Citi ThankYou Premier vs. Hilton Honors American Express

If you’re a road warrior who is loyal to Hilton, you’ll rapidly rack up bonus points with the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card —earning 12x points per dollar.

The Winner

The Ascend Card is a better bet for frequent travelers because of its generous bonus points

If you're a road warrior who appreciates the comfort and convenience of staying at a Hilton hotel while traveling, the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card is something you wouldn't want to leave home without.

You'll be amazed at how quickly you'll be able to rack up bonus points (lots of bonus points!) with your card in tow.

12x bonus points (NOT a typo!) Yes, that's twelve-times bonus points for every dollar you spend at a participating Hilton hotel or resort!

Plus, you'll earn 6x bonus points for every dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations in the U.S.

All other purchases earn you 3x points.

This one "ascends" most others, indeed!

Just imagine earning a free stay at a Hilton Hotel on your next trip just by using your card for your everyday spending!

Luxe sign-up bonus. It gets better—for a limited time, you can earn 75,000 Hilton Honors bonus points when you spend $3,000 within the first three months of getting the Hilton Ascend Card.

That's equivalent to about a $375 hotel stay.

Moneys-saving perks offset the high annual fee. As of January 2018, Hilton changed the name of the card from Surpass to Ascend.

Added benefits included no foreign transaction fees, $600 in travel credits, 12x points at Hilton properties, and free airport lounge access.

And all of this for a modest $95 annual fee—pretty much unheard of for a luxe card!

If you're a Hilton hotel loyalist, the Ascend Card will help you earn free hotel stays in no time (you'll offset that fee in no time.)

Hilton Hotels Worldwide

Why You Should Consider These Cards

If you spend a lot on travel and dining out, these may be for you

Both the Ascend Card and the Premier Card offer bonus points on travel and restaurants.

You're the perfect customer for the Ascend Card if you only stay at Hilton hotels

To find out whether the Ascend Card is the right card for you, answer the following questions:

Do you have a credit score greater than 700?

Do you travel often, and generally stay at Hilton hotels?

Do you spend a fair amount at restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations?

If you answered yes to the questions above, this is a great card to add to your wallet to help you rack up points that can be redeemed for free hotel stays.

If you like flexibility when you travel, you're the ideal customer for the Premier Card

Curious whether the Premier Card would be a good fit for you? Answer the following questions to find out:

Do you have a credit score greater than 690?

Do you travel often, but typically choose a hotel based on price and location rather than brand?

Do you spend a fair amount on dining out, gas, and entertainment?

If you answered yes to the questions above, then the Premier Card may be a better fit for you.

The Ascend Card is a better fit for Hilton loyalists who have good credit scores.

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The Winner's Strengths

The Ascend Card is stronger because it offers complimentary Hilton Gold Status

When you sign up for the Ascend Card , you'll automatically receive complimentary Hilton Gold status.

This translates into free breakfast, room upgrades, and executive lounge access.

People love the Hilton Ascend Card because they can earn—and combine—a hefty amount of points for Hilton stays

Loyalists say that they accumulate Hilton Honors points quickest by using the Ascend Card, earning 12x points per dollar spent at participating properties.

Another perk is that up to 11 family members can pool Hilton Honors points, transferring up to a maximum of 500,000 points in a calendar year.

So if you combine sign-up bonuses from multiple family members, you can treat yourself to a fantastic family vacation!

The biggest customer complaint about the Ascend Card wasits foreign transaction fees

Before Hilton rebranded the Ascend Card (it was named Surpass), it disappointed many globetrotters with its 2.7% foreign transaction fee.

As of January 2018, those foreign transaction fees were eliminated.

Consider those complaints heard!

The Ascend Card gives you automatic Hilton Gold status, which gets you free breakfast, room upgrades, and free access to airport lounges.

The Counter Argument

Premier Card could be a better fit because of its versatile travel and dining rewards

If you travel often but you aren't necessarily hooked on Hilton, then the City ThankYou Premier Card may be a better option.

Citi has a broad definition of "travel." The Premier Card earns you 3x points on every dollar spent on travel—and they define this pretty generously.

In addition to airfare, the travel category also includes hotels, car rentals, taxis, local transportation, even gasoline!

Annual Change In Average Global Airfares

Earn bonus points for dining out and entertainment. Those who travel a lot tend to also spend on restaurants and entertainment.

The Premier Card rewards you for this spending by giving you 2x bonus points.

No foreign transaction fees. Like the newly branded Ascend Card, the Premier does not charge a transaction fee for use outside of the United States.

People love Premier Card because of the 25% bonus when redeeming travel through the ThankYou portal

Citi's ThankYou points are redeemable on any airline at any time.

There are no blackout dates when you book through the ThankYou Travel Center, so need to worry about booking rewards travel on the worst travel days.

Plus, when you redeem points through the ThankYou portal, your ThankYou points will be worth 25% more.

You'll also have the flexibility of redeeming ThankYou points for gift cards, statement credits, merchandise on Amazon, or even a paper check.

