Whether you're traveling for work or taking a weekend getaway, a travel rewards card can reward you for every dollar you spend.
And if you usually choose a Hilton hotel or resort, the Hilton Honors Card can help you rack up points quickly and enjoy a few extra perks during your stay.
Best of all, there's no annual fee.
Of course, the points you earn can only be redeemed within the Hilton brand, which is fairly standard for a hotel-brand credit card.
If you prefer to have flexibility when you're booking a hotel, however, you may want to consider a more flexible travel rewards card.
But if you almost always stay at a Hilton property, then the Hilton Honors Card will absolutely be beneficial for you.
Before you dive into this review, you should know that, along with the Hilton Honors Card, American Express also offers a Hilton Honors Surpass card.
For an annual fee of $75, the Surpass card accrues points at a faster rate than the Hilton Honors Card, and cardholders get complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status (more on those perks below).
Overall, the Surpass card is a stronger option—but the annual fee can be a deal breaker for some.
For the average cardholder, the $0 annual fee on the Hilton Honors Card is a huge benefit, which is why we'll review it here.
When you're choosing the best credit card for travel rewards, it's important to consider your own travel habits.
If your brand of choice is Hilton, the Hilton Honors Card could make your business trips and vacations even more rewarding.
But if flexibility is important to you, you may prefer the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard.
Here are a few things to consider:
Barclaycard can be redeemed at more locations. While the Hilton Honors credit card is redeemable only at Hilton properties, you can redeem your Barclaycard points for travel purchases at any airline or hotel chain—even Airbnb!
Amex is less widely accepted. The Barclaycard is a Mastercard, which is typically accepted at more locations than American Express.
You'll pay for the Barclaycard privilege. The Barclaycard's flexibility comes at a price—the card charges an $89 annual fee.
The fee is waived for your first year, but after that, you'll need to decide if the extra flexibility is worth the added fee.
How the Hilton Honors Card compares to its top competitor:
|Hilton Honors Card from American Express||Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard|
|How high of credit score do you need?||>650||>700|
|Average APR||16.24% and up||16.99% and up|
|How big of sign-up bonus do you get?||Up to 75,000 points||50,000 miles|
|How much do you need to spend to get the bonus?||
$1,000 in the first three months to earn 50,000 points
Another $1,000 in the first six months for a 25,000-point bonus
|$3,000 in the first 90 days for 50,000 miles|
|How many points do you get for every dollar?||
7x points at Hilton brands
5x points at U.S. gas stations, supermarkets, and restaurants
3x points on all other purchases
|2x miles per dollar on all purchases|
|Any restrictions?||Points can only be redeemed at Hilton properties and through the Hilton Shopping Mall||You'll need to accrue a minimum amount of points before you can redeem your rewards|
|How much is a point worth in real dollars?||Free nights start at 5,000 points; if a 5,000-point room typically runs $130 per night, that works out to about $0.02 per point||Its minimum redemption threshold is 10,000 miles, which is equal to $100. That works out to $0.01 per mile.|
The Question Everyone Is Asking
Should you get a Hilton Honors Card or a Hilton Honors Surpass Card?
If you're a frequent Hilton guest and you're already certain a Hilton card is ideal for you, then you may be wondering whether it's worth applying for the Hilton Honors Surpass card—and paying the $75 annual fee—to earn extra points on your Hilton stays.
There are three main perks to the Hilton Honors Surpass card versus the Hilton Honors credit card:
Even bigger signup bonus. Earn 100,000 Hilton Honors bonus points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months.
Huge rewards. Earn 12x bonus points for every dollar spent within the Hilton brand.
Complimentary gold status. If you travel often, this could be a major incentive. (We'll talk more about the perks you'll get from Gold status below.)
However, the travel rewards experts at MileCards.com say it's not worth exploring the Surpass card unless you spend $4,000 or more each year at Hilton properties.
It does get you free breakfast, however.
While other cards may tout significant advantages over the Hilton Honor credit card, as travel cards go, it has some pretty appealing rewards:
No pay to play. Unlike most hotel credit cards, which can carry annual fees as high as $400, the Hilton Honors Card has no annual fee.
This is the biggest benefit of the Hilton Honors Card and sets it apart from other hotel-brand credit cards.
Impressive signup bonus. With the Hilton Honors Card, if you spend $1,000 within the first three months, you'll receive 50,000 bonus points.
Spend an additional $1,000 within the first six months, and you'll receive an extra 25,000 points.
That means you have the opportunity to earn a total of 75,000 points for spending $2,000 in six months.
Not only is that easy to do—it averages out to about $333 per month—but it's like earning a whopping 37.5 points per dollar!
Fast rewards. Okay, so you can't earn 37 points per dollar forever.
