Hotel credit cards can be incredibly valuable. Typically the cards have reasonable annual fees, and offer outsized value, ranging from annual free nights to elite status. What’s rare is to see a hotel credit card that offers perks in spite of not having an annual fee, though in this post I wanted to look at one such card.
I’ve reviewed the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (review) and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (review). In this post I wanted to take a look at the no annual fee Hilton Honors Card from American Express (Rates & Fees).
Is this card worth having, or is it worth getting a card with an annual fee instead? After all, you have several Hilton cards to choose from. In particular, I think it’s worth covering this card because a lot of people are looking to reduce their credit card annual fees in the coronavirus era (in particular on travel cards), so this is potentially a great option.
Hilton Honors Card From American Express Basics For January 2021
The Hilton Honors Card from American Express is Hilton’s entry-level personal credit card. Let’s look at a few aspects of this card, including the points earning potential, the welcome bonus, and the perks.
Welcome Bonus Of 80,000 Honors Points
The Hilton Honors Card is offering a new member bonus of 80,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $1,000 within the first three months. That’s a reasonable spending requirement, as some other cards require $4,000+ of spending to get the bonus.
I value Hilton Honors points at ~0.5 cents each, meaning that I value the 80,000 points at ~$400. That’s really good when you consider that this card has no annual fee.
Redeem Hilton Honors points at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives
Eligibility For Bonus
The welcome offer on the Hilton Honors Card is not available to those who currently have or who have had this card. You are eligible for the bonus if you have had any other Hilton card, though, including any of the personal cards with an annual fee, or the business card.
Amex Application Restrictions
I find that Amex cards are fairly easy to be approved for, for those with excellent credit. Just make sure you know that:
- You can be approved for at most two Amex cards in a 90-day period
- You can have at most four American Express credit cards at any point (this limit used to be five, but it appears that it has been lowered to four for the time being)
The Hilton Honors Card from American Express has no annual fee, and you can even add additional cardmembers with no annual fee (Rates & Fees).
You can’t beat holding onto a no annual fee card long term. Holding onto credit cards long term helps your credit score, as it helps you increase your average account age. If you’re going to hold onto cards long term, you might as well make them no annual fee cards whenever possible to minimize your out of pocket.
Earning Points With The Hilton Honors Card From American Express
The Hilton Honors Card from American Express offers some bonus categories for spending, though they’re not quite as robust as you might find on other cards.
The card offers anywhere from 3-7x Honors points per dollar spent, depending on the category you’re spending in.
The card also offers some status perks, and you can earn even more status perks if you spend money on the card.
7x Points At Hilton Hotels
The Hilton Honors Card offers 7x Hilton Honors points for spending at Hilton properties globally. This includes all Hilton brands, from Hampton Inn to Waldorf Astoria.
I value Hilton points at ~0.5 cents each, so to me, that’s like a 3.5% return on hotel spending. That’s pretty good for a no annual fee card, though ultimately there are better credit cards for hotel spending.
5x Points Bonus Categories
That’s the equivalent of a 2.5% return on spending in those categories, which is also great for a no annual fee card.
Earn 5x points on supermarket purchases
3x Points On Other Purchases
The Hilton Honors Card offers 3x points on all other eligible purchases, which I value at a return of ~1.5%. There are definitely better cards for everyday spending.
No Foreign Transaction Fees
The Hilton Honors Card has no foreign transaction fees, which is great for a no annual fee card. I’ll take it a step further — I’d consider this to be the best no annual fee Amex card for purchases abroad.
No Annual Fee Hilton Honors Card Benefits
Despite having no annual fee, the Hilton Honors Card from American Express offers some potentially valuable benefits. You get status just for having the card, and can receive elevated status if you spend enough on the card.
Let’s look at the details of those benefits.
Hilton Honors Silver Status
Just for having the Hilton Honors Card you get complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status. This is Hilton’s entry-level status, and while the perks are limited, it’s nice that they give it to you on a no annual fee card.
