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New Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card

by on July 24, 2012 · 49 comments

in Citi, Credit Cards, Hilton

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Citi and Hilton are launching a new Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa Signature Card with new spending bonuses and elite benefits. (Note: It is not replacing the current Citi Hilton Visa Signature card, which will still be available).

Rather than a sign-up points bonus, however, when new cardmembers spend $2,500 within the first four months of cardmembership, they’ll receive two certificates for weekend night stays at any of Hilton’s 3,800 properties worldwide, except certain Waldorf Astorias they haven’t specified, and all-inclusive and Hilton Grand Vacation properties.

Our contributor attended a launch event in New York last Thursday where Hilton Director of Communications, Scott Carman, said, “The benefits of this card to a cardholder are extraordinary, and they will find so many fantastic ways to maximize the card at our properties.”

Here are the card details:

-Two weekend-night stay certificates after a minimum spend of $2,500 during the first 4 months of cardmembership
-One free anniversary weekend-night stay certificate when cardmember spends $10,000 or more annually
-10 Hilton HHonors points per $1 spent on hotel stays within the 3,800 properties in the Hilton HHonors Portfolio in addition to base points normally earned for stays
-5 Hilton HHonors points per $1 spent on airline and car rental purchases
-3 Hilton HHonors point per $1 spent on all other purchases
-Automatic HHonors Gold Status plus an upgrade to HHonors Diamond Status when you make $40,000 or more in eligible purchases in a year
-No foreign transaction fees
-Access to Visa Signature Concierge 24/7
-Access to the best in music, sports, family entertainment and dining through Citi Private Pass
-SmartChip technology
-$95 annual fee

There are a couple interesting features to this card, so let’s take a quick look at what it all means, though you should also take a look at our post comparing Hilton credit cards for a better idea of how this one stacks up, and we’ll have our Hilton contributor take a more detailed look at this new card and its benefits in the coming weeks.

Sign-Up Offer
Rather than a bonus points sign-up offer, Citi and Hilton have decided to provide two weekend-night certificates at any Hilton property worldwide including Waldorf Astoria hotels. In the Hilton  could be worth anywhere from 15,000 points—for Category 1 properties—up to 100,000 points for Category 7 properties and Waldorf Astoria properties in low season, though possibly more if you can secure a weekend award night during a property’s high season. Those two free nights could also equate to thousands of dollars in value if cardholders use them at some of Hilton’s highest-end properties like the Grand Wailea in Hawaii, or the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria. Weekend nights are Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The current Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature card offers just 40,000 points, though you would just have to spend $1,000 in four months to earn the bonus. The Hilton Amex offers 40,000 points after $750 in spend within 3 months. This offer even beats the Hilton Amex Surpass card, which awards a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points and an additional 20,000 points after $3,000 in spend within three months.

Spending Bonuses
Cardholders will get 10 bonus points for every $1 spent on hotel stays within the 3,800 properties in the Hilton HHonors Portfolio (all 10 of their brands ranging from the Waldorf Astoria to Homewood Suites), 5 bonus points for every $1 spent on airline and car rental purchases and 3 bonus points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

Currently, the only card that compares in Hilton spending bonuses is the Surpass card, with 9 points per $1, while the regular Hilton Amex and the current Citi Visa Signature only offer 6 points per $1 spent.

The regular Citi Hilton Visa also only offers 3 points per $1 at supermarkets, gas stations and drug stores, and 2 points per $1 on everything else. Both Hilton Amexes offer 6 points on supermarkets, gas stations and drugstores as well as phone, cable, satellite and internet bills, then 3 points per $1 on everything else.

The spending bonus categories revolve around travel for the new card–so it seems to be aimed at Hilton’s high-end frequent stayers–but the 3 points for every $1 on everyday purchases is at least on a par with the three other cards, though if your major expenses are at supermarkets, gas stations, drugstores and on utility expenses like internet and phone, you’d earn more with another card.

In addition to the individual spending bonuses, cardholders who spend $10,000 annually get an anniversary free weekend-night certificate as well that can be used at any property, adding potentially a lot more value to having this card in your wallet if you spend that night at one of the chain’s high-end properties around the world.

