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Credit Cards

The Hilton Honors American Express Card review: Automatic elite status and no annual fee

The Hilton Honors Amex gives automatic Silver elite status.

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Select’s editorial team works independently to review financial products and write articles we think our readers will find useful. We may receive a commission when you click on links for products from our affiliate partners.

The Hilton Honors American Express Card is one of four different Hilton cobranded credit cards offered by American Express. With no annual fee (see rates and fees), this card gives consumers the chance to earn rewards to stay at thousands of Hilton properties with little obligation to maximize every benefit.

Once you earn a sizeable amount of points, you will be able to redeem them for free hotel nights at one of the thousands of Hilton properties around the world. In addition, the card provides complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status, giving you several benefits like no resort fees on award stays and the fifth night free when you book four or more consecutive nights on points.

While this card has no annual fee, is this the right hotel credit card for you? Select reviews the Hilton Amex card, analyzing its welcome bonus, return on spend and more to help you decide if it's the best card for you.

The Hilton Honors American Express Card review

The Hilton Honors American Express Card

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    7X points on eligible purchases at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio; 5X points on dining at U.S. restaurants, including takeout and delivery; 5X points on groceries at U.S. supermarkets; 5X points on gas at U.S. gas stations; 3X points for each dollar spent on other eligible purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Card in the first 3 months of card membership. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend a total of $5,000 in purchases on the card in the first 6 months.

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    15.74% to 24.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

Welcome bonus

While many no annual fee credit cards come with small welcome offers, the Hilton Amex card comes out swinging with a sizeable amount of points. With the welcome bonus of this card, you will earn:

  • 80,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of card membership.
  • An additional 50,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $5,000 in purchases in the first 6 months

If you were to spend exactly $5,000 in the first three months, you would earn a minimum of 145,000 Hilton Honors points. If you spend in the higher earning bonus categories such as gas purchases or dining, that number will increase.

Hilton Honors points are valued by many at a modest 0.5 cents per point, and at that valuation, the points from the welcome offer along with the associated spending will earn you $725 in value on average towards stays at Hilton properties.

Benefits and perks

The Hilton Amex card is a bit slimmer in benefits than the other Hilton Amex cards. The main benefits of the card are:

  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status
  • No foreign transaction fees*
  • Rental car insurance
  • No cost to add additional users

*See rates and fees

The main benefit of the card is the automatic elite status within Hilton Honors. Silver status gets you several benefits, including fifth night free when you spend your points on five consecutive nights on one reservation. And if you spend $20,000 in a calendar year, you will be automatically upgraded to Gold status with even more benefits, including room upgrades and a daily food and beverage credit.

Select calculated how many points the average American can earn in a year when using their Hilton Honors American Express Card. We worked with the location intelligence firm Esri, who provided us with a sample annual spending budget of $22,126.

The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). Here's what the average consumer would earn using this card:

  • Groceries: 25,870 Hilton Honors points
  • Gas: 11,090 Hilton Honors points
  • Dining out: 18,375 Hilton Honors points
  • Travel: 15,708 Hilton Honors points (assuming it is made with Hilton)
  • Utilities: 14,586 Hilton Honors points
  • General purchases: 11,859 Hilton Honors points

With all spending considered, this would give a cardholder 97,488 Hilton Honors points in the first year, and if you include the 180,000 point welcome bonus, 277,488 points. Over a five year period, cardholders could earn 667,440 Hilton Honors points. Cardholders could earn more (or less) hotel points depending on their annual spending habits.

How to earn and redeem Hilton Honors points

Earning Hilton Honors points

The two best ways to earn Hilton Honors points is by either staying at Hilton hotels or by spending on Hilton co-branded credit cards.

If you stay at Hilton Hotels regularly, you can easily earn rewards that way. All you need to do is attach your Hilton Honors number to your Hilton reservation and book directly with the hotel (stays booked through third-parties like Expedia often don't earn points), and you will earn points based on that stay. But for most Americans, especially with the slow down of both business and leisure travel during the pandemic, hotel stays have been less frequent.

