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Globetrotters Pay Heed: Citi HHonors Reserve Has EMV Capability

by on August 30, 2012

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Attention international travelers! The Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card card has joined the ranks of EMV chip-with-signature credit cards. What does that mean? Well, not only is it a darn good hotel credit card, but the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card is more compatible with vendors across the world than most American cards. If you’re partial to Hilton Hotels (or if you’re just looking for a good hotel card), the HHonors Reserve is tough to beat. Both its rewards structure and its technological advantage make it one of the best cards for global travel available in the US.

Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card
Citibank Hilton HHonors Reserve Credit Card
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  • Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton HHonors portfolio 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 HHonors 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
thumbsupPros
  • High rewards rate
  • No foreign transaction fee
thumbsdownCons
  • Has annual fee
  • Needs excellent credit
Annual Fee Signup Bonus APR , Variable* APR Promotions
$95* Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton HHonors portfolio after you make $2,500 in purchases within 4 months of account opening* 15.24%* (Variable) Purchase: None
Transfer: None

EMV and waived F/X fees: Around the world with ease

EMV (short for Europay-MasterCard-Visa) is an alternative method of verifying plastic that’s gaining in adoption worldwide. While we Americans cling to our magnetic stripes on credit cards, the rest of the world, and Western Europe in particular, increasingly rely on chip-and-signature or chip-and-PIN technology. Some European merchants won’t even take American mag-stripe cards anymore.

The HHonors Reserve card has a pretty good rewards system, but its international compatibility puts the icing on the cake. There are no foreign transaction fees, and the card comes equipped with an EMV chip.  Americans traveling abroad often face challenges due to compatibility issues. Increasingly, American credit card companies are realizing the importance of EMV technology to global travelers and implanting new cards with the technology. The HHonors Reserve is one such card, offering EMV chip-and-sign technology. Even better, it waives its foreign transaction fees, which usually dock you 3% of all your overseas purchases. A traveler’s card indeed.

Killer rewards

As far as rewards go, the HHonors Reserve is a champ. To start with, you’ll get 2 free nights, worth $650 when used for a Category 7 stay, when you spend $2,500 in the first four months. Every dollar spent at a hotel in the Hilton Portfolio earns 10 points. Before you get too excited, realize that 10 HHonors points translate to about 5% back. Whereas most rewards programs pay in points worth a penny apiece, the HHonors prefers to hand out triple the points worth only about $0.03. But even at that value, 10 points to the dollar isn’t bad.

What really gets us excited about the HHonors Reserve’s rewards program is the 5 points per dollar spent on airline and car rental purchases. By offering rewards that extend beyond the realm of hotels and reach into other travel territories, the Reserve becomes more than just a hotel credit card. Remember, 5 points is about 2.5%. Still, accelerated rewards on common travel purchases is laudable. The Reserve also offers 3 points, or 1.5%, on all other purchases.

Holding this credit card gives you automatic complimentary gold status for as long as you’re a member. Gold status comes with a bunch of great perks, including a 25% bonus on all HHonors points, which means you can tack another 0.25% onto your earning rates. With gold status, Internet access is free and you’re eligible for room upgrades as they become available. The list goes on to include things like continental breakfasts, complimentary beverages and bonus point sums. If you spend $40,000 a year, you’ll be upgraded to diamond status for even more benefits.

The only drawback of the HHonors Reserve is the $95 annual fee. It’s a bit a steep, but absolutely worth the cost considering the rewards. If you earn the annual weekend night certificate, that alone more than covers the cost.

Domestic? Try the Starwood

If you’d like even more rewards, check out the Starwood American Express. The annual fee is $30 less and the rewards are phenomenal. We estimate the average rewards rate at 2.3% across the board. And if you’re comparing the number of free nights, the signing bonus is also considerably superior. With the Starwood, you have the potential to earn 25,000 bonus points worth 6 stays at a category 1 or 2 hotel. Unfortunately, the Starwood is less globetrotter-friendly. It doesn’t have an EMV chip and charges a 2.7% foreign transaction fee. But for a domestic hotel credit card, you can’t do much better.

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