New Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card

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Link: Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card

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:

Sign-up bonus

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.

Redeem your free weekend nights at the Conrad Koh Samui

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.

Link: Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card

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  1. so you’re going for SPG Plat, Hyatt Diamond, and HHonors Diamond this year I assume…working on any other top tier hotel statuses this year?

  2. @ Jamison — Right, Hilton Diamond through credit card spend, Starwood Platinum with 21 stays/40 nights (thanks to having personal and business SPG AmEx cards), and Hyatt Diamond for 25 stays/50 nights. Doubt I’ll maintain InterContinental Royal Ambassador, though.

  3. It’s unclear whether the free nights could be used at the Conrad Koh Samui, which you feature in your post. While nobody has seen a list of excluded properties, Gary mentioned that some all suite properties, and all villa properties, would be excluded.

  4. This seems like the regular Amex HHonors card (not the Surpass) would be a good compliment then, since that gives you access to AXON awards with zero annual fee.

  5. Lucky, what’s your plan with United status from here on out? Did you reach 1MM? 2MM? 3MM?

  6. @ Antonio — Exactly, that card is a great complement.

    @ LR — While everyone values points differently, I think 0.8 cents per point is a conservative valuation.

    If you redeem for AXON awards at category 7 hotels you’re paying ~36,000 HHonors points per night. At 0.8 cents per point that’s ~$290 per night for the Conrad Koh Samui, Hong Kong, Maldives, etc. If you’re looking to sell at 0.6, I’m your guy. 😉

    @ Rami — Not efficiently, unfortunately.

  7. Thank you Ben;
    You sold me on the card and just applied via your link; Approved immediately and hopefully will get the card before my next stay at Hilton. Thank you for explaining the benefits clearly.

  8. hmm, so if the hotel u target participates, u can get 6 consecutive nights in it by doing 4 AXON nights and then tack on the two weekend nights with the card then

    Hopefully, if Conrad Koh Samui does participate maybe that is a goal…

    Maybe time for a post about aspirational Hilton properties before GL posts it?

    Screw Maldives, I am not paying $500 for a short plane ride:-)

  9. @DW

    Can you please quote or link to that exact passage from Gary? The best I can do is comment #16:

    “@beachfan – the free nights are good for a year. I was told that if the hotel had standard rooms, and wasn’t all inclusive, you could use the certs. I’m waiting for a definitive list of excluded properties.”

    In the main post, he mentions certain Waldorf Astoria properties without standard rooms would be ineligible. Nowhere does he make a portfolio wide statement disclaiming “all villa and/or suite properties.”

    FWIW, both the Conrad Ko Samui and Conrad Maldives offer standard rooms.

  10. How is AMEX going to react / respond to this?

    I would imagine that AMEX is pissed off with Hilton for jumping in to bed with AMEX’s competitor….

    I am looking to see the list of excluded properties before I get too excited about this card…

  11. Ben

    I have heard claims that these cards that claim no forex fees are just building the cost into the exchange rate. I would be really interested in a comparison, perhaps buying several small items at the same time on a few different cards. Or do you know more about this topic?

  12. @Nick: I was wondering that too and tested my Chase Sapphire Preferred in Mexico. The charge was listed in MXN, and the final USD charge is the same as what would yield (e.g. ‘100 USD IN MXN’). I was rather impressed!

    Curious too to see if others have done such comparisons for their cards.

  13. What is defined as a ‘standard’ room? The Hilton Rome cat 7 hotel for instance has non-suite rooms, but labels them as ‘superior’ or deluxe rooms (at the lowest level). Does this fulfill the requirement or make this hotel ineligible?

  14. @Ben

    I don’t think that is the case, at least with the no forex that I have. You can tell with some as they show the rate, and 3% is pretty noticeable (would take the current euro-dollar rate below $1.20 per euro). There is still a 1% haircut that Visa International charges, but it doesn’t go to the bank.

    @Lucky – AXON’s are great, but if you have status, it’s just a 5k point saving for 4 nights at a cat 7 vs. a VIP award.

    There’s a great chart on one of the stickies in Flyertalk that shows when AXON is the best choice (4 night stays at cat 6 & 7, 5 nights (using one regular night) at cat 7, and 8 nights at cat 7). Other times (if more than 4 nights) VIP awards are less.

  15. @ Jason — Interesting question, though I doubt it. The SPG Amex is still thought of by most consumers as the most rewarding card out there thanks to the value of SPG points. It’s an interesting question, though, because I have to wonder how exactly Hilton is able to have such similar products with Citi and American Express. I would’ve thought they had an exclusive contract with Amex for this, but I guess not.

  16. “I think those of us that haven’t been considering Hilton all that much have been missing out.”

    Thank you! Even though I’m Hilton diamond, I’ve been trying SPG due to a Sheraton being my best option where I’m traveling for work frequently. It’s hard plugging along getting a few hundred SPG points per stay as SPG goLD vs. 10,000+ Hilton for a comparable stay. Maybe I’m just addicted to the large point balance I have there but I just can’t figure out how to make SPG a better value for me.

  17. Looking at Diamond, I see nothing about suite upgrades, let alone confirmed suite upgrades. For this alone it places SPG and Hyatt above this and Hilton off of my radar.

  18. @Randy

    The official Diamond upgrade policy gives hotels a lot of leeway, especially compared to SPG and Hyatt properties:

    “Diamond HHonors guests will receive upgrades to preferred rooms, based on availability for the entire stay at the time of check-in. Upgrades for Diamond HHonors guests may include the next-best available room from the room type booked. Upgrades may also be rooms with desirable views, corner rooms, rooms on high floors, rooms with special amenities, rooms on Executive Floors, or suites, as identified by each property. Some exclusions based on rate and room type may apply.”

    That said, I have noticed an uptick in suite upgrades since the T&C language was revised some months ago. (Previously, the T&C explicitly prohibited suite upgrades, though in practice some properties provided them anyway.)

  19. I applied 3 days ago and today I received my new card via UPS overnight; a little bit of an overkill since I could certainly wait a couple of days more; very classy presentation.
    Reminds me of the Chase Pres Plat when it came out. They used to mail the card Fedex and with a very elegant presentation.

  20. Lucky, you need to update your original post where you said the new card had this advantage over the American Express Hilton Surpass Card: “10 points per dollar on Hilton spend (vs. nine).” Since November 1, Surpass has offered 12 points per dollar on Hilton spend, making it the preferred card for Hilton points.

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