The American Express Hilton Surpass and the Citi Hilton Reserve card are hands down the two best Hilton credit cards.

The American Express Hilton Surpass card is offering a sign-up bonus of 75,000 Hilton points until February 28, 2014, this is a 15,000 point increase compared to the usual 60,000 bonus point offer. With an increased bonus offer let’s take a look at where the American Express Surpass stands in comparison to the Citi Hilton Reserve card.

American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass

The current sign-up bonus for American Express Hilton Surpass card is 75,000 points after spending $3,000 within 3 months. The current offer says it will expire on February 28, 2014.

Link: American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass

Hilton has 10 categories of hotels and 75,000 points will get you only 1 free night at a Category 10 (70,000 – 95,000 points per night) hotel during an off-peak period and no free nights during a peak period.

 

Gold status gets you free internet & breakfast!

Hilton HHonors award chart

 

On the other hand, if you want to stay in lower-tier properties you can get up to 18 free nights in a category 1 (5,000 points per night) hotel and 3 free nights in a category 3 (20,000 points per night) hotel.

The American Express Hilton Surpass card will get you Gold elite status as long as you have the card. With Hilton Gold status you get free internet & breakfast! This can easily be worth $30+ per day and will save you money if you are traveling in Europe.

 

Gold status gets you free internet & breakfast!

Gold status gets you free internet & breakfast!

 

Spending on the card earns you 12 Hilton points per $1 spent at Hilton hotels, 6 points per $1 spent at restaurants, supermarkets & gas stations, and 3 points per $1 spent on everything else.

If you are a big spender, you will get the Hilton Diamond elite status after spending $40,000 per calendar year on the card. On top of the free breakfast and internet, the major benefit of Diamond elite status is that you are more likely to get room upgrades.

The $85 annual fee is not waived the first year on the American Express Hilton Surpass card. There is also a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, so this may not be the best card to use when you are traveling abroad.

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve

Link: Apply through “Best Credit of 2013 for Travelers” banner at bottom

One of my all-time favorite Hilton credit cards is the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card. The current sign-up bonus is 2 FREE weekend night certificates after spending $2,500 within 4 months.

The free night certificates are good at almost any category 1 to 10 Hilton hotel! This means that you can stay at some of the nicest Hilton properties that cost up to ~$1,000 per night.

You can use the certificates at any category 1 to 10 Hilton hotels. This includes including Waldorf Astoria and Conrad hotels that can run up to 95,000 points per night.

If you redeem your two nights at a top-tier Hilton property you are getting up to 190,000 points worth of value.

A weekend night counts as any Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. When you are issued the certificates they are valid for 12 months so make sure to use them before they expire!

A few of the aspirational properties that caught my eye when I was looking to redeem my certificates include:

Conrad Koh Samui Resort & Spa, Thailand (Category 10)

Conrad Hong Kong (Category 9)

Conrad Pezula Resort & Spa (Category 8)

Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa (Category 10)

Conrad Tokyo (Category 10)

Waldorf Astoria Rome Cavalieri (Category 9)

London Hilton on Park Lane (Category 9) 

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island (Category 10) 

 

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Waldorf Astoria Rome Cavalieri

 

You can always use Hilton points to book more nights along with your free weekend nights for a longer consecutive stay. This is one nice aspect about how the Reserve card is issued by Citi and the Surpass card by American Express. You could potentially apply and get both at the same time to double up on Hilton rewards.

The few select hotels that you cannot use the free nights with include all-inclusive hotels, Hilton Grand hotels and Distinctive Properties that have all suites or villas.

The card also will give you Gold elite status as long as you are a cardmember and similarly, if you are a big spender you will earn Diamond elite status if you spend $40,000 in a calendar year.

Spending on this card will earn you 10 Hilton points for every $1 you spend at Hilton hotels, 5 points per $1 spent on airline and car rentals, and 3 points per $1 spent on everything else.

The Citi Hilton Reserve card also gives you a free weekend night if you spend $10,000 per year on the card. This free night can be used at any 1 to 10 hotels, but not the excluded properties.

The $95 annual fee is not waived the first year. Citibank also offers a no annual fee Hilton card that currently offers a 40,000 point bonus.

The Citi Hilton Reserve card has no foreign transaction fees! This means that you can use your card for international travel and stays at Hilton hotels.

Comparing the Two Cards

Free nights at a category 10 hotel

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve = 2 nights

American Express Hilton Surpass = 0-1 nights

Free nights at a category 5 hotel

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve = 2 nights

American Express Hilton Surpass = 1-2 nights

Free nights at a category 1 hotel

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve = 2 nights

American Express Hilton Surpass = 15-18 nights (Gold status members get the 5th night free)

Automatic elite status with card

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve = Gold

American Express Hilton Surpass = Gold

Earn Hilton Diamond status after spending $40,000

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve = Yes

American Express Hilton Surpass = Yes

Free weekend night after spending $10,000 a year

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve = Yes

American Express Hilton Surpass = No

Card earning

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve =

  • 10 Hilton points per $1 spent at Hilton hotels
  • 5 points per $1 spent on airlines and car rentals
  • 3 points per $1 spent on everything else

American Express Hilton Surpass =

  • 12 Hilton points per $1 spent at Hilton hotels
  • 6 points per $1 spent at restaurants, supermarkets & gas stations
  • 3 points per $1 spent on everything else

Annual fee

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve = $95

American Express Hilton Surpass = $75

Foreign transaction fees

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve = no foreign transaction fee.

American Express Hilton Surpass = 2.7% foreign transaction fee.

Chip and Signature technology

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve = Yes

American Express Hilton Surpass = No

 

Conrad Koh Samui Resort & Spa

Conrad Koh Samui Resort & Spa

Which Card is Better?

If I would apply for just one card I would choose the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve.

Since both cards are issued by different banks you always have the option to apply for both.

With that being said it really comes down to what you want. If you value high-end stays the most, go with Reserve. If you value as many free nights as possible, the 75,000 points with the American Express Hilton Surpass could be a much better deal.

If you spend more than $10,000 a year the Citi Hilton Reserve will get 1 free weekend night from the second year on. This alone will be worth more than the annual fee if you keep the card.

If you plan on traveling out of the US frequently, you’re better off with the Citi Hilton Reserve since you will pay no foreign transaction fees.

As always, the value of your rewards depends on what experience you get from them. By having some idea where you’d like to use your free nights you can work from that to decide which offer is better for you.

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The opinions, analyses, and evaluations here are of Well Traveled Mile and have not been reviewed, approved or endorsed by anyone else. The content is not provided or commissioned by American Express, Chase, Citibank, US Bank, Bank of America, Barclays or any other company.

2 Comments

  • How often is the sign up bonus 75,000 for Hilton Surpass? I see that it was available in January 2014, but when do you think it might be back? Thank you in advance!

    • Donna, I would like to say that it might be back by the end of the year, but in the past it hasn’t followed a pattern.