Recently, I reviewed options to get elite status with a Hotel Rewards program by signing up for a credit card (read here). One of the cards with this benefit is the HilonHHonors card from American Express. It was one of my first rewards cards and I signed up for it, because it didn’t carry an annual fee. I have carried that card for many years since. Is it worth applying for this card today?
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The HiltonHHonors card from American Express is one of the few rewards cards without an annual fee, so let’s look a summary of what you can expect from this card:
- Sign-up bonus of 40,000 points, worth about US$160, after spending $750 in three months – that’s a decent bonus for a very low minimum spend
- Earn Points for Spend
You earn 7 points per US$ spent at Hilton, 5 points/$ spent at US restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations and 3 points/$ on everything else. At a value of 0.4 cents/point, that’s an earnings rate of 1.2 to 2.8 cents – not a lot, compared to other rewards card.
- HHonors Silver status
- HHonors points can be redeemed for stays at Hilton hotels or transferred to a long list of partners, including airlines, car rental companies and rail roads.
- HHonors points can be transferred to other members, making it great for couples, families and friends
- You receive 500 points for any online reservation made directly with Hilton and paid for with the AmEx card
- Basic travel and shopping protection
- no annual fee, foreign exchange fee of 2.7%, no EMV chip
The combination of a foreign exchange fee of 2.7% and the bonus category only applying to US merchants has caused me to use this card very little. Unfortunately, a lot of American Express cards carry those fees, making them unattractive for people traveling internationally. Some fans claim that AmEx uses better foreign exchange rates, but research has shown that not to be the case – the conversation rates used by Visa, MasterCard and AmEx are comparable for the same dates/locations.
HHonors Silver status is one step up from the regular “Blue” members and gives you a bonus of 15% on earning points, a 5th night free on award reservations, complimentary access to hotel gyms and two bottles of water – that’s not a whole lot of perks, but better than nothing. I have held this card for many years and will continue to do so – these benefits being one key reason. There is really no downside to holding the card.
The other benefit of holding this card is access to American Express customer service. Of all the cards I have held, American Express has consistently delivered the best customer service. AmEx has some of the best fraud protection I have encountered, without the annoying card blocks other companies use (looking at you, CapitalOne!). They have also been create to work through disputes with merchants over charges, much better in my experience than other providers.
A downside is worldwide acceptance of the card – Visa and MasterCard are more widely accepted, so this should not be your only credit card.
If you are just starting out with miles & points and are uncomfortable with credit cards carrying annual fees, the HHonors card from AmEx is not a bad starting point. You get great customer service, status with the Hilton rewards program, a sign-up bonus – all without an annual fee. You can find all the details on the card here and the sign-up bonus here.
If you don’t mind and annual fee, the AmEx Hilton HHonors Surpass card offers better benefits and Gold status for a fee. If you prefer a Visa card instead, you can check out the very similar HHonors Visa cards offered by Citibank. Hilton is one of the largest hotel chains in the world. While its rewards program has lost a lot of fans after a number of big devaluations, it’s still a program worth participating in. If you do, one of the Hilton credit cards should be in your wallet and you have plenty of options to choose from.