The one shortcoming of this card is that both Amexes, the regular and the Surpass, earn 500 points every time you book a stay through a Hilton website, whereas there are no online booking bonuses with the Reserve.

Elite Status
This card offers automatic Hilton HHonors Gold status with perks like a 25% bonus on base points, complimentary room upgrades (and executive club lounge access if the upgrade is to an executive club room), the choice of 1,000 bonus points at check-in or complimentary continental breakfast for two daily, free internet access, and GLON reduced-rate redemption opportunities. Cardholders also receive Diamond status when they spend $40,000 annually, conferring a host of additional perks including a 50% bonus on all base points, free internet, a dedicated reservations center, room upgrades, access to the executive club lounge regardless of whether they are upgraded to a club room, 1,000 bonus HHonors points, complimentary continental breakfast daily for two, and other welcome amenities.

The elite status conferred by having this card blows the other offerings away since the only other card that offers Gold status is the Surpass, and that’s only for the first year—after that it’s Silver, though you can retain Gold after spending $20,000 within a year or Diamond status by spending $40,000 annually (same as this new card). The Citi Hilton Visa and the Hilton Amex grant automatic Silver status, and only the Amex elevates cardholders to Gold after spending $20,000 within a year.

AXON and GLON Redemptions
Hilton HHonors cardholders and elite members have access to two discounted award rates.

The first are GLON awards, which is available to HHonors elite members, and thus holders of any Hilton credit card that confers status. Four-night stay: 15% off standard reward rate. Five-night stay: 20% off standard reward rate. Six-night stay or longer: 25% off standard reward rate.

However, Amex cardholders can also redeem at AXON award rate for stays of four-night intervals, which are sometimes discounted more than GLON awards. However, because the new Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa Signature is not an Amex, cardholders won’t be able to redeem for AXON awards.

Annual Fee
This card does carry a $95 annual fee, while the only other Hilton card with one is the Surpass, which has a $75 annual fee, so if you’re concerned about keeping your annual fee low, consider another card. However, you can more than make up for the value of the $95 fee with a well chosen redemption for those two free weekend-night certificates.

Strategy
If Hilton is your main hotel program and your points strategy revolves around HHonors points, this card could actually be a great companion to the regular Hilton American Express, which charges no annual fee. Cardholders could use the Amex at gas stations, grocery stores, pharmacies, and on phone/internet/cable/wireless bills for the 6 points per dollar bonus; and then use this new Citi card basically everywhere else, including Hilton stays, and have automatic HHonors Gold status with no spending requirements. Plus, they’d still have access both to AXON and GLON redemption discounts but also enjoy all of the benefits that this new card offers.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • http://twitter.com/mburk88 Mike Burk

    I currently have the AMEX Surpass card. I only use it to pay for Hilton stays which is probably about $15k per year. This card seems like a better deal for me with 10pts per $…?

  • PJ

    40K on the Citi Hitlon Hhonors has been my least exiting signon bonus as a Last Class traveller. What do I do with 40K ?
    I had no whatsoever problem to book my 2 free anywhere Hyatt nights plus the anniversary night.

    This does sound better if I can get to manage to use the free nights just on weekends.
    Any imformattion when will the 2 free nights expire atter the certificates are offered?
    Would any weekends also include the winter break weekend spring break weekend etc? no exceptions ?

  • Joe

    Are you sure about the Maldives? The T&Cs say that “Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts that do not offer standard rooms are excluded” and the Maldives rooms are all villas and suites.

  • BobChi

    For me it’s something to think about, but the next app-o-rama is a couple of months off. The drawback as I see it is the “two nights” bonus rather than a high points bonus. Some of the other features have promise. I know everybody calculates things differently, but to me staying free at a $500 a night place rather than a $150 a night place isn’t a big deal, so I don’t value the two nights the way some would. I figure I’ll be asleep most of the time I’m at the hotel anyway. The question is whether the $2,500 in spend could be put to better use elsewhere. On the “maybe” list.

  • dhammer53

    Don’t let the $95 fee be a deterrent. If you were to stay in a big city hotel using Priceline for 2 nights, it’s going to cost you $75 – $125 per night or more, depending on the city. The $95 fee works out to $47.50 a night.

  • Dan

    What happens if you’re already gold and you get this card? Do they upgrade you to diamond?

