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Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card: Go for the Gold

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If the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card‘s automatic HHonors Gold status doesn’t make your globetrotting heart swoon, its generous signup bonus will. Plus, the card’s robust points system and anniversary bonuses makes it easy to reap long-term benefits.

Citibank Hilton HHonors Reserve Credit Card
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At a glance
Annual fee $95
Foreign transaction fee None
Automatic status HHonors Gold status
Signup bonus Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton Portfolio after you make $2,500 in purchases within 4 months of account opening.
Verdict: If you stay at Hilton portfolio hotels frequently, this card is well worth its annual fee.
Good for:
  • Someone who loves staying at Hilton portfolio hotels
  • Couples who travel frequently
  • Someone who wants HHonors Gold status
Bad for:
  • Someone who wants to stay at hotels outside the Hilton portfolio
  • Someone looking for higher redemption rates
  • Someone who wants to use points for airlines

In this article:

Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card: The basics
Where the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card shines
How to maximize your rewards
Where the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card falls short
Should you choose the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card?

Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card: The basics

With the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card, it’s easy to cash in on benefits right away.

  • When you use the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card, you’ll earn 10 HHonors bonus points per dollar spent on a hotel in the Hilton portfolio, 5 per dollar spent on airline and car rental purchases, and 3 on other eligible purchases.
  • NerdWallet values HHonors points at 0.44 cents each.
  • When you sign up, you can Limited time: earn a $100 statement credit after spending $100 or more on your first hotel stay in the Hilton Portfolio within the first 3 months of account opening.*.

Example image of Citi® Hilton HHonors<sup>TM</sup>  Reserve Card

Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card

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Pros

  • High rewards rate
  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Has annual fee
  • Needs excellent credit

Sign-up Bonus

Limited time: earn a $100 statement credit after spending $100 or more on your first hotel stay in the Hilton Portfolio within the first 3 months of account opening.*

Annual Fee

$95

Intro APR Promotions

None

APR

  • APR: 15.24%* (Variable)
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • Limited Time: Earn a $100 statement credit after spending $100 or more on your first hotel stay in the Hilton Portfolio within the first 3 months of account opening.*
  • Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton pPortfolio after you make $2,500 in purchases within 4 months of account opening*
  • Earn 10 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on hotel stays within the Hilton Portfolio*
  • Earn 5 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on airline and car rental purchases*
  • Earn 3 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases*
  • Enjoy the benefits of HHonors Gold status as long as you are a cardmember*
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases*
  • Travel with ease and enjoy global acceptance with your Citi chip credit card

All in all, this card is a great deal if you frequently stay at Hilton portfolio hotels — and the big signup bonus makes that offer even sweeter.

Where the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card shines

For Hilton devotees, there’s a lot to love about the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card.

Automatic HHonors Gold status – Hands down, the best part about the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card is that cardmembers automatically attain HHonors Gold status. With this elite membership, you’ll get every fifth night at a Hilton portfolio hotel free, a 25% bonus on the HHonors base points you earn, and a slew of other benefits. You’ll also be able to stay Gold as long as you’re a cardholder — a valuable card feature, considering how difficult it is to maintain elite status with some rewards programs.

Hefty signup bonus – Frequent travelers will love the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card’s signup bonus: Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton Portfolio after you make $2,500 in purchases within 4 months of account opening. And right now, you can earn another bonus for a Limited time: earn a $100 statement credit after spending $100 or more on your first hotel stay in the Hilton Portfolio within the first 3 months of account opening.*. You can redeem these certificates at almost any hotel, with a few exceptions. Play your cards right, and these could be worth over $1,000.

No blackout dates – With some hotel programs, it’s nearly impossible to get the room you want in peak travel season. With Hilton, this isn’t an issue. If you spend more than $40,000 on your card and work your way up to Diamond status, you’re guaranteed a room when you make a reservation at least 48 hours before arrival.

Anniversary bonus – It pays to be a loyal Hilton HHonors customer. If you spend $10,000 on your card each year, you can earn one weekend night certificate — which, again, can be worth more than $500 if you redeem it at a more upscale hotel.

No foreign transaction fees – If you’re traveling abroad, you can make purchases with the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card without incurring any fees.

Pay with both HHonors points and cash – Unlike other rewards programs, Hilton lets you pay for stays partly with HHonors points and partly with cash. This makes it easier to use every last HHonors point you earn.

How to maximize your rewards

Once you earn Gold status, there are a few things you can do to stretch your points further.

Use weekend certificates at the fancy places – Remember, the weekend certificates you earn through the signup and anniversary bonuses are redeemable at almost all 4,200+ Hilton portfolio hotels. If you want to get more bang for your buck, redeem these certificates at top-tier locations.

Do some comparison shopping – Just because you’re booking with HHonors points doesn’t necessarily mean you’re snagging a good deal. Before making purchases, compare the HHonors points it takes to book a room with the dollar price. If you’re not getting a good value with HHonors points, save up your rewards for next time.

