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The Citi® Hilton Honors™ Reserve Card is a popular hotel rewards credit card with a $95 annual fee and a host of benefits that favor frequent guests at Hilton hotels and resorts. Cardholders in good standing automatically earn Hilton Honors Gold Status, which confers generous benefits: 25% faster Honors point earnings on Hilton stays, flexible check-out, and a 5th night free on stays of 5 nights or longer. It also has a solid sign-up bonus.
Honors points can be exchanged for free nights or room upgrades at more than 3,900 Hilton properties worldwide. Other redemption methods, such as transferring to frequent flyer programs and using points to purchase general merchandise online, exist. However, these methods tend to devalue accumulated points.
The Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card is comparable to a number of other branded hotel cards and travel rewards credit cards, most of which have annual fees ranging from $50 to $100. These include the Citi Hilton Honors Visa Signature Card, Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card, Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature Card, Marriott Rewards Premier Card, IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card, and United MileagePlus Explorer Card. It’s also comparable to some general-purpose travel rewards cards, including the U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card, Capital One Venture Rewards Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, and BankAmericard Travel Rewards Card.
- Sign-up Bonus. When you spend at least $2,500 within 4 months of opening your account, you receive 2 weekend night certificates. Each certificate is good for 1 weekend night (Friday, Saturday, or Sunday) in a double-occupancy standard room at select Hilton hotel and resort properties.
- Earning Hilton Honors Rewards. The Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card earns 10 Honors bonus points per $1 spent on Hilton hotel and resort stays; 5 Honors points per $1 spent on airline and rental car purchases; and 3 points per $1 spent on all other purchases. All spending categories earn unlimited points. As long as you have some account activity (such as earning, redeeming, or transferring points) in any 12-month period, your points never expire.
- Redeeming Hilton Honors Rewards. You can redeem your Hilton Honors points for free nights and room upgrades, with no blackout dates, at Hilton hotel and resort properties. Minimum redemptions start at 5,000 points per night for standard rooms at basic Category 1 properties, where room rates are usually less than $100 per night. Minimums range up to 95,000 points per night at ultra-luxurious Category 10 properties, which often cost $500 or more per night. Separately, you can transfer your accumulated points to frequent flyer programs from airlines such as Virgin Atlantic and Delta Airlines, and subsequently redeem them for free flights or class upgrades. However, transfer ratios aren’t ideal, as you often need 10 Honors points, and sometimes even more, to get a single airline mile. As such, points-to-miles transfers usually aren’t ideal redemption methods with this card. Likewise, though you can redeem Honors points for general merchandise (including electronics and personal accessories) at the online Hilton Honors Shopping Mall portal, you typically do so at a value of less than $0.01 per point. That’s usually less than what you can achieve when redeeming for Hilton stays.
- Anniversary Bonus. If you spend at least $10,000 in a given year (starting on the date your annual fee is charged), you receive 1 weekend night certificate, good for a double-occupancy standard room at select properties.
- Hilton Honors Gold Status. As long as your account remains in good standard, you’re entitled to Hilton Honors Gold Status. Gold Status benefits include a 25% bonus on all Hilton Honors base point earnings (points earned on Hilton stays), your 5th night free on standard room stays of 5 nights or longer, and flexible check-out times.
- Upgrade to Diamond Status. If you spend $40,000 or more in a given year, you’re automatically upgraded to Hilton Honors Diamond Status. Diamond Status benefits include a 50% bonus on all Hilton Honors base point earnings and guaranteed room availability when you make your reservation at least 48 hours in advance.
- Important Fees. This card comes with a $95 annual fee. However, there are no foreign transaction fees. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 3% of the transferred amount, while cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5% of the advanced amount. Late and returned payments both cost $35.
- Regular APR. The regular purchase and balance transfer APR is 15.49%, variable with prevailing interest rates. The cash advance APR is 25.49%, and the penalty APR is 29.99%.
- Additional Travel Benefits. This card has more than its fair share of travel-related benefits. The most noteworthy include lost baggage protection (up to $3,000 per person), 24/7 travel concierge service, and complimentary rental car loss/damage insurance when you pay for your rental in full with your card.
