The Trifecta of Hilton Card Offers: Which One Should You Choose?

There is currently a plethora of excellent Hilton sign-up bonuses on the market. They are: Citi Hilton HHonors Signature card, Hilton HHonors card from American Express and Hilton HHonors Surpass from American Express. Confused? We are just getting started.

You can read about specifics on all three in this post  Neither offer pays  commission, so looks like Julia (my alter ego) and I will be doing some free  marketing work for banks today. And we are delighted, of course! Update: Citi Hilton card now pays me commission. Also, check my mentioned post for improved Amex offers.

So, here are some things you should be aware of:

1) While all three offers are very good, they may not be good for you

In general, Hilton points aren’t exceptionally valuable. In fact, I speculatively value them at 0.25 cents each. Emphasis on “speculatively.” I actually did recently buy them at 0.5 cents each, but only because I had a specific redemption in mind, and math IMO was favorable. It was  a category 1 property in Europe, which means it costs 5,000 points per night. At that rate, I only paid $25  for  hotel that includes breakfast. A good deal in my book.

That said, there aren’t that many category 1 properties in USA. They do exist, and I even wrote a post on one. If you are heading to one of them in a near future, by all means, get one of Hilton credit cards. In fact, it could make sense to do it for a category 2 or 3 property (cost 10,000 and 20,000 points respectively). See my post on Amex Surpass for more on this.

But if you are currently swimming in hotel points, perhaps you should take a look at mileage or cash sign-up bonuses listed on this page. In general, I value 1 mile at 1 cent, but all things being equal, I will go for cash bonus. In fact, if I don’t see myself using a certain type of miles within the next few years, I’m more likely to select an offer of cash, travel rebate or  gift cards even if it’s technically worth less. One exception is Chase.  I wrote about new restrictions on co-branded card approvals that are supposedly coming our way in April. So…

2) If you constantly switch credit cards and don’t have specific use for Hilton points, consider getting a Chase hotel credit card instead

This might be the case of “use it or lose it.” Hilton cards will still be there for your “churning” pleasure after April. The same can not be said for Chase co-branded offers. Right now, we are operating under assumption that   Chase will cut off people like me, namely, those who like to fleece it.

So, if the evil plan materializes, those hotel cards will be off-limits, possibly forever. Maybe picking up Marriott, IHG, Fairmont or Hyatt offer would be advantageous at this particular time. I’m not saying you should and personally, I plan to go for Southwest bonus. But assuming you are looking to accumulate hotel points (any hotel points) speculatively, you may want to reconsider getting a Hilton card.

3) Any time I see extremely high offers like this, my first thought is that significant devaluation is around the corner

This goes along with my warning  to readers about collecting hotel points speculatively, period. It’s true that Hilton has hugely devalued its program few years ago. Many think that they can’t possibly do more damage. Well, I disagree. I believe the most vulnerable are low-tier redemptions, and that’s where real value is for many regular families.

4) If you only plan to get one Hilton card and don’t have specific plans for points, it should probably be Citi offer 

You can qualify for Citi sign-up bonus  again as long as the card has been closed for at least 18 months. So, by getting it now you can start the clock. Amex bonus on personal cards  can only be received once per lifetime. You might as well “save” it for the future when you might actually need it. In all likelihood, the bonus will be increased again at some point.

5) If you plan to get two Hilton cards and don’t have specific plans for points, you should probably eliminate Amex Surpass

It has an annual fee of $75, not waived. While the offer is 85,000 points compared to 70,000 points on the regular Amex Hilton HHonors card, I personally wouldn’t speculatively pay 0.5 cents per Hilton point.

6) If you have specific goals for Hilton points and plan to stay at properties that don’t include breakfast, add Amex Surpass

While the fee of $75 is not waived, this card comes with automatic Gold status that gives free breakfast at most Hilton properties. You also might receive a free upgrade, but it’s hard to quantify the value of those. If you travel as a couple,  it’s probably marginal. When you have a family, it’s a different story. Either way, $75 fee will probably pay for itself after just few hotel nights. Plus, you are getting a more generous bonus to start with.

If you love Hilton brand and want to accumulate their points via everyday spending, Surpass will probably be your best bet. See my linked post earlier in the article.

7) If you put very little on credit cards each month and don’t do any manufactured spending, consider Hilton HHonors card from American Express

Barrier to entry is very low at $1,000 in 3 months as far as minimum spending goes. While this isn’t an issue for most hobbyists who can easily knock off $10,000 in 3 months via various methods, most normal people are not like that.

If you are that normal person I’m referring to, stick to what you can comfortably handle. Amex cards are very good to hang on to long-term because you can access all kinds of valuable offers in your profile. Plus, this card has no fee, so no pressure to cancel it at some point in the future.

My reader Erik reminded me that both Citi Hilton offer and this card come with complimentary Hilton Silver status, which gives access to “5th night free” benefit as well as other perks. Gold status has this benefit as well.

Well, it’s a wrap! Readers, what would you like to add?

