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American Express issues four co-branded Hilton credit cards, but only one — the Hilton Honors American Express Card — has no annual fee (See Rates). Usually, no-annual-fee credit cards come with a modest welcome bonus and few perks, but that’s not the case here.
For a limited time, the Hilton Honors American Express Card is offering 100,000 points after you spend at least $1,000 on eligible purchases in your first 3 months of account opening, plus a $100 statement credit after your first purchase in the first three months. Because there’s no annual fee, the statement credit is pure profit, and the minimum spending requirement is relatively easy to achieve.
You can also earn bonus points in everyday spending categories, whether you’re traveling or staying close to home. Along with 7 points per dollar on eligible Hilton purchases, Hilton Honors American Express Cardholders earn 5 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at US restaurants, US supermarkets, and US gas stations, and 3 points per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases. That’s not as lucrative as the earning rates on the other Hilton cards, but the categories are useful and can help boost your Hilton points balance quickly.
You’ll also receive automatic Hilton Honors Silver status, which is the brand’s lowest elite tier. It doesn’t offer a ton of benefits, but it does unlock one lucrative perk. Any Hilton elite status member (including Silver) qualifies for the fifth night free on award stays of five nights or more, so if you redeem points for longer stays, this can add up to significant savings.
Standard award nights at Hilton hotels start at 5,000 points and usually top out at 95,000 points for the most luxurious resorts — so depending on where you redeem your rewards, the welcome bonus from the Hilton Honors American Express Card could be worth multiple nights at inexpensive brands, or fewer nights at upscale locations.
We’re focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.
Use Hilton points for hotel stays
The Hilton Honors program includes over 6,300 hotels in 118 countries, so it’s easy to redeem your points just about anywhere you go. You can earn and use Hilton points at the following brands:
- Conrad Hotels & Resorts
- Canopy by Hilton
- Curio Collection by Hilton
- DoubleTree by Hilton
- Embassy Suites by Hilton
- Hampton Inn by Hilton
- Hilton Hotels
- Hilton Garden Inn
- Hilton Grand Vacations
- Home2 Suites by Hilton (earn 5x points)
- Homewood Suites by Hilton
- Motto by Hilton
- Signia by Hilton
- Tapestry Collection by Hilton
- Tempo by Hilton
- Tru by Hilton (earn 5x points)
- Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts
You’ll usually get the best value from Hilton points by redeeming them for award nights, either for a completely free stay or by combining points and cash. Hilton doesn’t have a standard award chart; instead, the price of an award night at a particular hotel varies based on demand, cash price, and season.
Standard award nights start at 5,000 Hilton points and go all the way up to 95,000 points, but premium awards (for better rooms, suites, or high-demand dates) can cost much more. Keep in mind the lowest-priced Hilton hotels are usually budget-friendly brands (like Tru by Hilton or Hampton Inn) located off the beaten path; upscale hotels in big cities or luxury resorts will cost more points.
For example, you can book an overwater villa at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island for 95,000 points a night instead of paying over $1,300 with cash. Or, you can stretch your points at hotels like the Hampton Inn Niagara Falls, which starts at just 16,000 points per night. Always be sure to compare the cash price to the award rate, because sometimes the paid rate is so low it’s better to save your points for a higher-value redemption.
The Silver elite status you automatically receive with the Hilton Honors American Express Card qualifies you for the fifth night free on award stays of five nights or more. This is another great way to stretch your points if you want to make them last.
Transfer Hilton points to airlines and Amtrak
Hilton Honors partners with over 30 airlines, plus Amtrak, and you can transfer points at varying ratios depending on the program. This typically won’t result in the best value, but if you won’t be using points for stays it’s an option for other types of travel.