- General Benefits. This card’s non-travel benefits include Citi Price Rewind, which entitles you to reimbursement (up to $300 per covered item and $1,200 total per calendar year) if Citi finds a lower price on a purchased item within 60 days of your purchase; and up to $1,000 in damage and theft protection on purchased items for up to 120 days from purchase.
- Credit Required. This card requires excellent credit. If you have any blemishes on your credit report, you’re unlikely to qualify.
- Hilton Honors Gold Status. As long as your account is in good standing, the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card automatically confers Honors Gold Status. That’s good for a 25% boost to base point earnings at Hilton hotels, which can dramatically accelerate your progress toward free stays. The free 5th night is also a huge perk on longer trips. Some competing cards, including Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature, don’t confer frequent guest or loyalty program status.
- Excellent Point Earning Rates on Travel. This card earns 10 points per $1 spent at Hilton properties and 5 points per $1 spent on airfare and car rentals – probably the three biggest spending categories on most trips. If you travel frequently and don’t mind or prefer staying at Hilton properties, this is music to your ears. Some other hotel rewards cards either don’t earn as quickly on hotel stays, or don’t offer bonus points in other travel categories. For instance, the Hilton Honors Visa Signature Card earns 6 points per $1 spent at Hilton properties and 3 points per $1 spent at supermarkets, drug stores, and gas stations – with no rental car or airfare benefits in sight.
- Solid Baseline Earning Rate. This card earns an unlimited 3 Honors points per $1 spent on non-travel purchases. That’s three times better than most airline rewards cards, whose baseline earnings rates typically hover around 1 mile per $1 spent.
- Very Good Hotel Selection. The Hilton Honors program offers access to nearly 4,000 hotels and resorts around the world – a truly impressive lineup that some other hotel brands can’t match. For instance, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express ($95 annual fee) has just 1,200 hotels and resorts to choose from.
- No Foreign Transaction Fee. This card never charges foreign transaction fees. If you travel out of the U.S. on a regular basis, this is a potentially huge benefit. Some travel cards, such as the Citi Expedia+ Credit Card, charge foreign transaction fees up to 3%.
- Points Don’t Expire. As long as you have some account activity in any given 12-month period, your points never expire.
- Has an Annual Fee. The Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card comes with a $95 annual fee from day one. Unlike some travel rewards cards, it doesn’t waive this fee during the first year of cardmembership.
- Frequent Flyer Mile Transfers Are Sub-par. Frequent flyer transfers offer a poor value for Citi Hilton Honors Reserve cardholders. Expect to spend at least 10 Honors points to get 1 partner mile – a far cry from the 1-to-1 points-to-miles transfers offered by some competing cards, such as Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee) and the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express.
- No Cash Redemptions. You can’t redeem your accumulated Honors points for cash, which is – after all – the most versatile redemption method of all. If you prefer a travel rewards card that allows cash redemptions, opt for Chase Sapphire Preferred instead.
- Charges Penalty Interest. This card has a hefty penalty APR: 29.99%, charged indefinitely once you’ve missed a payment. If you’ve been late on credit card payments in the past, this is likely to give you pause. Some competing cards, including the IHG Rewards Club Select Card ($49 annual fee) and the Marriott Rewards Premier card ($85 annual fee) forgo penalty interest.
- Requires Excellent Credit. The Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card requires excellent credit. If you’re in the process of building your credit, look to a less discerning card. The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card is a good option for frequent travelers with middling credit.
The Citi® Hilton Honors™ Reserve Card is definitely best for heavy spenders who frequent Hilton properties. Its earning rate on Hilton stays is particularly impressive: 10 Honors points per $1 spent, which is sufficient to earn you a free Category 1 night after spending just $500 at Hilton properties. And, with automatic Gold Status, the points come even faster.
On the other hand, this card has limited value for people who don’t travel often or prefer to redeem accumulated points outside the Hilton ecosystem. If you spend enough to offset the card’s annual fee, consider designating it as your travel card, to be used exclusively for travel-related purchases. Then, get a second credit card – perhaps a traditional cash back credit card – that rewards you for everyday spending closer to home. Sounds like a win-win deal.