I’ve been thinking about my next credit card churn and wrote earlier about adding the Virgin America card from Barclays. Another card I am considering is the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve. I obtained free Hilton Gold elite status through a mistargeted promotion in 2012, but with that expiring this card will be my best shot at remaining a Hilion HHonors elite.
The Hilton HHonors Reserve card provides two free weekend nights as its sign-up bonus rather than a fixed number of points. Those two nights can be used Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night and are valid at most Hilton properties, including Waldorf-Astoria. This is a bonus equivalent to 100,000 points or more if you redeem the certificates at higher-end properties, and you get another free weekend night each year you spend $10,000 dollars.
(Excluded are about 50 properties that include Hilton Grand hotels, all-inclusive resorts, and Waldorf-Astoria hotels that lack standard rooms, i.e., all suites and villas.)
I mentioned status, too. There are several Hilton-branded cards from Citi and American Express, but they all provide either just Silver status (not worth much) or Gold status for the first year and Silver after that. The Hilton HHonors Reserve card gives you Gold status every year, with 25% bonus points on stays, for only a $95 annual fee. In addition, you’ll earn 10 points per dollar at Hilton, 5 points per dollar with airlines and car rentals, and 3 points per dollar on everything else. That 10 points per dollar is not the highest earning rate possible — the Hilton HHonors Surpass from American Express offers 12 points per dollar — but Hilton points are also some of the least valuable points currency around, so I don’t the loss isn’t very concerning. Other benefits make up for the difference.
These are some reasons I wouldn’t recommend churning the card, but if you do, be careful about your free nights. They’re tied to the card and must be used within the first year while the account is still active. It’s not like some other sign-up bonuses that are deposited with the loyalty program and remain intact even when the credit card is closed.
I consider Gold status a pretty competitive perk because Hilton has a huge network of properties, even in smaller markets, and Gold status gets you my two favorite benefits: free breakfast and Internet access. A guy like me can’t be disconnected for long, and one reason I remain so loyal to Hyatt as a Diamond guest is specifically for its breakfast amenity. You don’t want to run into me before I’ve eaten in the morning.
In fact, you can use your Hilton Gold status to attempt a status match to Hyatt (to improve the sign-up bonus on the Hyatt Visa), though they may also want to see at least one or two stays on your Hilton HHonors account statement.
Furthermore, if you spend $40,000 in a calendar year (January through December), you’ll be upgraded to Diamond status with a better shot at complimentary upgrades and a higher 50% bonus on earned points.
Hilton elites can save when they go to redeem their points, so even though that doesn’t apply to your free night certificates it will stretch the value of the points you earn, which you may need to do to tack on some weekday nights to your reservation. You can save 15% of the points necessary for a 4-night stay, 20% for a 5-night stay, and 25% for a 6-night stay. Still, you should consider getting a American Express Hilton card too for access to special AXON awards.
There are many reasons to get a rewards card, including the sign-up bonus, the ongoing benefits, and the rewards for spending a certain amount each year. There are a few cards that are competitive with the Hilton HHonors Reserve in any one of these, but the Reserve card is one of the few that manages to do quite well in all three categories.