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The Hilton Honors™ Card from American Express is a travel rewards credit card with no annual fee and an attractive hotel rewards program. The Honors card’s rewards are enticing, especially on spending at Hilton hotels and partner properties, of which there are more than 4,000 total worldwide.
Hilton Honors from American Express is comparable to other popular hotel, airline, and general travel rewards credit cards. Its closest competitors include Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard®and American Express cards such as Gold Delta SkyMiles and the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card.
When you spend at least $1,000 within the first 3 months of account ownership, you get 50,000 bonus Hilton Honors points. That’s worth up to $500 when redeemed for free hotel nights.
Earning Hotel Rewards
Every $1 you spend at Hilton properties or partner hotels and resorts earns an unlimited 7 Hilton Honors points. Every $1 you spend at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants earns an unlimited 5 points. All other purchases earn an unlimited 3 points per $1 spent.
You also receive 500 bonus points whenever you use your Hilton Honors Card to reserve a room during the booking process, provided you use the same card to pay for your room when you arrive at the Hilton property.
You can redeem your points for free hotel nights, starting at a minimum of 5,000 points for Category 1 hotels, or 2,000 points plus $30 when you redeem a Category 1 hotel night with a combination of points and cash (known as Points & Money Rewards).
Per-night redemption rates vary with demand, seasonality, and other factors. The number of points required for redemption increases with hotel category, up to a minimum of 70,000 points for Category 10 hotels – sometimes as high as 95,000, depending on the property and season.
Although point value varies according to many factors, points are generally worth $0.005 to $0.01 at redemption. You can also use points for room upgrades, if available, at the same general point-to-dollar conversion rate.
Silver & Gold Status
As long as you remain a cardholder in good standing, you’re automatically granted Silver status in Hilton’s loyalty program. Silver status boosts your point earnings on Hilton and partner property stays by 15%, plus it awards a 5th night free on stays of 5 nights or longer.
If you spend at least $20,000 in a calendar year, you are upgraded to Gold status. Gold status boosts your point earnings by 25% for all Hilton and partner stays, plus it entitles you to complimentary in-room WiFi and free room upgrades when and where available.
There is no annual fee, but foreign transactions cost 2.7% of the total transaction amount. Balance transfers and cash advances both cost the greater of $5 or 3%, while late and returned payments both cost up to $38.
The Hilton Honors Card’s travel-related benefits include:
- Carry-on baggage insurance worth up to $1,250 per piece and $10,000 per trip
- 24/7 roadside assistance
- A 24/7 global assistance hotline for travelers more than 100 miles from home
- Car rental loss and damage insurance for vehicles paid in full with this card
This card’s shopping benefits include:
- A complimentary 12-month extended warranty on purchased items with original warranties of five years or less
- Reimbursement up to $300 per item and $1,000 per calendar year for rejected returns
- Purchase protection coverage (reimbursement) for items stolen or damaged within 90 days of their purchase
This card requires excellent credit. Any notable credit dings are likely to be disqualifying.
- No Annual Fee. The Hilton Honors Card from American Express is one of the few hotel rewards cards without an annual fee. The similar Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express ($95) and the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card (Chase MasterCard, $49) both have annual fees, among many others.
- Attainable Welcome Offer. This card’s 50,000-point welcome offer is yours when you spend at least $1,000 within 3 months of opening your account. That’s a fairly attainable goal for most card users, certainly more so than the $3,000 welcome offer thresholds for the Capital One Venture Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest cards.
- Broad, Generous Rewards Categories. The Hilton Honors Card’s 5x points categories are quite broad: gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores. They all fall under the rubric of “everyday purchases,” and the first two are particularly useful for frequent travelers. By contrast, the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card is more restrictive, as it pays 5x points only for airfare and car rentals.
- Faster Time to Redemption. Coupled with the Hilton Honors program’s relatively low minimum redemption threshold for free nights, the Hilton Honors Card’s accelerated point-earning power translates to quicker redemptions. You need to spend less than $750 at a Hilton hotel or partner property, or exactly $1,000 in the 5x categories, to earn the 5,000 points required for a free night at a Category 1 hotel. If you pay with a mixture of points and cash, you need just 2,000 points, or less than $300 in the 7x category. By contrast, IHG Rewards Club’s minimum redemption threshold for points-only redemptions is 10,000 points, requiring you to spend $2,000 at IHG hotels (which earn 5x points) to redeem for points-only free nights.
- Extra Points for Making Room Reservations. When you reserve a Hilton room with your Hilton Honors Card, and then charge the full amount of the room’s cost to your card when you actually stay, you receive 500 bonus points. Few (if any) other hotel rewards credit cards have similar reservation bonuses. Plus, as an automatic Silver status holder, you get an extra 15% points bonus on all Hilton stays. When you graduate to Gold, you get a 25% bonus.
- Points Don’t Expire. Hilton Honors points don’t expire as long as you have some sort of account activity, such as earning points through card transactions or redeeming points for stays, during any 12-month period.
- Inflexible Redemption Options. You can’t redeem your earned Honors points for anything other than free hotel nights. While Hilton has more than 4,000 properties to choose from, this is still considerably more restrictive than some other hotel and travel rewards cards. For example, Chase Sapphire Preferred allows you to redeem for any travel purchase and cash equivalents, and Capital One Venture Rewards allows redemption for any travel purchase.
- Foreign Transaction Fee. The Hilton Honors Card charges a 2.7% foreign transaction fee. That’s somewhat unusual among hotel credit cards. Capital One Venture Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and Citi Hilton Honors Reserve all waive foreign transaction fees.
- No Anniversary Freebies. This card does not come with a free night’s stay or point bonus on your card membership anniversary. That’s a drawback relative to some other popular hotel cards, including the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card and the IHG Rewards Club Select – though both of these cards do have annual fees of $95 and $49, respectively.
- Reaching Gold Elite Status Is Tough for Moderate and Low Spenders. Although this card comes with complimentary Silver status for as long as your account remains open and in good standing, Gold status benefits (such as a 25% points bonus on all Hilton stays and free room upgrades, when available) are considerably more attractive. However, you have to spend at least $20,000 in a calendar year to qualify for Gold status, which is difficult for many cardholders. By contrast, the IHG Rewards Club card automatically comes with Platinum Elite status, IHG’S second-highest status level.
Hilton is one of the largest and most recognizable hotel families around. If you’re traveling to a major U.S. or international city, chances are good that there’s a Hilton property within an easy drive, cab ride, or transit hop from your destination.
Unless you have a bias against Hilton hotels, it’s hard to argue that the Hilton Honors™ Card from American Express isn’t convenient or useful. Of course, one could make the same argument for other major hotel credit cards too. As long as you use them responsibly and don’t damage your credit by applying for too many at once, perhaps your wallet has room for multiple hotel-based rewards credit cards.