Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Credit Card Review
It’s rare to find a travel rewards card that doesn’t have an annual fee. Sure, there are some basic, no-fee travel rewards credit cards. But having one of these credit cards is like owning a car with no options. Many no-fee airline cards will only give 1 mile for every $2 spent, and have few benefits. But, airline and hotel cards that impose expensive annual fees can also offer priority service and fee waivers to travelers. These cards also offer one point or mile per dollar spent.
One of the few exceptions to this rule is the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card. It offers a competitive rate of points for you spending, along with entry level Silver elite status with the Hilton HHonors™ program. Also, it offers a fast track to mid-level Gold status and several travel insurance and purchase protection policies. Remarkably, you get all these benefits without having to pay an annual fee.
As a result, this card is best for people who are looking for a no-fee travel rewards card that provides actual value. It offers valuable perks and benefits when you stay at over 4,600 Hilton properties. These include brands ranging from the Hampton Inn to the Waldorf Astoria. And when you use this card for your everyday purchases, you earn points towards free night stays at any Hilton property.
Earning More Points on Everyday Spending Too
For each dollar spent, you earn 2 points in the Hilton HHonors™ program. You also get 3 points per dollar spent at supermarkets, drugstores, and gas stations. Finally, you get six points per dollar spent at any of the Hilton hotels, which includes over a dozen different brands.
The rewards you earn from charging your hotel stay to this card are in addition to the points Hilton HHonors™ members always earn at hotels. You earn 10 base points for every dollar spent at most Hilton properties, and more points if you have elite status in the Hilton HHonors™ program.
Finally, you can also earn another 10,000 Hilton HHonors™ Bonus Points each calendar year. You just need to spend $1,000 or more on stays at Hilton hotels (all brands).
Redeem Points for Free Hotel Nights
The Hilton HHonors™ program offers free nights with no blackout dates or capacity controls. This means that if they have an unsold, standard room, you can use your points to book it. You can do this even if it’s during the peak travel season or a special event.
Award nights start at 5,000 points for a Category 1 property, but can be as high as 95,000 points for a Category 10 hotel or resort. But a typical mid-range hotel will often be 30,000 - 40,000 points per night. And while this seems like a lot of points, remember that you will earn at least 2 points per dollar with this card, and often more.
You also have other options for using your points. These include credits towards hotel purchases, car rentals, gift cards, and experiences. But with these options, you will rarely receive as much value per point as you do with free hotel nights.
Finally, Hilton lets you exchange points to miles with some airlines, but the exchange rate is so poor that you shouldn’t consider it. In most cases, you have to exchange 10 Hilton points just to get 1-1.5 airline miles.
Automatic Elite Status
One of the most attractive things about this card is that you can get elite status and enjoy special treatment at all the Hilton hotels. Thankfully, just having the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card gives you Silver status, which offers you a 15% bonus on your base points earned. This means that you will always earn 11.5 base points per dollar from your hotel stay. You then earn another six points when you charge your room to your Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card, for a total of 16.5 points per dollar. If you are on a business trip and spend four nights in a hotel at $150 a night, then you’ll earn a total of 9,900 points.
Silver elite status also offers you several other benefits. These include discounted room rates and complimentary Internet service. Silver elites also enjoy late checkouts, and free access to the fitness centers. Plus, having Silver status lets you get a fifth night free when you redeem four consecutive nights with your points.
Better yet, this card also offers two different ways to earn Gold status. First, you can fast-track to HHonors™ Gold status by completing four stays within 90 days of opening your account. Or you can earn Gold status when you use your card to spend $20,000 on purchases within a calendar year.
With Gold status, you receive all the perks of Silver status, plus a 25% bonus on your base points. You also get hotel benefits that vary by brand that can include room upgrades, bonus points, and even free breakfasts.
Card Perks and Protections for Easier Travel
As a no-fee travel rewards card, the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card offers a competitive array of benefit for both travel and shopping. When traveling, you receive the basics like:
- Worldwide rental car insurance
- Travel accident insurance
- Access to a 24/7 travel and emergency assistance hotline
- Lost baggage protection policy that covers you if your checked or carry–on luggage is lost, stolen, or damaged
When shopping with this card, you receive other benefits. Damage and theft protection that covers you for repairs or a refund if what you buy is damaged or stolen within 120 days of purchase (90 days for New York residents). You are also covered by Citi’s Price Rewind service. This service offers you a refund of the difference if a covered purchase is found for a lower price within 60 days of purchase.
And as a Visa Signature card, you can get a range of travel and shopping discounts. In fact, you even receive access to hard to get tickets for entertainment and sporting events.
APR and Other Fees Are Normal for a Travel Card
A rewards card will always have a higher interest rate than a similar card that doesn’t offer rewards. The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card is not an exception, but it’s interest is competitive for a card of this type. But if you’re going to be carrying a balance on your credit card, than you should be looking for a card with the lowest possible interest rate, which won’t be a rewards card.
This card’s fees for things like late payments and balance transfers are about where they should be, but there is one exception. Citi imposes a 3% foreign transaction fee on all charges processed outside the United States. Sadly, this card is a poor choice for use on your next international trip.
How This Card Compares to Other Citi Cards
Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card
The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card is the entry-level product for less than frequent travelers. But the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve is the expert level card for real road warriors. It offers 10x points for Hilton stays, 5x points on airline and car rental purchases, and 3x points on everything else. It also starts you out with Gold status and let’s you earn top-tier Diamond Status if you make $40,000 of purchases within a calendar year. These additional rewards and benefits might be worth the $95 annual fee for those who travel often enough. It also has no foreign transaction fee, so it’s great for international use.
Citi ThankYou® Premier
This premium rewards card isn’t affiliated with a particular hotel or airline. Instead, it offers points in Citi’s ThankYou® Rewards program that can be transferred to Hilton HHonors™ points or to frequent flyer miles 13 different airline partners and the Hilton HHonors™ program. This card offers 3x points for all travel purchases, 2x points for dining and entertainment, and 1x for all other purchases. Points transfer to Hilton at a 1:1.5 ratio, but to airlines at a 1:1 or lower rate. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card and it has no foreign transaction fees.
Citi Prestige® Card
This is Citi’s top-of-the-line rewards card that also earns points in its ThankYou® Rewards program. It offers 3x points for air travel and hotel spending and 2x for dining and entertainment charges. You earn one point per dollar spent elsewhere. It comes with many perks including airport business lounge access and numerous travel and shopping benefits. You also receive a fourth night free when you book four or more nights through Citi’s travel agency. However, all these benefits come with a whopping $450 annual fee. But there are no foreign transaction fees.
The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card offers rewards and benefits that measure up extremely well against other travel reward cards with no annual fee. But ultimately, this card is best for less frequent travelers.
I like to have cards like this so that I can enjoy better service, even if I only stay at a Hilton hotel a couple times a year. If you find yourself checking into Hilton Hotels every few months, then you should consider the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve card or perhaps even the Citi ThankYou® Premier or Citi Prestige® card. By adding this card to your wallet, you can earn valuable rewards at Hilton properties and enjoy the treatment normally reserved for frequent travelers.