Full Review of Hilton Honors American Express Card
Rewards are competitive
Easy to stack rewards as a Hilton Honors loyalty program member
Fast track your way to Hilton Honors Gold status
Short on premium travel perks
No introductory APR for purchases or balance transfers
- Rewards Are Competitive: The Hilton Honors American Express card lets you earn Hilton Honors points on every purchase. You'll earn the most points on Hilton purchases, receiving 7 points for every dollar you spend with the chain. You also earn 5 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations, and 3 points per dollar on all other purchases.
- Bonus Rewards as a Hilton Honors Silver Member: The card comes with automatic membership in the Hilton Honors program at the Silver tier. While you can earn that status in as few as four Hilton stays, receiving it automatically allows you to immediately begin earning a 20% bonus on your Hilton spending, and receive 12 points per dollar spent, rather than the 10 points that entry-level Honors members earn. You also receive additional Silver perks, such as getting the fifth night of a five-night stay as an award night. Starting at the Silver Honors level allows you to use the points you earn to get more quickly to the next Honors level, Gold. Spending $20,000 in a calendar year with your card allows you to reach Gold status. That allows you to enjoy an even-greater bonus—of 80% over the regular 10-points-per-dollar Honors rate—along with additional perks such as complimentary breakfast at all hotels.
- Generous One-Time Offer: The introductory bonus is one of the highest you'll come across with a hotel co-branded card. You receive 100,000 points if you spend $1,000 with the card within the first three months you own it. Investopedia values Hilton points at 0.45 cents each, which puts the relative value of the bonus at $450. With 20,000 to 40,000 points typically required to earn a night at a Hilton property, the bonus allows you to easily earn two or three nights of lodging—and possibly more, since some properties require as little as 5,000 or 10,000 points per night.
- No Premium Travel Benefits: Some hotel and travel rewards cards offer elite benefits, such as complimentary room upgrades, spa and resort credits or welcome gifts. The Hilton Honors American Express card doesn't come with any such premium features. Even the Silver status with Honors doesn’t really offer such perks, although achieving Gold status will provide you with room upgrades, and the Diamond level provides that and access to executive lounges.
- No Introductory APR for Purchases or Balance Transfers: If you're planning an expensive trip that includes a lengthy hotel stay, you may be looking for a card that offers a 0% APR on purchases. This card, however, offers no such promotional rate. All purchases and balance transfers are subject to the card's regular variable APR.
This Card is Best For
Resists or refuses an annual fee on principle or due to cost
Seeks to maximize points or miles earnings across spending categories
Seeks the recognition and perks of branded travel partner status
The Hilton Honors American Express Card is good for travelers who want to earn Hilton Honors rewards points without paying an annual fee. For comparison, the Hilton Honors Surpass and Hilton Honors Aspire cards feature annual fees of $95 and $450, respectively. While this card earns the lowest number of points compared to its two sister cards, the 7 points per dollar you can earn is still higher than what you'd get with a card like Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Capital One Venture Rewards card. A caveat, though: Hilton rewards are not as lucrative per point earned as those of some other loyalty programs.
Hilton Honors American Express Card Bonus
This card currently offers an introductory points bonus worth 100,000 points. To qualify for it, you need to spend $1,000 in purchases in the first three months. For such a generous bonus, that's a relatively low requirement, averaging $333 per month. You should easily be able to reach the $1,000 threshold through booking a trip, including a couple of nights at a Hilton property, with the card or by charging your everyday expenses to it if you have no travel plans in the works.
Rewards Earning Details
There are three tiers for earning rewards with this card, with the highest being the 7 points per dollar spent you earn on eligible Hilton purchases. That means every $1,000 you book with Hilton earns you 7,000 Honors points for using the card. You also receive a further 12,000 points from the automatic Silver Honors status the card confers, since that earns you 12 points per dollar spent at Hilton properties.
You can also earn 5 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations. If you charge $1,000 per month on those purchases, that's another 5,000 points per month or 60,000 points per year in earnings. Rounding things out, this card offers 3 points per dollar on all other purchases. There are no caps or limits on the number of points you can earn each year and these points can be earned on the same purchases you use to qualify for the 100,000-point bonus.
Rewards Redemption Details
There are multiple ways to redeem points earned with your Hilton Honors American Express Card, including:
- Booking award nights at Hilton hotels and resorts, with no blackout dates
- Redeeming points for exclusive experiences, such as private concerts and wine tastings
- Booking car rentals, cruises and flights with Hilton travel partners
- Paying with points when you shop Amazon or the International Hilton Honors Shopping Mall
- Redeeming points for gift cards to partner merchants
- Donating points to charitable organizations
The number of points needed for each redemption option varies. For hotel bookings at Hilton properties, redemption starts with as little as 5,000 points, although the biggest groups of properties require 20,000 to 50,000 points per night. The maximum amount needed for a night is 95,000. Room rates and the number of points required to book depends not only on the particular property but on whether you're booking a standard or premium room at a peak or off-peak rate.
