Gary’s Just Wrong About The Hyatt Credit Card

Disclaimer, I’m a Hyatt HomerTM. This has been well documented.

But, Gary’s just wrong in his assertion about the Hyatt credit card.  I’m sure he’ll appreciate me helping him with the math here.  We’ll blow a bit of smoke Gary’s way first.  He’s a super smart guy and truly one of the most knowledgable people in the world of travel.  It isn’t often I find myself on the opposite end of the argument on this one.  Quoting from Gary’s post:

Both the Hyatt and Marriott credit cards offer annual free nights… that are capped in category. You can redeem them at hotels in category one through four. That means it is a benefit that gets less and less valuable year after year.(emphasis mine)

Hotel chains increase the number of points required by:

  • adding new higher redemption categories

  • moving hotels upward from one category to one that requires more points.

I was having this discussion earlier tonight with Gary and another friend (yes, you Tommy).  There was vociferous agreement amongst the two of them that Hyatt needed to step up its credit card efforts.

Let’s break down the math.  Nobody can argue with Gary’s logic that higher redemption categories don’t qualify for a free night capped at Category 4.  And, properties that originate in these higher categories are never available to members to use their free night.  But, when I signed up for the Hyatt credit card, I had no illusion that a whole bunch of properties were going to drop in category.  It just doesn’t happen all that often, though the bad economy over the past decade did yield some great promos and likely more reductions than in some previous periods.

Does that mean you have fewer places to redeem your free night now than you did when Hyatt released the credit card 5 years ago?  No, not by sheer number.  For starters, Hyatt has added properties in the limited service and extended stay brands Hyatt Place and Hyatt House, plenty of which fall in these categories.  I’m not arguing these properties are aspirational, just that more places to use your free night is better, right?

So, how many properties graduated up past a category 4 and are no longer eligible for the free night when you pay your annual fee on the credit card each year?  I took a quick look at the math.  Don’t hold my feet to the fire, but a brief search of the blogs turned up the following:

2015:  3 properties rose from a category 4 to a 5.  6 properties dropped from a 5 to a 4.  That’s a net of 3 more properties to redeem at.

2014:  4 up and 2 down.  Net drop of 2 properties.

2013:  1 up and 1 down.

2011:  1 up and 1 down.

You get the drift.  There isn’t some big category creep that’s moving all the good properties out of reach for the free night.

Would I love it if Hyatt changed the free night and made it eligible for category 5 properties?  Absolutely.  I’d love double elite qualifying miles from American in 2014 (it’s entirety, of course) for being a loyal customer for all these years.  I’d love United to actually recognize the revenue I spend, and I’d love Starwood Preferred Guest to actually clear a Suite Night Award ahead of time for me.  I wouldn’t mind a pony, too.

Consider that Starwood Preferred Guest doesn’t even offer a free night when you pay your annual fee in year 2 and beyond.  Theirs is a bit cheaper, and you do get some credit towards status qualification, but there’s no free night benefit.

Gary’s Hilton example requires $10,000 in spend to get a free night, something plenty of folks aren’t willing to invest $10,000 in credit card spend for.  The IHG benefit is definitely a good one, but only if you can use it at a premium property.  I think Gary and I would agree that there’s not a huge pile of properties that are better than a Hyatt category 4, though there are enough to get decent value.

And, as he notes, Marriott limits to category 5, and I just don’t see that being a viable reward.

It’s easy to come up with arguments about the whole suite of benefits one hotel credit card offers versus another.  And, patrons of certain chains will be passionate about the credit card for their chosen brand.  To be clear, you might not want to redeem your free night at a category 4, but there are certainly lots of places to do so that are just fine.

Both the Hyatt Regency Austin and Hyatt Place Austin come to mind as places in a city I like to frequent.  And, there’s a whole slew of them if you want to come visit me in the DC area.

Arguing that the benefit gets less valuable when Hyatt adds more properties in categories 1-4 just doesn’t compute.  It’d be great to have more expensive properties included, but there certainly aren’t less of the same ones from years past to cover the cost of your annual fee.

The post Gary’s Just Wrong About The Hyatt Credit Card was published first on Pizza In Motion.

Don’t miss any of the daily travel tips, tricks and strategies found here.  Follow me using one of these options:

twitter-icon-50x50 rss-icon-50x50256px-Email_Shiny_Icon-49x50facebook-icon-50x50




  1. I agree with you – I think that Marriott should step up their night (and lengthen the expiration to a full year) but I think the Hyatt free night carries a lot of value. As you say, sure it would be nice to see it go to category 5 hotels but there are a lot of very nice category 3 and 4 hotels around the world and availability is often pretty great.
    Still, most of the hotels in Hyatt’s portfolio are going to cost more than $75 per night – even the lower category ones. That means that every should be able to squeeze at least their annual fee out of the card each year, without much effort.

