HHigher Hilton HHonor Rewards Credit Card

I was previously discouraged from joining Hilton’s loyalty regime because HHonor points are lowly valued at half a cent per and because many existing Hilton members regard their points-accruing program with unveiled contempt.

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I have to be as equitable as possible in my pursuit to brandish a walletful of rewards-earning behemoths so I regrettably cannot pass on the Hilton-partnered Annual Fee cards. Hilton has nice locations, too. Marc and I have an upcoming stay at the Conrad New York that lends us walkish access to boutiques and eateries in the Tribeca-Soho-Chinatown-whatever-area. When booking, I was most impressed by the fact that all rooms at the Conrad are oversized suites (430 sq. ft. with a view of the Hudson in the over-populated, not-so-creatively-developed islandpolis is quasi-mansion in comparison to my parents’ 1 bdrm apt in Queens kiddingkindof).

The Annual Fee pertaining cards gain better rewards. The automatic leap to HHonors Gold tier with either Annual Fee card outweighs the Zero Fee cards’ lesser overall earning potentials. Here’s my no frills analyses on the Citi and the Amex Annual Fee versions.

Citi-Hilton-HHonor-Reserve-New

The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card awards 2 weekend night certificates after spending $2500 within 4 months. And a limited time offer of a one-time $100 statement reimbursement after a $100 minimum Hilton stay. Points earning, benefits and fees are as such:

  • 10x per dollar at Hilton
  • 5x per dollar at Airlines
  • 3x per dollar All Else
  • No Foreign Transaction Fee
  • HHonors Gold for the duration of card membership.
  • 1 Anniversary Weekend Night per $10k yearly spend.
  • $95 Annual Fee

All goodies associated with the immediate upgrade to Gold can be viewed here. The 25% base boost from Gold paired with the Points & Points earning method charged to the Citi Reserve card nets

10 base x 1.25 gold boost + 5 bonus + 10 card bonus = 27.5 points per dollar at Hilton, or about a 13.75% reimbursement towards your next stay.

Additionally, Gold status wielders stay an extra 5th night free. As in, redeeming 4 nights with your points gets you a 20% kickback.

The $2500 spend on the card supposedly encompasses the $100 minimum Hilton stay. That stay would bring in 2750 points or higher, depending on the dollar amount multiplied by 27.5. Divvying the remaining $2400 spend elsewhere (the least profitable expenditure category) earns a flat 3x rate, 7200 points. The minimum-earn 9950 points from spending are a pitiable $50 (so bulk splurge at Hilton and on airlines!).

The 2 award nights have a maximized value of $950 when you redeem Top Category. Without taking into account a higher proportion of Hilton or Airline spending, the minimum earnings are

$950 award nights + $100 statement credit + $50 spend earning amounts to $1100. Considering you spent $2500 plus a $95 annual fee, that’s a

$1100 rewards / $2595 spend = 42% reimbursement towards Hilton Hotel stays.

If you optimized earnings by splurging all $2500 on Hilton stays, you’d earn $344 from spending, or effectively a

$1394 rewards / $2595 spend = 54% reimbursement on your stays toward future stays.

The Citi Reserve offers an Anniversary 1 Weekend Night Certificate (valued at $475) after spending $10k on the card and with an additional $95 renewal fee. If you want to obtain that 3rd night certificate, spend optimally, Splurgists (meaning on Hilton or to a lesser extent, on flights).

After the $10k spend requirement and $190 fees, spending at the 3x flat earning rate offers a decent 16.4% return. Optimized 27.5x earning at Hilton is an unbeatable 28.5% return, though.

Compare $1425 award nights + $100 statement credit + $149 earnings / $10190 spend with $1425 award nights + $100 statement credit + $1375 optimized earnings / $10190 spend.

The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card is an amicable globetrotter with Zero Foreign Transaction Fees and 5x (2.5%) earnings on flying.

Because the 3rd award night is worth <$500, you’re better hitting the $2500 minimum spend on the card and redirecting the $7500 spend on an airline credit card towards earning a Travel Companion Certificate (worth thousands when flying internationally).

hilton-surpass

The Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from Amex offers a 80k points sign-up bonus after spending $3000 within 3 months (offer expires 5/5/15). Points earning, benefits and fees are as such:

  • 12x per dollar at Hilton
  • 6x per dollar on Dining, Groceries and at Gas Stations.
  • 3x per dollar All Else
  • 2.7% Foreign Transaction Fee
  • HHonors Gold for the duration of card membership.
  • $75 Annual Fee

The 25% base boost from Gold paired with the Points & Points earning method charged to the Amex Surpass card nets

10 base x 1.25 gold boost + 5 bonus + 12 card bonus = 29.5 points per dollar at Hilton, or about a 14.75% reimbursement towards your next stay.

Again, the same 20% kickback when redeeming 4 nights.

The 80k sign-up points are worth $400. Spending $3000 at the 6x rate on food and gas earns you $90. I believe you can purchase brand gift cards at supermarkets with the 6x earnings applicable which is less limiting.

So $490 rewards / $3075 spend with the annual fee = 16% savings. If you’re spending optimally on Hilton stays, at the 29.5x rate you would’ve earned $446. That’s 27.5% savings.

Being landlocked by the 2.7% Foreign Transaction Fee yet earning a credible 6x (3%) on food and gas essentials, the Amex Surpass functions as an everyday card.

I personally went for the Amex since Citi has always kicked my teeth in as an applicant. I wasn’t accepted for their Student Preferred card with a 680 score (what with my lack of history lol). But I only felt personally slighted when I was also declined for the Citi Double Cash Back card with a then 715 score. When my jitters calm I’ll probably research and try for some of their generous sign-up cards.

In the meanwhile, my family’s Citi legacy will still thrive through my mother (she’s been working longterm for Citibank, swears by all of their credit cards/customer service and racks up ThankYou points like a champ).

Amex accepted me for the Everyday card at 710 and for the Starwood Preferred Guest card at 720 and for the HHonors Surpass card at 740.

DSCF5611grrr Citi Y U No?

Julie

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