For most, the more realistic way to earn hoards of Hilton Honors points is by earning a welcome bonus and spending on a Hilton co-branded credit card like the Surpass card. However, you are not restricted to just one Hilton credit card. You are able to have more than one Hilton credit card, and if you are able to meet multiple welcome offer thresholds, you will see your points balance skyrocket.

If you are considering this strategy, here are the other Hilton cobranded credit cards:

  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Earn 130,000 Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Points after you spend a total of $10,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months.
  • The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Earn 130,000 Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of card membership. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend a total of $10,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months.

You can also earn Hilton points through the hotel's partnership with Lyft and can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio. Earning Amex points with an Amex credit card can be a good strategy to earn flexible rewards with the option to convert them into Hilton points at a later date.

Redeeming Hilton Honors points

Once you've earned the points, redeeming them is the fun part.

Hilton has over 6,500 properties in 119 countries, at all different price tags and levels of luxury. Some of the most recognizable brands include: Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, DoubleTree, Hampton, Hilton Garden Inn and Hilton Grand Vacations.

Hilton Honors points are also great to earn as they have no blackout dates on when you can redeem points, so you never have to worry about whether you can use them or not. However, Hilton Honors operates on 'dynamic pricing', which means that prices for award nights will fluctuate as demand goes up. This means that one Saturday night could be 40,000 points per night, while the next Saturday night could be 74,000 points for the same room. The amount of points you pay is often associate with the cash price of the room.

This is different than Hyatt and Marriott, which both have an award chart. However, prices can slightly vary based on demand as both hotel chains have award individual charts for off-peak, standard, and peak dates.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind before you redeem your points:

  • Estimated value: While there is no confirmed value from Hilton, many travel rewards enthusiasts have estimated the value of Hilton Honors points at 0.5 cents per point. It isn't 'bad' per se to redeem them for less, but it is a good benchmark to keep in mind when redeeming your points.
  • Fifth night free: If you have at least Silver status within Hilton Honors, you are able to enjoy a fifth night free when you book five consecutive nights on one reservation using points. This is a great way to stretch the value of your points even farther, since you're essentially getting a 20% discount on five night stays.
  • Points + money option: When you're booking a room using points, you may find yourself without enough points to cover the cost of the entire room. Hilton will give you an option to cover the remaining balance with cash. This is a great option if you are just short of enough points for a room.
  • Transfer your points to airline or train loyalty programs: You can transfer your Hilton points to a list of different airline and train loyalty programs. However, the value you will realize is pretty low. For example, for every 10,000 Hilton Honors points you will earn a modest 1,000 Delta SkyMiles. In nearly all cases, it is best to use your Hilton Honors points for Hilton nights.
Need a few more points to get that free night? Here's a tip

If you are short a small amount of points for a stay, try sending a tweet to Hilton Honors. If you ask kindly that you need a few extra points, they may add the remaining amount to your account as a courtesy to complete the booking. However, your results may vary.

Rates and fees

The card has no annual fee. It does not have any foreign transaction fees*.

If you plan on carrying a balance month to month, this card may not be the best because of its high interest rate*. If you want to avoid accruing interest, consider a credit card with a 0% introductory APR offer.

*See rates and fees.

Card comparison

The Hilton Honors American Express Card is a solid choice for someone who visits Hilton properties at least once per year, but isn't necessarily loyal to the hotel brand.

Select analyzed three other travel credit cards to see how they match up with one another.

The Hilton Honors American Express Card vs. Citi® Double Cash Card

The Citi® Double Cash Card is regarded as one of the best cash back credit cards as it earns 2% cash back on every purchase: 1% on all eligible purchases and an additional 1% after you pay your credit card bill.

The card has no annual fee, but does not come with any welcome offer.

However, if you take the spending example above of $22,126 per year, that would equate to $442 in cash back without tracking any spending categories. While this isn't as valuable during the first year as compared to a card with a welcome offer, there is something to be said about passively earning cash back.

And you can take the cash back, and move it to one of several different accounts including a high-yield savings account or a brokerage account to grow your savings.