  • Coachsandy_hi

    Sounds like a good deal but what are the chances there’s availability at Hilton Grand Wailea or the such?

  • A.J.

    Might have to give this some serious consideration. Currently have the Amex surpass card. Could downgrade that when the annual fee is due again. Use the citi visa for Hilton purchases and the Amex for everything else!!!

  • Eric

    No, you’d still remain Gold.

  • Eric

    You’re right – it also says it excludes all-inclusive resorts and Grand Vacations properties, so we fixed the post, thanks!

  • Ian Noronha

    I got the Citi Hilton Visa earlier this summer (and the 40k signing bonus), but I’d like to switch to the Reserve. Should I just call them or do you think the online app would work (I’d like to use your link)?

  • Lark

    Eric – This card is a joke. Weekend nights (you don’t mention capacity controls). Oh, yeah, the free nights will not work at the most desirable resorts…

    If you don’t have the AMEX Surpass, get it instead.

    If you have the AMEX, and have a stay planned at a property that is not excluded, then run the numbers and see if this card makese sense for you.

  • MB

    Both Hilton Gold and Diamonds get free internet access not just Diamond

  • Larry

    Good summary. Though I know your post is about the credit card, I thought one part deserved special mention. You say: “However, Amex cardholders can also redeem at AXON award rate for stays of four-night intervals, which are sometimes discounted more than GLON awards. ”

    That is, in fact, true — although I might have stated it a bit more affirmatively. On four night stays, AXON is virtually always better than GLON awards. (Note, however, that this doesn’t work always work for multiples — at 8 nights, GLON is actually better for most categories than 2xAXON.) And, in fact, AXON can even make sense on certain five night stays — it’s better to book 1 AXON and one standard night at a cat 7 for a 5 night stay than to book a 5-night GLON.

    But there’s an important point to make about the rare circumstance (and hence the “sometimes”) where AXON is not better than GLON on a 4 night stay, which is for a category 5. One should never ever use AXON for a category 5, because if you have access to AXON you also must have access to GLON (by virtue of automatic silver from any Amex Hilton card, even the lowest one).

  • Eric

    I don’t think that should be an issue. However, Citibank has a six-month limit between applications, so wait until six months from when you go the first card to apply for this one.

  • Eric

    Yep, the post mentioned that!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JNFSXN4ANC7RH5VQCOEJGFUJZQ Nick

    All true. I actually discussed these aspects of AXON and GLON in one of my previous posts:

    http://thepointsguy.com/2012/07/maximizing-hilton-hhonors-glon-and-axon-redemptions/

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JNFSXN4ANC7RH5VQCOEJGFUJZQ Nick

    The discussion of this card on FlyerTalk seems to indicate that you can call to upgrade without a hard inquiry, but phone reps are unclear about whether you’d be able to get the two free nights. I would apply to be sure (but as Eric says, I’d wait six months).

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JNFSXN4ANC7RH5VQCOEJGFUJZQ Nick

    I would definitely say that this one is a better option. That $15k in spend would give you an extra 15k points compared to the Surpass, plus no foreign transaction fees at properties outside the US (not sure if that’s applicable to your situation). You’d also get a free night each year by virtue of spending over $10k, and the Surpass currently offers nada along those lines.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JNFSXN4ANC7RH5VQCOEJGFUJZQ Nick

    The T&C of the card address the expiration date:

    “Weekend night certificate is valid at participating hotels in the Hilton Worldwide portfolio for twelve (12) months after the date of issuance, as noted on the certificate.”

    As for exceptions, I think that remains to be seen. I certainly hope (and would imagine) that the certificates will be identical to those offered during last year’s Q4 promo; they could be used anytime a hotel had a standard reward available. If that’s true, the only problem you’d have with those busy holiday weekends would be the possibility of the hotel selling out of all standard rewards.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JNFSXN4ANC7RH5VQCOEJGFUJZQ Nick

    The Grand Wailea does offer standard room rewards, so unless the T&C are misleading, you should be able to use the certificates there. I just did a quick search and found decent availability for standard rewards (normally 80,000 points/night).

  • Fanfoot

    Is it that simple Nick?