P.S. Check the comment from reader TropicGal on how you can sort Hilton hotels into corresponding categories.

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27 thoughts on “The Trifecta of Hilton Card Offers: Which One Should You Choose?

  1. I was trying to find a listing of the hotels (Hilton) in each category but could not find it. Can you direct me in the right direction please

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      • You are welcome! You can use this info to update your Hilton post if you want to. I didn’t find this info on any blog/forum, I figured it out by myself.

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    • You wouldn’t happen to know how to find availability at he Grand Wailea would you? I’m not sure why I am missing but when I login to my Hilton account there is never award space available.

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      • @Cheapblackdad What I found through trial and error is that if you have no Hilton points (or not enough) for a specific award, the search will turn up nothing if you log in. It’s a very weird Hilton quirk. Try doing search without being logged in. It might still not be available, but at least, the results will be accurate.

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      • Ah, I thought this might be the case. We have a specific date in October that will always be a good week for our family witht my wife’s accountant schedule and our children having 2 days off and it looks like it’s random enough of a time that flight and hotel availability is wide open. When not logged in, Grand Wailea is as wel. These sign ups are worth like 4 nights there for our family. Pretty awesome.

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  2. Thanks to the link for the HHonors Points search tool…I did not know about that one. Considering the options, I think the no-fee Amex HHonors is pretty strong if you plan to keep the card. It has the better points earning structure and also gets you access to AXON awards (which are not as great as they used to be, but there are scenarios with decent value). There is no real downside, other than it takes up a “slot” with Amex (who limit most people to 4 credit cards – charge card products are counted separately). It is worth mentioning that the comped Silver Elite status with the no-fee cards does allow you to earn 25% more points at Hilton brand properties and also gives you access to the 5th award night free elite benefit. Possibly you might get the occasional room upgrade from a friendly desk clerk in an empty hotel, but I wouldn’t count on it. Of course, the Citi Hilton Reserve Card is worth mentioning as another “fee” card. The signup bonus is currently 2 weekend nights, but there have been stronger offers that include a $100 statement credit (or more?) in the past. It is very similar to the Surpass in giving comped Gold status, but with a lower earning structure, $20 higher fee, annual free weekend night if you spend $10K, and no foreign transaction fees (the Amex Surpass will still sock you with those as well as both of the no-fee cards). Surpass vs. Reserve really depends on your goals and spending patterns. I’d also put things in perspective – if you’re looking to use Hilton points for several nights at high-end properties, none of these cards will give you enough points to do more than maybe 1 or 2. On the other hand, if you want to use Hilton points at a Hampton Inn outside a major metropolitan or resort area, you could probably score a few more nights because these hotels tend to be lower on the category scale.

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    • @Erik Good input, as always! I didn’t really focus on Silver status since my target reader will rarely earn points via hotel stays. The “5th night free” benefit could potentially be valuable, and I should have added it. I did write about it in my post on Amex Surpass (which gives Gold status), but it’s worth mentioning it here as well. Will update.
      On Citi Reserve card: it’s potentially way more lucrative than the other three offers. I look at it as comparing apples to oranges. Reserve makes sense for high-end properties, but is lousy for mid-tier hotels. Hilton points sign-up bonuses are the opposite. The offer does occasionally come with $100 credit, so it would be the best time to sign up. Of course, if someone is planning on staying in Hawaii or New York and has some flexibility on dates, it could make sense to pull the trigger now. Reserve is listed in my round-up of hotel bonuses, and I do recommend it now and again. My biggest issue with Hilton is that they have blackout dates for their popular properties and at times, it’s hard to find award availability.

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      • Just learned of another benefit of the Hilton no-fee Amex…if you book your stay online with Hilton using their card and pay for your stay with the same card, they give you 500 bonus points. In the grand scheme of things, 500 HHonors points aren’t worth much, but if you have several stays per year at Hilton properties, it can add up.

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      • @Hilde That’s usually the case with nice Hilton properties, unfortunately. You can’t beat category 1-3, everything else is a bit too pricey. Of course, redeeming during holidays is a different story. I know you were looking at Marriott offer as well. Let me know where you plan on going because it will be much easier to make recommendation based on that. I’ll be happy to suggest some offers regardless of whether they pay me or not. Feel free to email or comment.

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  3. Can you combine the Hilton points from your AMEX and Citi accounts? As in use the same Hilton account number when you apply for those credit cards?

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    • @Hilary Hi, I went ahead and deleted your email address from the comment. I’m guessing it ended up there by accident. Yes, you can absolutely use the same Hilton number for both apps. You are earning the same currency, just from different banks. Hilton is weird that way, and doesn’t seem to fancy exclusivity. And that’s good for hobbyists!

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  4. @Hilary There used to be several versions of this card, including 70K offer with waived fee. I can’t find it anywhere after doing Google search. I believe the affiliate offer is the best one out there right now. Of course, keep an eye on blogs because something better may turn up.

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  5. Pingback: Chase IHG MasterCard Vs. Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Vs. Citi Hilton HHonors Signature Visa – Miles For Family

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