If you are deciding between these two, you must decide which reward is more valuable to you: cash back or hotel points. It is also important to keep in mind that any type of travel reward points are subject to devaluation.

Cash back offers simplicity and flexibility, while travel rewards takes a bit more planning and strategy. So depending on how much effort you want to put in and how much travel you do, pick the card that matches that.

The Hilton Honors American Express Card vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred®

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is known as one of the best travel credit cards available because of its transferable and easy-to-redeem rewards. It has a modest $95 annual fee, but it quickly makes up the annual fee cost in excellent benefits including travel insurance and broad spending categories.

As you spend on the card, you will earn:

  • 5X points for every dollar spent on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3X points for every dollar spent on dining, online grocery purchases and select streaming services
  • 2X points for every dollar spent on other travel purchases

The card is currently offering an incredible lucrative welcome offer: 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after new cardholders spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. Ultimate Rewards points are transferable to 14 airlines and three hotel loyalty programs. Those 100,000 points are worth $1,250 towards travel booked through the Chase Travel portal.

The hotel partners includes IHG, Marriott and Hyatt, but not Hilton.

So if you aren't extremely loyal to Hilton and want flexibility to use your points for various redemptions, consider the Sapphire Preferred. If you are loyal to Hilton and want to experience hotel elite status without an annual fee, the Hilton Amex card may be the right choice for you.

Who the Hilton Honors Amex card is best for

The Hilton Amex card is great for travelers who visit Hilton Hotels one to three times per year, and don't crave the experience of extra benefits. Getting hotel rooms for free through hotel points and not paying an annual fee is nothing to scoff at, as hotel rooms can sometimes cost thousands of dollars throughout the duration of a vacation.

Also, if you are brand new to the world of points and miles, starting with a no annual fee card is a great way to get your toes wet. As you earn hotel rewards with the Hilton Amex, you can consider adding on with another Hilton Amex card, or potentially an airline credit card to continue earning more rewards.

If you want to earn Hilton points but still crave flexibility for your rewards, you may be better off with a card that earns Amex Membership Rewards points like the American Express® Gold Card. Membership Rewards points transfer to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio, plus you'll still be able to transfer these points to other rewards programs like Delta SkyMiles or British Airways.

Bottom line

The Hilton Honors American Express Card is a great product to start earning Hilton points with. With no annual fee and complimentary Silver status, you will earn benefits without having to worry about a yearly charge to simply hold the card.

While earning free hotel nights through the Hilton Amex is enticing, handling a credit card responsibly should always be the core responsibility. Spending beyond your means could lead to potential interest charges, negating the value you earn in hotel rewards. So before applying for the Hilton Amex, or any travel rewards credit card, be sure to evaluate if you are in a financial position to have a credit card in your wallet.

FAQs

Do you have to pay off Hilton American Express card every month?

You must make a payment each month, or you will be subject to late fees. The best approach is to pay your balance off in full each month so you don't accrue interest charges.

What credit score do you need for Hilton Amex?

To get the Hilton Amex card, you will need at least a good credit score, which is considered above 670.

Can I upgrade my Hilton Amex card?

If you wish to upgrade your Hilton Amex card to one of the other Hilton credit cards, simply give American Express a call. However, consider that you may not be eligible to earn the welcome bonus if you upgrade. If you want to earn the welcome offer, simply apply for one of the other three Hilton credit cards as you can have more than one Hilton card at a time.

How much are 100k Hilton points worth?

Many travel enthusiasts value Hilton points at 0.5 cents per point, so 100,000 Hilton Honors points are worth $500. However, the true value of your points is determined on how you redeem them.

Our Methodology

To determine which credit cards offer the best value, Select analyzed 234 of the most popular credit cards available in the U.S. We compared each card on a range of features, including rewards, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available. We also considered additional perks, the application process and how easy it is for the consumer to redeem points.

CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company's data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.

Esri's data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.

Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.

While the five-year estimates we've included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your shopping habits.

For rates and fees for the Hilton Honors American Express Card, click here.

For rates and fees for the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, click here.

For rates and fees for the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, click here.

For rates and fees for the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.