There is a never a one-size-fits-all answer for the best credit card in this hobby. Sure, some are objectively better than others, but not for everyone. People often ask me what card(s) I recommend, and aside from a couple generic staples, I always ask what their plans are. Most of the time I focus on the sign-up bonus opportunities, but I have pointed others toward cards geared more for earning on everyday spend.
Getting your general spend cards right is important. I very recently obtained the Blue Business Plus, which is a great everyday American Express card, as it earns 2x Membership Rewards per dollar and carries no annual fee. The American Express Gold is another winner for those who have a good amount of grocery and restaurant spend.
But I have an odd favorite of late: the World of Hyatt Visa. Yes, I’m often using a card that earns 1 point per dollar at various places when I could be earning more than that. It may seem crazy, but there is a lot more to factor into the equation.
World of Hyatt Visa Basics
Chase launched a solid product when they revamped the old Hyatt card into the World of Hyatt Visa. The annual fee went up from $75 to $95, but that is not a huge deal to me. The card earns 4x points at Hyatt hotels, and 2x points on restaurants, local transit, and airline tickets, but just 1x Hyatt points on all other spend. However, the card has a number of ancillary benefits that are important:
- One free night every card anniversary
- An additional free night after spending $15,000 in your cardmember year
- 2 elite nights for every $5,000 you spend on the card
It’s that final one, the ability to earn elite nights, that makes the World of Hyatt Visa the best hotel credit card.
Why the WoH Visa is the Best Hotel Credit Card
Most hotel cards I have spend quality time in the desk drawer. Besides the free night they offer and the occasional paid stay with the chain, I rarely use them. The only exceptions to this are the Hilton Aspire and the World of Hyatt Visa. The Hilton Aspire I use for restaurant spend now and then. The World of Hyatt Visa I use all the time. Why?
The ability to earn elite nights has sold me on making this my mainstay card for both everyday spend and reselling endeavors. I’ve put $10,000s on the card this year, just to earn elite nights. Without the World of Hyatt Visa, I would not be attempting to earn Globalist status this year. There is no way that I would book more than a handful of Hyatt nights each year, likely not even hitting Explorist without undue effort. Just holding the Hyatt card gives me five, plus half a dozen work nights, plus a couple more award stays, and I might be getting close to 20.
This single factor made the World of Hyatt Visa the best hotel credit card for me. I could be earning points in other programs, but I’d rather earn slightly less. Plus, the elite status track has its own rewards.
Crunching the Numbers
The first comparison to the Hyatt Visa is the Chase Freedom Unlimited. Why earn 1 point per dollar when I could be earning 1.5? If I convert all Ultimate Rewards earned with the Freedom Unlimited into Hyatt points, I’m already 50% better off. It seems stupid to put general spend on my Hyatt card, no?
But remember the elite night factor. This is critical. The ability to earn elite nights is (to me) worth sacrificing the extra points earned by using a different card. For every two elite nights earned by spending $5,000 on the card, I am giving up 2,500 Ultimate Rewards. I could also see this is “paying” $25 cash, as that is what I would be forgoing, had I used my DoubleCash (and assuming Hyatt points are worth 1.5 cents each).
But $25 is easily worth two elite nights. It’s not like I can walk down the street and plop $25 on the desk for a two-night stay (if I could, I’d be taking far more vacations at Hyatt Place hotels). There is definitely an opportunity cost here.
However, I have to factor in the upside as well. Along the way Hyatt has rewarded me with their Milestone Rewards. Had I not earned elite nights with my card, I would not have hit Explorist. I’m also going to assume I hit Globalist for this analysis, since I am well on track. Here is what I receive at each milestone:
- 20 nights – 2 club upgrade certificates
- 30 nights – 1 Category 1-4 free night, 2 club upgrade certificates
- 40 nights – 5,000 points, $100 Hyatt gift card, or 10,000 points off a FIND experience
- 50 nights – 2 suite upgrade certificates
- 60 nights – 1 Category 1-7 free night, 2 suite upgrade certificates
All of these have value. The certificates are hardest, since this can vary wildly depending on the situation. I’m going to low-ball them at $12.50 each (as it makes the math easy…all eight are worth $100). Using conservative values for the other items, I propose:
- $200 for the Category 1-4 free night (Explorist)
- $200 for the second Category 1-4 free night ($15,000 in card spend)
- $100 for the 5,000 points I took at the 40-night milestone (since all my recent redemptions have been well over 2 cents per point)
- $400 for the Category 1-7 free night
- $100 for the upgrade certificates
Final value earned along the status journey: $1,000. I love round numbers like that.
Now, all said and done, I will have put $70,000 on my World of Hyatt Visa for the purposes of earning 28 elite nights. I’ll peg this as an opportunity cost of $525. How did I arrive with this figure? Putting $70,000 on my Chase Freedom Unlimited would earn me 105,000 Ultimate Rewards points. Used at 1.5 cents each through the Chase Sapphire Reserve portal, these are worth $1,575 in travel. I value the 70,000 Hyatt points I earned at $1,050. The difference? $525.
But looking at the value of what I earned along the way by using the card for status actually gave me more value than what I gave up for my card choice. This tells me that the card is a solid choice and the best hotel credit card for general spend. It’s probably the only hotel card worth putting general spend, as long as it gets you to some of these milestones.
I’m not going to argue if you’d rather put your general spending on your Chase Freedom Unlimited. Ditto for the American Express Gold or Blue Business Plus. I get the value of flexible points, and I love collecting them myself. I just wanted to point out that there is a hotel card that could actually be worth putting spend on, depending on your situation. It is absolutely worth putting $15,000 on the World of Hyatt Visa every year for the extra free night. Beyond that, well, I let my math speak for itself.