It’s no secret that American Express cards offers great travel perks. That’s precisely why it can be hard to choose between them. For travelers focused converting rewards points into hotel stays, consider co-branded hotel credit cards. These kinds of American Express hotel rewards credit cards can be a great way to be rewarded for your loyalty to specific brands, and if you use them right, those benefits could more than offset relatively steep annual fees associated with most of these cards. Those who want more flexibility in their redemptions could consider an unbranded Amex card.

ALSO READ: Our complete guide to the best hotel rewards credit cards.

The best American Express hotel rewards credit cards of 2019

Typically, co-branded hotel credits don’t offer the most flexible redemptions compared to other travel rewards. However, if you’re already loyal to one brand you can leverage that relationship to get valuable perks.

Some of the options mentioned below offer something for everyone — from the occasional traveler to those who travel frequently. The good news is that some of the best credit cards from American Express aren’t co-branded cards at all. Some of them don’t even offer annual fees, but for those that do, you can easily make up for those annual payments if you take advantage of all of the card benefits.

When you look at our top options, think about your travel and spending habits.

Here are the best hotel rewards credit cards from American Express:

What to look for in a hotel credit card

When selecting a hotel credit card, including the various American Express hotel credit cards, you should assess your travel habits, and your needs and preferences.

You should consider these factors in choosing a hotel credit card:

  • Redemption options: Earn rewards towards free hotel stays, room upgrades, flights and more.
  • Hotel locations: Look for hotel brands that offer multiple properties for destinations you frequent.
  • Value of rewards points: How much can you get for the points you earn?
  • Annual fees: Some cards offer high annual fees but have enough value that more than makes up for it.
  • Hotel perks: Some benefits you may receive include automatic elite status, free nights even if you book with points and travel credits.

There are many ways to compare cards, but these categories are the best ways to do so.

>>FIND THE CREDIT CARD THAT FITS YOUR SPENDING HABITS

Redemption options

You’ll get the most bang for your buck with a hotel rewards card by redeeming reward points for free hotel stays. If you’re not interested in redeeming rewards for hotel stays, look for a more flexible card.

The advantage of more flexible redemption options is that you can use general travel rewards programs to redeem for many other rewards. For example, American Express Membership Rewards points can be transferred to airline or hotel rewards programs, typically at a 1:1 ratio.

But if you travel a lot, and/or if you are loyal to a specific hotel chain, then a co-branded hotel card may be best for you. The two American Express hotel rewards credit cards that are best for flexible redemption options are the American Express Gold Card and the Platinum Card from American Express. Both cards allow you to transfer Membership Rewards points to one of three hotel rewards programs.

Hotel locations

It’s only great to amass a ton of hotel rewards points if you can use them. That’s why it’s important to keep in mind where you like to travel; depending on your habits, you may prefer a card associated with a hotel chain that has a wide variety of locations.

For example, Marriott has around 7,000 properties whereas Hilton only has 570. Choice hotels offers over 6,800 hotels in more than 40 countries. Before signing up for any of the American Express hotel cards, look up the selection of hotels for destinations you want to head to.

Value of rewards points

Hotel loyalty programs tend to be different compared to the ones you redeem with general rewards programs. That’s because the value of points can be different depending on the type of redemption you make — anywhere from the time of year you book with points all the way to the category of hotel you choose.

This can make it complicated to maximize the value,  but it does give you the opportunity to unlock more value out of your points. For example, you can redeem Marriott Bonvoy points for rooms starting at 5,000 points for off-peak times but the same room can be for 7,500 points during standard times and even as high as 10,000 points during peak travel times.

Or, if you have Membership Rewards points, you can unlock more value by transferring them to Hilton Honors, where you get a 1:20 ratio. Hilton also offers different redemption options depending on the category of hotels, though it doesn’t have off-peak or peak times.

Annual fees

Credit cards with high annual fees typically offer more valuable perks than those with no fees. Cards like that can be worth the cost if it is easy to earn rewards that offset that fee. A card with a high annual fee is only a good option for you if you are sure you’ll unlock enough rewards to offset the annual fee. For many cards, in fact, it is easy to do just that. But if you don’t do that, you’ll have spent more than you should have.

Luckily, American Express offers choices for a wide variety of budgets. The Hilton Honors American Express Card, for instance, has no annual fee, while the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card will set you back $450. As for unbranded cards, the Platinum Card from American Express has an annual fee of $550.

