In the interest of full disclosure, One Mile At A Time earns a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the below links. These are the best publicly available offers that we have found for each card. Please check out our advertiser policy for further details about the partners we work with. Thanks for your support!
Update: The below links for the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express are expired, but you can learn more about best available offers here.
Update: There’s an exciting Limited Time Offer for the Hilton American Express cards through 5/31/17! The links below are expired, but you can learn more about best offers we’ve seen on these cards!
The card has a $75 annual fee, which isn’t waived for the first year. This is the same as the promotion we saw earlier in the year. I’ve never seen a higher publicly available sign-up bonus on the card than this.
What makes this card so valuable is that it offers Hilton HHonors Gold status for as long as you have the card, which gets you free breakfast/lounge access (based on availability) and free wifi (though wifi will be free for all HHonors members as of August 2015) at Hilton properties. To me those are the two most valuable hotel elite perks. So I do think it’s worth having a co-branded Hilton credit card long term.
Complimentary Gold breakfast at the Conrad Hong Kong
Hilton’s credit card portfolio is especially unique because they have two co-branded credit card issuers — American Express and Citi. The co-branded Hilton card I have is the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card.
Amex vs. Citi Hilton cards
So what are the selling points of the Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express vs. the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card?
- A better sign-up bonus of two free weekend nights at any Hilton hotel, which has a value of up to 190,000 HHonors points
- No foreign transaction fees
- A free weekend night certificate when you spend $10,000 on the card per year
- 5x points on airline and car rental purchases
- 12x points per dollar spent at Hilton properties (vs. 10x points)
- 6x points at US supermarkets, gas stations, and restaurants
- Access to Hilton’s AXON awards, which aren’t nearly as useful as they used to be
- The annual fee is $20 lower
And both cards offer:
- Hilton HHonors Gold status just for having the card
- Hilton HHonors Diamond status after spending $40,000 on the card in a year
Are two free weekend nights worth more than 80,000 points?
Hilton HHonors devalued their award chart early last year, whereby the cost of aspirational award stays went up by a lot.
On the low end HHonors points are still a great deal. For example, you can book the nice Doubletree Kuala Lumpur for 10,000 points per night, and get your fifth night free, bringing down the cost to 8,000 points per night. That means the Amex sign-up bonus could get you up to 10 free nights at this hotel.
Conversely, the Conrad Koh Samui costs up to 95,000 points per night, so the Amex sign-up bonus wouldn’t even get you enough points for a one night stay. The Citi sign-up bonus, however, would get you two free nights.
We’ve never seen a better sign-up bonus on the card than this, and I’d certainly consider it if you:
- Already have the Citi Hilton Reserve Card
- Prefer redeeming your points for non-aspirational properties, in which case 80,000 points will get you more value than two free weekend nights
Beyond the sign-up bonus, while the Amex has slightly better category bonuses and an annual fee that’s $20 lower, I do prefer the Citi Hilton Reserve Card for being able to earn a free weekend night at any property in the world after spending $10,000 on the card, and for the waived foreign transaction fees.
Conrad Koh Samui
(Tip of the hat to Running with Miles)