Which Hilton Honors card is best for you?
Finding the right hotel chain and associated credit card can feel like a daunting task. All of Hilton’s co-branded credit cards are offered through American Express, and provide cardholders with the same basic perks:
- No foreign transaction fees.
- An introductory bonus.
- Honorary Hilton elite member status.
- Extra points for every dollar spent on the credit card.
- Bonus points for any purchases made at Hilton properties.
But which card exactly will be the right one for your particular needs? Sometimes, it helps to comparison-shop by having all the options laid out, side-by-side. We’ve compiled this handy guide to help you quickly compare the various perks of each Hilton credit card:
Hilton Honors credit cards
|Rewards rate||Introductory bonus||Annual fee|
75,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months
|$0 (See rates and fees)
125,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
|$95 (See rates and fees)
125,000 points if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months
|$95 (See rates and fees)
150,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months
The no-annual-fee card: Hilton Honors Card from American Express
If you’re an infrequent traveler who only travels for leisure, the basic, no-fee Hilton Honors card from American Express may be your best bet. This card offers some solid perks, including no foreign transaction fees, as well as a generous 75,000-point welcome bonus after spending $1,000 within the first three months of opening the card.
The Hilton Honors credit card, as with all the credit cards in this guide, offers cardholders automatic elite status at all Hilton properties. Hilton’s Silver elite status offers Hilton members the following perks:
- Free Wi-Fi.
- No resort fees charged for award stays.
- Late checkout.
- The hotel’s best price guarantee.
- Your choice of rooms.
- The option of using a digital hotel key with over 3,000 participating hotels.
- Two free water bottles per stay.
- Fifth night free on rewards stays.
- Elite rollover nights.
You receive seven points per every dollar that goes toward purchases at participating Hilton brand hotels. This includes incidentals such as bottled water, drinks and room service. You’ll also earn five points per dollar spent at restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations within the United States. These are solid perks for a credit card which won’t cost you anything to keep open.
The premium card: Hilton Honors Ascend
The Hilton Ascend is a midrange card ideal for families or individuals who anticipate at least a few nights’ stay in a Hilton property each year. The card’s $95 annual fee is offset by the improved welcome bonus offer. The Hilton Ascend introductory bonus will net you 125,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after spending $2,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months. Based on our valuations, this bonus is worth $500 in hotel stays. As with all of the Hilton cards, the Hilton Ascend does not charge any foreign transaction fees.
The Hilton Honors Ascend card offers the same earning structure as the no-fee card, but at a higher rate: 12 points per dollar on Hilton purchases and 6 points per dollar on restaurant, supermarket and gas station purchases within the U.S.
The Hilton Ascend credit card also comes with automatic elite status at all Hilton properties. Gold status offers Hilton members the following perks in addition to Silver status perks:
- Unlimited milestone bonuses after staying at least 40 nights within a calendar year.
- Space-available room upgrades.
- Free continental breakfast at all Hilton properties excluding Hilton Grand Vacations.
One exciting bonus opportunity with the Hilton Ascend card kicks in your second year of card membership. Each year they spend $15,000 on the card, cardholders receive a certificate for a free weekend night at any Hilton property, beginning on their first anniversary. Since the certificate can be used on any property worldwide, it’s potentially worth hundreds of dollars, easily offsetting your annual fee.
Finally, air travelers will appreciate that the Hilton Ascend credit card includes 10 Priority Pass lounge access passes, which can be used at over 1,000 participating airport lounges in 130 countries around the world. If you aren’t familiar with the Priority Pass program, you can read more about it here.
The business card: Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
Similar to the Hilton Ascend, the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card is a midrange credit card currently offering the same 125,000-point bonus for spending $3,000 within the first three months of card ownership.
The Hilton Business credit card carries a $95 annual fee, just like the Hilton Ascend, and waives all foreign transaction fees. While Hilton Ascend and Hilton Business card holders alike will earn 12 points per dollar for booked hotel rooms and incidental expenses at Hilton-branded hotel properties, the Hilton Business card offers expanded earning opportunity on common business purchases, making it a good choice for business owners who want to earn Hilton points on their business spending.
As with the Hilton Ascend, Hilton Business credit card holders receive a free weekend night after spending $15,000 or more on the card within a single calendar year. Furthermore, cardholders get a second weekend night after spending an additional $45,000 in the same year. That’s two free weekend nights if you can reach a combined spend of $60,000 within a calendar year.
Finally, the Hilton Business credit card also comes with automatic Gold status at all Hilton properties. The card offers the same Gold status perks as the Ascend card (see previous section).
The elite card: Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express
Finally, for road warriors and high rollers, the Hilton Honors Aspire card comes with a large $450 annual fee but also offers generous benefits that offset the cost of the card, including a $250 airline incidental fee credit for purchases such as food and drink and a $250 annual Hilton resort statement credit. The Hilton Honors Aspire currently offers a 150,000-point introductory bonus after new cardholders spend $4,000 in the first three months.
The Hilton Aspire card is ideal for travelers who are dedicated to staying at Hilton-branded properties due to the 14 points per dollar that it offers on Hilton hotel stays and its generous hotel perks. The card entitles you to automatic Diamond elite status with access to the following perks in addition to Gold status perks:
- Executive lounge access.
- 48-hour room guarantee.
- Elite status gifting after staying 60 nights within a calendar year.
Finally, the Hilton Aspire card comes with unlimited Priority Pass membership, which means you can bring two guests into any participating airport lounge around the world. This membership alone is worth the price of the card.
Note: once-in-a-lifetime limit on introductory bonuses
American Express has one of the strictest policies on earning introductory bonuses: If you have previously owned a specific card, you can’t earn an introductory bonus the second time around. This rule was put in place to deter credit card churners – people who sign up for cards just to earn the bonuses, and then cancel right afterward. So when making your choice of the right credit card for your needs, check to see if you have owned one of these cards in the past. If you have, then you might opt for a credit card that will allow you to earn an introductory bonus.
Also, since American Express frequently changes the introductory bonuses on its Hilton cards, you should look at each Hilton card's bonus history to see if the bonus is at its peak. You may want to delay your application for a particular card until the bonus increases.
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