Hilton HHonors Credit Card: Earn Points Quickly, Spend Them Wisely(4/5 - 37 Votes)
A Hilton HHonors credit card can speed you on your way to free stays and awesome perks – but which of the four varieties will get you there? We’ll break down the differences between the HHonors cards and help you decide which one’s right for you. There are four Hilton credit cards, two from Citi and two from Amex:
- Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card – No Fee
- Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card - $95 Annual Fee
- Amex Hilton Credit Card - No Fee
- Amex Hilton HHonors Surpass: $75 Annual Fee
The cards with annual fees, perhaps unsurprisingly, have better perks and signup bonuses, making them more attractive to rewards hackers and those who want to snag a quick bonus. However, the no-fee versions aren’t too shabby, making them better for long-term value. (Note: We value HHonors points at 0.5 cents apiece, so we’ll tell you the rewards rate as well as what we think it’s worth.)
|Citi Hilton HHonors Visa
no annual fee
|Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve
$95 annual fee
|Hilton Credit Card
no annual fee
|Hilton HHonors Surpass
$75 annual fee
You’re the one that I want
Here’s a quick guide to choosing between the four cards: How long will you hold the card?
- As short as possible – just give me the rewards. You should go with the Citi Hilton Reserve – with a signup bonus of 2 free weekend nights, you can get your rewards and be on your way. You can redeem those nights for the top-tier Category 7 hotels, making the total bonus worth up to $750. The $95 annual fee pales in comparison.
- I think I’ll have the card for 2 years or less. Choose either the American Express Surpass or the Citi Hilton Reserve: the higher signup bonuses will make up for the annual fee in the short term.
- I will hold the card for more than 2 years. Choose the no-fee American Express, because the savings on annual fees will overcome the disadvantage of a smaller signup bonus.
What are your spending habits?
- I spend more than $10,000 a year. Big spenders would be advised to choose the Reserve, because you’ll get a free weekend night’s stay as an anniversary bonus every year that you charge more then $10k to the card. You’ll also get complimentary Diamond elite status with the Reserve and Surpass ever year your spending exceeds $40,000.
- I spend most of my money on restaurants, groceries and gas. Choose the no-fee Amex or Amex Surpass – they earn 2.5% and 3% rewards respectively on gas, groceries and restaurants. The Surpass is better if you’re only holding the card for a short time, or if you value perks like Gold status; the no-fee version is ideal for long-term use.
- I spend most of my money on travel. The Citi Reserve gives 5 points per $1 (we value this at 2.5% rewards) on airfare and car rentals; the other cards reward only grocery spending.
How do you travel?
- I travel internationally. Again, the Citi Reserve is your guy: With no foreign transaction fee and EMV technology, it’s traveler-friendly – not to mention that it earns 10 HHonors Points per $1 spent at Hilton. Plus, American Express isn’t as widely accepted abroad, so you’re better off with a Visa.
- I value elite status. Go with the Citi Reserve, which gives you Gold status for as long as you’re a member. Both the Reserve and the Surpass offer Diamond status with annual spending over $40,000 a year.
- I value airport lounge access. The Amex Surpass offers discounted Priority Pass lounge membership – $27 per visit.
Check out our blog post for more information on how to use your HHonors points.
The big leagues: Hilton vs. the world
Now that we’ve compared the four Hilton credit cards, how do they stack up against other major travel cards? The benefit of a hotel credit card is that you get bonus rewards on hotel stays as well as perks like elite status. The downside is that your rewards are fairly limited – if you want to redeem for airline miles or gift cards, say, your rewards rate tanks. The question is: Do you stay at Hilton often enough that the rewards – both the higher earning rate and the redemption options – are useful? For comparison, here are our favorite traveler’s credit cards.
The Capital One® Venture℠ Rewards Credit Card is NerdWallet’s favorite travel credit card. It’s both rewarding and versatile. Unlike the Hilton cards, which restrict you to redeeming rewards with specific travel services, the Venture allows cardholders to trade points for flights with any carrier, stays at any hotel or car rentals with any service. The rewards rate is a flat 2% across all purchases. It comes with a signup bonus of 10,000 Capital One No Hassle Miles℠, which certainly isn’t as high as the Hilton’s, but the ongoing rewards are well worth the loss. The annual fee is a bit lower than the Reserve and Surpass’, at $59 (waived the first year); unlike the Surpass and no-fee cards, the Venture charges no foreign transaction fee. It’s better for those unwilling to commit to one hotel chain, and those who travel internationally but are put off by a $95 annual fee.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred, renowned for its astounding 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards signup bonus, is another great general traveler’s card. The Sapphire offers 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining, and all other purchases earn 1 point per dollar. On the anniversary of your signing, you’ll receive a rewards dividend equal to 7% of your total rewards earned over the past 12 months. When you redeem points for travel booked through Chase, rewards are worth 25% more. Taking into consideration the 25% redemption bonus and the 7% dividend, your base rewards rate is effectively 1.34%, and your accelerated category rates are 2.68%. You are not tied to a specific airline or hotel chain. Rewards can be redeemed for any virtually any travel expense. Its $95 annual fee is waived the first year. Again, it’s a better option for those looking to use their rewards for more than just Hilton stays, but the perks on the HHonors cards make those cards worthwhile for frequent guests.