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There aren’t many things more exciting than a credit card issuer unveiling a new product, especially when it’s a good one. For those of us that have been playing the “game” for a long time it’s easy to feel as if there have been a lack of exciting offers lately, which makes new cards like this even more exciting.
It’s pretty funny because I had no prior knowledge that the card was on the way before Gary shared the details on Monday morning, but it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. As I posted a month ago, Hilton HHonors is seriously tempting me. It’s possible to earn Diamond status in their program with just $40,000 of spend per year on their Surpass American Express card, which is pretty awesome given that it’s their top tier status. None of the other major programs make it so easy to earn top tier status through credit card spend.
The other reason the program tempted me so much was because of Hilton’s AXON awards. If you have a Hilton co-branded American Express credit card, you can redeem four nights at any of their top properties for 145,000 HHonors points, compared to the usual 200,000 HHonors points, which translates to huge savings. Given that you can use points for properties like the Conrad Koh Samui, Conrad Maldives, etc., that’s an amazing value.
And that’s where the new Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa Signature card (which comes with a $95 annual fee) is awesome. The details are as follows:
After completing $2,500 of eligible spend within four months of getting the card you earn two free weekend nights (defined as Friday, Saturday, or Sunday nights) which can be redeemed at most Hilton family properties, including Waldorf Astoria hotels, valid for 12 months. Some Waldorf Astoria properties go for as much as 80,000 HHonors points per night, so that’s up to 160,000 HHonors points worth of “value” for the sign-up bonus.
That being said, I think it’s more fair to value the free nights at 50,000 HHonors points each, since that’s the cost of a category 7 hotel, and chances are that’s where most of us would redeem our free nights. So more fairly the sign-up bonus can be valued at 100,000 HHonors points, which is by far the best sign-up bonus I’ve seen on a Hilton branded credit card.
Generous points bonuses for each dollar spent
The card offers 10 points per dollar spent at Hilton properties, five points per dollar spent on airfare and car rentals, and three points per dollar spent on everything else. In my recent post on points valuations I valued HHonors points at 0.8 cents each, so at three points per dollar you’re looking at a return of 2.4 cents per dollar spent. While you should always use credit cards that earn you bonus points in select categories (like double points on dining with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, double points on gas and groceries with the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, and 5x points on office supplies with the Chase Ink Bold card), this is the next best thing. Many of us have spend that doesn’t fall in any “special” categories, and in those cases a return of 2.4 cents per dollar is pretty awesome. I would say the next best option for general spend is the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, the points of which I value at 2.2 cents each.
HHonors Gold status for as long as you have the card
The HHonors Surpass American Express only gives you Gold status for your first year, and every year after that you have to spend $20,000 on the card to get Gold status. With this card you get Gold status for as long as you have the card. And unlike other programs where mid-tier status doesn’t get you many benefits, Gold status with HHonors gets you free internet, free breakfast (or club lounge access if you’re upgraded to a club room), bonus points, and the occasional room upgrade. It’s really not that different than Diamond status.
HHonors Diamond status for any year in which you spend $40,000 on the card
This is the other awesome benefit. Just like with the HHonors Surpass American Express, you get Diamond status for any year in which you spend $40,000 on the card.
Annual free night bonus
For every year in which you spend $10,000 on the card you get a free weekend night, which can be used for some 80,000 points per night properties. If you were to just value the free night at 50,000 points (which I think is a fair valuation) you’re essentially earning five bonus points for the first $10,000 you spend on the card, for a total of eight points per dollar spent, assuming it’s not a category where you earn bonus points. That’s an amazing return on spend.
No foreign transaction fees
It’s always frustrating when it doesn’t make sense to use a hotel’s co-branded credit card at foreign properties due to the ~3% foreign transaction fee. Fortunately this card doesn’t have foreign transaction fees, so it’s a great option abroad.
The bottom line
What’s really awesome about the card is that it’s not just one you should get for the sign-up bonus like other cards. It makes sense to acquire this card under several circumstances:
- If you want it just for the sign-up bonus. This is a very generous sign up bonus, assuming you can travel on the weekends, and much more generous than any HHonors sign-up bonus I’ve seen lately.
- If you want to keep it for years and not put any spend on the card. $95 per year for HHonors Gold status is a steal. It’ll pay off after just one or two stays, given the free internet and free breakfast/club lounge access.
- If you want to spend $10,000 on the card annually for the free night certificate. There are several hotel credit cards that give free nights annually, like the Hyatt Visa card which offers a free category 1-4 night annually, or the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card, which offers one free night annually as well. While this isn’t as generous under all circumstances, if not all of your credit card spend is going towards churning credit cards, this is a worthy card on which to place $10,000 of spend. Like I said you earn three points per dollar and you’re potentially getting a free night that’s worth 50,000 points, so you’re looking at the equivalent of eight HHonors points per dollar spent on your first $10,000.
- If you want to spend $40,000 on the card annually for HHonors Diamond status. My parents are a prime example of how awesome this card is. They own a business where they put well over $100,000 in expenses per year on credit cards, and all the spend is in categories that doesn’t earn bonus points with other cards. They also like to travel, though due to commitments don’t take more than a few trips a year. This is an awesome way for them to not only have their hotel nights covered on points, but also to be treated very well thanks to top tier status with Hilton.
In many ways this card isn’t radically different than the Surpass American Express given that both offer Diamond status after $40,000 spend and three points per dollar on everyday spend. The major advantage of the Surpass American Express card is that they offer six points per dollar spent on gas and drugstores and access to AXON awards. On the other hand, the benefits of the Reserve Signature Visa are Gold status for as long as you have the card, 10 points per dollar on Hilton spend, the annual free night after spending $10,000, and the fact that it’s a Visa, which is more widely accepted than American Express.
The other beautiful thing is how easy it is to earn Hilton HHonors points, so once you have Gold or Diamond status you can start enjoying your elite status on points redemptions right away. In this post I outlined how you can earn 390,000+ HHonors points in one credit card churn, and in this post I outlined how to favorably convert American Express Membership Rewards points and Starwood points to Hilton HHonors. I think those of us that haven’t been considering Hilton all that much have been missing out.
This card is just the push I needed to finally take action and go for Diamond.