Hotel perks

Some Amex hotel credit cards offer more benefits than others, but all of them will give you the opportunity to book free hotel stays. If getting extra perks like elite status is important to you, choose a card that offers these features. Some may have a higher annual fee, like the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card for $450 but you do get complimentary Diamond status.

Others, like the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card, gives card holders a free anniversary night once you pay the annual fee when you renew your card. Depending on what you redeem your free night for, it could make up for the annual fee.

Otherwise, look at features such as statement cards you can use. For example, the American Express Gold Card offers a $120 annual dining credit (up to $10 per month) when you pay with the card at participating dining establishments. While not a hotel-specific perk, it could come in handy when you’re hungry and want to save some cash.

Don’t forget that general rewards cards also offers some major hotel-specific perks. The Platinum Card from American Express offers both Hilton Honors Gold and Marriott Bonvoy Gold status plus other benefits, such as up to $200 in annual Uber credits. If you’re willing to pay the annual fee, this card could give you some major bang for your buck.

>>FIND THE CREDIT CARD THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU

Which Amex card has Membership Rewards?

American Express Membership Rewards is a rewards program that enables you to earn points on a wide array of purchases. These points can then be redeemed for a wide variety of benefits, including hotel rewards. Here are the different American Express cards that offers Membership Rewards:

  • American Express Gold Card: Receive a $100 hotel credit and the ability to transfer points to hotel partners.
  • Amex Everyday: Has no annual fee, and you can transfer points to hotel partners.
  • Platinum Card from American Express: Get complimentary Hilton Honors Gold and Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, plus room upgrades at select hotels.
  • Amex EveryDay Preferred: More earnings potential compared to the Amex Everyday card, and the ability to transfer points to partner hotels.
  • Blue from American Express: No annual fee, with basic earnings categories and the ability to transfer points to travel partners.

What does 60,000 AMEX points get you?

American Express hotel rewards credit cards allow you to rack up Membership Rewards points, which you can then redeem for hotel rewards. Redeeming 60,000 AmEx points is simple. Here’s how it works.

The minimum transfer amount is 1,000 points, and with the exception of Hilton Honors (which offers a ratio of 1:2), you get a 1:1 point transfer and the transfer time is almost instantaneous. Currently, there are three hotel transfer partners — Choice Privileges, Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy.

Some examples of what you can redeem for 60,000 Membership points:

  • Booking with the lowest-ranking Hilton hotels (Hilton has since removed their category award chart). Search on their website to find redemption options for as low as 5,000 points per night. For example, you can transfer 30,000 points to get 60,000 Honors points — good for around seven nights at the Hilton Garden Inn in Puchong, Malaysia.
  • Transfer points to Choice Privileges. Europe offers many options, such as three to six nights at a hotel in downtown Venice or six nights at a hotel in downtown Stockholm, Sweden, all for 60,000 points.

What is the best way to use Amex rewards points?

Most travel rewards enthusiasts agree that Membership Rewards points are best used for airline transfer partners. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t unlock some great deals for hotel stays with American Express hotel rewards credit cards.

Redeeming points for hotels is great if you have a lot of points to spare or if you need a few points here and there to score a free night — like if you’re 1,000 points away from being able to get a free night at a Hilton hotel.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the best American Express hotel rewards credit card really depends on what you value. Some want flexibility, while others want to unlock as much value as possible with one hotel chain. The point is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all card. Think carefully about what your spending habits, travel plans and other priorities are when deciding on a card.

If you already have a rewards credit cards like the American Express Gold Card, consider a co-branded hotel credit card. That way you can take advantage of other rewards programs and benefits you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

Business card owners will  love that they can take advantage of free hotel stays by signing up for a rewards cards that offer points towards such rewards.

Explore the best American Express hotel rewards credit cards

Check out more highlights from our top choices as you’re comparing different hotel credit cards.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Hilton Honors Aspire American Express Card

Annual fee: 

APR

Bonus:

Rewards rates: Earn 14 points per dollar at qualifying Hilton Hotels and resorts (eligible purchases only), 7 points per dollar on flights booked directly with Amex Travel or with airlines, car rentals directly with participating car rental companies and restaurants in the U.S. and 3 points per dollar on all other purchases.

