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Once upon a time, three hotel companies were all very good at attracting my business. Depending on my destination (and the mysterious forces of hotel room pricing), I was a little more likely to pick a Hilton family property than I was to pick Starwood or Marriott, and only rarely did a Hyatt or IHG property fit my travel plans. Signing up for the old Hilton HHonors Visa card from Citi was a no-brainer. And though I don’t remember how many welcome bonus points I earned at the time, I seem to recall it was comparable to the Hilton Honors American Express Card’s current welcome bonus: 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.
But change was on the horizon.
First, Hilton converted its HHonors program to Honors. Then Hilton penned an exclusive deal with American Express and automatically converted my Visa to an AmEx. Both of these changes worked out well for me. My Hilton Honors American Express Card gives me the same automatic Silver Elite status in the Hilton Honors program. Plus, the card earns 7 Honors points per $1 spent at Hilton portfolio properties, 5 points per $1 at restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations, and 3 points per $1 on all other purchases. Terms apply.
So far, so good. But then Marriott merged with Starwood, gobbling up a lot of the Sheratons and Westins I’d drooled over for so long and folding them into Marriott’s Bonvoy rewards program.
» Learn more: Choose the best loyalty program for you
Suddenly, properties in the Marriott Bonvoy program were twice as likely to attract my business as Hilton properties, making it much more appealing to use a Bonvoy co-branded credit card (which I also carry). Yet my Hilton Honors American Express Card stays in my wallet and, barring any unexpected circumstances, I plan to keep it for the long haul. Here’s why I love my Hilton Honors American Express Card.
An annual fee of $0
For me, this card having an annual fee of $0 is a biggie. I pay nothing to keep this card, so I can keep it holstered for as long as I like. Sometimes I go more than a year without using it, then pull it out anytime I want to start working toward a Hilton portfolio stay.
Accelerated points earnings
If you’re a regular member of Hilton Honors, you earn 10 points for every $1 you spend on a qualifying Hilton property purchase. Hilton points are worth around 0.4 cent each, meaning you earn rewards worth about 4 cents on the dollar spent. But with my Hilton Honors American Express Card, I do even better. The card bestows automatic Silver Elite status, which gives a 20% boost to those base points, bringing 10 to 12. Then the card itself earns me 7 additional Honors points per $1 when spending at Hilton hotels and resorts, bringing the total per-dollar rewards points to 19. Terms apply. In other words, the card nearly doubles the rate at which I earn Honors points for hotel stays.
» Learn more: Find the best hotel credit card for you
Silver status perks
I don’t travel often enough to qualify as an elite member with any airline or hotel. I never have, and I suspect I never will. So the complimentary Hilton Honors Silver Elite status that comes with my card is valuable to me. One of my favorite benefits is that if I pay for four nights at a Hilton property using Honors points, the fifth night is complimentary. And I also like how Hilton staff treat me, thanking me for being a Silver Elite member and seeming a bit quicker to offer a complimentary room upgrade — while not technically a benefit of Silver status — than they are when I cheap out and pay for a Hilton stay through a third party like Expedia.
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 Earn more points and miles with these 6 strategies