Hilton has several credit cards with both American Express and Citi, but I believe the Hilton Honors Surpass from Amex is the best of the bunch. The current 100,000-point sign-up bonus is the best ever (and requires spending $3,000 in the first three months). With a low annual fee of just $75, it’s an easy argument to make. Cardholders receive 12 Honors points per dollar they spend at Hilton, which is more than any other Hilton credit card offers. You’ll also get 6 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and 3 points per dollar everywhere else.
100,000 points is enough for most people to book at least two stays complimentary stays at a hotel that charges 50,000 points per night, such as the Hilton Waikiki. I personally don’t like the chaos of Honolulu, so my preference would be the Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay, which is right next to Lydgate Beach and a convenient for anyone driving looking to explore Kauai.
If you book four nights or more, your fifth award night is free, so how do you get the remaining points when you start with just 100,000? Fortunately Hilton just launched a new program that lets members pool their points with up to 10 other people. That means if you or a spouse or even other family members and friends also have Hilton Honors points, you can combine those points to get bigger, better, rewards. You can also mix points and money to stretch your balance further.
Besides the sign-up offer, cardholders also receive complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status as long as they keep the card. This tier normally requires 20 stays or 40 nights in a calendar year and is the second-highest elite tier at Hilton. Of course, many people have Gold status since it is so easy to get with a credit card. But there are also thousands of Hilton hotels everywhere, so I still consider it worthwhile. Elite status that comes with some other cards, like Hyatt’s Discoverist status, is harder to justify with only a few hundred properties.
The benefits of Hilton’s Gold status are particularly rich. Automatic upgrades? No. At best you might get a better room assignment with a view on a Honors-exclusive floor. Gold members receive a 25% bonus on base points on every stay (most stays earn 10 base points per dollar, so this makes it a total of 12.5 points per dollar), as well as a complimentary breakfast. Hilton’s unique Double Dip feature usually means another 5 points per dollar or additional airline miles, and all summer long Hilton is offering a bonus 10 points per dollar for its seasonal promotion.
You can also upgrade to Diamond status purely based on credit card spend if you achieve $40,000 in net purchases during a calendar year. This may include better upgrades and even more points on every stay. But even as a former Hilton Diamond member I never got upgraded to a full suite, so it’s probably something you need to ask for if it matters to you.
Hotel credit cards are one of the easiest choices to justify. Because so many offer useful elite status and have relatively low annual fees, I almost never cancel them. Some also include a free annual night each year — sadly the Hilton Honors Surpass card is not one of them. But even so, Hilton Honors Gold status is something I’ve always had, even as my loyalty to other programs ebbs and flows. If you don’t have the Hilton Honors Surpass from Amex already, I strongly recommend considering it.