Hotel perks: Receive complementary Diamond status, free anniversary weekend reward for any participating location, a $250 annual Hilton Resort credit, a $100 credit at Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts (requires a two night minimum stay). Plus you can earn a second weekend night award once you send $60,000 within one calendar year.

Pro/strength: You get some great hotel perks and other travel benefits like complimentary lounge access and a $250 airline fee credit each year.

Con/weakness: The card has a high annual fee and you may not get a lot of value from Hilton points.

Read full card details here.

Hilton Honors American Express Card

Annual fee: $0

APR: 17.49% to 26.49% variable APR

Bonus: 95,000 points once you spend $1,000 within the first three months of account opening

Rewards rates: Earn 7 points per dollar on eligible purchases made directly with Hilton hotels or resorts, 5 points per dollar at U.S. gas stations, restaurants and supermarkets and 3 points per dollar on all other purchases.

Hotel perks: Receive complimentary Silver status and the ability to upgrade to Gold status if you spend $20,000 on eligible purchases within one calendar year.

Pro/strength: Earn impressive rewards rates consider it’s a card with no annual fees.

Con/weakness: Hilton rewards and other travel perks aren’t as plentiful as other higher tier cards.

American Express Gold Card

American Express® Gold Card

Amex Gold Card

Annual fee: $250

APRN/A

Bonus: 35,000 points

Rewards rates: Earn 4 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 each year) and 3 points per dollar

Hotel perks: Get a $100 hotel credit to spend on qualifying dining, resort and spa activities at participating properties from the Hotel Collection plus receive a room upgrade when available. You can also transfer points to hotel partners.

Pro/strength: Get other travel-friendly perks such as a $120 dining credit each year at participating companies and a $100 airline fee credit with qualifying airlines. Plus, get protections such as baggage insurance and access to American Express’ Global Assist hotline.

Con/weakness: The card has a fairly high annual fee, though not as high as other ones in the Amex collection.

Read full card details here.

Platinum Card from American Express

American Express Platinum Card

American Express Platinum Card

Annual fee: 

APR

Bonus:

Rewards rates: 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly through Amex Travel and airlines and through Amex Travel plus prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel; 1 point per dollar on everything else.

Hotel perks: Receive complimentary Gold status with Hilton Honors and Gold Elite status with Marriott Bonvoy and Gold status with Hilton Honors. Plus, receive complimentary benefits on certain stays with properties in the Fine Hotels & Resorts Program and The Hotel Collection. Transfer Membership Points to Choice Privileges, Hilton and Marriott.

Pro/strength: You can receive up to $200 in annual Uber credits and a $200 annual airline credit. Plus receive car rental perks with Avis, Hertz and National and free airport lounge access with different lounge networks. There’s also a credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fees, and much more.

Con/weakness: You need to pay a high annual fee and you may not get as much value from other rewards cards on our list.

Read full card details here.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card

Annual fee: 

APR

Bonus:

Rewards rates: Earn 6 points per dollars with eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 3 points per dollar at restaurants in the U.S. and on flights when you book directly with airlines, plus 2 per dollar points on everything else.

Hotel perks: Get a free anniversary night equivalent to up to 50,000 points, a $300 credit for qualifying purchases at Marriott Bonvoy hotels each year and and a $100 credit when you book a minimum two-night stay at a Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis hotel (eligible charges only).

Pro/strength: Cardholders get some amazing benefits that could easily make up for the annual feel you’ll pay — even if you book the occasional stay.

Con/weakness: Like many of the American Express cards on our list, this one also has a high annual fee.

Read full card details here.

The Business Platinum Card from American Express

American Express Business Platinum

American Express Business Platinum

Annual fee: 

APR

Bonus:

Rewards rates: Earn 5 points per dollar on flights and prepaid hotels when you book with Amex Travel, 1.5 points per dollar on eligible purchases of $5,000 or more and 1 point per dollar o all other eligible purchases.

Hotel perks: Receive complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status, Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status. You’ll also receive other benefits such as a room upgrade if you book through Fine Hotels & Resorts.

Pro/strength: The card offers several premium work and travel benefits. These include a $200 airline fee credit; one year of Platinum Global Access with WeWork; $20 annual Dell statement credit; complimentary access to the American Express Global Lounge collection; and an application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Con/weakness: The card has a high annual fee and business owners may not get a lot of value if you don’t take advantage of all the perks.

Read full card details here.

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