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Hilton Honors Credit Card

Our Two Cents: Hilton Credit Card Review

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 the ability to earn 50,000 Hilton points 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 bran 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.


Counting Your Pennies - How To Earn Points

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. 

For ongoing earning rates, the Hilton card has a tiered reward structure, meaning you'll earn different rates depending on your purchase. 

  • 7x points - Eligible Hilton purchases will earn 7x per dollar. This will typically include charges made directly with the hotel, such as direct hotel bookings (sorry, no Orbitz), charges during your stay, and gift cards.
  • 5x points - You'll earn 6x points on eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations.
  • 3x points - Earn 3x points on all other eligible purchases.

What does "eligible" mean? There are four things to consider when trying to determine what point structure your purchase will qualify for:

  • American Express relies on merchant codes to issue you points.  For example, you might be buying groceries at Target, but the store codes as a department store so you will not earn 6x points. 
  • Any item you return is not an eligible purchase. If you return an item, AmEx can take those points back. 
  • In categories like airfare or car rentals, the purchases need to be made directly with the airline (sorry Priceline), or with AmEx travel.
  • In other categories, there are geographical restrictions. For example, gas stations and restaurants only qualify for additional points for purchases made in the U.S. #MAGA

7x points sounds like a lot, but what does that mean? Generally, we value Hilton points at half a penny, making this card effectively a card that earns rates comparable to earning 3.5%/3%/1.5%  cash back in the respective category. We have redeemed points for over a penny each on some occasions though.

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.

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), and a 5th night free if you book a stay of 5 nights using points.

If you earn 10,000 points a year, the 15% bonus will get you 1,500 additional points, which we value at $7.50. Your new customer bonus should also be worth somewhere around $250. 


Who Should Get It?

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.


Who Shouldn’t Get it?

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 or rewards travel card. They 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.


Final Thoughts

We feel like AmEx shines most with its hotel cards. Both the Hilton and Starwood 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. Ascend offers some premium travel perks for an annual fee of $95.


Hilton Credit Card Highlights

  • $0 Annual Fee
  • Earn 7X  Points per dollar of eligible purchases directly with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 5X Points per dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Points for all other eligible purchases.
  • Terms Apply
  • Apply Now


Similar Reviews

Hilton Honors Ascend Card


  • $95 Annual Fee
  • Earn 12X points for charges with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 6X points for charges at eligible U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Terms Apply

Hilton Aspire Card


  • $450 Annual Fee
  • Earn 14X points for charges with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 7X points for eligible flights, car rentals, and restaurants.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Terms Apply

Hilton Honors Business Card


  • $95 Annual Fee
  • Earn 12X points for charges with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 6X points for charges at eligible restaurants, gas stations,flights, car rental, and wireless services.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Terms Apply