If you enjoy staying at Hilton locations, a Hilton credit card could be a great fit for you. But, which are the best Hilton cards? Here we’ll explore this topic in more detail to help you make an informed decision.
There are four Hilton co-branded credit cards, three for personal customers and one business card. Each card has different features and benefits.
Hilton Honors American Express Card
This is the base Hilton credit card with no annual fee. It has a tiered reward structure weighted towards Hilton Honors purchases, with a generous rate for U.S supermarkets, U.S gas stations and U.S restaurants. There is also a generous welcome bonus with a modest spend requirement.
Despite having no annual fee, this card does offer some decent benefits including no foreign transaction fees and automatic Hilton Honors Silver status. There is also the potential to upgrade to Gold status through to the end of the following calendar year if you meet the annual spend requirement.
Hilton Honors Surpass American Express Card
Hilton Honors Surpass American Express Card
This card has a modest annual fee, but this is offset by a more generous tiered reward structure. While the categories are the same as the base Hilton Honors card, there is the potential to earn up to 12 Hilton Honors points per dollar spent. There is also a more generous welcome bonus with a slightly higher spend requirement for the first three months of opening your account.
However, it is in the card benefits, where the Surpass really surpasses the base card. In addition to no foreign transaction fees, you’ll get automatic Gold status with the potential to upgrade to Diamond status, a free reward night after you meet the minimum spend requirement and 10 Priority Pass complimentary lounge visits per year.
Hilton Honors Aspire American Express Card
This is the premium Hilton Honors card with an annual fee to match. However, the card is packed with perks which should more than offset the annual fee if you’re a regular traveler.
The card has a tiered reward structure weighted towards Hilton Hotels, flights, car rentals and U.S restaurants, with the potential to earn up to 14 bonus points per dollar. There is also a highly generous welcome bonus, but the spend requirement is the highest of all the cards.
The card perks include automatic Diamond status, a free night reward per year, with an additional free night when you meet the minimum spend. There is also up to $250 in statement credit for airline fees per year and up to $250 of statement credit for directly made eligible purchases with participating Hilton resorts per year. You’ll also get an unlimited Priority Pass Select for lounge visits when you fly.
Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
If you’re a business owner or operator, you don’t need to miss out on Hilton Honors rewards. This card is similar to the Hilton Honors Surpass, with a similar reward structure and welcome bonus.
As with Surpass, you’ll also get automatic Gold Status, free Night Rewards when you meet the spending requirements and 10 complimentary lounge visits per year.
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Requirements for Hilton Credit Cards
As with any credit card, there are some requirements you’ll need to consider to determine if you’re eligible. These include:
Despite the different Hilton cards offering different benefits and rewards, they all have a similar credit score requirement. You’ll need a good to excellent score to qualify for any of them or a FICO score of 680 or higher.
Even if you have an excellent credit score, American Express may not approve you for a higher tier Hilton Honors card if you don’t have sufficient income to support the card.
The cards have minimum spend requirements to access additional perks such as reward nights and a bump to the next status level.
So, if you can’t demonstrate that you have enough income to access these types of perks, you may not be approved for the card.
While Amex has a premium set of cards, it has a limit to how many personal and business Amex credit cards you can hold. You’ll only be approved to have five cards at any time.
So, if you already have multiple Amex cards, you may have difficulty qualifying for a new Hilton card.
Pros and Cons of Hilton Cards
There are both positives and potential negatives associated with Hilton cards that you should be aware of before you make a decision.
Elite Status Boost
Hilton Specific Benefits
Additional Hilton Perks
Multiple Card Choices
Similar Credit Score Requirements
Generous Welcome Bonuses
Having a Hilton card can be a great way to get a boost in your Elite status. Even with the base card, you’ll get automatic silver status, with the potential to upgrade to gold.
So, if you’re struggling to maintain your status, having a Hilton card could help.
While the Hilton Honors program is a great way to earn free nights, it is also nice when you get additional free nights with a Hilton credit card.
With three personal cards, it makes it easy to pick the best Hilton cards for your circumstances, preferences and requirements.
For example, if you don’t travel regularly, you may not want to have to pay an annual fee, which makes the base card ideal for you, but for frequent travelers who want access to the best perks, you can opt for the Aspire.
All of the Hilton cards offer a generous welcome bonus if you meet the spend requirement in the first three months of card membership.
This can be a fantastic way to boost your Hilton Honors point balance, while earning great rewards for your spending.
As is common with co-branded credit cards, the benefits and rewards for Hilton cards are quite brand specific.
You can only access some non brand perks with higher tier cards and even then, they are quite limited.
This follows from the previous point, but all the cards are heavily weighted toward hotel purchases, which may mean that they are not the best cards for your everyday purchases.
Despite having different perks, annual fees and rewards, all of the Hilton cards have a similar credit score requirement of good to excellent.
This means that if you have a score lower than 680, you’ll struggle to qualify.
How to Choose a Hilton Credit Card?
As we’ve demonstrated, you can access some great perks with a Hilton credit card, but how do you decide which one is best for you? There are a few considerations to assess that will help you pick.
- The Annual Fee: As we’ve discussed, each card has a different annual fee, with the base card having no annual fee. So, you’ll need to determine the level of annual fee that you’re comfortable paying.
