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6 reasons why you should apply for the no-annual-fee Hilton Honors Amex Card right now

Sept. 06, 2022
9 min read
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The no-annual-fee Hilton Honors American Express Card (see rates and fees) can be a surprisingly great addition to anyone’s wallet, whether you’re a seasoned award traveler or a complete newbie.

Even if you don’t frequently stay at Hilton properties, this card can help you rack up bonus points on your everyday purchases to unlock free nights at thousands of properties worldwide.

Factoring in its generous welcome offer, too, it's a great time to apply for the Hilton Honors Amex. Here are six reasons you should consider applying for this card right now.

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Generous welcome offer

CONRAD MALDIVES RANGALI ISLAND

American Express is currently offering one of the best welcome offers we’ve seen on the Hilton Honors Amex Card: 80,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card in the first 3 months of card membership.

These 80,000 bonus points are worth $480, according to TPG’s latest points and miles valuations.

As a reminder, American Express restricts applicants from earning a welcome offer on a card more than once per lifetime, so this card could be a terrific alternative for those who’ve previously held other Hilton Honors cards and thus aren’t eligible for another welcome offer on those cards.

Related: The 12 best increased card offers to sign up for in 2022

No annual fee

THE POINTS GUY

Whether you only carry one credit card or a card for every year you’ve been alive, annual fees are only worth it if you’re absolutely certain you can maximize the benefits to justify this ongoing yearly cost.

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Yes, the Hilton Honors American Express is the baseline card in the Hilton credit card portfolio. That means the card isn’t packed with a ton of ongoing perks, but it’s still a great option if you’re looking for something that doesn’t include an up-front cost to carry in your wallet. By simply paying your bill on time and in full, you can ensure that you’re maximizing the full value without ever having to pay up an annual fee.

Related: TPG’s 10 commandments of credit card rewards

Free Silver elite status

BENJI STAWSKI/THE POINTS GUY

How often does a card with no annual fee come with complimentary elite status? The Hilton Honors Amex confers Silver status, the base level in the Hilton Honors program.

While Hilton Honors Silver won’t get you too many perks, it unlocks a key benefit that’s a must-have for award travelers: You’ll get your fifth night free on award stays (for stays up to 20 nights) and you can only imagine how the savings add up if you are staying at expensive properties.

Other perks of Silver elite status include a 20% points bonus on stays and two complimentary bottles of water per stay at most properties.

If you spend $20,000 or more on eligible purchases with your Hilton Honors Amex in a calendar year, you’ll even receive Gold elite status through the end of the next calendar year — for perks like breakfast credits and preferred room upgrades upon availability.

Related: What is Hilton Honors elite status worth?

It complements the Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum Card

JOHN GRIBBEN/THE POINTS GUY

The Hilton Honors Amex isn’t just for beginners. In fact, I’d argue that it’s a good fit for those who already carry premium rewards cards — namely, The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.

Both the consumer and business Amex Platinum cards offer complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status to cardholders. Here’s an overview of the benefits that come from this second-highest level of elite status:

  • 80% point bonus: Earn an additional 8 points per dollar spent (4 points per dollar spent at Home2 Suites and Tru properties).
  • Milestone bonus: Once you reach 40 eligible nights, you’ll take home 10,000 bonus for every tenth night you stay.
  • Fifth night free: Earn your fifth night free on all award redemptions.
  • Space-available room upgrades: At most Hilton brands, you’ll enjoy upgrades to preferred rooms.
  • Breakfast credit: Depending on the Hilton brand, you’ll enjoy a $10 to $25 credit per person for you and up to two registered guests.
  • Two complimentary bottles of water per stay.

For these reasons, TPG values Hilton Honors Gold elite status at $1,255 per year. Of course, the exact value will vary depending on how often you frequent Hilton properties. Nevertheless, it’s still a great benefit to have that’s completely free if you carry the Amex Platinum or Amex Business Platinum.

Even if the complimentary Silver elite status is duplicative, the Hilton Honors Amex actually carries an earning rate that complements these two Amex cards well:

CardRewards rate and returns based on TPG’s valuations
Hilton Honors Amex
  • 7 points per dollar on eligible Hilton properties (4.2%).
  • 5 points per dollar on purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations (3%).
  • 3 points per dollar on all other eligible purchases (1.8%).
Amex Platinum
  • 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel, on up to $500,000 of these purchases per calendar year (10%).
  • 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels through Amex Travel.
  • 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases (2%).
Amex Business Platinum
  • 5 points per dollar on flights and prepaid hotels on Amex Travel (10%).
  • 1.5 points per dollar on eligible purchases in key business categories and purchases of $5,000 or greater, on up to $2 million in combined purchases per calendar year (3%).
  • 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases (2%).

If you use your Hilton Amex to pay for stays at Hilton properties and have Hilton Gold status through either Platinum card, here’s how many points you’ll earn:

  • 7 points per dollar (card bonus).
  • 10 points per dollar (base earnings).
  • 8 points per dollar (Gold status bonus).

In other words, you’re taking home at least 25 points for every dollar you spend at Hilton properties, a return of 15% based on TPG’s valuations. And even this doesn’t take into account any promotions that may be in effect at the time of your stay.

Beyond that, the Hilton Honors Amex offers a nice array of everyday bonus categories (dining, groceries and gas) that pairs nicely with the Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum. And if you ever need to top off your Hilton Honors points balance, remember that Hilton is a transfer partner of American Express. For every 1 Membership Rewards point you transfer, you’ll get 2 Hilton Honors points.

Plus, you’ll have plenty of points to burn from the welcome offer and enjoy your Gold elite benefits on those stays — win, win.

Related: Guide to Marriott and Hilton elite status with the Amex Platinum and Business Platinum

It complements other Hilton Honors cards

ERIC HELGAS/THE POINTS GUY

If you already carry another Hilton Honors card in your wallet (or have in the past), why not add this no-annual-fee card for the welcome offer alone?

We all want the opportunity to get more bonus points and the Hilton Honors Amex does just that. That's a lot to pass up — especially if you’re not eligible for the increased offers on other cards as a current (or past) cardholder.

Related: Credit card showdown: Hilton Surpass vs. Hilton Amex

You may be targeted to upgrade your card later

JOHN GRIBBEN/THE POINTS GUY

Anecdotally, American Express is known for being generous in targeting Hilton Honors cardholders for upgrade offers.

In the future, you may be offered bonus points for upgrading your Hilton Honors Amex to the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card ($95 annual fee; see rates and fees) or the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire ($450 annual fee; see rates and fees).

There’s no guarantee here, but in the past, we’ve seen upgrade offers of up to 150,000 bonus points. That means you could potentially upgrade your card, snag a great haul of bonus points and enhance your benefits — all without filling out a whole new card application (and dealing with another hard pull on your credit report).

The information for the Hilton Aspire has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Hilton Surpass vs. Hilton Aspire: Which card is right for you?

Bottom line

It’s not often that we recommend applying for a no-annual-fee card over its annual-fee counterparts, but there are many valid reasons why the Hilton Honors Amex is a good deal for now. Personally, I’m planning on applying for that welcome bonus alone — and stacking it with my other awards as an Aspire cardholder.

Now for the harder decision: Where will I travel with my stash of free night certificates?


Apply here: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card in the first 3 months of card membership.


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

Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox.

Featured image by (Photo by The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site

Rewards

3 - 4X points
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Intro offer

60,000 bonus points
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$250

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees