Increased sign-up bonus and card changes on Hilton’s co-branded American Express credit cards!

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Hilton is in the unique position of having co-branded credit cards with both Citi and American Express.

I’ve written extensively about the new Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card, which I think is a fantastic card product. The reason this card is so awesome is because it comes with Hilton HHonors Gold status for as long as you have the card, which is hands down the most valuable mid-tier hotel status (perhaps with the exception of Marriott Gold, though that requires 50 nights per year, the same as other programs’ top tier status). Hilton HHonors Gold gets you free internet and breakfast/club lounge access, which are the most valuable elite hotel benefits, in my opinion.

Anyway, I suspect quite a few Hilton customers have switched from the American Express products to the Citi products, so American Express has spiced up their offerings a bit.

Increased sign-up bonus on the Hilton HHonors American Express

American Express has the no annual fee Hilton HHonors American Express Card, on which they’ve raised the sign-up bonus to 65,000 Hilton HHonors points after spending $3,000 on the card within six months. This is a phenomenal card simply because it has no annual fee, and it gives you access to Hilton HHonors AXON awards. AXON awards are available exclusively to those with the co-branded American Express card, and get you four nights in a category seven hotel for only 145,000 points (as opposed to the usual cost of 50,000 points per night). You can see some of my favorite value AXON awards in this post.

So even though I accrue all my Hilton points through credit card spend on the Citi Reserve Card, I still need the co-branded American Express card to have access to those AXON awards. The 65,000 points happens to be the best sign-up bonus I’ve seen on the card as well, so this is a great time to jump on the offer. It’s worth noting that the increased sign-up offer is only available through November 30, 2012.

More points for Hilton stays with the Hilton Surpass American Express

American Express’ “premium” co-branded Hilton card is the American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass Card, which offers a 60,000 Hilton HHonors point sign-up bonus when spending $3,000 within the first three months. Much like the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card, it offers Diamond status if you spend $40,000 per year, though unlike the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card it only offers Gold status for free for the first year, and after that $20,000 per year in spend is required to maintain Gold.

That being said, to spruce up their offerings they’ve increased the points you earn for stays at Hilton properties from nine points per dollar to twelve points per dollar as of November 1, 2012. That’s extremely rewarding, and it’s also worth keeping in mind that you earn 500 bonus Hilton HHonors points when you make your booking online using a co-branded Hilton American Express card. Meanwhile the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card offers ten points per dollar spent at Hilton properties.

Man, I sure love when a single loyalty program has co-branded credit cards with multiple card issuers. Sure makes it fun for the consumer. 😀

The number of Hilton points that can now be earned through a hotel stay is actually getting quite ridiculous. A $100 stay booked with a co-branded American Express now nets you 3,700 Hilton HHonors points as a Diamond member, not even factoring in any promotions (500 points for booking online, 12 points per dollar for using the Surpass American Express, and 20 points per dollar for base points and being a Diamond member). I don’t think any other hotel chain offers that level of return.

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  1. I love competition.

    Currently I have an outstanding offer from AmEx to upgrade my HHonors Amex to Surpass, netting 50,000 after 3k spend. Any gut feeling out there on the probability AmEx would bump it up to 60,000 with a secure message request?

  2. $100 stay in radisson will earn you 20 base points per dollar, 10 ppd as gold plus 2k as a gold booking online. 5k before even credit card points/miles. Now, Priority club stay will earn you much more then both Hilton and Radisson 🙂

  3. ForeignTransaction
    Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
    Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each cash advance, whichever is greater.
    2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars.

    There is a foreign transaction though…is that still good??

  4. @ Erich — It certainly can’t hurt to ask, though it’s normal for sign-up bonuses to be much bigger than upgrade bonuses, so don’t be surprised if they say no.

  5. I just don’t understand why Amex and Citi don’t tell Hilton to man up and get married to one of them.

  6. @ David — Totally agree, I find this really interesting. Obviously their relationship was initially with American Express and they didn’t totally have an exclusivity agreement. Citi saw potential in them and made a move. Am curious to see how this unfolds.

  7. @ Erica — The foreign transaction fee only applies on the “basic” American Express card as far as I know. There isn’t one on the Surpass or Reserve card.

  8. Both Amex Hilton cards have a foreign transaction fee and that includes the Surpass. That is why the Citi Reserve card was so attractive when it came out because it offered more points per dollar for Hilton spend AND it had no foreign transaction fees. If Amex wants to compete with Citi then they need to get rid of the foreign transaction fee and the $20k spend requirement for Gold.

  9. @ Elizabeth — You’re absolutely right, my mistake!

