpass by Amex and the Hilton Reserve by Citi) are the best. They give mid-tier status (Gold) which translates to some hotel recognition and the free breakfast which is always fantastic.
The sign-up bonuses can and do fluctuate between the regular offers and the “limited-time offers” which come around a couple times a year. Of course, you also have the “ghost” links for particular cards that offer consistent bonuses that are better than the regular, public offers (though many have been pulled).
Hyatt gives 2 free nights, which is a great bonus but has limited appeal if you are going to stay in mid-tier hotels. Most people look to burn those two nights at the higher category hotels and they may not be as appealing if you are staying at mid-range hotels in the US.
Wyndham offers 3 nights in the form of 45,000 points (because all of their hotels cost 15,000 points per night). But, if you are staying at the mid-range hotels with Wyndham, you are likely staying at properties that cost around or less than $50 – $60 per night. If that is the case, I would not imagine many would redeem their points at such a redemption level and would keep the points for the more expensive hotels. So, even though the sign-up bonus is great, it does not play well in the mid-range arena of hotels.
SPG, Marriott, IHG, Club Carlson, and Hilton all offer fantastic point bonuses that can really give you several nights at the lower tier hotels. Anyone of them can let you stretch a sign-up bonus to several nights, if you stay in lower tiered hotels. For mid-range hotels, they are all pretty much a tie when it comes to the nights you can redeem for. I would say it is a draw for all of those cards but that they do win out over the Hyatt and Wyndham cards.
The Winner Is…
Obviously, there are many other factors that you could look at. Also, there is personal need and area that can come into play. But, if you are seeking a hotel card for mid-range hotels in the US, I don’t think you could get a better card than one of the (several) Hilton cards (with the Hilton Citi card possibly being the best option for the amount of points for the mid-range hotel categories but not the elite status – look at the Surpass or Reserve card for status. See all the Hilton cards here). The sheer number of Hilton hotels around the country coupled with an impressive elite benefit (breakfast) make this card a sure winner for someone that wants to travel around the US and that will be looking for hotels in the mid-categories (whether you cannot find the higher tier or you do not wish to spend that many points).
Note: Just because the Hilton cards may be the best for mid-range hotels in the US does not mean to apply right now. The Surpass card typically jumps to 80,000 points (instead of the current 60K) or more a few times a year and that is the best card to get to really get the whole Hilton package – points and elite status.
A solid second place card would be the Marriott card. Not only does Marriott offer a substantial amount of mid-range hotels across the US as well, they also offer a healthy sign-up bonus and the anniversary night. Though the current offer does not have it, the card is also known to offer a category 1-4 free night upon approval of the new card account as well! That works great with mid-tier redemptions!
If you find yourself looking around the US for travel plans, you are very likely to find yourself near a hotel from one of these two major chains. Being able to have the points in hand to do the work for you with redemptions is a huge help and can take you a long way. This post does not mean you should run out right now and apply for any of these cards, but do keep them in mind next time you are looking at your US trip.
To see the list of hotel credit card applications, check out this page.
Which is your favorite hotel for the mid-range categories?