Why This Is a Great Card
Hilton recently re-branded their HHonors program and has launched a whole new fleet of cards with American Express. These cards have some pretty amazing sign up bonuses and as I had just finished the spend on my American Airlines CitiBusiness Platinum Select card, I was ready for another card to work towards.
There are 4 Amex Hilton cards each with their own benefits and annual fees, but I started out with the entry card, the Hilton Honors card. I chose this card because the minimum spend is only $1000. If you hit that in 3 months, you earn 100,000 points. The final say in point value, TPG, values these points at .6 cents each. While Hilton points are definitely on the lower end of the value spectrum, compared to something like Chase Ultimate Rewards which are 2 cents, 100,000 is worth at least $600. However, with perks like the 5th night free, I’ve seen redemptions that can equal up to $1,300, or 1.3 CPM. (Cents Per Mile. Calculate CPM by dividing the cash price by the number of miles used for redemption.) That’s amazing for a $1000 minimum spend and no yearly fee.
Speaking of yearly fee, this card is completely free. This makes it a great starter card if you’re new to The Points Game. A lot of the more lucrative cards have annual fees, some are waived the first year some are charged up front, and you have to be more strategic with managing your cards. When playing The Points Game one of things that can impact your credit is the average length of time your accounts are open. If you churn like me, getting the bonuses and then canceling the card, the average length of your accounts stays low. So keeping a couple accounts that have no yearly fee will help up that average.
This cards gives you silver status which unlocks access to 5th night free, a perk where you book 5 award nights for the price of just 4.
The Hilton Honors Amex also gives you great rewards on several big categories:
I also picked the Hilton Honors card because of the great family of Honors cards. I plan to sign up for the Ascend and Ascend business. If I’m approved for all three of these cards, I’ll have 350,000-400,000 points (depending on the available sign up bonus!)
Now, if you’re gunning for Honors points you have to remember American Express has certain restrictions. The biggest is, as a general rule, you’re only allowed to have 5 Amex cards open at once. So it won’t be possible to sign up for all the SPG cards, a couple of Hilton cards and the Amex Gold/Platinum. So be strategic in which cards you sign up for. If you already have several Amex cards, it might be better to sign up for the higher bonus cards to max out your rewards.
The other thing you have to take into consideration is with Amex Cards, you can only receive the sign up bonus once per lifetime. But since these are all new cards, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Now, playing The Points Game isn’t without its responsibilities. If you are responsible with your spending and keep track of cards with yearly fees, there’s nothing to be worried about. The most important thing is to always pay off your balance each month. These sign up bonuses quickly become expensive if you start paying interest. It can be easy to get carried away with spending by rationalizing “I have to make the minimum spend,” which is why it’s good to switch your recurring payments like car insurance and phone over to the card you’re working on. That way the money you’re spending is what you normally spend anyways. Never spend money you don’t have just to make the minimum spend!
Since this card doesn’t have an annual fee, you can keep it as long as you want. But for cards that have yearly fees, you’ll usually want to cancel before the free year is up. Of course, if you find the card useful, go ahead and keep it, but it’s generally not a good idea to have a stack of credit cards that you’re paying for every year. Sometimes it’s possible to call your card issuer and get a “retention” bonus where they’ll wave the fee, or offer another incentive like bonus points or a credit after a certain amount of spend
This card has a minimum $1000 spend in the first 3 months to earn the bonus. That means that over the next 3 months of opening the card you need to spend at least $1000. This is pretty easy to do compared to the Aspire card which has a pretty high spend of $4,000. I always recommend putting your regular and recurring spending like car/health insurance premiums, cell phone bill, utility bill, on your card. This way, it’s money you’re already spending, and you earn a nice bonus as a result! If you rent, some landlords allow you to pay your rent with a credit card. This usually has some sort of fee in the 3% range. This isn’t normally a good way to get points as most cards don’t have higher than 3% return on non bonus categories, but when you’re earning bonuses like 100,000 points or more, it can be worth it, especially with higher spend cards where your month spending isn’t high enough to make the minimum.
Hilton is one of the largest hotel brands in the world with properties in 100 countries so Honors Points are great when combined with free award flights for totally free travel. Hilton doesn’t publish an award chart for their properties so the only way to know what a property will cost at a given time is to just search! There can be a pretty wide range of prices depending on the time and location, but there’s awards starting at 5000 points.
A strategy to maximize your award redemption is to use Hilton’s 5th Night Free benefit. This benefit unlocks with silver status, which you get with the Honors card. How this works is you book any 5 night stay at a Hilton property and only pay for 4 nights. This is like giving yourself a 20% raise on your sign up bonus.
If you were to book 20 nights at the Sharm Waterfalls resort in Egypt, you would get 5 nights for free for a total of 25 nights (4 night plus 5th Night Free x5). At a cash price of $52 a night that’s making your 100,000 points worth $1300, or 1.3 cents a point, over double TPGs value of .6 cents. Note, 5th Night Free only works up to 20 consecutive nights in a row, so you might have to break up that epic Egypt trip into two stays!
Stay in an over-water villa!
Another great way to use your Honors Points is at the luxurious and exclusive resorts in the Maldives, Seychelles or Tahiti.
Stay in an over water villa at the Conrad Maldives Rangali island for 95,000 points. The cash price would be $1,120.00, making this a solid 1.12 cent redemption. Of course to get to resort is another $500 transfer by sea plane from Male to the island! Paying for the transfer and only staying one night doesn’t make a lot of sense, but, if you were to sign up for all 4 Hilton cards, or had a partner to sign up for a couple and then pool your points, you could get the requisite 380,000 and stay for 5 nights worth $5,600 or 1.47 cents a point!
Obviously getting a high CPM (Cent Per Mile, or in this case, points) isn’t the end all, sometimes it makes sense to use your points if you just need a free stay, but maximizing your redemptions is part of the fun of playing The Points Game.
Regardless of what you do with your points, the Hilton Honors from American Express is an excellent card if you’re new to The Points Game and a solid strategy if you’re a seasoned veteran.
Right now the public bonus is 75,000 points, but if you found this article helpful, you can help me out and use my referral link to get the 100,000 points offer. And I’ll get 20,000 for referring you. Win win! I have a couple of these left, so apply now! If you get approved, leave your referral link in the comments and share the love with other readers!