Hilton Honors American Express Review: Excellent Rewards With No Annual Fee

The Hilton Honors American Express Card offers a great way to dip your toe into hotel rewards, but you could still get more value elsewhere.
Last updated Sep 24, 2020 | By Ben Luthi

FinanceBuzz is reader-supported. We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Travel credit cards provide a lot of valuable features, but many of the best options charge annual fees. If you're in the market for a new card and want to dip your toe into the world of travel rewards — but aren’t yet sure how you feel about annual fees — the Hilton Honors American Express Card may be a good fit.

In this Hilton Honors Amex review, you’ll learn about the pros and cons of this rewards card, who it’s good for, how to use it, and some potential alternatives.

Generous Rewards

Benefits

  • 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Point welcome offer
  • High rewards rates
  • Complimentary Silver status
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
  • Terms apply

Drawbacks

  • Minimum premium travel benefits

In this Hilton Honors American Express Card review:

Who should get the Hilton Honors American Express Card?

The Hilton Honors American Express Card is worth considering if you’re loyal to Hilton and don’t want the pressure of an annual fee. The card offers potentially valuable rewards on purchases made with the hotel brand and select everyday spending categories.

If you’re looking for more value, however, a hotel credit card with an annual fee may be able to provide enough benefits to outweigh the yearly cost. Be sure to carefully consider all your options and run the numbers for each one to ensure you get the right fit.

Card basics

Card type Travel
Credit card issuer American Express
Annual fee $0
Welcome bonus Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
Reward rate 7X points at participating hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio; 5X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations; and 3X points on all other eligible purchases
Recommended credit score Excellent, Good
Foreign transaction fee None

Hilton Honors American Express benefits & perks

  • Generous welcome offer: Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. Depending on where you look, Hilton Honors points are worth 0.5 to 0.6 cents apiece on average.
  • No annual fee: Annual fees aren’t inherently bad, but they do require you to get enough value out of cards to make up for them. With no annual fee, you can use your card without wondering whether it’s worth it.
  • Silver elite status: The card offers complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status, which comes with extra benefits regular members don’t have. Examples include a fifth night free at Hilton properties, two bottles of water in your room, and elite tier rollover nights.
  • Path to Gold elite status: If you spend at least $20,000 on your card in a calendar year, you’ll be bumped up to Gold elite status. The upgrade is valid for the calendar year its earned through the end of the next calendar year. This level provides more perks beyond Silver, including room upgrades, complimentary breakfast, and unlimited milestone bonuses.
  • Trip protections: The card doesn’t offer a lot in the way of travel protections, but you will get rental car insurance (secondary coverage) and access to a Global Assist Hotline. There are also no foreign transaction fees, which can save you money when on international travel.

Drawbacks to the Hilton Honors American Express Card

  • Limited travel benefits: Beyond secondary car rental insurance coverage and access to a Global Assist hotline, this card offers limited travel perks. So if you're looking for perks like travel accident insurance or purchase protection, you may be better off with a different option.
  • No 0% introductory APR offer: Like many other travel cards, this card does not offer a 0% introductory APR on purchases or balance transfers.

Earning & redeeming Hilton Honors points

Potential earnings in years one and two

Here's a look at how your Hilton Honors points can add up with the Hilton Honors American Express Card. To calculate these values, we used a point valuation of .006.

Remember, this is an estimation. The actual value will be determined by how much you spend and in which categories you spend.

Year one earnings: $1,415

Year two earnings: $935

These values are based on the FinanceBuzz Credit Card Rewards Valuation Model which takes a look at points earned via spending, the welcome bonus, and the annual fee.

Best ways to earn

Depending on how you spend your money, it’s possible to get a good amount of value out of this Hilton card’s rewards program. And because Hilton has a dynamic rewards program, the value of your points can vary based on how and where you book, so it’s feasible to maximize your points that way, too.

Category Rewards rate
Hotels and resorts in the Hilton Portfolio 7X
U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations 5X
All other eligible purchases 3X

Like virtually all of the best hotel credit cards, the Hilton Honors American Express Card offers bonus rewards on purchases made with its co-branded hotel partner. You’ll earn 7X points per dollar spent on hotels and resorts in the Hilton Portfolio.

The card also offers 5X points per dollar on purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations, as well as 3X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases. The more you spend at Hilton hotels and in other bonus categories, the easier it will be to rack up rewards.

