There are four different co-branded Hilton credit cards. Which one is right for you? Which one will help you get the most out of every hotel stay?
We break down your Hilton card options, showing you how to earn more points than standard members and which benefits stand out above the rest.
|Best Overall||Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card|
|Best for Welcome Bonus||Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card|
|Best for No Annual Fee||Hilton Honors American Express Card|
|Best for Small Business Owners/Freelancers||The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card|
Hilton Hotels and the Hilton Honors Rewards Program
Hilton offers plenty of choices for lodging with 5,600 properties worldwide and 17 brands, including DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Waldorf Astoria and more.
The Hilton rewards program launched in 1987 as the HHonors Program. In early 2017, the company dropped the second “H” and made some changes to how rewards members earned points.
Hilton Honors membership benefits
There are over 85 million members of the Hilton Honors program, and their offerings are pretty similar to other hotel loyalty programs.
For example, members always get the lowest price on all Hilton properties when they book on Hilton.com or the Hilton Honors app. The app’s “order ahead” feature lets you request extra pillows or a favorite snack for the room before arrival.
Members earn points for every eligible dollar spent with Hilton and get exclusive deals and promotions to earn more points or access complimentary services.
Hilton also provides some additional perks such as free WiFi, which all members receive both in their rooms and in the lobby. Diamond status members get Premium WiFi for free.
One unique addition to the Honors program came in September 2017 when Hilton became the first hotel brand to offer shopping on Amazon.com with its points. Members just link their Hilton Honors account to their Amazon account to take advantage of it. While this was a hotel industry first, many credit card reward programs offer the option to shop with points on Amazon.com.
Earning Hilton Honors Points
How fast can you earn points with Hilton’s rewards program? Members earn 10 Base points for every dollar spent at most Hilton hotels, but you can earn extra Bonus points with elite status levels.
Hilton members with elite status will get a bonus on their Base points – the higher the status, the bigger the bonus. Take note that this bonus only applies to Base points in the Hilton rewards program, not Bonus points. Silver status provides a 20% bonus, for example, which would give you a total of 12 points per dollar when earning at the 10X rate.
Some of the value-focused brands earn fewer points. Stays at Tru by Hilton and Home2 Suites hotels earn 5 Base points per dollar.
You can earn even more with a Hilton credit card because the points you get from the card are added to any points you earn as a member. But those cards provide Bonus points, not Base points, so the elite status bonus won’t apply to them.
Hilton Honors membership levels
The basic member level in the Hilton Honors system is called “Member,” and there are three elite membership levels above that: Silver, Gold and Diamond. You can also reach some of these status levels by having or spending a certain amount with select Hilton credit cards.
Each membership level provides additional benefits and perks, including:
|Qualifications||Join program||4 stays,10 nights||20 stays, 40 nights,75K Hilton Honors Base points||30 stays, 60 nights,120K Hilton Honors Base points|
|Elite bonus (added to Base points)||None||20%||80%||100%|
|5th standard reward night free||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Room upgrades (space permitting)||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Complimentary continental breakfast||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Complimentary Executive Lounge access (where available)||No||No||No||Yes|
|Dedicated 24-hour customer support||No||No||No||Yes|
As you can see, the elite statuses come with perks like complimentary room upgrades and a substantial bonus to your Base points. You’ll leave basic members in the dust when it comes to earning points and relaxing in style.
Diamond status is the best status and includes access to a hotel’s Executive Lounge (they’re usually in Hilton hotels and other higher-end brands). This is nice because they usually offer tasty, complimentary breakfast, evening appetizers and cocktail hours, snacks throughout the day and comfortable seating to work, meet or relax.
Members also have an unlimited milestone bonus that starts on their 40th night each year, which earns an additional 10,000 Hilton points for every 10 nights. Gold and Diamond status members will usually get that bonus unless they qualify using only credit card expenses.
How many points will you earn?
An example rate at the Hampton Inn in New York City’s iconic Times Square is $379/night (before taxes and fees).
Hilton Honors members earn between 3,790 – 7,580 points per night on that $379 stay, depending on their status level:
|Status||Points Earned/Dollar||Points Earned/Night||Points Earned/4-Night Stay|
Redeeming Hilton Honors points
The Hilton portfolio is vast, giving hotel aficionados a wide range of options from luxury properties like Waldorf Astoria to value-focused Hampton Inns, along with Home2 Suites for extended stays. The cost for an award night varies depending on the brand, category, location and season (peak or off-peak).