    If you book your rooms online with the Amex card, you get a 500pt bonus for every stay. In my case I typically stay at company negotiated rates at a Hilton Class 5 hotel for around $175 per night. So an extra pt per dollar would be 350 pts vs. the 500 I get with the Amex.

    Certainly the extra 2 free weekend nights is an obvious value vs. the Surpass though.

    You might consider those of us who have a Surpass and maybe even don’t value the Gold that much since we’re already going to qualify for that given our stays. Should we (a) keep the Surpass, (b) dump the Surpass and switch to the Reserve, or (c) downgrade to the non-Surpass Amex Hilton with no fee and get the Reserve?

  • ORD_TGU

    One big omission is that with the AMEX, both free and surpass you get 500 bonus points per online booking paying with the card. Since most of my stays are one night and on average around $100-15o, it means I am getting an extra 3-5 HH points per dollar. AFAIK, CITI does not offer that one, big gap!

  • A.J.

    AND the surpass card gets you gold status for the first year of card membership, after that you have to requalify. The new Citi card secures you Gold status for the life of the card. A definite perk in my opinion.

  • MissesOldTPG

    Uh oh… is this the credit card TPG will endlessly push and create bs fluff articles around, like the BA Card?

    BTW TPG, your Top Deals page is completely out of date. You have AA cards listed twice, etc. Getting sloppy.

  • Eric

    Great point, we added that to the post. Those who have lots of short, inexpensive stays can definitely reap a lot of value out of those 500-point online booking bonuses. However, as the post points out, this card is clearly aimed at Hilton’s bigger spenders who might actually drop $40k to hit Diamond status.

  • PJ

    What is wrong with BA card ? My 100K sign on bonus afforded me and my wife to tour South America JFK-GIG SCL-JFK ( 2@40K) PMC-SCL ( [email protected]) Along with more Avios coming out on Amex 1 MR=1.5 Avios,non stop one way flights IAD-LAX(12.5K) EWR-LAX (12.5K) LAX-RNO (4.5K) SFO-SJD (10K) HKG-TPE ( 4.5K) served our family JUST AS WELL. What a beautiful world !!

  • john

    The way you worded the gold status benefit is confusing. You need to put “Automatic Hilton Gold status- which you retain as long as you have the card”.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JNFSXN4ANC7RH5VQCOEJGFUJZQ Nick

    The 500 bonus points per online booking actually applies to ANY Amex used to make the reservation. I always use my corporate Amex to book business stays, and I get the 500 bonus points every time. You could book the reservation with an Amex and switch to the Citi Hilton Reserve at check-in. A FlyerTalker claims that this works for him every time (though I’ve never tried it myself!). See post #46 in the thread:

    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/hilton-hhonors/1369255-new-citi-hh-reserve-card.html

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JNFSXN4ANC7RH5VQCOEJGFUJZQ Nick

    I’m in the same boat…just upgraded to the Surpass, and I easily qualify for Diamond on stays, so gold status means nothing to me.

    Others may disagree, but I’m planning on going with (c). As I mention in an earlier comment, a FlyerTalker claims that you can book with an Amex, switch to a non-Amex at check-in, and still get the 500 point bonus. In theory, you could book online with the no-fee Hilton Amex, switch to the Citi Reserve at check-in, and still get the bonus and the 10 points/$.

  • Ian Noronha

    Thanks, Eric.

  • Ian Noronha

    Thanks, Nick.

  • My3goldens

    If I am a current Signature card user & open a Reserve card instead, will those points that I currently have roll over to the new account ?

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  • LC24

    My advice to anyone considering the Hilton HHonors reserve card – don’t bother!
    I have excellent credit – 784 with Equifax, I never carry a balance on a credit card, own my home, have never had a late payment or any negative information on my credit report (I am a CFO so I am extremely vigilant about my finances). I was denied credit (btw it took 2 weeks to get a decision because they were doing system upgrades and then they had power outages in whatever foreign country they farm out the application department to). When I called to get a reconsideration after pulling my equifax report (what they based it on), I was told I have too much credit available to me. Not that I have debt or carried balances but that I had high credit limits available to me to utilize in compared to my income (btw over $70,000/year before bonuses). I have never heard of anyone being turned down for this reason. Btw it took 6 phone calls to get this information because every time I called I received the same information of system upgrades and power outages that I received when the application took so long. I have written off Citibank completely and I emailed Chase about the Sapphire Preferred which also does not have foreign transaction fees (this is what I was looking for) and received an email back 2 minutes later that I had been upgraded (I had a chase card already) and my new card would be arriving by 8/31. Citibank personal credit card department needs to get their act together! I have no complaints about the Business side and I have always received excellent customer service with my citibusiness card but after this experience I will never get (or try to get) a personal credit card associated with Citibank.
    Skip the Citi Hilton card and get the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

