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If you want to earn Hilton bonus points through a credit card without the annual fee, look to the Hilton Honors American Express Card. Terms apply.
Here are five reasons why the Hilton Honors American Express Card is worth it:
A generous welcome offer covers award nights
Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
Considering NerdWallet’s valuation of Hilton Honors points say one point is worth about 0.6 cent each, this welcome offer is worth at least a few hundred dollars. That’s a sizable return, especially considering this credit card has no annual fee.
» Learn more: Hilton Honors: The complete guide
You earn an above-average reward rate on everyday spending categories
The Hilton Honors American Express Card earns 7x Hilton Honors points at Hilton properties, 5x points at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. restaurants and U.S. gas stations and 3x points on all other purchases. Terms apply.
Based on our valuation of Hilton points, 5x translates to roughly 2.5% back in the form of Hilton points. That’s pretty solid compared to all the other no-annual-fee credit cards out there.
You won’t pay foreign transaction fees
The Hilton Honors American Express Card has no foreign transaction fees. If you stay at Hilton hotels as-is, then you might eventually stay in one in a foreign country (if you’re not already). And when in a foreign country, you certainly don’t want to be on the hook for nasty foreign transaction fees. Switching to this card will ensure you don’t incur them. Terms apply.
You get on-property perks during Hilton stays
Holding the card entails automatic Hilton Silver status, which is the lowest tier of Hilton elite status beyond the Member tier, which is granted to everyone upon enrollment in the Hilton Honors program. Terms apply.
You get some nice perks like complimentary water bottles, but don’t expect the glamorous room upgrades and Hilton executive club lounge access you’ll get from the higher status tiers.
Benefits of Hilton Silver status include:
20% bonus points on paid stays.
Fifth night free on reward stays.
Two complimentary bottles of water.
No resort fees on reward stays.
Access to exclusive Hilton Honors Experiences.
Discounted rate on hotel stays.
Elite rollover nights.
NerdWallet calculated the value of the benefits offered by the major hotel elite status tiers and found that benefits that come with Hilton Silver status are worth $23.
You can spend your way to higher status
If Silver status was a bit disappointing, then you can also earn the slightly better Hilton Gold status through the end of the next calendar year if you spend $20,000 on your Hilton Honors American Express Card in the current calendar year.
Hilton Gold status includes all the Hilton Silver status benefits plus:
80% bonus points on paid stays.
Room upgrades (when available).
Though, if you’re already spending $20,000 on the card, then you might find yourself better off with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, which grants Gold status right off the bat (though it has a $95 annual fee). Terms apply.
» Learn more: Hilton Honors elite status: Your complete guide
Why you may want to skip the Hilton Honors American Express Card
Given the $0 annual fee, it’s hard to say holding the card is “not worth it.”
But you don’t want to be juggling too many credit cards, and since Hilton offers multiple co-branded credit cards issued by American Express, there are others that might actually be more valuable, despite the fact that they entail annual fees.
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card has a $95 annual fee but — beyond the aforementioned Gold status, you also get perks including an even-higher 6 bonus points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets and at U.S. gas stations — so you can rack up Hilton Honors points even faster. Terms apply.
And likely even more intriguing for Hilton loyalists is the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. Yes, the $450 annual fee is huge, but perks include automatic Diamond status, a weekend night reward if you’re approved for the card and every year upon renewal, Priority Pass Select which gets you into more than 1,300 airport lounges worldwide (enrollment required), and baggage insurance, car rental loss and damage insurance. Terms apply.
Beyond that, there are three different credits: A $250 resort credit for purchases at participating Hilton resorts, a $100 on-property credit for qualifying charges at participating Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts for qualifying stay, and a $250 airline fee credit for qualifying incidental charges (enrollment required) — that are even more valuable than the card’s annual fee if used in full. Terms apply.
If you only want one Hilton card, you may find yourself better off with one of these instead.
Is the no-annual-fee version right for you?
The Hilton Honors American Express Card has good and bad things going for it.
The welcome offer is excellent and the rewards rate is solid. If you’re looking to dip your toes into hotel credit cards but don’t want to pay for them, the Hilton Honors American Express Card is a reasonable start.
But realize that the perks on this card are ultimately mediocre relative to what’s in the rest of the Hilton credit card lineup. Complimentary water bottles and late checkout generally shouldn’t be reason enough to justify applying for and managing a new credit card. Unless you really want more Hilton points and you’re unwilling to commit to an annual fee, skip this one in favor of one of the other Hilton cards.
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 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card