But even after you've earned your signup bonus, the rewards add up quickly, especially on purchases made at Hilton properties, including 7x Hilton Honors points for every dollar spent when you book directly with a participating Hilton hotel or resort.
You earn 5x bonus points on eligible purchases at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations in the U.S.
You get 3x bonus points on all other eligible purchases.
And you earn 500 bonus points when you use your card to book online and pay for a Hilton stay.
At some Hilton properties, you only need 5,000 points to earn a free night, which means you only need to spend $715 within the Hilton brand before you're eligible for a free night.
The Hilton Honors Card tends to fall short on a few travel perks.
Like most hotel credit cards, the Hilton Honors card is geared toward frequent travelers, but you may find that the card only caters to a very specific type of traveler.
Inflexible travel options. Because Hilton Honors rewards points can only be redeemed at Hilton properties, you'll have less flexibility when redeeming trips using your points.
If you like to shop around for the best hotel bargains or the perfect location, you may not like being limited to Hilton properties.
Limited alternatives for redeeming points. Hilton Honors points are most valuable when redeemed for Hilton hotel stays.
Points can also be redeemed for gifts and gadgets at the Hilton Honors Shopping Mall online, but this isn't the ideal option for using your points.
For example, a Yeti 20-oz. tumbler costs 19,500 points.
At 3 points earned per dollar spent, you'd have to spend $6,500 to earn that tumbler.
If you don't plan on redeeming your Hilton Honors points for Hilton stays, you may want to consider a different card.
Fees for overseas transactions. Considering frequent travelers are the target audience for this card, you may be surprised to find that the Hilton Honors Card charges a 2.7% foreign transaction fee on all purchases made outside the U.S.
The best perks require deep pockets. All cardholders automatically get Hilton Honors Silver status, which offers some useful perk.
You'll get a 15% bonus on all Hilton Honors points you earn, a 5th night free at any Hilton property, free internet access at all Hilton properties, and digital check-in and late check-out.
But if you want to get upgraded to Gold status—and earn the extra perks that come with it—you'll need to spend $20,000 annually.
That averages out to around $1,666 monthly.
Without the credit card, however, you would need to stay 20 nights at Hilton properties in order to be eligible for Gold status.
So for cardholders who spend a lot each month—or who charge all their monthly bills to their card to maximize their points—signing up for the Hilton Honors Card is a much easier way to earn Gold status.
Of course, not all of these drawbacks are unique to the Hilton Honors Card.
Whenever you choose a hotel-brand credit card, you'll most likely be limited to redeeming your points within that brand.
So before you apply, consider which is more helpful to you—no annual fee, or no foreign transaction fees.
Say a competing card has an $85 annual fee.
You'd need to spend $3,148 overseas to rack up $85 in foreign transaction fees.
How much do you normally spend overseas in a year?
If it's significantly more than that, it may be worth paying an annual fee to avoid those foreign transaction fees.
Who It's Made For
People who stay at Hilton hotels and related brands like Waldorf Astoria, Hampton, and Embassy Suites more than once a year get the maximum benefits out of this card.
Before you decide if the card is right for you, ask yourself:
- Do I typically spend at least a few hundred dollars a month on my credit card?
- Do I stay overnight in hotels for at least a few nights each year?
- When I travel, do I typically choose Hilton hotels and resorts?
- Can I take full advantage of membership perks like discounted rates and digital check-in?
- Do I have a strong credit score?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, the Hilton Honors card may be a smart option for you.
It is worth noting, however, that you need a solid credit history to be eligible for this card.
Based on the credit requirements for other American Express cards, you're unlikely to get approved if your credit score is below 600.
The Card and the Company's History
Hilton is a company of firsts — it was the first coast-to-coast hotel group and the first to install TVs in guest rooms.
And a bartender at the Caribe Hilton in Puerto Rico created the first piña colada.
And among travel rewards cards, Hilton was the first to offer no blackout dates, which they announced in 2008.
Just a decade ago, if you were traveling on a holiday, you would likely have a hard time redeeming your rewards points.
The Hilton Honors Card works best for U.S. travelers who frequently stay at Hilton hotels
Hilton has been an international hotel brand since 1949, but keep in mind the Hilton Honors Card is geared toward Hilton guests who travel primarily within the United States.
It's available to U.S. cardholders only, and there's a 2.7% transaction fee on any purchases made overseas.
If you have a dream list of vacation spots, check out the Hilton hotel locator to confirm the company has offers in your specified locations.
How the Card Works
Need a quick refresher on how the Hilton Honors Card works?
Here are the key points you need to know.
With the Hilton Honors Card, you can earn rewards quickly, especially when you spend money at a Hilton hotel or resort for which you'll earn 7x points on every dollar spent.
You will also earn 5x points on every dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets, restaurants, and gas stations, 3x points for every dollar spent elsewhere, and 500 bonus points when you book online and pay for your Hilton stay using the Hilton Honors Card.