For example, the Times Square Hampton Inn room mentioned previously would cost 70,000 Honors reward points.
Hilton Credit Cards: Picking the Best One for You
There are four different Hilton Honors credit cards available. Remember that the Hilton Bonus points earned with these cards are in addition to the Base points you’ll earn as a member, but elite status bonuses won’t apply to Bonus points.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
We’ve selected this as the best Hilton Honors credit card because it has great perks many travelers can take advantage of even though it has a $450 annual fee. You’ll have to use the card enough to make it worth the annual fee. Infrequent travelers may be better off using a card with a lower fee (or no fee).
The Aspire quickly pays for itself if you travel enough, with the statement credits and especially the free weekend night. For example:
- Up to $500 or more with your free weekend night: There are a few exclusions, such as some all-inclusive properties, but most Hilton brand hotels qualify. If you pick a nice one like the London NYC in Manhattan you’ll get a lot of value from this perk.
- $250 statement credit on Hilton resort stays: You’ll get this statement credit for eligible purchases charged to your room and paid with your card when you’re staying at any of the 232 Hilton resorts around the world. Prices will vary, but some Hilton resorts are available for as low as $88/night.
- $250 airline incidental credit: Select one airline from your American Express member dashboard online or by calling the number on the back of your card. Do keep in mind that only incidental charges will qualify, like in-flight food (not airline tickets). And items charged by third parties like Gogo Inflight WiFi won’t count since they’re not coming directly from the airline.
All that could equal $1,000 or more, offsetting the annual fee in full and providing quite a bit of extra value.
The elevated Diamond status you’ll get with the Aspire card means you’ll earn points faster and be eligible for upgrades and other Hilton perks. This card also offers unlimited airport lounge visits for you and two guests via the Priority Pass Select membership, which provides access to over 1,200 lounges.
How many points will you earn?
At the Times Square hotel we mentioned, you’d earn 12,886 points with the Hilton Honors Aspire Card for your $379 Hampton Inn night. You’d earn a total of 34X points per dollar: 14X Hilton Honors Bonus points per dollar from the card and an additional 20X points with the Hilton Honors Diamond status.
That’s 3.5X the points a regular Hilton Honors member would earn (over 9,000 more points) and 5,685 more points than someone with the basic Hilton Honors American Express Card.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Want a huge number of points fast for a small fee? The Surpass® card’s welcome bonus (aka an introductory bonus) is pretty easy for most consumers to get.
While the Aspire card has a bigger welcome bonus, this card’s bonus is easier to attain and provides a better return on your spending since you get more points per dollar spent. You’ll also get Hilton Honors Gold status, so you’ll earn points faster than you would with the Hilton Honors American Express Card and its Silver status.
How many points will you earn?
With the Times Square hotel stay, you’d earn 11,370 points with the Hilton Honors Surpass Card for your $379 Hampton Inn night. You’d earn a total of 30 points per dollar: 12 points per dollar from the card and an additional 18 points with the Gold status. The 12X Hilton Honors Bonus points per dollar for eligible purchases must be charged on your card for a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
That’s 3X the points a regular Hilton Honors member would earn (over 7,500 more points) and over 4,000 more points than someone with the Hilton Honors American Express Card.
Hilton Honors American Express Card
If you’re looking for a way to earn Hilton Honors points faster than a basic member but don’t want to pay an annual fee, this card is probably your best pick.
There’s a decent welcome bonus, 80,000 Bonus points for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, 50,000 Bonus points for spending a total of $5,000 in the first 6 months and you’ll automatically get Silver status, so you can earn points faster than basic Honors members. You won’t earn as many Hilton Honors Bonus points as you would with other Hilton credit cards. And the Silver point bonus is smaller than the Gold and Diamond levels.
How many points will you earn?
Using the Times Square hotel stay we mentioned, you’d earn 7,201 points with the Hilton Honors American Express Card for your $379 Hampton Inn night. You’d earn a total of 19 points per dollar: 7X Hilton Honors Bonus points per dollar from the card and 12X from Silver member status.
That’s almost double the points a basic Hilton Honors member would earn (3,411 more points).
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
This card is the best option for small-business owners, entrepreneurs and freelancers (if you don’t want to go big with the Aspire). It’s pretty similar to the Surpass® card, but you might want it for the different bonus categories.
