About Hilton Honors Card from American Express

By J.R. Duren
HighYa Staff Published on: Mar 19, 2018

The Hilton Honors Card from American Express is a rewards credit card that gives you points and bonuses you can use to book rooms at Hilton hotels via the Hilton Honors loyalty system.

The card offers the usual set of hotel rewards: a sign-up bonus, points on purchases and upgraded status in the hotel’s loyalty program.

Among the three Hilton cards that American Express offers, this one gives the user the least amount of points and bonuses: the Ascend and Aspire afford you more perks, but at a higher cost.

Is the American Express Hilton Honors Card worth your time? Is it the right choice for you among a sea of other hotel rewards cards?

Those are questions that we're going to answer as we work through this review. In the next few minutes, we’re going to examine the card's rewards, its benefits and its rates and fees. Once we show what's involved in each of those areas, we’ll compare the card to American Express’ other Hilton cards.

At the end of our review, we'll tell you the Honors Card's best strengths, most glaring weaknesses and then provide our opinion of who will enjoy this card the most.

Rewards of the Hilton Honors Card

You have two ways you can earn points with this card: sign-up bonus and spending rewards.

50,000-Point Sign-Up Bonus

If you can use your card to spend at least $1,000 in the first three months you own it, then you'll earn a free 50,000 points that will be added to your Hilton Honors account.

If you don’t have an Honors account at the time you sign up for the card, you’ll be given an account number. If you do have one, then you’ll enter your account number on your application.

It will take up to eight weeks for those bonus points to show up in your account; don’t make the mistake of thinking that the day you hit the $1,000 mark the points will show up. Sometimes they’ll show up in less than eight weeks, but there are no guarantees.

Pro tip: Your three-month deadline for spending $1K starts the day you’re approved, not the day you get the card in the mail. Also, interest and/or fee payments don’t count toward the $1,000.

Points on Purchases

While sign-up bonuses are great as a perk during the first year you own your hotel rewards card, it’s the points you get on purchases that make your card worth holding on to after the first year.

Here’s a simple list of the points bonuses you get (remember that the point totals represent how many points you earn for every dollar you spend):

  • Hilton purchases: 7 points per dollar
  • Restaurants, groceries, gas stations: 5 points per dollar
  • Everything else: 3 points per dollar

We believe that, based on average spending for a household, you can earn about 54,900 points per year. If you’re single or don’t have kids, that number will probably be closer to 40,000 - 45,000 points.

To redeem those points, head to the Hilton website and, when you set the dates and location for your booking, click on the checkbox indicating you want to see Hilton Honors points prices. Your results will show you how much it would cost to book the room with points.

Our calculations show that you can get at least eight free nights a year based on your spending because Category 1 Hiltons cost 5,000 points. The first year you’ll probably get those 50,000 points from the sign-up bonus, which could result in another ten Category 1 hotel nights.

However, keep in mind that Hilton only has two Category 1 hotels in the United States. You’ll most likely have to book at least a Category 2 hotel, which costs 10,000 points.

Free Silver Status

The Hilton Honors program has four different levels of loyalty: Member, Silver, Gold, and Diamond.

Customers level up when they stay at Hilton hotels a certain amount of nights. To get Silver status, you have to log four multi-night stays or 10 nights total, whichever comes first. But, with your Hilton Honors Card, you automatically get this status.

It entitles you to the following perks:

  • 15% bonus on the nights you earn
  • Fifth night free when you book five nights with points
  • Two free bottles of water per stay

The 15% bonus is a great perk. Your spending will earn you 54,900 a year and, with the bonus, that total gets a boost to 63,135.

Other Benefits

Because this card is an American Express card, it comes with a series of shopping and travel benefits. For example, you’ll get purchase protection on items you buy with your card. If they break or are stolen within 90 days of your purchase, you can file a claim for reimbursement.

You also get complimentary car insurance on cars you rent with your card, as well as extended warranties on certain items and price protection, too.

All of these benefits are contained in a benefits guide that comes with your card. They each have limits as to how many claims you can file in a year as well as how much you can be reimbursed/covered in one year.

Rates and Fees of the American Express Hilton Honors Card

Before we get to the comparisons of this card with others, we want to point out the rates and fees you could pay if you carry a balance or pay late.

Your APR will range from 16.99% to 25.99% – the better your credit score, the lower the rate. If you make a late payment, your APR could jump to 29.99%. This is known as a penalty APR and will remain on your account for six months. If you don’t make six on-time payments in that six-month period, AmEx will keep the APR at 29.99% for another six months.

Late fees or returned payments will cost you $38 once your balance is greater than $250.

The card’s cash advance fee is 3% of what you advance; a 26.49% APR will apply.

How the Hilton Honors Card Compares to American Express’ Other Hilton Cards

As we mentioned earlier, AmEx has three Hilton cards. The following chart shows you the key aspects of each card:

Hilton Honors Card Ascend Card Aspire Card
Sign-up bonus 50,000 100,000 100,000
Yearly rewards 54,900 76,600 116,400
Rewards after tier bonus 63,135 95,750 174,600
Tier upgrade Silver Gold Diamond
Annual fee $0 $95 $450
APR 16.99% - 25.99% 16.99%- 25.99% 16.99% - 25.99%

The biggest differences between these three cards are the rewards you earn, the sign-up bonus and the tier upgrades.

The Ascend and Aspire cards offer more lucrative rewards but they also cost more to own every year. Between the three, we believe that the Ascend offers the most value because it gives you a 25% bonus by virtue of your upgrade to the Gold tier. You also get a 100,000-point bonus, which is double what the Honors Card provides.

Even though we think the Ascend offers the best value, we still think the Hilton Honors Card holds tremendous worth if you like Hilton hotels and you want a card without an annual fee.

And, when you compare the Hilton card to other hotel rewards cards, we think it’s one of the best. It offers more intro points than the Hyatt Visa and the points you’ll pay for lower category hotels is cheaper than what you’d have to pay for Marriott hotels.

Also, the yearly rewards you earn with the card are better than what you’d get with the Marriot Rewards Premier card.

In general, we believe this is one of the best hotel cards and certainly the best one with no annual fee. The points you earn per year and the quality of Hilton’s properties make it a superior card to the Choice Privileges Visa, another card without an annual fee.

Pros, Cons and Who the American Express Hilton Honors Card Is Good For

We believe this card’s greatest strength is that it doesn’t have an annual fee. When you couple that fact with the number of points you can earn each year, it becomes clear this is a premier choice for hotel rewards cards with or without an annual fee.

We’d say that the main two drawbacks to this card are that Hilton doesn’t have many Category 1 hotels in the U.S. and, the moment you pay late, there’s a good chance AmEx will apply the 29.99% penalty APR to your account.

Based on our research, we believe the best fit for this card is someone who likes the Hilton hotel brand and is looking for a lucrative hotel card that doesn’t charge an annual fee.

If you aren’t loyal to any particular brand, take a look at our comparison of the best hotel rewards cards. We rank the cards based on how they perform across a variety of categories important to you when you’re looking for a hotel card that best fits your needs.

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