It can be difficult to determine the actual value of your rewards points, because the price of a hotel room can fluctuate drastically.
For example, a hotel room might cost $229 per night if you book directly, or 58,000 points if you redeem your rewards.
But if you travel often, you may be pleasantly surprised with a free room every few trips.
Rates and fees
Like many branded credit cards, the interest rates and fees for the Hilton Honors card can be a bit steep.
Here's what you need to know about:
Typical interest rates. The APR ranges from 16.24-20.24% based on your credit history.
If your score is at the low end of their acceptable range, you may get stuck with the higher APR.
High cash advance fees. Cash advances may be convenient, but as with most credit cards, they'll cost you.
The Hilton Honors Card charges either $5 or 3% for cash advances (whichever is greater), along with a 26.24% APR on the money you borrow.
Best for U.S. purchases. Any purchases outside the U.S. will be charged a 2.7% foreign transaction fee.
If you travel overseas often, you may want to find a different card for that purpose.
No annual fee. Again, you won't have to pay an annual fee, which can offset some of the fees mentioned above.
What People Love About It
If you're a frequent Hilton guest, you'll find you earn points quickly, and you can earn free nights at select Hilton properties for as little as 5,000 points. Here's what customers like:
You have options. With 5,000 points, you're probably not going to book the Hilton Times Square on a Saturday.
More likely, it'll be a weeknight stay in a much-less-glamorous market.
But if you haven't earned enough points for a free room, cardholders also have the helpful option of using points to help offset the cost of a room, and paying the difference in cash.
The more you travel, the more you earn. If you travel often, you'll find the points add up quickly.
The team at MillionMileSecrets.com writes, "Consider the Amex Hilton Honors card if you don't want to pay an annual fee, stay at Hilton hotels occasionally, or are looking for a way to quickly boost your Hilton point balance."
There's no fee for earning. If you're not sure yet whether a travel rewards card is the best option for you, the Hilton Honors Card is a low-risk way to find out, since there's no annual fee.
Biggest Consumer Complaints
Customers complain about difficulty calculating what their points are worth.
This isn't unique to the Hilton Honors card, but it can be hard to figure exactly how much your points are worth. Here's why:
Room prices vary widely. Rooms prices not only vary from location to location, but even from night to night at the same resort.
So in order to figure out what your points are worth, you'd have to know the exact room rate for, say, a double room on a Tuesday night in November in Wichita, Kansas.
Needless to say, it can be a bit confusing.
Points get used up quickly. While you earn points quickly, you also use them up quickly.
You earn double or triple the points, but it takes you double or triple the points of a normal rewards card to book a room.
Key Digital Services
When you link your Hilton Honors credit card to the Hilton Honors app, you'll be able to check your rewards balance through the app and book rooms using your points.
And once you arrive, you can use the app to check in digitally, select your room, and even create a "digital key," which you can use to access your room.
The app gets rave reviews at both the Apple Store and on Google Play.
One Google Play reviewer commented, "I was sitting at the airport…and was able to park, pick my dates, choose which hotel I wanted to go to using the map to see which was closest to my work site, book it, and get the confirmation—all in a couple minutes."
How to Sign up for the Card
To apply for the Hilton Honors card, visit the Hilton Honors from American Express website and fill out the online application.
If you're tempted to call instead, one caveat: While customer service reps can answer questions over the phone, they can't enroll you in special offers.
How to Close Your Account
To close your Hilton Honors Card, call American Express at 1-800-528-4800.
You can also close your account by mailing a request to the address on your credit card statement.
Before you decide to close your account, however, keep in mind that the length of your credit history affects your credit score.
Since there's no annual fee on the Hilton Honors Card, it doesn't cost you anything to keep the account active, which can help improve your credit history by boosting the amount of available (but unused) credit you have.
Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the Hilton Honors Card.
How can I cancel my card?
The easiest way to close your account is by calling the customer service number printed on the back of your card.
What can I use my credit card for?
While you'll earn the most rewards for money spent within the Hilton brand, your Hilton Honors Card from American Express can also be used at most gas stations, supermarkets, restaurants, online retailers, service providers, and more.
Where and what stores can I use my credit card?
Your Hilton Honors Card can be used anywhere American Express is accepted.
How long does it take American Express to refund my credit card?
For most purchases, refunds will be posted to your account within a few business days.
How can I upgrade to a silver or gold status?
Hilton Honors Card members automatically receive Hilton Honors Silver status.
Stay 20 nights at a Hilton resort, or spend $20,000 on your card in a year to get upgraded to Gold status.
What can I use my Hilton Honors bonus points for?
Hilton Honors bonus points can be redeemed for free nights at Hilton hotels and resorts. Points can also be redeemed for merchandise at the Hilton Shopping Mall online.
