The Hilton card from AmEx is one the the best hotel cards with no annual fee. It's for newbies. If you stay at hotels two to three times a year and don't mind remaining loyal to Hilton, this card is packed with benefits. With a healthy welcome bonus as a new card member, and complimentary silver status this card is a good way to introduce yourself to the world of points without taking on an annual fee, or tracking transfer partners.
If you can't remain brand loyal a generic rewards card will be a better bet, but this was actually our first rewards card, and it was a good place to start learning. Let's take a closer look to see what makes sense for you too.
For ongoing earning rates, the Hilton card has a tiered reward structure, meaning you'll earn different rates depending on your purchase. Hilton points are generally valued at half a cent a piece. Points are really going to vary in value depending on the hotel room you end up booking. Values can swing from about half a cent a piece on the low end, up to around 2.5 cents on the high end. To be conservative, we take a half a cent a piece view.
What does "eligible" mean? There are four things to consider when trying to determine what point structure your purchase will qualify for:
How do you determine value? Create a Hilton account if you don't already have one. Search for a hotel you are interested in points, and then do a separate search in cash for the same dates. Let's say a hotel stay was going to cost you $195 a night or 25,000 points. That makes your point value over 0.7 cents each. We'd consider this a good booking. If you see values less than half a cent each, you're probably better off using cash. Here's an overview of booking rewards with Hilton.
First, let's talk about that new customer bonus. As a new customer, you'll be able to earn 50,000 points after being approved for the card. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $1,000 or more in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening. We value this bonus at about $250.
We should probably assign a value to Silver status as well. Silver will net you an additional 15% on all Hilton points earned. Note, this is through Hilton, not a bonus on your AmEx rewards. Don't expect to see these additional points on your AmEx statement. Discounted hotel rates (typically $5-$10 a night when booking through Hilton.com).
To top it off, anytime you use points to book a 5 night stay, your 5th night is free. This isn't a perk of your credit card, but your reward points will certainly help you get there!
Hilton has over 570 worldwide properties. You should almost always be able to find one when you travel. If you can stay at a Hilton property twice a year, this card will add good value for you. On the low end of it's rewards earning this card is comparable to the common 1.5% cash back cards, so you aren't losing much, if anything there.
The extreme deal seeker. Are you going to book a hotel 100% based on where you can find the absolute lowest price, regardless of benefits? If a hotel is just a place to sleep for you, without any other considerations, a branded hotel credit card probably doesn't make much sense. Skip this card and opt for a cash back card like Uber that will suit you better.
Additionally, if you have Fair/Poor/No Credit (AKA anything under 680), you probably want to hold off on applying. AmEx is looking for customers with good-excellent credit. If you're in that boat, check out some products for those that need to build credit.
If you are a road warrior staying at hotels more than 4 times a year, you may want to consider upgrading to the Hilton Ascend card. It'll carry a higher annual fee, but also offer gold status and increased rewards earnings.
We feel like AmEx shines most with its hotel cards. Both the Hilton and Marriott products are well thought out products that bring good value to savvy users. If you're interested in Hilton, pull the trigger. If you like the benefits after a year or so of use, look at upgrading to the Hilton's big brother, the Ascend.