The biggest customer complaint about Premier Card is its points bump redemption for cash vs. travel

ThankYou points are worth less than a penny each, and significantly less than that when redeemed for cash.

Customers said they were surprised to see how little value they could get from their ThankYou points unless they used them for travel.

Gift cards, surprisingly, offer more value per point than cash.

Those who travel often but rarely stay at Hilton properties may be better suited to the Premier Card—especially if they plan on traveling abroad.

But Amex's generous rewards structure still make it a good bet even for those who aren't Hilton loyalists.

How the Ascend Card compares to Citi's ThankYou Premier

Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card Premier Card
How high of credit score do you need?

>720

>690

Average APR?

18.24%

19.99%

Annual fee?

$95

$95 (waived for the first 12 months)

How big of sign-up bonus do you get?

75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points

0

How much do you need to spend to get the bonus?

$3,000 within 3 months

n/a

How many points do you get for every dollar?

12 points for Hilton purchases

6 points for U.S. restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations

3 points on everything else

3 points for travel, including at gas stations

2 points for dining out and entertainment

1 point on everything else

Any restrictions?

None

None

If you spent $100 on the card, how much would the points be worth in dollars?

$0.50-$1.25 (about $5 if you spend the $100 at Hilton)

$0.50-$1, depending on whether you redeem them for cash, gift cards, or travel.

How much would you need to spend on the card to make up for the fees (excluding APR/rates)?

$9,500 (but only about $800 at Hilton properties)

$9,500 (less if you're spending on bonus categories)

Rewards and Bonuses

Only the Ascend Card currently offers a sign-up bonus

Of the two travel rewards cards, the Hilton Ascend comes out on top when it comes to a sign-up bonus.

Earn 75,000 bonus points when you get the Ascend Card

The Ascend Card earns you 75,000 Hilton Honors bonus points when you spend $3,000 within three months of opening the card.

The Premier Card currently does not offer a sign-up bonus

In the past, the Premier Card has offered up to 50,000 ThankYou points for opening the card.

That offer has since expired, and currently there isn't any sign-up bonus for this card.

The Ascend Card offers a generous 75,000 points Hilton Honors sign-up bonus, while the Citi ThankYou Premier doesn't currently offer any sign-up bonus.

Benefits

Both Amex and Citi offer purchase protection and other benefits

Though both cards only have a $95 annual fee, they provide you with some benefits that are typically associated with more expensive credit cards.

Ascend Card offers Amex-style benefits

Worry-free shopping. The Ascend Card provides purchase protection against accidental damage or theft within 90 days, up to one extra year of warranty, and return protection if a merchant refuses to let you return an item within 90 days.

Free shipping and returns. You'll get a free ShopRunner membership, which entitles you to free shipping and returns at select merchants.

Travel with confidence. The Ascend Card also provides car rental loss and damage insurance and travel accident insurance.

Premier Card offers you Price Rewind and other benefits

Lowest price, guaranteed. As with most Citibank credit cards, this one's Citi Price Rewind lets user register electronics and other big-ticket items purchased with a ThankYou Premier Card, and will then search hundreds of online merchants for a better price.

U.S. Online Merchants Purchase Rate

If the same item is found at a lower price within 60 days, a refund is issued for the difference.

VIP access to concerts and sporting events. Citi ThankYou Premier customers enjoy the benefits of Citi Private Pass, which provides special VIP access to purchase tickets to VIP events and sold-out concerts.

Lost your bags? No worries. The ThankYou Premier card offers lost baggage protection and worldwide travel accident insurance.

You'll also get trip cancellation and interruption protection.

Amex's free Shoprunner membership and Citi's Price Rewind are among the many value-added benefits the card issuers provide.

The Costs and Fees

Both cards charge an annual fee—with some exceptions and noteworthy news

Both the Ascend Card and the Premier Card charge a $95 annual fee, but the fee is waived for the first 12 months on the Premier Card.

Take this card to Europe. There is no foreign transaction fee, saving you an average of 3% on all purchases made outside of the United States.

Other fees are typical. If you make a late payment, you'll be subject to a $38 fee and penalty APR of up to 29.99%.

Balance transfers and cash advances will result in a 3% fee.

The Premier Card waives its annual fee for the first 12 months

For the first year, you won't have to pay the $95 annual fee on the Premier Card .

Good card for traveling outside the United States. Since it has no foreign transaction fees, you can keep the ThankYou Premier Card in your wallet when you travel outside of the U.S.

Other typical fees apply. You'll pay a 3% fee on balance transfers, 5% on cash advances, and other standard credit card fees.

Both cards don't charge a foreign transaction fee, making them good cards to take with you when traveling abroad.

Comparing Customer Service

American Express offers better customer service than Citi

Consumers had more gripes about Citi's customer service than they did about Amex.

American Express generally has good customer service

American Express is known for its good customer service, especially when it comes to merchant disputes and purchase protection benefits.