The benefits of Hilton Honors Silver status include the following:
- Fifth night free on award stays
- 20% points bonus
- Two bottles of water
Hilton Honors Gold Status With Spending
You can earn Hilton’s mid-tier Gold status for spending on the Hilton Honors Card. If you spend $20,000 on the card in a calendar year you’ll earn Hilton Honors Gold status, which comes with the following perks:
- Free breakfast and/or executive lounge access
- Late check-out, subject to availability
- Preferred rooms
- 80% points bonus
Hilton Honors Gold members receive complimentary breakfast
Purchase And Extended Warranty Protection
The Hilton Honors Card from American Express offers some potentially valuable purchase protection and extended warranty coverage. While you’ll want to check your cardmember agreement for all the details, you can potentially expect:
- Purchase protection, offering protection on eligible purchases that are accidentally damaged, stolen, or lost; valid for up to 90 days, and $1,000 per occurrence, and $50,000 per calendar year
- Extended warranty, where you can get up to one extra year added to the original manufacturer’s warranty, for warranties of five years or less
One of my favorite features of Amex cards is access to Amex Offers, which offers savings on purchases with all kinds of retailers. There’s huge value to be had in getting as many Amex cards as possible, so that you can get these offers on multiple cards.
What’s especially awesome is that this card has no annual fee, so Amex is basically paying you to have this card when you consider the savings opportunities.
Is The Hilton Honors Card From American Express Worth It?
For a no annual fee card, I think the Hilton Honors Card from American Express is pretty awesome. The card has a good welcome bonus, it gives you access to Amex Offers (which can save you a lot of money), it offers Hilton Honors Silver status (which gets you a fifth night free on awards), and more.
The bonus categories are pretty good too for a no annual fee card, like being able to earn 7x points on Hilton stays, and 5x points on supermarket, gas station, and restaurant purchases. Combine that with no foreign transaction fees, and this is one of the best no annual fee cards to use abroad.
For someone who absolutely doesn’t want to pay an annual fee but who also likes Hilton Honors, I think this is a great card to consider. It could also be a good option if you’re looking to downgrade one of Hilton’s premium credit cards.
Hilton No Annual Fee Card Vs. Hilton Surpass Card
Why would I instead apply for this card?
- It offers a much larger welcome bonus of 130,000 points after spending $2,000 on the card within three months
- You get Gold status for as long as you have the card, which offers perks like upgraded rooms, free breakfast, and more
- You can earn free weekend night rewards, which are potentially extremely valuable
Redeem the weekend night reward at the Conrad Bora Bora
There’s another reason this could make sense — say you really want a no annual fee card long term. After 12 months you could downgrade the $95 annual fee card to the no annual fee card by phoning up Amex.
I really do think the Surpass Card is worth trying. If you don’t like it you can always downgrade it after a year, and you’ll maintain your credit line, etc.
Why The Hilton Aspire Is The Best Hilton Amex Card
- A $250 annual airline fee credit
- A $250 annual Hilton resort credit
- Top tier Hilton Honors Diamond status for as long as you have the card
- A Hilton free night certificate annually (including the first year), which even has expanded uses right now
This is a card I have, and I can’t even begin to say the outsized value I get with this card.
I used my free night certificate at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills last year
Best No Annual Fee Card?
If I could recommend just one no annual fee card, I’d recommend the Citi® Double Cash Card. The card offers 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and 1% cash back when you pay for that purchase. Best of all — and this is truly what makes the card remarkable — rewards can be converted into Citi ThankYou points (in conjunction with other cards) at the ratio of one cent per point.
Amex Hilton Honors Card Summary
The Hilton Honors Card from American Express is a great no annual fee card. The card has an excellent welcome bonus, offers 3-7x points per dollar spent with no foreign transaction fees, gets you Honors Silver status, and gives you access to Amex Offers. For someone looking for a no annual fee card, this is a great option.
However, if you’re willing to pay a reasonable annual fee, personally I would apply for the Hilton Honors Surpass Card. The card has a much better welcome bonus, offers bigger bonus categories on spending, and gives you Hilton Gold status. If you find the card isn’t worthwhile, you can choose to downgrade it after a year.
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: Hilton Honors American Express Card (Rates & Fees), Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (Rates & Fees), and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (Rates & Fees).