Friday, January 27, 2012

American Express Hilton Card

*Updated May 7, 2013*

I had done a review of the American Express Starwood Card a little while back (as it is one of the most flexible travel credit cards out there) but I'd like to also point out that American Express also offers a competitive alternative in the Hilton HHonors card for those loyal to the Hilton brand and are looking for a no annual fee travel rewards card.

While the credit card bonus for the Hilton, at 40k points, seems larger than the Starwood bonus, it is also important to determine the value of the points and the earnings rate of the card as well as any annual fees you might get hit with. Again, before we go into the details, I'd like to just point you at an example of what 35k Hilton HHonors points can get you - this was my stay at the (then) Category 5 Embassy Suites Montreal.  This was an excellent hotel with a great downtown location and superb rooms. One night would have cost about $250 USD after taxes and fees.

While the Hilton program doesn't allow for 1:1 transfer to airlines partners, I think this is mitigated by the fact that there is no annual fee for this card.  Also, the complimentary silver status allows you to get a nice little bonus for Hilton stays. Hilton's loyalty program I feel is sometimes given too little credit when compared to other loyalty programs just simply because the points required for redemption are numerically higher than most other programs.

Despite the major devaluation in the Hilton HHonors program which clearly made aspirational top-tier category award bookings less palatable, the lower tiered hotels were not as severely affected. Take for example the Hilton Narita Airport which requires 20k points per night but goes for about $100 USD a night. If we assume an average of 4 HHonors points per $1 spending, that would give us a free night after spending $5,000. That works out to a reasonable 2% cashback for a no-fee card.

To whet your appetite, this credit card offer comes with:
  • 7 HHonor points per $1 spend at Hilton hotels
  • 5 HHonor points per $1 spend (for supermarkets/gas stations/restaurants categories)
  • 3 HHonor points per $1 spend on everything else
  • Free 40k points after $750 spend in first 3 months
  • Complimentary HHonors Silver status
  • HHonors Gold status after spending $20k in one year
  • No annual fee!
I won't go into too much details into other hotel programs here but generally, I feel this program is under-appreciated (pre and post-devaluation) and overlooked by travelers simply because of the high numerical point redemption. While the post-devaluation landscape for Hilton certainly looks more drab, there are still great deals to be had if you know where to look.

Similar to the Amex Starwood card, I would say that this card offers great value for both frequent and infrequent travelers. Frequent travelers would benefit from the reasonably quick Hilton HHonors point accumulation offered by the card and could make use of the 7 HHonors category spending while infrequent travelers could save up a number of points for use on that once yearly vacation or long planned for getaway.

If this card sounds right for your needs, I would definitely urge you to check this card and program out here.

Disclaimer: This card is only available to US residents.  Also, I am not paid by American Express to endorse their products.

1 comment:

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