Still, some customers were upset they didn't get the sign-up bonuses offered they thought they would, and other complained of having a hard time reaching a representative who could help them.

Citi's customer service is a mixed bag

Many customers complained online about the low level of service provided by Citi customer service representatives, who relayed misinformation or otherwise were not helpful.

American Express appears to offer better customer service than Citi.

Key Digital Services

Hilton Honors and Citi offer digital tools to help you redeem points and protect your credit

In addition to managing your account, viewing your credit card transaction history, and paying bills online and via the app, both companies offer digital tools to make redeeming points and protecting your credit fast, simple and easy.

Redeem Hilton Honors points through the MyWay Rewards Program online

The Hilton Honors MyWay Rewards Program online is a digital feature that lets you use your points (or earn them) in a variety of ways.

Tech tools tailored to your lifestyle and preferences. Once you set up a MyWay account, you can adjust its MyWay Earning Style Preferences.

This feature allows you to choose either "Points & Points" (to help you earn hotel stays faster) or "Points & Miles" (to amplify your airline mile earnings).

Do You Collect Airline Miles? (2017)

Easy redemption. From your MyWay Rewards member dashboard, you can easily redeem points for free hotel stays, gifts, merchandise, and more.

Citi's Quick Lock lets you lock and unlock your credit card on the go

If you frequently misplace your credit card, Citi's Quick Lock will be a helpful solution.

Instant protection. This online feature lets you seamlessly lock your card if lost—and then unlock it as soon as you find it.

Hilton Honors offers the MyWay Rewards Program to make redeeming points super easy, and Citi's Quick Lock feature helps protect you in case your credit card is lost or stolen.

FAQ

  • What does each card provider offer new customers as incentives?

    Only the Ascend Card from Amex offers a sign-up bonus.

    You'll get 75,000 Hilton Honors points when you spend $3,000 within three months of opening the card.

  • What does each card provider offer as ongoing incentives for loyal customers?

    You'll earn 12 points per dollar spent at Hilton properties with the Ascend Card, 6 points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and 3 points on everything else.

    The Premier Card offers 3x points on travel, including gas stations, and 2x points on dining out and entertainment.

    All other purchases earn a flat 1 point per dollar.

  • What are the interest rates for each card provider?

    Hilton Honors Ascend's interest rate ranges from 16.99% to 25.99%, depending on your credit score.

    Citi ThankYou Premier will charge you interest ranging from 15.49% to 24.49%, depending on your credit score.

  • Does either card have an annual fee?

    Yes, they both charge $95 a year. The Premier Card waives the annual fee for the first 12 months.

  • What about a foreign transaction fee?

    Neither card charges a foreign transaction fee.

  • What credit score range should you be in before applying for each card?

    You'll want to have excellent credit for the Hilton Ascend Card (>720) and very good credit for the (>690).

  • How do I apply for each card?

    To apply for the Hilton Ascend Card Card, visit the American Express website.

    If you'd like to sign up for the Premier Card, you can also apply on the Citi website.

  • How do I cancel each card?

    If you'd like to cancel either your Hilton Honors Ascend or your Citi ThankYou Premier credit cards, just call the customer service number on the back of your credit card—that way, you'll reach a customer service agent who specializes in your credit card.

    With both cards, you'll have to pay off your balance before the account can be closed.

    Be sure to redeem any cash-back available before closing the account, or you risk forfeiting it.

Be rewarded (big time!) for your loyalty to the Hilton chain with the Ascend Card

For Hilton hotel enthusiasts, the Ascend Card can help you maximize the points earned on your hotel stays—you'll earn 12x points per dollar—enabling you to book your next hotel stay for free.

The Ascend Card provides you with luxe benefits for only $95 annual fee—a relative bargain compared to cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve, which charge $450. For those who stay at Hilton hotels frequently, the Ascend Card is a no-brainer.

The Hilton Honors Ascend Card from Amex is a better fit for Hilton loyalists who have good credit scores

  • The Ascend Card gives you automatic Hilton Gold status, which gets you free breakfast, room upgrades, and free access to airport lounges.
  • Those who travel often, but rarely stay at Hilton properties, may prefer the Premier Card —especially if they plan on traveling abroad. But Amex's generous rewards structure still make it a good bet even for those who aren't Hilton loyalists.
  • The Ascend Card offers a generous 75,000 points Hilton Honors sign-up bonus, while the Citi ThankYou Premier doesn't currently offer any sign-up bonus.
  • Neither card has a foreign transaction fee, making them good for traveling abroad.
  • Amex's free Shoprunner membership and Citi's Price Rewind are among the many benefits the card issuers provide.
  • American Express appears to offer better customer service than Citi.
  • Hilton Honors offers the MyWay Rewards Program to make redeeming points super easy, and Citi's Quick Lock helps protect you in case your credit card is lost or stolen.

Do you use the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card ?

How has the company worked out for you?

Any great tips (or nightmares) to share with the rest of us?

Let us know in the comments below.

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