The bonus categories, which include many everyday business expenses, can help you earn rewards on purchases you’re likely already making for your small business. But if those aren’t very attractive or relevant, you may want to stick with a Hilton consumer card.
How many points will you earn?
On the Times Square hotel stay mentioned above, you’d earn 11,370 points with the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card for your $379 Hampton Inn night. You’d earn a total of 30 points per dollar: 12X Hilton Honors Bonus points per dollar from the card, and then an additional 18X points with Gold status.
That’s 3X the points a basic Hilton Honors member would earn (over 7,500 more points) and over 4,000 more points than someone with the Hilton Honors American Express Card (just like the Surpass® card).
Applying for a Hilton Credit Card
Ultimately, the best card for you will probably depend on three factors:
- How frequently you stay at Hilton hotels
- How much money you’ll spend on the card
- Your ability to get value from the offered benefits
As with any credit card, you’ll have to apply through the credit card issuer, and in this case, it’s Amex. Most of these cards are accessible to anyone with strong credit scores, but each situation is unique.
A good FICO® Score ranges from 670 – 739. But your credit history and finances will also weigh into the issuer’s decision, so it’s not all about credit scores. You can always check to see if you’re preapproved for any offers, which will give you insight into credit cards you’ll likely qualify for.
Hacks To Get the Most From Your Hilton Credit Card
Follow these tactics to get even more from your Hilton card:
- Make it a point to seek out Hilton brand hotels when you travel. Use your Hilton credit card for Hilton stays.
- Depending on which card you have, take advantage of the extra points you can earn outside of Hilton, like at gas stations, unless you have a more rewarding card for those purchases.
- Hilton offers bonus point promotions throughout the year. Check the offer section on the website regularly to see what’s available.
- If you book a stay on Hilton.com and find a lower price, Hilton will match that price and give you 25% off that stay.
- You can pool points with family members, helping you reach the point requirements for reward stays. Diamond Honors members can also gift Gold status to their favorite travel partner. (If you stay 100+ nights, that gift upgrades to Diamond).
- Don’t forget to use that weekend night reward you earn when you spend enough on eligible purchases or after your annual card membership renewal. You’ll need to call Hilton ahead of your stay to redeem free nights.
- If you have the Hilton Surpass®, Aspire or Business card, see if there’s an airport lounge available with your Priority Pass Select membership to make a layover or extra airport time more comfortable.
- You can transfer Amtrak, Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic or Amex Membership Rewards® points to Hilton Honors points – or transfer your Honors points to any of these partners. These may not provide the best values for your points, but if you’re trying to collect points quickly for a special trip, it may be worth it.
Other Travel Credit Cards To Check Out
When you visit MoneyTips, we want you to know that you can trust what’s in front of you. We are an authoritative source of accurate and relevant financial guidance. When MoneyTips content contains a link to partner or sponsor affiliated content, we’ll clearly indicate where that happens. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in our content are of the author alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the advertiser.
We make every effort to provide up-to-date information; however, we do not guarantee the accuracy of the information presented. Consumers should verify terms and conditions with the institution providing the products. Some articles may contain sponsored content, content about affiliated entities or content about clients in the network. While reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information, the information is presented without warranty.
You may want to consider other cards with broader travel perks and benefits if you regularly stay at different hotels and fly with different airlines. Many travel credit cards offer valuable perks that are good for travel in general rather than specific aspects like free TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, travel credits and access to airport lounges.
These cards often offer introductory bonus points, like hotel cards do, if you spend a set amount in the first 3 – 4 months. Sign-up bonuses like these are some of the best ways to get a big return on your spending.
Some other great credit cards tailored for travelers include:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best Hilton Honors card?
The choice will come down to a few factors, including how often you travel and how much you’re willing to spend on annual fees. Here’s a general overview:
- Best overall: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
- Best for casual travel: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
- Best for no annual fee: Hilton Honors American Express Card
- Best for small business: The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
What are some tips to get the most from your Hilton card?
- Compare rates: If you find a lower rate for a Hilton stay elsewhere, Hilton will match and give you a 25% discount.
- Take advantage of Priority Pass Select membership: The Surpass®, Aspire and Business cards all offer airport lounge access.
Use point transfers: You can transfer Amtrak, Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, or Amex Membership Rewards® points to Hilton Honors points (or transfer your HH points to any of these partners). They may not provide the best value, but if there’s a trip you’re planning to use points to pay for, this could speed things up.