Adding the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve in My Next Churn

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.

Hilton Gold Elite benefits list

Gold elite benefits outlined on Hilton’s website

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.

Disclaimer: This post does not include any affiliate links.

Scott created Hack My Trip after learning how to travel better on a budget during grad school. He now flies over 150,000 miles every year.
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  • JX

    Surpass from AMEX gives you 12 points per dollar at Hilton.

    • Scottrick

      Thank you for correcting me. I’ve updated the post.

  • SC Parent

    The free breakfast and the time it saves is an awesome benefit!

  • Swizard210

    I’m a tad confused so do you earn 25% bonus points on all the Hilton points you earn via your credit card? Or is it just the points you ear via Hilton expenses (rooms, food, etc.)

    • Scottrick

      Gold status provides a 25% bonus on Hilton HHonors base points earned with every stay, regardless of what credit card you use to pay, but only on stays at HIlton hotels. It would include the room and any other purchases charged to the room. Learn more at Hilton’s website:

      http://hhonors3.hilton.com/en/earn-use-points/hotel/earning/index.html

      The 10 points per dollar is on top of that, and only if you choose to use a Hilton Reserve card to pay for your stay. It would include the room and any other purchases charged to the room.

      • Swizard210

        Gotchya, thank you!

  • TimmyD

    I just this weekend tried doing a double browser app for this Citi Hilton Reserve at the same time as the Citi Hilton Visa (50k point offer) and was unable to get them both. The reserve card app resulted in a “call us” message from Citi and the Citi Hilton Visa errored out, with no way to get back to the screen. I was afraid to reapply for the Hilton Visa since the Hilton Reserve app had already gone through. The phone call did result in my acceptance for the Reserve card. Do you think I just had bad luck towards getting the second card, or does something prevent the double browser trick from working with these cards? I had used the double browser trick in the fall for 2 Citi AA credit cards successfully, although one was a business card and one was personal.

    • Dan

      Rumor is that the 2BM is dead for Citi (or dying at least).

      • Scottrick

        I read about this as well and it’s not surprising. Citi was foolish to let that loophole stay open as long as it did.

  • MW

    The Amex Surpass gives you 12 points / $ for stay spend

  • Ben L

    Is there a list of Waldorf’s that do not have a Standard Room available? I’m specifically wondering about the WA in Rome.

    • Scottrick

      I don’t have such a list. If you have individual hotels in mind, you could confirm by calling Hilton HHonors. Looking at the website, it appears that only some rooms are designated as suites, but the presence or absence of the word “suite” in the name isn’t a guarantee.

      My guess is that as an urban city hotel, there are probably standard rooms. This is more likely to be an issue at resorts.

    • Bayguy

      I used Hilton points to book 2 rooms in Rome WA. They are 50000 points a night and using AXON it’s lot cheaper.

  • The Mystery Traveler

    Hilton Gold status is definitely worth it. Between the free breakfast and internet, it was worth about $80 a day if paying when I went to London last year.

  • thetravelplaybook

    I love my Citi Hilton card. Gold status is completely worth it!

  • Rex

    The recent devaluation didn’t affect the value of free night certificates, right?

    • Scottrick

      Not to my knowledge. Depending on your perspective, the certificates are now more valuable because the equivalent number of points will be much higher. Of course, there are still an expiration date on certain blackout restrictions that don’t apply to points.

  • eva

    i have a quick question, if you already have gold status, would having this card make you Diamond?

    • Scottrick

      No. You still need to spend $40,000 a year to earn Diamond status.

  • SC

    Hi. Do you know if the reward night certificates are invalidated if I cancel the Citi Reserve Card? Thanks.