Hilton HHonors: Use Citi and AMEX Cards to Maximize Points
Hilary Stockton

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Hilton HHonors: Use Citi and AMEX Cards to Maximize Points


Ehtesham writes "...Have you written on how to maximize Hilton bonuses with credit cards? I don't remember seeing anywhere but I may be wrong. I would love to hear your perspective on what to apply for cards in which sequence."

Great question Ehtesham. I haven't written about this, mainly because I never stay in Hilton hotels, but using credit cards you can rack up a large number of Hilton points pretty quickly. I may even apply for some of these cards in my next app-o-rama, since the one Hilton property in the world I am interested in staying at is the relatively new Conrad Koh Samui. I first want to verify there will actually be AXON availability, however, since there is really no other Hilton property I have any interest in.

Anyway, back to the question: Hilton HHonors credit cards. I'll prioritize the cards in this order, but you could apply for all of these cards at the same time, and even apply for another card or two from Chase or another issuer.

Disclosure: None of the Hilton HHonors card links in this post pay me a referral, but they are the best offers I'm aware of. The Hyatt Card, Ink Plus and Ink Bold links do pay me a referral, and I appreciate the support if you apply via my links.


1. Citi HHonors Visa Signature – 50,000 HHonors Points x2 = 100,000 HHonors points

  • 50,000 Points after spending $1500 within the first 6 months
  • No annual fee
  • Automatic HHonors Silver status
  • 6 HHonors Bonus Points for each dollar on hotel stays within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio
  • 3 HHonors Bonus Points for each dollar spent at supermarkets, gas stations and drug stores
  • 2 HHonors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases
  • Churnable every ~3 months
Why #1: If you're willing to apply for this card twice (ideally in 2 browsers, as close in time as possible) you stand to earn 100,000 HHonors points, and with no annual fee. 50,000 points is enough for 1 night at a Category 7 property such as the Conrad Koh Samui, Conrad Maldives, Conrad Bali, etc. and if you also have a Hilton AMEX card, you can access AXON awards to bring the points award cost down to 145,000 points for a 4 night stay, saving 60,000 points.

2. Hilton HHonors AMEX – 40,000 HHonors Points

  • Apply by November 30
  • 40,000 HHonors points after $750 spend within first 3 months
  • Eligible for AXON awards
  • Automatic HHonors Silver status
  • 6 Hilton HHonors points per $1 spent at Hilton HHonors brands, U.S. stand-alone supermarkets, select major drugstores, gas at stand-alone gas stations, U.S. wireless and home telephone, cable TV and satellite TV
  • 3 Hilton HHonors points for all other eligible purchases
  • No annual fee
  • Offer not available if you have had this card within the last 12 months, or gotten any other Hilton HHonors card from AMEX within the last 90 days

Why #2: I've revised my ranking to reflect that current bonus is only 40,000 HHonors points, although the good thing is that this is after only $750 spend, and you get access to AXON awards with a no annual fee card that you can keep forever to improve your average age of accounts, which helps your credit score.


3. Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines Visa Signature Card – 70,000 HHonors Points

  • 35,000 HawaiianMiles after $1000 spend within first 4 months
  • HawaiianMiles transfer 1:2 to HHonors points = 70,000 HHonors points
  • $79 Annual Fee is NOT waived

Why #3: This is actually tied with the Bank of America Visa Signature Card, since both offer the exact same benefits: 35,000 miles as the signup bonus, which converts at a 1:2 ratio to 70,000 HHonors points. You do have to pay the $79 annual fee, which is not waived, so this card is really just good for the sign-up bonus and not worth keeping past the first year. Note that if for some reason you're not approved for the Visa Signature card, you'll get the Gold card instead with fewer benefits, although fortunately you'll still get the same sign-up bonus.


4. Bank of America Hawaiian Airlines Visa Signature Card – 70,000 HHonors Points

  • 35,000 HawaiianMiles after $1000 spend within first 4 months
  • HawaiianMiles transfer 1:2 to HHonors points = 70,000 HHonors points
  • $79 Annual Fee is NOT waived
Why #4: As noted above, tied with the Bank of Hawaii Visa Signature card.


5. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve – 2 Free Weekend Nights (Referral link is for MommyPoints, as I’m not a Citi affiliate) Appears possible to get 2, one for personal and one for business, per this Rapid Travel Chai post

  • 2 free weekend nights (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) after $2500 spend within the first 4 months. Most Hilton HHonors category 1-7 properties are eligible, but all-inclusive, Hilton Grand Vacation are excluded, as are Waldorf Astoria properties that do not offer standard rooms.
  • Hilton HHonors Gold status as long as you have the card
  • 10 HHonors points per $1 spent on hotels in Hilton Worldwide portfolio of brands
  • 5 HHonors points per $1 spent on airlines or car rentals
  • 3 HHonors points for all other spend
  • EMV Chip and Signature card, similar to the Hyatt Card (also see Best EMV Chip Cards in the U.S.)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $95 annual fee is NOT waived

Why #5: This card has a higher annual fee that is not waived, as well as higher minimum spend to get the free nights, which are redeemable only for weekend nights: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, bumping this down to #5. That said, the nice thing about this card compared to the Hilton Surpass is that it confers Hilton HHonors Gold Elite status for as long as you have the card, and also doesn't charge foreign transaction fees, handy if you're staying at international Hilton properties.


6. AMEX Hilton Surpass – 60,000 HHonors Points

  • 40,000 HHonors points after first purchase
  • 20,000 additional HHonors points after $3000 spend within 3 months
  • Free Hilton Gold elite status for first year of card membership, Silver elite status after 1st year
  • After first year, spend $20,000/year for Gold elite status or $40,000/year for Diamond elite status
  • 12 Hilton HHonors points per $1 spent at Hilton HHonors brands
  • 6 Hilton HHonors points per $1 spent at U.S. stand-alone supermarkets, select major drugstores, gas at stand-alone gas stations, U.S. wireless and home telephone, cable TV and satellite TV
  • 3 Hilton HHonors points for all other eligible purchases
  • Eligible for AXON awards
  • $75 annual fee NOT waived
  • 2.7% foreign transaction fee
Why #6: The AMEX Hilton Surpass is what many folks used to have, before the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card appeared. While the annual fee is slightly lower, the issue with this card is that it only gives 60,000 points, whereas you can get the equivalent of 100,000 points (if you plan to redeem at Category 7 Hilton properties) by applying for the Citi Reserve card. The only valuable feature, eligibility for AXON awards, you can get by applying for the no fee Hilton HHonors AMEX. So, apart from the current ability to earn 12 Hilton HHonors points per $1 at Hilton properties, this card ranks lower than the others.


Can I apply for all 6 cards at the same time?
Yes, you can, although don't expect to get instant approval for all; you may have to call Reconsideration and shift credit lines to get approved. Also note that you generally cannot get approved for 3 Citi cards at the same time; so if you plan to apply for 2 Citi HHonors Visa Signature cards, you won't also be able to get approved for a Citi HHonors Reserve card, and vice versa.

What other cards should I apply for at the same time?
The good thing about most of these cards is that they don't have a high spend requirement, particularly if you take advantage of Amazon Payments to send $1000 per month to your spouse or partner. If you applied for the Hilton HHonors AMEX, 2 x Citi HHonors Visa Signature, Bank of Hawaii Visa and Bank of America Visa, you'd accrue 305,000 Hilton points and need to spend $1500/month for the first 4 months and $1000/month for the next 2 months. With $1000 spend taken care of by Amazon Payments, that would just leave $500/month for the first 4 months. I'd recommend applying for one (or, if you can make a case for it, both) Ink business cards:
  • Ink Plus: 50,000 points for $5000 spend within the first 3 months
Since the Ink Plus doesn't charge interest for the first 6 months, you have extra time to pay off the spend--just ensure you pay minimum spend each month and can pay it off in full before the end of the 6th month, and you won't have any interest charges.
  • Ink Bold: 50,000 points for $5000 spend within the first 3 months. As a charge card, must pay in full every month

What does Hilton HHonors Gold Elite status get me?
Hilton HHonors Gold Elite status gets you hotel upgrades based on availability, free breakfast, and free internet. This is great if you have any stays at Hilton, and even I will get the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card IF I can be reasonably sure of getting AXON availability for the Conrad Koh Samui when I want to stay, although I wouldn't plan to keep the card more than a year since that's the only property I plan to stay at.