    1. Charlie, I’ve never failed to get at least that $75 in value when I’ve redeemed my free night. But, as I said in the discussion last night, I have kids. Category 4 properties end up on our radar frequently enough as a traveling family.

      1. Again, I’m with you. With our family, the Category 4 (and even 3 in some places) are always our preferred hotels when traveling together. If you are in Greece sometime, check out an awesome Category 3 hotel – the Hyatt Regency Thessaloniki.

        1. Planning a trip to Greece this summer. Thanks for the tip! Hyatt House has gotten a few of our free nights over the years.

          1. If you will be in Northern Greece, shoot me an e-mail. We can have you over for a meal, help you with the city, anything you need. Enjoy the trip!

  2. You agree that the Marriott category 5 cap makes it not viable as a reward, yet there are more Marriott properties that are category 5 and below than there are Hyatt properties category 4 and below. Thus it cannot be just about number of properties, the basis for your defense of the Hyatt category cap.

    The category cap itself puts it in the realm of less valuable benefits. I’m not saying it is unusable, I have used the benefit each year (though remain frustrated that I am giving up a relatively inexpensive night on which I do not earn stay credit or promotional credit with Gold Passport when I do).

    The discussion of the Starwood card is irrelevant, that card has a totally different value proposition, I was comparing free night benefits and Hyatt’s is among the inferior ones in my opinion. As for the Starwood Amex, it is a better card overall — general earn (a single Starpoint is worth more than one Gold Passport point) and credit towards elite status (which comes from having the card versus spending on the card). I use my SPG business card for domestic Hyatt stays, not my Hyatt Visa, because of the 5% OPEN rebate…

    I agree, the Hyatt annual free night didn’t just BECOME weak all of a sudden, it started that way (relative to its peers and in absolute terms). And it’s only gotten marginally more so due to the (small # of) changing mix of properties.

    Nonetheless, it should do better.

    1. I’m not a Marriott fan, so finding the incremental one-night stay to use a free night is now difficult for me. But, I believe many of their 4 and 5 properties are inferior to a new Hyatt House. You claim to be frustrated to give up a relatively inexpensive night for stay credit, but I don’t think you put nearly enough weight behind the fact that Joe or Jane traveler can cover their entire annual fee with ease at a category 4 property. That makes the rest of the card a free roll, especially given there are MORE category 4 properties and lower to redeem at in total than there were 5 years ago.

    2. I don’t think I understand your argument that it is weak. From my experience, a cat 4 hyatt is comparable to a cat 6 Marriott already, so at the least, I’d say Hyatt is doing better than Marriott.

  3. My issues lately with Hyatt are well know, but I don’t see any value in their credit card offering as long as I get 5% open savings. Of course I’m not traveling Intl with Hyatt so that does help my point.

    BTW, another attempt, another failure to use sure upgrade…

      1. A one night stay in Greenwich. I know there’s an event there, but it is the night I needed the hotel. So either way, another no for me.

  4. It’s all about personal traveling habit/style isn’t it? I personally like Hyatt cat 4 for $75 AF. Because I travel every year on a cruise out of Fort Lauderdale.. and the most convenient Hyatt House in Ft. Laud is listed at $359 in middle of January. Now, you could argue that no one in their right mind would ever pay $359 for a Hyatt House. But for my family, this is where I want/need to be, so I am basically paying $75 for a comfortable room the night before the cruise with breakfast, and that to me is a pretty darn good use of the card’s annual free night.

  5. I love your blog but I have to agree with Gary. It’s just that your miles/points may vary. If you already have this card and stay at Hyatt’s and earn there, etc. it’s an OK card. It’s just that to go and obtain the card or the Marriott card for a free night is not as good of a deal as the IHG card because of the cap. So for a potential customer like me I’m not interested but for me there is more at play than just the free night that is capped. In the end it all depends on what you want out of the card. The fact is that the value does go down (even slowly) with cat shifts. Just like hotel points go down in value as hotels shift properties to higher cat’s that cost more to redeem.

    1. Dan, I’m going to split my reply to address two parts of your comment. First, the reason to obtain the Hyatt credit card isn’t for the free night after year 1. It’s for the 2 free nights you get as a sign-up bonus, since these aren’t limited by category. They can be redeemed at properties that traditionally cost upwards of $1,000 a night. That’s a pretty good benefit even if you don’t plan on keeping the card multiple years.

      On the second part, you might feel like the value goes down, but when the total number of properties that you can redeem your annual free night at go up that’s just not the truth. When you add in that many are new construction hotels, not decades old flea bag properties, it only increases the subjective value for me.

  6. For what it’s worth when comparing Hyatt free nights with Marriott?
    I got real nice Hyatt Place (Cat 4) in downtown Chicago. Marriott? No Cat 5 available. All 6 or higher.

  7. I just reserved a night at the MGM grand for this weekend. Rated were near 1k for the Mayweather fight weekend. It is a cat 4 hotel . That is some good value . if you frequent Las Vegas during a fight weekend you will get excellent value

Leave a Reply