- The Value of the Benefits: This ties into the above point, as the higher the annual fee, the greater the benefits package. However, you need to determine the value of these benefits to you. For example, while it is great getting lounge access, if you rarely fly, it will have little to no value for you.
- The Welcome Bonus: Although the prospect of a massive welcome bonus can be very appealing, it will also come with a spending requirement. So, you need to be honest about how much you can reasonably spend in the first three months. If you typically have modest spending, you’ll need to look for a card that has a lower welcome bonus requirement.
- Any Other Spending Requirements: Some of the card benefits require you to spend a minimum amount during the calendar year. Again, you need to think about your realistic spending patterns to see which you would qualify for. You don’t want to have to spend more than you would like just to access a benefit because you choose a higher tier card.
How Does the Hilton Loyalty Program Work?
Hilton Honors is the Hilton chain loyalty program. As a member, you can accumulate points, via your Hilton credit card, Hilton stays, car rentals, cruises and dining at participating restaurants. You can then redeem your points at the thousands of Hilton Group hotels and resorts.
There are also Elite status levels within the program. There are four levels with each higher tier offering more benefits. This includes things like a bonus on your points, free nights, complimentary items during your stay and member services. This means that the higher your elite status tier, the more points you can earn, creating the potential for even greater rewards.
One of the great things about Hilton cards is that you gain elite status automatically. You’ll get this every year, you simply need to stay at least one night at Hilton hotels or resorts to qualify for elite status renewal.
We’ll cover the redemption options in more detail below, but once you accumulate your points, the specific value will depend on how you choose to spend them. With careful planning, you can enjoy a great vacation without needing to break the bank.
Main Benefits of Hilton Cards
Even if you’re not redeeming your accumulated Hilton Honors points, your new Hilton credit card can offer some excellent benefits. These include:
There are no foreign transaction fees on any of the Hilton Honors credit cards. This means that you can use your card when you travel without incurring hefty fees.
The typical foreign transaction fee is approximately 3%, which sounds like a small amount. However, when you’re spending hundreds of dollars during your vacation, you may face a fee bill of $30 for every $1000 you spend.
If you choose the Hilton Aspire or Hilton Business card, you could enjoy airport lounge access via Priority Pass. Priority Pass has a network of over 1,300 lounges across 600 cities in 148 countries. This means that it is quite easy to find a lounge that you can use when you travel.
With the higher tier Hilton credit cards, you’ll receive a number of lounge passes per year, so you can choose as and when you want to use them on your vacations or trips.
The top tier Hilton Aspire also offers statement credit for airline incidentals and Hilton resort purchases up to $250 each per year. This can be a great way to further enjoy a great vacation without needing to spend excessive amounts of cash.
Redemption Options When Using Hilton Cards
Once you accumulate sufficient points, you can redeem them in a number of ways. These include:
- Award Nights: Since this is a Hilton co-branded card, using your points for free nights stays in Hilton resorts and hotels is one of the best redemption methods. Hilton Honors uses a dynamic award calendar rather than fixed prices, making it easier to search for a great deal.
- Experiences: You can also visit the Hilton Honors auction site and bid on experiences such as VIP concert tickets, fine dining, massages and other unique experiences that will make your vacation a trip of a lifetime. You simply need to bid the number of points you’re prepared to pay and wait to see if you win the auction.
- Airline Miles: Hilton Honors has partnership agreements with 40 plus airline programs, which means that you can convert your points into miles. The transfer rates vary, but the typical redemption is 10 points for one mile.
- Amazon Shopping: Finally, you can use your points when you shop on Amazon.com. Hilton Honors has a partnership agreement with Amazon, so you can choose points as your payment method once you link your accounts. There are a few restrictions, such as not using your points for digital goods, subscriptions or AmazonFresh, but otherwise you can shop as normal with a redemption rate of 500 points per dollar.
How much does Hilton hold on your credit card?
This depends on the venue. Most Hilton hotels and resort locations hold $50 to $200 per night to cover incidentals. The hold will be removed within 24 hours of check out.
Can you track the arrival of a Hilton credit card?
Yes, once you’ve been approved, Amex will send you an email with a tracking number. You can use this via the carrier website to track your new credit card.
Do gift cards count as purchases in Hilton credit cards?
Gift cards purchases are not counted to accumulate reward points on your credit card.
How can I upgrade my Hilton credit card?
You can log into your account at any time to check to see if there is a targeted upgrade offer. This will be under the “Offers and Benefits” tab. If you see an offer, you can click “Request an Upgrade.”
Which Hilton credit card is best?
This depends entirely on your requirements and circumstances. The Aspire is the top tier card, but it has a premium annual fee, which may not be the best choice for everyone.
Can you get more than one Hilton Honors credit card?
Yes, each card is considered to be a different product, so you can have multiple Hilton Honors cards. However, you can only have a maximum of five American Express cards at any time.
Additionally, Amex will only approve a maximum of two card applications in any 90 day period regardless of your credit score and status.
What credit score do you need for Hilton credit cards?
You need a good to excellent score or a FICO score of at least 660 to qualify.
Do you get automatic Hilton gold status with credit cards?
Yes, you can get gold status automatically with the Surpass card, but you can upgrade to Gold with the Hilton Honors card if you meet the spend requirement.