What is the travel benefit that comes with this card?
Cardholders get membership perks like discounted rates, digital check-in, free internet service, and the 5th night free on any stay.
You'll also receive the usual American Express cardholder benefits like baggage insurance, a global assist hotline, car rental damage insurance, and travel accident insurance.
What can I expect if I become a Gold member?
Gold members receive the same perks as Silver members, along with these extra perks: a 25% bonus on all Hilton Honors points earned, 5th night free after four-night stays, free internet access at Hilton properties, digital check-in and late check-out at no additional charge, and point redemption for room upgrades at Hilton properties.
Are there any shopping benefits attached to this card?
The Hilton Honors Card offers the standard American Express shopping perks like an extended warranty, return protection, and exclusive pre-sale access for local events.
How can I check my credit card balance?
You can check your card balance online at the American Express website, or by calling the number on the back of your card.
Can I withdraw money or get a cash advance from my credit card?
Cash advances can be made using your Hilton Honors Card at an ATM—just be aware of steep fees.
Can I pay for the credit card with a gift card, another credit card, or PayPal?
Not directly. However, you can transfer funds from your Paypal account into the bank account you use to pay your Hilton Honors Card.
Can I use my American Express credit card without the card?
You can use your American Express card for online purchases, as long as you know your account number. However, if your card is lost or stolen, call the customer service number to report it.
How to add an authorized user to American Express credit card?
To add an authorized user, contact the customer service number on the back of your card.
Are there any upgrades on American Express credit card?
If you travel frequently and spend a lot each month, you may want to apply for the Hilton Honors Surpass card instead, which carries an annual fee but offers bigger rewards.
How soon can I use my credit card once I receive it?
You can start using your Hilton Honors card as soon as you receive it.
How do I contact American Express credit card services?
Call the number on the back of the card, or log in to the American Express website to chat with a representative.
How to report stolen American Express credit card?
If your card is lost or stolen, call the customer service number to report it.
What credit score do I need to get approval for the card?
Most customers report needing a credit score of approximately 650 or higher to get approved for this card.
What credit score do I have to maintain so my account is not closed?
To avoid account closure, make monthly payments on time and make sure you occasionally use the card, even if it's not your primary credit card.
Will my credit score drop if my account gets closed?
Any time a credit card account is closed by the issuer, it can cause a slight ding to your credit score. If the account is closed due to delinquency, it can have an even bigger impact.
Which credit bureaus does American Express credit card report to?
American Express reports to all three major credit bureaus.
Can I build my credit with the American Express credit card?
Absolutely. As long as you pay on time, the Hilton Honors Card from American Express is a great way to build credit, especially since you won't pay an annual fee to keep it open.
Is there an expiry date on the card?
Yes, there is an expiration date on the credit card. However, your points won't expire as long as your account is active and in good standing.
Is there a credit insurance program and how will it cover me if I lose my job?
American Express offers an optional credit protection program called AMEX Account Protector Ultimate that protects your balance in the event of job loss, illness, or death.
Can I have two credit cards from American Express at the same time?
Yes. According to the Points Guy, you can have up to four American Express credit cards open at any time.
Can I transfer money from my American Express credit card to another?
If you open a new credit card, you can do a balance transfer from your American Express card to the new card.
Is it hard to get an American Express credit card?
The Hilton Honors Card from American Express typically requires that your credit history at least be in the "good" zone.
How long does it take to receive the card once I have been approved for it?
After approval—which can happen in a matter of minutes—most American Express cards take 7 to 10 days for delivery.
How do I get more reward points?
There are a few ways to maximize your points: Choose a Hilton property when booking a business trip or vacation.
Use the Hilton Honors Card at supermarkets, gas stations, and restaurants in the U.S. Book Hilton stays directly through their website to receive 500 bonus points.
Keep an eye out for promotions and bonuses that can help you earn extra points.
Should you apply for the Hilton Honors credit card before your next trip?
If you're a frequent Hilton guest, yes. If you prefer to shop around, no. Here's why:
Hilton-aficionados snag the biggest benefits. Bottom line, the Hilton Honors Card is ideal for people who not only travel often, but tend to favor Hilton properties when they book.
You'll earn the most points when spending money at a Hilton, and those points are valid for future Hilton stays.
Other travel cards offer better flexibility. If you're not loyal to any particular brand, or you want to be able to jump on an amazing hotel bargain when you see it, you may have better luck with a flexible travel card or a traditional cashback card.
But if Hilton hotels are your happy place, you'll get rewarded for your loyalty—and with no annual fee, all the rewards you earn are pure gravy.
Do you use the Hilton Honors Card from American Express?
How has the card worked out for you?
Any great tips (or nightmares) to share with the rest of us?
Let us know in the comments below.