Free night award for no annual fee: Hilton Honors Amex Card review

Feb 11, 2022

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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 7 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.

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, making it a great option for travelers looking to get started with Hilton Honors.

Here’s everything you need to decide if the card is right for your wallet.

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In This Post

Who is this card for?

The Embassy Suites, Napa Valley. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)

This card works for you if you’ve just signed up to be a Hilton Honors member (it’s free) 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 starting with this card to experience how it can enhance your Hilton stays.

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

Related: Choosing the best Hilton credit card for you

Welcome offer

Conrad Bora Bora pool overlooking the ocean and overwatervillas
The Conrad Bora Bora is an aspirational property for many travelers. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The all-new, increased welcome offer on the Hilton Honors American Express card gives new applicants a chance to earn 100,000 Hilton honors points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of cards membership, plus earn $100 in statement credits on eligible purchases made on the card at any of the Hilton family hotels in the first 12 months of membership.

The latest TPG valuations pegs Hilton Honors points at 0.6 cents apiece, making the 100,000 bonus points worth up to $700 (includes $100 in statement credit). This is an outstanding offer from a no-annual-fee card (see rates and fees), which typically come with less lucrative welcome bonuses.

Perhaps the best part of this new offer is the free night award — redeemable for any night of the week — that’s valid for 12 months from the date of issuance. It offers a ton of flexibility and can be used at thousands of Hilton properties worldwide (with just a few exceptions).

If used strategically — let’s say, at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui, which can easily come with a cash price of $1,000 per night — you can get some outstanding value from this welcome offer.

Main perks and benefits

large pool surrounded by palm trees and lounge chairs
The Conrad Tulum. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)

The Hilton Honors Amex actually features a few notable benefits beyond the elevated welcome bonus. Here’s an overview of 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 night free on award stays 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.

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 signing up at shoprunner.com/americanexpress. Enrollment is 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. Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company.

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. Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company.

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. Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company. Car Rental Loss or Damage Coverage is offered through American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc.

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

Overwater bungalows at Hilton Moorea
You’ll get the best returns with Hilton purchases on your card. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

With the Hilton Honors Amex, you’ll earn 7 Hilton Honors points per dollar on eligible Hilton portfolio purchases, including hotel stays, on-site restaurants and spas. You’ll also earn 5 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations. Finally, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar on all other eligible purchases.

According to TPG valuations, that’s a 4.2% return on Hilton spending — though when you also factor in the 12 points per dollar you get on most Hilton stays through having Hilton Honors Silver elite status, it jumps to 11.4%.

The return is less impressive on other spending (3% on restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations, given the Hilton point valuation by TPG), but it’s 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.

That said, if you’re looking for higher earning opportunities covering a wider swath of 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 lack of published award charts. You’ll have to do some digging on the Hilton Honors website for the best deals (the program’s Points Explorer tool is quite helpful to get a feel for typical award rates) and be ready to book when you find an award you want.

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 for a specific award, 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.

Our advice? Stick to hotel room redemptions to get the best value for your rewards.

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

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 15-plus 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: 1.25 miles per dollar 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 1.85 cents each, these miles can be worth $370 if you utilize them for high-value awards.

While you won’t get any Hilton-specific benefits with this card, many 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

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

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, as it carries just a $95 annual fee (see rates and fees) along with an array of added perks. With this card, you’ll earn 12 points per dollar spent on eligible Hilton purchases, 6 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, and 3 points per dollar on all other eligible purchases.

The welcome offer is also considerably higher. You’ll earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, you can earn up to $130 in statement credits on eligible purchases made on the card at any of the Hilton family hotels in the first 12 months of membership. This is an additional 50,000 points compared to the no-annual-fee Hilton Amex, which can unlock even more value.

With the Surpass, you can earn another Hilton free night award after spending $15,000 on the card in a calendar year, but it comes with other perks as well. For instance, you’ll get 10 free Priority Pass lounge passes every year, car rental loss and damage insurance, access to the Global Assist hotline and no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees). Enrollment is 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 elevated points bonus (80% compared to 20%), 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.

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 — then the Hilton Honors Surpass is worth a look over this no-annual-fee option. Enrollment is 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 — especially with the current increased welcome bonus.


Application link: Hilton Honors Amex available for 100,000 Hilton honors points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of cards membership, plus earn $100 in statement credits on eligible purchases made on the card at any of the Hilton family hotels in the first 12 months of membership.


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 for The Points Guy.

Hilton Honors American Express Card
Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 100,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, you can earn up to $100 in Statement Credits on eligible purchases made on the Card at any of the Hilton family hotels in the first 12 months of Membership.
  • Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with hotels and resorts 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
17.24%-26.24% 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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