Maximizing your redemptions

As previously mentioned, Hilton Honors points are worth 0.5 cents to 0.6 cents apiece on average, depending on where you look. The important thing to understand with that range is that it’s an average rather than a set value.

This means that depending on how you redeem your points, they could be worth more or less than that average. As a result, it’s important to be mindful when redeeming rewards to avoid losing value on a bad redemption. Look at the price of the stay with and without points to understand how much value you’re getting per point, then compare that to the average.

For example, if a hotel is charging $120 per night or 30,000 points, the redemption value is 0.4 cents per point and may not be worth it. If, however, the cost is $200 per night or 30,000 points, you’re getting 0.67 cents per point, which could be worth it.

Also, keep in mind that Hilton offers other redemption options, including experiences, on-property rewards, shopping and dining, travel and transportation, and more. In general, though, you’ll get the best value when you use your points to book Hilton stays.

Hilton Honors transfer partners

Hilton Honors travel partners include more than 30 airline, rail, and mileage rewards programs. Among these partners are Amtrak, Hawaiian Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic.

If you're interested in boosting your Hilton Honors point balance, you can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards or Diners Club. As a U.S. Hilton cardholder, you will receive 2,000 Hilton Honors points for every 1,000 Amex Membership Rewards points you transfer.

FAQs about the Hilton Honors American Express Card

As we’ve researched the Hilton Honors Card, we’ve come across some questions that might help you decide if the card is right for you. Here are some of the more popular ones, along with their answers.

Is the Hilton Honors Amex a good card?

If you're a loyal Hilton guest, the Hilton Honors Amex is an excellent option. New cardmembers can earn 80,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. Plus, you get 7X points at participating hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio; 5X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations; and 3X points on all other eligible purchases.

What credit score do I need for a Hilton Honors card?

American Express doesn’t list a specific credit score you need to get approved for this Hilton card. However, you’ll typically need good or excellent credit to have a solid chance of getting it. Good credit typically starts at a FICO credit score of 670 and a VantageScore of 700.

How many Hilton Honors points do you need for a free hotel stay?

The number of Hilton points you need for a free night will likely differ based on the property and room you select, but Hilton rewards stays start at 5,000 points. And if you earn Hilton Honors Gold status, when you book a standard rewards stay of at least five consecutive nights, your fifth night is free.

How does the Hilton Honors Amex compare to other Hilton Honors cards?

The Hilton Honors American Express Card is the only Hilton credit card with no annual fee, but with that perk comes with less value overall. The other two consumer options include the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.

Both of the other cards charge annual fees — with the Hilton Honors Aspire Card charging $450 — but also offer bigger welcome offers and more valuable benefits, like statement credits, Priority Pass airport lounge access, higher rewards on Hilton purchases, and complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status. Take the time to compare each to determine which one will give you the best net value overall.

What’s the difference between Hilton Honors base points and bonus points?

Hilton Honors base points are earned when you stay at a Hilton resort or hotel — every Hilton member, regardless of whether you have a credit card, earns 10 base points per dollar on eligible hotel stays.

Hilton bonus points, on the other hand, are earned through Hilton Honors credit cards and when you sign up for Hilton Honors bonus promotions.

Other cards to consider

The Hilton Honors American Express Card is a solid no annual fee card for consumers who want to earn rewards with Hilton. However, if you want more flexibility with your travel rewards credit card or more Hilton-specific perks, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card may be a better fit.

As a Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholder, you get access to the popular Chase Ultimate Rewards program. This loyalty program is widely known for its flexible redemption options. You can redeem your Ultimate Rewards points for airfare, hotel stays, gift cards, and more. In some cases, you can maximize the value of your points when you transfer them to one of Chase's 13 airline partners or hotel partners.

For frequent travelers and loyal Hilton guests, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card may be a better option. While the Hilton Honors Surpass does come with an annual fee of $95, this credit card offers a higher rewards rate — 12X points when spending directly with an eligible Hilton hotel or resort; 6X points on purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations; and 3X points on all other eligible purchases.

Generous Rewards

Special Offer

Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months

See how these cards compare:

Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • 80,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 2X points on eligible dining and travel purchases
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits
Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express
Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express
  • 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Point welcome offer
  • 12X points at participating Hilton hotels and resorts
  • Free weekend night reward stay after spending $15,000 in a calendar year
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Terms apply