Redeem Hilton points for experiences, events, merchandise, and more
Other options for redeeming Hilton points also won’t get you the highest value, but they could be helpful in certain circumstances:
- Hilton experiences — Use points for exclusive events, dining, and tours
- Use Hilton points for event credits — Starting at 25,000 points for a $50 credit
- Redeem Hilton points at Amazon — A poor value; you’ll get just 0.2 cents per point
- Donate Hilton points to charity — For every 10,000 points you donate, Hilton will send $25 to a charity of your choice
- Use Hilton points toward Lyft rides — Again, not the best value; you’ll typically get around 0.2 cents per point
- Pool or transfer Hilton points to a friend — Send up to 2 million points per year to friends or family with no fee, or pool your points with up to 11 people to save for a redemption
Hilton points normally expire if there’s no activity in your account for 12 months, but due to the pandemic, the chain has paused points expiration until December 31, 2021. Spending on a Hilton credit card like the Hilton Honors American Express Card is an easy way to keep your points from expiring until you’re ready to travel.
Hilton Honors American Express Card benefits and features
The Hilton Honors American Express Card comes with a handful of useful perks that can improve your travel experience and save you money.
Automatic Hilton Silver elite status
Cardholders receive Hilton Silver status as long as their card is open and in good standing. As Hilton’s lowest elite tier, Silver status isn’t exceptional, but it does come with a few handy perks:
- Fifth night free on award stays of five nights or more
- 20% points bonus on paid stays
- Free bottled water
- Elite rollover nights
However, if you spend $20,000 or more on eligible purchases in a calendar year with your Hilton Honors American Express Card, you’ll get upgraded to Hilton Gold elite status through the end of the following calendar year. Hilton Gold status is much more valuable and includes benefits like free breakfast at Hilton hotels, 80% points bonus on paid stays, room upgrades when available, and milestone bonuses.
No foreign transaction fees
Many credit cards with no annual fee tack on 3% or more in foreign transaction fees, which can really sting if you’re on an international trip. However, you won’t have to worry about using your Hilton Honors American Express Card abroad, because it doesn’t add these extra fees.
Foreign transaction fees can also apply if you make an online purchase from a company outside the US, so even if you’re not traveling, this perk could save you cash.
Car rental loss and damage insurance
When you pay for your car rental with the Hilton Honors American Express Card and decline the collision damage waiver at the rental counter, you can get secondary coverage for damage to or theft of the vehicle. Some countries and vehicle types are excluded, so be sure to read the terms and conditions before you rent and note that liability insurance isn’t included.
American Express cards are well known for offering excellent purchase protections, and the Hilton Honors American Express Card is no exception.
When you use the card to pay for an eligible purchase, Amex will extend the manufacturer’s warranty up to one additional year on original manufacturer’s warranties of five years or less. You’re covered for up to $10,000 per eligible purchase and up to $50,000 per account, per calendar year.
If you pay for an eligible item with your Hilton Honors American Express Card and it’s stolen or accidentally damaged within 90 days of purchase, you could be covered for up to $1,000 per item and up to $50,000 per account, per calendar year.
Global Assist Hotline
Hilton Honors American Express Card members can access Amex’s Global Assist Hotline when they’re traveling 100 or more miles from home. This service can provide help with issues like lost passport replacement, translation services, missing luggage assistance, and emergency legal and medical referrals, but you’ll be responsible for any third-party costs incurred.
Free two-day shipping with Shoprunner
ShopRunner is a service that provides two-day shipping and free returns with hundreds of participating online stores — think of it like Amazon Prime, but for other retailers. All US Amex personal and small-business cards, including the Hilton Honors American Express Card, are eligible for a free membership which normally costs $79 per year. To enroll, visit ShopRunner’s American Express website and enter your card details.
Travel accident insurance
When you pay your fare on a covered trip with the Hilton Honors American Express Card, you could be eligible for up to $100,000 in coverage for accidental injury or death. See Amex’s terms for specific restrictions and details.
Hilton Honors American Express Card fees and costs
The Hilton Honors American Express Card has no annual fee, so it’s free to keep without incurring a yearly cost. Because your credit score is partly determined by the average age of your accounts, keeping a no-annual-fee card open for the long term could potentially increase your credit score.
Jasmin Baron is an associate editor at Personal Finance Insider, where she helps readers maximize rewards and find the best credit cards to fit their lifestyles.