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Hilton credit cards explained: 12x HHonors points, Gold status, and more

by on Tue November 8, 2016 • 2 Comments
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Hilton HHonors

Deciphering the differences among the multiple Hilton co-branded credit cards to find out which is the best choice for you isn’t an easy task.

There are multiple cards that can earn you Hilton HHonors points issued by two different credit card issuers: Citi and American Express. Each card has its own spending bonuses, additional benefits, and annual fees. We’ll walk through and compare each credit card offering so you can make the best choice based on your needs.

We’ll also take a look at a couple of other credit cards that are available that can help you earn more Hilton points, even though they aren’t Hilton co-branded credit cards. Then we’ll walk through which are best for earning HHonors points via spending, status, and other benefits.

Hilton Credit Card Options

Citi Hilton HHonors Visa (No Annual Fee)

hhonorssignature170Earning: Earn 6 Hilton points per dollar spent at Hilton properties, 3 Hilton points per dollar spent at supermarkets, gas stations, and drug stores, and 2 Hilton points per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Status: Hilton HHonors Silver as long as you are a cardmember. Hilton HHonors Gold if you spend $20,000 or more on the card within a calendar year.

Annual Fee: No annual fee.

Sign Up Bonus: Under review.

Additional Benefits: 10,000 bonus Hilton HHonors points if you spend more than $1,000 at Hilton properties during your cardmember year.

> Read our review

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card

hhonorsreserveEarning: 10 Hilton points per dollar spent at Hilton properties, 5 Hilton points per dollar spent on airline and car rental purchases, 3 Hilton points per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Status: Hilton HHonors Gold as long as you are a cardmember. Hilton HHonors Diamond if you spend $40,000 or more on the card within a calendar year.

Annual Fee: $95 annual fee.

Sign Up Bonus: 2 weekend night certificates good at most Hilton hotels and resorts after spending $2,500 within the first 4 months of card membership.

Additional Benefits: Anniversary weekend night if you spend $10,000 or more on the card within your cardmember year. Trip delay (up to $500) and cancellation (up to $5,000) coverage. No foreign transaction fees.

> Read our review

Hilton HHonors American Express (No Annual Fee)

hhonorsamex170Earning: 7 Hilton points per dollar spent at Hilton properties, 5 Hilton points per dollar spent at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets, 3 Hilton points per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Status: Hilton HHonors Silver as long as you are a cardmember. Hilton HHonors Gold if you spend $20,000 or more on the card in a calendar year.

Annual Fee: No annual fee.

Sign Up Bonus: 50,000 bonus Hilton HHonors points when you spend $750 on purchases within the first 3 months of cardmembership.

Additional Benefits: None.

> Read our review

Hilton HHonors Surpass American Express

hhonorssurpassEarning: 12 Hilton points per dollar spent at Hilton properties, 6 Hilton points per dollar spent at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets, 3 Hilton points per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Status: Hilton HHonors Gold status as long as you are a cardmember. Hilton HHonors Diamond if you spend $40,000 or more on your card in a calendar year.

Annual Fee: $75 annual fee.

Sign Up Bonus: 85,000 bonus Hilton HHonors points when you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of cardmembership.

Additional Benefits: Priority Pass Select, which gets you into many airport lounges for $27 per visit.

> Read our review

Other Cards to Earn Hilton Points

A few different points currencies give you the ability to transfer to Hilton HHonors. Below, we’ll take a quick look at a couple of credit cards beyond the Hilton HHonors branded cards you can use to boost your Hilton points balance.

Virgin Atlantic

virginmastercard170You can transfer Virgin Atlantic miles into Hilton HHonors points at a 1:1.5 ratio. It’s currently possible to earn up to 90,000 points worth of bonuses with the Virgin Atlantic Credit Card. This can be turned into 135,000 Hilton points. Virgin Atlantic miles can be difficult to use, depending on where you live and what kind of airline tickets you like to book, so applying for this card might be a good option to add some more Hilton points to your account.