Bring a plus-one – Couples, rejoice: For HHonors Gold status members, second guests stay free and complimentary breakfast for two is also included at some hotels. This means you’ll get a better value when you bring your partner along on a trip.

Where the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card falls short

The Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card has some less-than-perfect features.

Low redemption value – NerdWallet values HHonors points at 0.44 cents each, a lot less than other rewards cards earn. Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express‘s Starpoints, for example, are worth 2.3 cents each, according to NerdWallet calculations.

Extra charges – Just because you have Gold status doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay for anything. Depending on where you’re staying, you may have to shell out a lot of extra dough for rollaway beds, breakfast and other items. If you’re not sure what’s complimentary, give the hotel a call beforehand.

Airline miles require more points – You can redeem your HHonors points for airline rewards, but you’ll end up getting a lot less value for your money. With 10,000 HHonors points, you can only get 850 US Airways miles, or 1,000 Virgin America Elevate points. If you’re looking for airline rewards, you’d be better off with another card.

The Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card versus its competitors

Depending on your traveling preferences, one of the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card‘s competitors may be a better fit for you.

Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Visa Signature® Card vs. Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card

Citibank Hilton HHonors Credit Card
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If you love staying at hotels in the Hilton portfolio, you’re probably also contemplating the $0 annual fee version of the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card, the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Visa Signature® Card. With this lower-cost option, you’ll earn 40,000 HHonors Bonus Points after $1,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening. You’ll also get automatic Silver status and an easy way to upgrade to Gold.

If your goal is to rack up points quickly, though, you’re better off with the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card. The signup bonus is more than twice as valuable, and you’ll earn HHonors points at a much faster rate. This could more than make up for its annual fee of $95.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express vs. Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card

American Express Starwood Credit Card
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Want to stay at more upscale hotels? Consider the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express instead of the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card. NerdWallet values this card’s Starpoints at 2.3 cents apiece, when redeemed for hotel stays, much more than the HHonors points, which fetch about 0.44 cents apiece, according to NerdWallet valuations. Cardholders only need to book 20 nights to reach Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status, which offers more perks, like a late checkout and an upgraded room at check-in, when available. With Gold status, you’ll also be able to earn Starpoints more quickly.

In some cases, though, Hilton may win out for you in the end. You get automatic Gold status just by having the card, and Hilton has 4,200 hotels in its portfolio, whereas Starwood includes only 1,100. The Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card is also better for traveling internationally than the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, since it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card  vs. Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card

Chase IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card Credit Card
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Sure, the InterContinental Hotels Group, known as IHG, isn’t a luxury brand — but with 4,700 hotels in nearly 100 countries, it offers more choices than Hilton or Starwood. The IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card also comes with an impressive signup bonus: Earn 70,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening. You’ll also get automatic Platinum Elite status as long as you’re a cardholder, which gets you a 50% bonus on all base points earned, guaranteed room availability, complimentary upgrades and other perks.

For people who love staying at Holiday Inn and similar hotels, this could be a great deal. But the program has its downsides. NerdWallet values IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card  points at a paltry 0.4 cents each, less than the points on Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card. It can also be more difficult to book a room with rewards during peak travel times with IHG than with Starwood and Hilton. If these are deal breakers for you, you might be happier with the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card.

Should you choose the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card?

If you love staying at Hilton portfolio hotels, this card more than pays for itself. You’ll be able to hold onto your automatic Gold status as long as you’re a cardholder, making it much easier to rack up rewards and earn free stays and points for years to come.

Claire Davidson is a staff writer covering personal finance for NerdWallet. Follow her on Twitter @ideclaire7 and on Google+.


Image via iStock.

 

  • pwc122

    I redeemed my two free nights at the Waldorf-Astoria in Park City during peak season. It wasn’t easy, but rooms there go for $600+/night. I then parlayed my HHonors Gold status into a room upgrade to a 1br/2ba “residence” that can go for north of $900/night.

    Overall, $1800 value out of the card. And, that’s not including the Gold status.

    I wouldn’t value HHonors points at half a cent anymore. The devaluation probably pushes them down to a third or a quarter cent each.

    • amynerdwallet

      Great point, the announcement of the Hilton HHonors 2013 program changes does lead to a devaluation. Currently, there are 8 hotel categories (including Waldorf Astoria) with point redemption ranging from 7,500 to 80,000. The new program which is effective March 28, 2013 has 10 hotel categories with point redemption ranging from 5,000 to 95,000 points. As you have already noticed, the upper point threshold has increased from 80,000 to 95,000 points. This means HHonors members will have to spend 15,000 more points for the most coveted high end hotels!

      Not only are redemptions more expensive, Hilton will also have seasonal pricing, which means that popular dates will cost you more points.

      We will be re-evaluating the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card prior to March 28 (when the program changes begin) to ensure that the value accurately reflects the devaluation. Thanks for the comment – use up those Hilton points before March 28th! I know I will.

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