Solid entry option into the Hilton credit card portfolio: Hilton Honors Amex Card review

May 7, 2021

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest credit card information.


Hilton Honors American Express Card Overview

The Hilton Honors American Express Card is the brand’s no-annual-fee (see rates and fees), entry-level offering. Featuring 7x points per dollar on eligible Hilton purchases and complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status, the card is a solid option for new cardholders loyal to the hotel chain, although there are other travel cards that offer more points flexibility. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐½

*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

The Hilton Honors program covers more than 6,400 hotels in 119 different countries, providing plenty of chances to earn and redeem points. Of course, many are looking for ways to earn points for their first trip since the pandemic. One option? Hilton’s American Express-branded credit cards.

If you’re a beginner looking for a card that comes with some Hilton perks, you may want to take a look at the Hilton Honors American Express Card. For a no-annual-fee card (see rates and fees), it comes with a nice welcome offer, generous category bonuses and travel and purchase protections. Other Hilton cards make our list of best hotel credit cards, but the Hilton Honors Amex is a great start for anyone just jumping into the program.

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Who is this card for?

This card works for you if you’ve just become a Hilton Honors member but haven’t racked up enough stays to achieve elite status. Or, if you’re not quite ready to take on a card with an annual fee but still want some perks and benefits, consider this Hilton-branded credit card.

There are better options for loyal Hilton customers who stay at Hilton properties constantly throughout the year. Still, the Hilton Honors Amex does offer an entry point into the Hilton Honors family of credit cards.

Related: Choosing the best Hilton credit card for you

Welcome offer

The new, increased welcome offer on the Hilton Honors American Express card gives cardmembers a chance to earn 80,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend a total of $5,000 in purchases on the card in the first six months.

The latest TPG valuations put the Hilton Honors Amex at 0.6 cents per point, making the up to 130,000-point welcome offer worth $780. This is an outstanding offer from a no-annual-fee card (see rates and fees), which typically only comes with welcome bonuses worth $300 or less. These points can get you a variety of hotel redemptions across Hilton’s brands. You also won’t pay foreign transaction fees when traveling outside of the U.S. (see rates and fees).

Stay at the Conrad Washington D.C. using your welcome offer. (Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

Main perks and benefits

The Hilton Honors Amex actually features a few notable benefits. Let’s take a look at what this card has to offer.

Elite status

The card comes with automatic Hilton Honors Silver elite status, which nabs you guaranteed member discounts, a 20% points bonus, no resort fees on award stays, late checkout, a fifth standard reward night free and free bottled water. If you spend $20,000 on the card in a calendar year, you can even upgrade to Hilton Honors Gold status, which TPG values at $1,255. Enrollment required for select benefits.

Entertainment

Get exclusive access to ticket presales and cardmember-only events, along with Broadway shows, concert tours, sporting events and more through the American Express Experiences program.

Free shipping

ShopRunner gives you free two-day shipping on eligible items at a network of more than 100 online stores after enrolling at shoprunner.com/americanexpress. Enrollment required for select benefits.

Extended warranty

The card comes with an extended warranty that adds up to one year on an original manufacturer’s warranty that runs five years or less.

Purchase protection

Purchase protection covers items accidentally damaged, stolen or lost if you paid for them with the card. The benefit is valid for up to 90 days after the date of purchase and covers up to $1,000 per item, up to a maximum of $50,000 per calendar year.

Car rental loss and damage insurance

When you use the card to reserve and pay for a car rental and decline company insurance, you’re covered against damage and theft. This benefit is secondary coverage to your own auto insurance and doesn’t include liability.

Dedicated help

The Global Assist hotline helps with medical, legal, financial or other emergency services when traveling more than 100 miles from home.

How to earn points

With the Hilton Honors Amex, you’ll earn 7x Hilton Honors points per dollar spent on eligible Hilton portfolio purchases, including hotel stays, on-site restaurants and spas. You’ll also earn 5x points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations and 3x points per dollar on all other eligible purchases. According to TPG valuations, that’s a 4.2% return on Hilton spending (an 11.4% return when you also factor in the 12x points you get on most Hilton stays through having Hilton Honors Silver elite status).

The return is less impressive on other spending (3% on restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations given the Hilton point valuation by TPG), but not insignificant — especially if you don’t have another card that earns rewards on those purchases or if you are looking to hit a specific Hilton redemption. But if you’re looking for higher points covering wider travel purchases, including flights and rental cars, you won’t get that with this card. 

