Savvy traveler or not, you’ve likely heard of Hilton and Marriott. These massive hotel chains span hundreds of countries and have spawned loyalty programs, credit cards and even branded merchandise. However, when it comes down to figuring out the best chain and loyalty program, you may be wondering “Which is better, Hilton Honors or Marriott Rewards?”
Let’s take a look at these hotel programs, the Marriott versus Hilton credit cards, geographic footprints and travel considerations for all types of customers.
Where you can find them
Winner for hotel availability: Marriott
Hilton trails Marriott in availability, both in terms of the number of properties and the number of destination options (131 countries for Marriott, 119 countries for Hilton).
Falling behind Marriott, Hilton has more than 6,500 properties in 119 countries. Like Marriott, Hilton’s brands range from luxury, such as the Waldorf Astoria, to budget, such as the Hampton by Hilton. There are 18 different brands within Hilton’s portfolio.
As one of the largest hotel chains in the world, the Marriott hotel group features more than 7,000 properties in 131 different countries. Its brands range from ultra-luxurious, like the St. Regis, to budget, like Courtyard Hotels. With 30 different brands, you’re sure to find something that suits your style.
Hotel credit card availability
Winner for best hotel credit card: Hilton
When it comes to hotel credit cards, Hilton beats all competition — not just Marriott. This is thanks to the industry-leading benefits offered by the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, though the large welcome bonuses offered by all its cards doesn’t hurt.
Hilton credit cards
An annual free weekend night certificate.
14 points per dollar spent on Hilton properties.
$250 annual resort credit.
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card does come with a $450 annual fee, but it’s worth it, especially if you can earn the following welcome bonus: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card after you use your new Card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
The Hilton Honors American Express Card has a $0 annual fee. Welcome bonus: Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend a total of $5,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months. Terms Apply.
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card comes with $95 annual fee. Welcome bonus: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend a total of $10,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months. Terms Apply.
The The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card comes with $95 annual fee. Welcome bonus: Earn up to 180,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points. Earn 130,000 Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors Business Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend a total of $10,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months. Terms Apply.
Marriott credit cards
These perks do come with a $450 annual fee. And the card has the following welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Plus, earn up to $200 in Statement Credits for eligible purchases at U.S. Restaurants within the first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card does lack top-tier elite status. Instead, it offers the same mid-tier status available via other travel cards, like The Platinum Card® from American Express.
The Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card has a $0 annual fee. Welcome bonus: Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card comes with a $95 annual fee. Welcome bonus: Earn 3 Free Nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after qualifying purchases + 10X total points on eligible purchases in select categories.
The Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card comes with a $125 annual fee. Welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn up to $150 back in statement credits on eligible purchases made on your new Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
Hotel loyalty programs
Winner for ease of points: Marriott
Neither Marriott nor Hilton are especially great when it comes to redeeming points, but Marriott wins — at least for now.
Hilton has done away with its award chart, which severely hampers your ability to use your points. Yes, you can redeem rooms for as little as 5,000 points per night, but you’ll need to find standard room rewards to do so.
Beyond standard room rewards, Hilton offers premium room rewards — and those rates can run you into the millions of points per night. Because of this, and other reasons, NerdWallet values Hilton Honors points at 0.5 cent each.
It can be easier to earn Hilton points than Marriott points, especially if you’ve got a co-branded Hilton credit card. You can also earn points by dining and with hotel stays, among other options. Chase points don’t transfer to Hilton but AmEx points do, at a ratio of 1:2.
Until March 2022, Marriott will continue to function on a fixed award chart. This means that there are eight separate categories of hotels and you’ll pay a specific amount of points depending on whether your dates are peak, off-peak or standard. Due to this, among other reasons, NerdWallet values Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.7 cent each.
Earning Marriott points is easy. There are a variety of methods you can use to increase your stash, including credit cards, stays, dining and more. You can also choose to transfer points to Marriott from either American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards® at a 1:1 ratio, though this doesn’t tend to be a good use of your points.
Family travel considerations
Best hotel for family travel: Hilton
When it comes to family travel, there are multiple things you’ll want to take into consideration. One of these? Food. Hilton offers five different brands with complimentary breakfast:
Breakfast access at other Hilton properties is also simple. You can get yourself and a registered guest complimentary breakfast if you have Hilton Gold status or higher.
Additionally, if you hold the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, You’ll also have access to Hilton’s executive lounges, which feature all-day food and drinks in addition to breakfast. Finally, Diamond elite status also entitles you to complimentary suite upgrades. While these aren’t guaranteed, having much more room for you and your family will certainly be of help. Otherwise, Hilton also has plenty of suite hotels among its brands.
Marriott also has five brands that include free breakfast:
Fairfield Inn and Suites.
Unfortunately, outside of these properties, you’ll need to have at least Platinum elite status in order to score a complimentary breakfast.
Although Marriott has more hotel brands available, the lack of free breakfast means that Hilton wins for family travel.
Business travel considerations
Best hotel for business travel: Hilton
Although Marriott has more properties than Hilton and thus a wider geographic footprint, the easy elite status afforded to Hilton Honors members means more. This is especially true for business travelers, for whom early check-in, late check out, premium Wi-Fi, executive lounge access, suite upgrades and complimentary breakfast can make the difference between a comfortable stay and a miserable experience, especially on a tight turnaround.
Since these benefits are readily available via credit card and don’t require any actual stays to acquire, business travelers can start enjoying these perks immediately.
Even though Marriott does have 500 more properties than Hilton, both hotel chains are massive, which means there will likely be one or more of each hotel no matter where you’re going.
If you’re choosing between Hilton vs. Marriott
When looking at these criteria, Hilton is the clear winner in this showdown with Marriott. Although Marriott has more hotels and is easier to use points (at least until the end of March), it falls behind when it comes to practical travel. This is due mainly to Hilton’s industry-leading credit cards and generous elite status benefits, which afford high-end perks to any traveler. Combined with a better ability to earn points and a more favorable transfer ratio, Hilton handily beats out Marriott in this competition.
All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.
To view rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, see this page.
To view rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, see this page.
How to maximize your rewards
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