    @ Peetryd — The Citi Reserve offers 3x points on all spend, 5x points on airline and car rental purchases, and 10x points on Hilton stays. The basic Hilton American Express offers 3x points on all spend and 6x points on hotels, supermarkets, gas stations, drugstores, and on wireless and cable purchases. The Surpass American Express offers the same as the basic American Express, except also offers 9x points (soon 12x points) on Hilton purchases.

  10. Thanks for sharing.

    just got my Hilton Amex (basic) a couple of weeks ago and working on the bonus. What’s the best strategy for contacting Amex to ask them to match this new higher bonus offer?

  11. @ Tim J — I’d suggest sending them a secure message while logged into your American Express account requesting they matched the higher bonus.

  12. @Tim J, it may also be helpful to call thee AMEX customer service number. I did so a couple months back, and they were trying to entice me to upgrade to the Surpass card for a 50K bonus offer. I declined at the time, but I may reconsider with the new Surpass card offering 12 points per dollar spent at Hilton hotels starting November 1, 2012.

  13. Hmm, so it paid off for me to wait- have had my eye on these cards for a while as a replacement for another card. Will have to pull the trigger before the deal ends!

    Say Lucky, what extra value would you give the Priority Pass membership that the Surpass comes with? Kept going back and forth between the two cards since while it does come with the Surpass, you still have to pay every time you want to visit one of the small selection of lounges. It’s no AMEX Platinum but…

  14. @ Euro — The Surpass card only comes with the entry level Priority Pass membership, whereby you still have to pay $27 per lounge visit. Not much of a benefit, if you ask me!

    I’d say the AmEx Plat card is much better for lounge access as it gives you a “real” Priority Pass membership and access to all American, Delta, and US Airways clubs.

  15. Marriott Gold = Ritz Gold = RC Rewards credit card from Chase. Marriott Gold with no stays.

    * $395 annual fee
    ** Gold for first year, need $10K annual spend to maintain Gold in subsequent years

  16. FYI… I checked with Amex last night, if you recently signed up for the Hilton Amex, AMEX will NOT match you with the new 65,000 point promotion.

  17. I currently do not have any Hilton cards but want to get in the program and will strive to spend 40K on the surpass next year to achieve diamond status.Should I open the regular AMEX now for the 65K sign up bonus and see if I can upgrade to the surpass in Jan for an additional bonus?

  18. @ Peetyrd — In your shoes to maximize the bonus I’d get the basic Hilton American Express now, and then why not get the Citi Hilton Reserve for Diamond status instead of the Surpass card? I’d argue the sign-up bonus is quite a bit better (two free weekend nights which can be used at properties that usually run you 80K points), plus you get another free weekend night if you spend $10K in the first year, which you don’t get on the Surpass card. Lastly, the card has no foreign transaction fees, which is useful for earning points at foreign Hiltons. That’s what I’d do, at least…

  19. Hey Lucky, how long do you have to wait for the points to post after meeting the minimum spend requirement on this card? And is there any way to call and expedite?

    If I’m looking to book holiday travel, and can meet the minimum spend within a week of activating, is that sufficient time?

    Also, if I add my wife as an authorized user to my card, would that disqualify her from applying for this card and getting the bonus?


  20. @ Michael — Typically they’ll post after the statement closes with which you reach your minimum spend. That being said, it can often take an extra cycle, and there’s no way to expedite it.

    Your best shot would be when you open the card to request that your statement close maybe 10 days after you open the card, so all your spend is completed by then. Then hope that your points post after your first cycle.

    If your wife was added as an authorized user that wouldn’t exclude her from applying on her own in the future.

  21. A $100 stay at a Hyatt as a Diamond paying with a Hyatt Visa earns 950 points. If those are worth 1.8 cents, that’s a $17.10 benefit. At Hilton, your 3,700 points are worth $22.20. There’s also the welcome amenity. Both offer 1,000 points a night. But 1,000 Hyatt points is worth $18 instead of $6, and that could tip in favor of Hyatt depending on the length of stay.

  22. Lucky — do you know how the timing of the free year of Gold status works with the Amex Surpass card? I assume that if I get the card now, I will be Gold through 2013 and likely through March of 2014. However, if I get the card in January 2013, would I be gold through March of 2015? Many thanks.

  23. @ Rob — Don’t quote me on this, but I believe if you get it in the first half of the year it’s only valid for the remainder of the year, while if you get it in the second half of the year it’s valid for the entire following year.

  24. I have the amex hilton surpass and gold status. If I add my wife as an authorized user will she get hhilton gold also?

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