What does Hilton HHonors Diamond Elite status get me? Is it worth the $40,000 in annual spend?
Ironically, Hilton HHonors Diamond doesn't get you a lot more over Gold. It may get you better upgrades (although no guarantee, since unlike Starwood Preferred Guest, Hilton does NOT guarantee you a standard suite if one is available--it's at the property's discretion). Diamond does guarantee you access to the Club Lounge, if the property has one, in addition to breakfast. And Diamonds earn a 50% bonus on points, vs. 25% bonus for Gold. For most, $40,000 in spend to reach Diamond isn't worth it; you can better deploy that spend elsewhere for additional sign-up bonuses.
How Long Are the Weekend Stay Certificates from the Hilton Reserve Card Valid For?
1 year from the date of issuance; so keep that in mind when applying for the card and meeting your spend.

What are AXON awards?
AXON awards are discounted awards for multi-night stays in increments of 4, e.g. 4 nights, 8 nights, etc. at Hilton Category 5, 6 and 7 hotels. They are only available if you hold a Hilton AMEX card.

How do I book an AXON award?
You cannot book AXON awards online; you must call 800-920-5649 to book. You'll be speaking to the Hilton Diamond line, but don't worry if you're not a Diamond: the Diamond reps book all AXON awards. Note that there must be standard award availability for every night of the stay you are requesting. If even one of the nights does not have standard award availability, you will not be able to book the award.

What are GLON awards?
GLON awards are open to all Hilton elite members, i.e. Silver, Gold and Diamond members. The discounts are for Category 3-7 hotels, and are as follows:
  • 15% for 4 night stays
  • 20% for 5 night stays
  • 25% for 6+ night stays
For Category 5 hotels, the GLON award is often better value, but for Category 6 and Category 7 hotels, the AXON award is almost always the better deal. You can book GLON awards online by signing into your Hilton account.

Have other thoughts or questions about Hilton HHonors points and credit cards?

