There are many hotel rewards cards that provide travel benefits and reward purchases with free hotel stays. The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card is one of these, but it also rewards for other travel-related purchases such as airfare and car rentals.
Although similar to the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature and the American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass cards, the Reserve card manages to stand out a bit ahead of the pack as it offers a sign-up bonus and certain additional benefits.
- Sign-up Bonus. When you spend $2,500 within the first four months of cardmembership, you receive two certificates for weekend night stays in a standard room with double occupancy at select Hilton HHonors properties. Weekend night certificates can be redeemed at hotels and resorts in 90 countries, and at more than 3,900 properties including Waldorf Astoria Orlando and the Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort. Weekend night certificates are good for one year after the date they are issued.
- Fees. The annual fee is $95. Balance transfers are $5 or 3%, whichever is greater. There are no foreign transaction fees with this card.
- APR. The APR for the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card is 15.24% but it does vary according to the prime rate. A penalty APR of up to 29.99% may be applied to your account if your payments are late or returned.
- HHonors Points. This card rewards purchases with HHonors points. You earn ten HHonors points per dollar spent on hotel stays within the Hilton HHonors portfolio, five points per dollar spent on airfare and car rentals, and three HHonors points per dollar spent on all other purchases. Points can be redeemed for hotel stays, merchandise, and experiences such as helicopter rides and “once in a lifetime adventures” in 90 countries. There are also no caps on the points that can be earned and they do not expire. Hotels are classified in three categories: Stays at Category 1 hotels start as low as 5,000 points, Category 2 properties start at 10,000 point, and the rankings reach all the way up to Category 10 properties, which range from 70,000 to 95,000 points.
- Annual Night Certificate. Each year that you spend $10,000 or more, you are eligible to receive an anniversary bonus of one weekend night in a standard room with double occupancy at select Hilton HHonors hotels and resorts.
- Membership Levels. There are four membership levels in the HHonors program: Blue, Silver, Gold, and Diamond. Each tier requires a certain number of stays, nights, or base points and in return provides different benefits. Blue is the first tier, and in order to reach Silver, you generally need four stays (or 10 nights) in a calendar year. Gold status requires 20 stays, 40 nights, or 75,000 points, and Diamond requires 30 stays, 60 nights, or 120,000 base points. Cardmembers of the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card receive complimentary Gold status.
- Citi Price Rewind. Included is Citi Price Rewind, a program that tracks prices online for purchases that have been made with the card for a period of 30 days. Simply register your purchase with the program, and if a price at least $25 lower is discovered, the difference is returned to you. These refunds are limited per item to $250, and $1,000 cumulative per calendar year.
- Chip-Based Technology. An embedded microchip in the card contains your encrypted information. This makes card cloning, hacking, and fraud very difficult.
- Valuable Sign-Up Bonus. The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card offers two certificates for one weekend night each when you spend $2,500 within the first four months of opening your account. These certificates can be used at a Category 7 hotel, which can cost more than $300 per night. The sign-up bonus in this case would be equal to more than $600, which is generally unheard of, and it covers the annual fee for multiple years.
- Annual Night Certificate. Each year that you spend $10,000 or more, you are eligible to receive an anniversary bonus of one weekend night in a standard room, double occupancy at select Hilton HHonors hotels and resorts.
- Earn Bonus HHonors Points on Travel Expenses. Not only do you earn ten HHonors points for each dollar spent on Hilton purchases, but you also earn five HHonors points per dollar spent on airline purchases and car rentals, and three HHonors points per dollar spent on all other purchases. Most hotel credit cards reward bonus points for hotel purchases, and there are virtually no cards which reward more than one point on “everything else” purchases. Almost all travel-related expenses earn bonus points with the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card.
- HHonors Points Do Not Expire. Your points do not expire as long as you either stay in a Hilton HHonors portfolio hotel, earn HHonors points through participating partners, or purchase HHonors points within 12 consecutive months. There are also no blackout dates or restrictions when you want to redeem your points for available standard rooms.
- Automatic Gold Status. Gold status generally requires 20 stays, 40 nights, or 75,000 points, but you automatically earn Gold status as a cardmember of the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card. It includes benefits such as a 25% elite status bonus on all HHonors base points earned, allowing you to earn rewards faster. You also receive perks such as high-speed Internet and other amenities, depending on the property. (For example, Waldorf Astoria Hotels provide 1,000 HHonors bonus points per stay, or an in-room movie.)
- Earn Elite Statuses Faster. The requirements for Gold status are detailed above, and Diamond status usually requires 30 stays, 60 nights, or 120,000 base points. With the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card, however, you earn complimentary Gold status – and if you spend $40,000 in a year with your card, you are upgraded to Diamond status.
- Choose From Many Hilton Properties. Hilton properties are available in a large variety of price ranges and include Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites, and Waldorf Astoria hotels, as well as many others. You won’t have a problem finding a property at which to use your rewards.
- No Foreign Transaction Fee. If you travel frequently outside of the United States, you should be mindful as to whether the card you are using for purchases charges a foreign transaction fee. The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card does not. This fee can be as high as 3% and is found on many credit cards, including the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature and the American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass cards. This benefit, along with chip technology, makes the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve a great card for those who travel abroad.
- Annual Fee. There are a few ways to compensate for the $95 annual fee, but it is still fairly high when compared to other hotel rewards cards. The American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass card has an annual fee of $75, the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Card has an annual fee of $85, American Express Starwood Preferred Guest has an annual fee of $65, and the very similar Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature card has no annual fee at all.
- Fee Is Not Waived the First Year. Most credit cards with annual fees waive the fee at least for the first year, giving you an opportunity to determine whether the rewards and benefits are going to be worth the fee in the future. However, the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card does not waive the annual fee for new cardholders.
- High APR. The APR of 15.24% is high, yet somewhat common on rewards credit cards. The APR on the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve actually falls right in the mid-range of the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature card, which is 14.24%, and the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Gold card, which is 16.24%. It is important with any rewards card that you pay the balance in full in order to maximize your earning potential. If you regularly carry a balance, a low-interest credit card would be a better choice than a rewards card with a high APR.
If you travel frequently, virtually every expense you encounter – from hotels, to airlines, to rental cars – is awarded many more points with the Hilton HHonors Reserve card than most other travel rewards cards. Additionally, the sign-up bonus and anniversary bonuses most likely cover the annual fee for as long as you are a cardholder. It is one of the few travel rewards cards that does not charge a foreign transaction fee and includes chip technology, making it an all-around perfect card for the frequent traveler.
The combination of bonus opportunities, benefits, sign-up bonuses, and travel benefits make the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card one of the best available for travelers.
4.6 out of 5 stars: Similar to the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature, but the Reserve card focuses specifically on rewarding travel-related purchases and is one of the best cards available for travelers.