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The Hilton Honors American Express Card seems to me an underrated little card. Anyone who might want to stay at a Hilton family property in the near future should take a look.
For starters, it has an unusually low spending threshold to earn welcome bonus points: Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Card after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply. Time your travel right and that’s enough for two nights at Hilton Tokyo Bay in Japan or Hilton Ocean City Oceanfront Suites in Maryland, for example. And with the Hilton Honors Points and Money redemption option, you don’t have to wait till you’ve stockpiled enough points for your whole stay. You can use your points to offset the cost of a cash stay, instead.
Plus, the Hilton Honors American Express Card has a range of appealing perks, including earning 7 points per $1 on bookings directly with Hilton, 5 points per $1 at restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations, and 3 points per $1 on all other purchases. The annual fee is $0, which makes the card ideal for users tempted by the welcome offer from the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card but who are put off by the annual fee of $95. Terms apply.
» Learn more: Hilton AmEx review: Solid rewards for no annual fee
But, like every card, the Hilton Honors American Express Card could be even better in a perfect world. Here are some of the benefits I wish came with my Hilton Honors American Express Card.
Redemption specials for cardmembers
Imagine if a room that goes for 50,000 Hilton Honors points per night were offered to cardmembers for, say, 40,000. Even if those deals were available only sporadically and only when the hotel had excess inventory, they would make holding the card even more appealing. After all, there’s nothing like the feeling that you’re getting a special deal.
» Learn more: Find the best hotel credit card for you
Room upgrade perks
Admittedly, offering cardmembers any kind of room upgrade perks could be risky for Hilton. When it comes to customer satisfaction, managing expectations is crucial. So if you tell cardmembers they’re on the shortlist for room upgrades then you don’t have a better room available at check-in, they’ll be disappointed — or worse.
But with a little effort and creativity, Hilton could put room upgrades in easier reach for cardmembers. Send me a cardmember anniversary certificate good for a discounted upgrade to a premium room. Charge me fewer points for that ocean view than you charge non-cardmembers. Find a way and you’ll have me bragging to my friends and family about the perks of having the Hilton Honors American Express Card.
More lucrative points transfers to travel partners
Cards that are co-branded with just one hotel chain or airline are inherently limiting. They’re mostly good for earning travel at just that one hotel chain or airline. In this regard, the Hilton Honors program is better than most, allowing you to convert Honors points into miles with American, Delta, United, and Hawaiian airlines, among others.
But the conversion rate isn’t great. In many cases, 10,000 Hilton Honors points will get you just 1,000 or 1,500 airline miles. Seems they could make their American Express cardmembers happy by offering us a little boost. Just a 10% or 20% increase in the number of airline miles I get in exchange for Hilton points would make the card that much more valuable.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Find the best hotel credit card for you Snag these hotel loyalty perks, even if you’re disloyal NerdWallet's travel loyalty program reviews