Hilton HHonors: Use Citi and AMEX Cards to Maximize Points

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.
 

FAQ

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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