You can book with a combination of points and cash if you don't have enough points to cover the entire stay. If you have Silver status or higher in the Hilton Honors program, every 5th night is free when you redeem points for standard reward stays of five or more consecutive nights.
Hilton allows you to transfer Honors points to partner travel programs. You can exchange your points for air or rail miles with over 30 partner brands. The points transfer rate varies by the travel partner. Generally, you will receive a lower amount of airline points for higher quantities of Hilton points.
Hilton also allows for points exchanges with other credit card partners. You can convert American Express Membership Rewards points and points earned through Diners Club International into Hilton Honors points. Every 1,000 Membership Rewards points exchanged is worth 2,000 Hilton Honors points.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
The first way to maximize rewards with this card is to spend the $1,000 minimum required to earn the 100,000 points for the bonus. The next is to charge all of your purchases, Hilton hotel bookings or otherwise, to the card to amass the most points you can in the year.
Here's an average spending scenario. Say that in your first three months of card membership, you spend $1,000 on hotels booked with Hilton, $1,000 on gas and supermarkets and $1,000 on other miscellaneous purchases. Including the points bonus, you'd have 115,000 points (7,000 from the travel spending, along with 5,000 for the gas and groceries and 3,000 for the miscellany, plus the 100,000 bonus points).
From there, you should redeem rewards strategically to squeeze the most value out of your points. As a rule, you’ll get the most from your rewards by using them to redeem for stays at Hilton properties. Unfortunately, Hilton doesn't publish an award chart breaking down different reward categories for hotel properties. But say you wanted to book a Friday to Sunday trip to Las Vegas, a city that can require a relatively high number of points per hotel stay. Your 90,000 points may be enough to redeem for two nights at the Embassy Suites by Hilton. If you wanted to book at the more upscale Waldorf Astoria, on the other hand, you may be able to use 95,000 points for one night, then use cash and points to book the second.
Now, let's assume that you're instead an above-average spender, charging $3,000 in Hilton purchases, $3,000 for gas and supermarkets and $3,000 on everything else in the first three months. Including the bonus, you'd rack up 145,000 points (21,000 from the travel spending, along with 15,000 for the gas and groceries and 9,000 for the miscellany, plus the 100,000 bonus points). Depending on when you book, you may be able to split the difference between the lower-end and higher-end hotels and book a room at the Hilton Grand Vacations at the Flamingo property.
Bottom line, the more you spend with the card, the more points you can earn which can make it easier to afford stays at upper-tier hotels.
- Secondary car rental loss and damage insurance
- Global Assist hotline
- Extended warranty protection
- Return protection
- Exclusive entertainment access
- Free 2-day shipping with ShopRunner
American Express was ranked number one out of 11 national card issuers in the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study.
You can manage your account online or through the American Express mobile app. When you log in, customer service help is available through live chat. If you need to talk to a human, you can reach customer service by phone at 1-800-528-4800.
Like other American Express cards, the Hilton Honors card comes with standard security features, such as EMV chip technology, secure online and mobile account access, the ability to set up account alerts and notifications, and continuous fraud monitoring. American Express also offers a temporary freeze feature that allows you to lock down your card and prevent new purchases if it's lost or stolen. American Express will notify you of suspicious account activity and if fraudulent charges occur, you won't be held responsible.
Fees to Watch Out For
This card is relatively light on fees, which is good if you'd rather avoid an annual fee or foreign transaction fees on travel outside the U.S. The only fee to really worry about is the balance transfer fee or the cash advance fee if you're considering making either type of transaction.
The Hilton Honors American Express Card may catch your eye if you're looking for a co-branded hotel rewards card, especially if you’re a fan of Hilton, and you don't want to pay an annual fee. If you're already a Hilton Honors loyalty program member, this card can easily help you to multiply your points earnings, even if you don't book hotel stays with Hilton all that often. With so many redemption options to choose from, including transferring your points for rental cars, train travel or flights, it offers flexibility for saving on travel expenses beyond just hotel stays.
Where this card tends to fall short is in the "extras," since it offers none of the luxury benefits of some other, albeit pricier, travel cards. But the primary reason to consider another card over this one is hotel preference. If you don't book exclusively with Hilton, having a card that’s branded to it probably doesn’t make sense. You may be better off with a general travel-rewards card, such as Chase Sapphire Preferred or Discover it Miles, both of which offer a flat rewards rate on travel spending.