Related: Best ways to earn points with the Hilton Honors program

How to redeem points

The truth is you’ll get the best value for your Hilton Honors points when using them for hotel and resort stays, even with the chain’s dynamic award charts. You’ll have to do some digging on the Hilton Honors website for the best deals (Hilton’s Points Explorer tool is quite helpful with searches) and be ready to book when you find an award you want.

Unlike the other Hilton credit cards, this one doesn’t come with a free weekend night. But the Hilton Honors Amex gives you plenty of options to redeem your points, including airfare, rail travel, car rentals, unique experiences, all-inclusive resorts, vacation packages, golf, shopping, dining and donations to charity.

Use your points to stay at the beautiful Conrad Bora Bora. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

You can also transfer your Hilton Honors points to 40 global airline loyalty programs, along with Amtrak. However, unless you need to transfer Honors points to top off an airline account, using them for this purpose isn’t really a good idea since the transfer ratio is normally terrible. Not only do you have to transfer points in increments of 10,000, but you’re also only getting between 1,000 and 1,500 airline miles for them, depending on the carrier. Stick to hotel room redemptions to get the best points value.

Related: 10 Hilton properties I can’t wait to redeem Hilton Honors points for after the pandemic

Which cards compete with the Hilton Honors Amex?

The most competitive card against the Hilton Amex depends on what’s most important to you in a credit card.

If you prefer to spread the hotel love among different brands, then the no-annual-fee Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card is a great alternative, as you can redeem your miles for any travel at a flat rate of 1 cent each. But if you’re attached to Hilton Honors and want a few more benefits and perks — and don’t mind paying an annual fee — then you may want to upgrade to the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards credit card

The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card is a great beginner’s travel card for those who aren’t loyal to one hotel chain. Also, with no annual fee, you can redeem your miles at a rate of 1 cent each for any travel purchases on your statement. You can also transfer your miles to Capital One’s 19 travel partners for potentially even more value — including hotel chains such as ALL Accor Live Limitless, Choice Privileges and Wyndham Rewards.

(Photo by Eric Heglas/The Points Guy)

This card comes with a simple way to earn rewards: 1.25x miles on all purchases, meaning you won’t have to keep up with multiple categories. It also comes with a sign-up bonus of 20,000 miles after you spend $500 or more on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Since TPG values Capital One miles at 1.7 cents each, these miles are worth $340.

While you won’t get any Hilton-specific benefits with this card, more travelers may benefit by not being tied to one hotel chain.

Related: The best no-annual-fee credit cards

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card

If you want to stick with Hilton Honors and are comfortable paying an annual fee, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card is a strong contender with a $95 annual fee (see rates & fees). With this card, you’ll earn 12x per dollar spent on eligible Hilton purchases, 6x at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, and 3x on all other eligible purchases.

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

At just $95 per year (see rates and fees), the Hilton Honors Surpass is a compelling card to consider even for beginners to the hotel brand. Like the Hilton Honors Amex, this card doesn’t offer higher points per dollar spent on flights and rental cars.

But the Surpass does come with a valuable Hilton weekend night award after spending $15,000 on the card in a calendar year, 10 free Priority Pass lounge passes, car rental loss and damage insurance, access to the Global Assist hotline and no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees). Enrollment required for select benefits.

The card also comes with complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status, which offers the same benefits as Silver status, along with an 80% points bonus, space-available room upgrades and free breakfast with some Hilton brands. If you spend $40,000 on the card in a calendar year, you can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year. Enrollment required for select benefits.

Get free breakfast with Hilton Honors Gold status. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

If you want to earn more points per dollar spent, Hilton Honors Gold status and a few more card perks — and you don’t mind paying a $95 annual fee (see rates and fees) — then the Hilton Honors Surpass is worth a look. If you prefer to be a hotel free agent and have the flexibility to earn and redeem points in broader spending categories, plus have solid perks, then the Capital One VentureOne card may be a better option for you. Enrollment required for select benefits.

But the Hilton Honors American Express Card is a good starter card for those looking to maximize the loyalty program’s benefits without paying an annual fee (see rates and fees) — especially with the current increased welcome bonus.

Application link: Hilton Honors Amex available for up to 130,000 bonus points.

Additional reporting by Stella Shon.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Amex Surpass Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Amex Card, click here.

Featured photo of the Conrad Bora Bora by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.

Hilton Honors American Express Card
Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend a total of $5,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months.
  • Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Earn 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees. Enjoy international travel without additional fees on purchases made abroad.
  • Enjoy complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status with your Card. Plus, spend $20,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$0
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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