Citi ThankYou

Citi ThankYou points are transferrable to Hilton at a 1:1.5 ratio. Any credit card that earns ThankYou points, like the Citi Premier, can be a way to get more Hilton points. As a general rule, transferring ThankYou points to Hilton won’t be the best use of your points, but if you are short for a redemption it may be worth considering.

American Express Membership Rewards

American Express Membership Rewards points are transferrable to Hilton at a 1:1.5 ratio. Any credit card that earns Membership Rewards points, like the Premier Rewards Gold, can be used to earn more Hilton points. As a general rule, your Membership Rewards points are more valuable when you utilize other transfer partners, but if you are short on Hilton points for a redemption it may be worth considering, especially considering you can earn a fresh sign on bonus for a new Amex card.

Which card is best for elite status?

If status is your goal, you want to go for Gold.

Hilton HHonors Gold is the best mid-tier hotel status out there. At many Hilton properties, Hilton Gold will get you access to free breakfast, which can easily save you $20 per person, per night (well, morning). If you plan to spend at least $10,000 on your Hilton credit card or want to have the travel protection available to you, the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card is your best bet. If you don’t think you will spend that much and don’t care able the travel protections, you should save $20 per year on the annual fee and go for the Hilton HHonors Surpass American Express instead.

Which card is best for spending?

The Hilton HHonors Surpass American Express is generally going to be the best Hilton card for everyday spending, and it’s the best for earning points at Hilton hotels.

This card earns 12 Hilton points per dollar spent at Hilton properties, 5 Hilton points per dollar spent 6 Hilton points per dollar spent at US gas stations, US restaurants, and US supermarkets, and 3 Hilton points per dollar spent on all other purchases.

The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card may be a better option for spending if you spend more on airfare and car rental purchases than gas/grocery/dining or if you plan to spend more than $10,000 in your cardmember year.

Which card is best for other benefits?

The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card is hands down the best of the four Hilton credit cards when it comes to benefits outside of status and spending. First off, there are no foreign transaction fees charged with this card.

Secondly, this is the only Hilton credit card option that offers you significant travel protections, like trip delay coverage up to $500 and trip cancellation coverage up to $5,000. Finally, you have the ability to earn a free weekend night at any Hilton hotel worldwide when you spend $10,000 within your cardmember year. If you are able to put this kind of spend on the card, you will easily extract the value of the annual fee, and then some, as long as you use the certificate.

Which is the best no annual fee Hilton card?

If you’re looking for a no annual fee Hilton card, the Hilton HHonors American Express is probably your best bet. This card has higher earning rates than the no-annual fee Citi Hilton HHonors Visa.

However, if you stay at Hilton hotels even a couple of times a year, you should consider upgrading to the Hilton HHonors Surpass or Hilton HHonors Reserve card so you can have Gold status. Gold status will give you free breakfast at many Hilton hotels. With just a few stays a year that could cover the annual fee of the card.

What can you do with Hilton points?

Hilton has 10 different hotel categories. Each hotel category has a different requirement for the number of points needed to book a free night at hotels within the category. The categories and points requirements are as follows:

  • Category 1: 5,000 points
  • Category 2: 10,000 points
  • Category 3: 20,000 points
  • Category 4: 20,000 – 30,000 points
  • Category 5: 30,000 – 40,000 points
  • Category 6: 30,000 – 50,000 points
  • Category 6: 30,000 – 60,000 points
  • Category 7: 30,000 – 60,000 points
  • Category 8: 40,000 – 70,000 points
  • Category 9: 50,000 – 80,000 points
  • Category 10: 70,000 – 95,000 points

Within each category, there are hotels that are good redemptions and hotels that aren’t as good of redemptions. Even more, this can change depending on when you are looking to travel! It is always important to evaluate the value you are getting from your points before you book.

Good Hilton point redemptions

We value Hilton points at just under half a cent each, so any time you are able to get at least that much value out of your Hilton points, you should consider redeeming them. If you are getting less value than that it might be better to use cash and earn points instead. Here are a couple of hotels that we think are good redemptions, but be sure to check the cash rates on the days you are planning to book before deciding to use points!

Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort – 70,000 to 95,000 points

If you want to redeem your hilton points for a luxury property, the Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria resort is a great option. This hotel costs 70,000 to 95,000 points per night and we consistently found points values ranging between 0.50 and 0.57 cents per point. The hotel is set on 40 acres of tropical gardens, has a spa, multiple restaurants, 9 pools, and a 2,000 foot river with water slides!

Condado Lagoon Villas at Caribe Hilton – 30,000 – 50,000 points

The Candado Lagoon Villas at the Caribe Hilton can be booked for 30,000 to 50,000 points per night, and we saw point values between 0.52 and 0.66 cents per point on the dates we checked. It is possible to book other parts of the Caribe Hilton, but point values generally weren’t as good. This hotel is located about 3 km from Old Town San Juan, Puerto Rico, so have access to a great beach and are close by activities outside of the resort too.

Hampton Inn Orlando Near Universal Blv/International Dr – 20,000 points

It’s not always the fancy hotels in gorgeous locations that are going to give you great value for your points. The Hampton Inn Orlando Near Universal Boulevard and International Drive only costs 20,000 points per night, but we saw points values as high as one cent per point! This hotel offers complimentary shuttle service to both Disney and Universal Studios, so even though it is not the most glitzy Hilton hotel you could use your points at, the value that you can get from staying here is pretty incredible.

AXON Redemptions via Hilton Amex cards

If you hold a Hilton co-branded credit card that is issued by American Express, you have access to a special type of reward redemption called AXON. These redemptions are available for 4-night stays at Category 5 to Category 10 hotels at a set price:

  • Category 5 – 130,000

  • Category 6 – 160,000

  • Category 7 – 190,000

  • Category 8 – 220,000

  • Category 9 – 260,000

  • Category 10 – 300,000

AXON awards only apply to standard rooms.

Depending on the time of year you are booking, an AXON redemption may or may not be better that redeeming at the regular rates due to the variable nature of standard pricing with Hilton.

For example, if you want to redeem for four nights at a Category 5 hotel and the cost is 30,000 points per night, you are better off not using AXON (30,000 * 4 = 120,000 vs 130,000 AXON). If that same hotel is pricing at 40,000 points per night, you should use AXON (40,000 * 4 = 160,000 vs 130,000 AXON).

AXON redemptions must be booked by calling 1-800-920-5649.

Questions and Answers

Can you earn more than one sign on bonus?

It is possible to earn more than one sign on bonus, but there are some rules to be aware of.

American Express has a strict once-per-lifetime rule, meaning that if you have earned the bonus from the card once, you cannot earn the sign on bonus for that exact same card again. But you can earn a separate bonus for each of the different Amex Hilton cards.

Citi allows you to receive a bonus for a credit card more than once, but not without some limitations. You are only allowed to receive one sign up bonus for a family of cards every 24 months. Both the Hilton HHonors Visa and Hilton HHonors Reserve card would be considered to be part of the same family of cards, so you can only get a bonus from one of them in a 2 year period.

When does status granted via cards expire?

You will have complimentary Hilton Gold or Silver status as long as you are a cardmember. If you complete the spending required to have upgraded status, you will have the status for the rest of the year that it is earned and the entire following year. For example, if you complete the spending required to upgrade your status in March 2017, you will have the upgraded status from March to December of 2017 and all of 2018.

Do authorized users get Hilton benefits?

Authorized users do not get Hilton status benefits.

Are free night certificates transferable?

No. Free night certificates are not transferable.

What happens to points if you cancel a card?

If you cancel your Hilton co-branded credit card, nothing will immediately happen to your points. However, your points are subject to Hilton’s expiration policy. In order to keep your account active, you must either earn or redeem points every 12 months.

Is there a business version of the cards?

There is not a business version of the Hilton credit card. However, if you are looking for a business credit card, you can choose any American Express Membership Reward-earning business card, like the American Express Business Rewards Gold or American Express Business Platinum, and transfer your Membership Rewards points at a 1:1.5 ratio to Hilton points.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
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Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee, then $95

Annual Fee

$0

Foreign Transaction Fee Waived

Yes

Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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