  • MM

    Has anyone had any luck (or tried) applying for the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card and the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card at the same time using the two-browser trick like others have done with the American Airlines Citi Cards?

  • Gminski

    If I live in Germany am I eligible for this card? I am a Hilton Grand Vacation owner in Orlando, FLA and would love to use it to gain points toward HHonors?

  • DCShungu

    This does not sound like a good reason for advising others to avoid getting this card. It seems to me that the reason for your rejection is that they felt that you did not need another card, and, based on what you said, they are right. I too have an excellent 3-bureau credit and at the time that I applied for this card, I had used about 23% of my total credit. This was good enough because I was approved instantly — in fact, I was invited to apply; I just went online and plugged in the invitation number and that was it. Your only beef against this card is that they turned you down. Your advice would have merit if it were based on specific features of this card that you do not like. However, without even having been approved for the card and, thus, never having had the opportunity to evaluate any of its features, advising others not to bother getting it sounds like sour grapes.

    If Hilton is your main hotel program and your points strategy revolves around HHonors points, this card is absolutely great — it beats the AMEX Surpass. Get it.

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  • TJ

    The points are awarded to you by Hilton after citi gives them the spending info. It should all link to your Hilton member number. If they issue you a new Hilton number with your credit card application, you can always consolidate multiple Hilton numbers into one account. Btw, you can also just call Citi and see if you can convert the signature card to the reserve card without filing a new application. Citi even allowed me to convert my dividends master card to the Hilton reserve card over the phone without needing to apply to the new card.

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  • Guest1000

    I am aslo a Surpass card carrier. I charged about $60k to it last year and therefore earned Diamond status which is nice. I also just got the Reserve card for my foreign travels (no forex fees). But in looking at the 5 point for airfare and car rentals, I think I am better off using the Reserve as my main card since I typically spend $400-800 for airfare and then $150-200 on a single night at a Hilton – also rent cars which end up being about the same as the hotel amount. Am I missing something ? My Surpass give me the same points per $ for stays (10) but only gives 3 points for airfare and car rentals.

  • Leo

    Know what’s funny and a nod towards this website: I emailed HHonors customer service for a list of locations not included in the free stay offer, and they referred me to this website. Maybe they think the Points Guy knows more than the HHonors Customer Service department! Still, can’t find a list of excluded hotels.

  • http://www.cardauthorizer.com/ credit card services

    I think everybody calculates things differently, but to me staying free at a $500 a night place rather than a $150 a night place isn’t a big deal, so I don’t value the two nights the way some would. I figure I’ll be asleep most of the time I’m at the hotel anyway. The question is whether the $2,500 in spend could be put to better……….

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  • avi404

    I have a question about this paragraph on the sign up page for this card:
    “Weekend night certificate(s) is (are) earned after purchase requirements have been met with the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card. Weekend night certificate is valid for one (1) weekend night standard accommodation, double occupancy, subject to availability, at any property in the Hilton HHonors portfolio, excluding those listed at HHonors.com/weekendcertificate. Weekend night certificate is valid at participating hotels in the Hilton HHonors portfolio for twelve (12) months after the date of issuance, as noted on the certificate. The weekend night certificate applies to one (1) weekend night in a standard room and corresponding taxes; and does not apply to gratuities, resort fees or incidental charges.”

    So does this mean that:

    1. You cannot use the 2 nights (weekend only) consecutively

    OR

    2. They will send you 2 certification worth one free weekend night each

    The language about “Weekend night certificate is valid for one (1) weekend night standard accommodation” has me confused.

  • gavinmac

    Today two different agents told me that the Citi weekend award nights can also be used on Thursday night, and I booked a Thursday night award using one of my free weekend night certificates.

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