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Picture?type=large Ehtesham Q. commented 20 Nov 2012
Wonderful post and wonderful timing from a wonderful person. Just in time for my last application o rama for this year. I applied for six cards all using your links, so you should get some credit. Hilton HHonors amex approved online. 2 Citi Hilton HHonors visa using two different browsers. Both applications pending for review. Called the requested number and both approved on the phone. Both applications for Hawaian Airlines visa from Bank of America and Hawaii Bank pending for further review. I don't know if there is any number to contact them or should I wait patiently for the letter? Last but not the least, using your link, Chase Ink card. As expected decision pending, called the number and after some questioning and credit line transfers approved.
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 20 Nov 2012
Ehtesham, glad this came in time for your app-o-rama, and thanks so much for applying for the Ink Bold using my link! None of the Hilton HHonors cards offer me referral credit, but they're the best offers I'm aware of and hopefully you'll be approved for all that you applied for. For Bank of Hawaii, you can try calling 877-721-9405 and ask to speak to a credit analyst (this is B of A's white label "Quantum" brand that supports other cards such as the B of Hawaii card). For B of A cards, try calling 888-503-6090 to speak with reconsideration. Hope this helps!
User_avatar_default Pa R. commented 20 Nov 2012
One of the best posts on grabbing Hilton Hhonors points that I've seen. If you have a Significant Other, you can effectively double your points. Plus the Citi Hhonors cards are supposedly churnable every 91 days, so even more points available. Surprised with such relative ease of getting Hilton points that you don't use them more often. While Hilton's aren't usually my first choice, being able to get long stays for very low cost in some decent hotels make these very attractive. You can also grab the Virgin Atlantic card and convert to Hhonors at 2:1 similar to BofA/BofH Hawaiian miles. VA had 50K offer earlier in the year, so another easy 100K Hilton (x 2 if your spouse gets one as well).
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 21 Nov 2012
Pa, thanks so much for the kind words, and the reminder that couples can double their points. I believe the Virgin Atlantic card is only at 25K points right now, so didn't include, but yes, at 50K = 100K Hilton points, it would be worth applying for. I'm actually not on the road that much, so when I do stay somewhere I aim to stay at a hotel I really want to stay at--usually a TravelSort hotel of course :)
User_avatar_default Bob M. commented 07 Mar 2013
"If you're willing to apply for this card twice (ideally in 2 browsers, as close in time as possible) you stand to earn 100,000 HHonors points, and with no annual fee." Didn't Citi shut down the 2BM on personal cards? With the devaluation the HH Reserve Card is the most lucrative now with 2 certs worth up to 190K points
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 07 Mar 2013
Bob, correct--the original post was written last November, and with over 1000 posts I don't get a chance to update everything in all of them. It will be interesting to see if the Hilton HHonors Reserve card revises its language such that the 2 free weekend nights can be honored at hotels that become category 8, 9 or 10 after the devaluation. Currently, per the terms, the certificate is good for category 1-7 hotels and of course post-devaluation that would exclude the top properties if the language isn't changed.
Picture?type=large Wenyun S. commented 15 Mar 2013
Great post! I am starting to earn HH points for my honeymoon, and I'm thinking of Tahiti. Although HH points are depreciating a lot these days, I do not really see the difference in Tahiti since it's always >10k points per night...not sure whether Hilary has any thoughts? Besides, can I apply #3 and #4 at the same time? They look like the same card so if I'm applying for both, how long should I wait in between? I'm also interested in #5 but just not sure whether I can get free nights in those high-end resorts in Tahiti or Maldives...
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 15 Mar 2013
Wenyun, actually a standard room at Hilton's Tahiti properties is currently 50,000 HHonors points, but that will be increasing to 80,000 per night at the Hilton Moorea and to 95,000 per night at the Hilton Bora Bora. Keep in mind that is just the *standard* room, not an overwater villa, which is only available with an additional cash upgrade. You can actually apply for the Bank of America and Bank of Hawaii cards at the same time. While the Citi HHonors Reserve card should still give 2 free weekend nights at any Hilton property in the world, including the Tahiti resorts, I'm also waiting to see that confirmed in the new Ts and Cs. You would still need to pay cash to upgrade to an overwater villa, however.
Picture?type=large Wenyun S. commented 15 Mar 2013
Hilary, what I keep seeing is >10k points per night of KING GARDEN POOL BUNGALOW in Hilton Moorea and >20k points per night of KING OVERWATER VILLA in Hilton Bora Bora. The 50k room is very hard to find even in these days. Not sure whether those >10k rate would further increase after March? Also wondering about the update fee, which used to be $200 I guess. Besides, any time lag suggested between the two Hawaii cards?
Picture?type=large Wenyun S. commented 15 Mar 2013
I mean >100k and >200k ^^
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 15 Mar 2013
Ah, got it! I was having trouble figuring out how you were managing to see 10,000 points per room for either of the Hilton Tahiti properties! That's a good point, not sure that premium pricing will increase, but the standard/low rate pricing definitely will. Yes, I believe that the Moorea upgrade is offered for ~$245/night, though some have negotiated that to ~$200/night. I would go ahead and apply for both Hawaiian Airlines (B of A and B of HI) at the same time, no lag.
Picture?type=large Wenyun S. commented 16 Mar 2013
Thanks a lot for the answer! I'll see what happens then. BTW, is it true that one can reapply CITI HHONOR every three months? (Need to close it first?) Coz for AA, that's usually 18+months, right?
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