What to do with a defunct Citi Hilton card?

Hilton Visa card changes from Citi to American Express

Cashing In columnist Tony Mecia
Tony Mecia is a business journalist who writes for a number of trade and general-interest publications. He writes "Cashing In," a weekly column about credit card rewards programs, for CreditCards.com

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Question Dear Cashing In,
My Hilton Visa is switching to American Express and I haven’t yet had an AmEx card with a bonus. If I let it switch, does this forgo the one time sign-up bonus you get when you get an American Express card? I have heard that you can get only one bonus for AmEx, and I haven’t used it yet. Should I close my card or just let it roll over? – Jenny

Answer Dear Jenny,
Every now and then, companies elect to switch the brands of cards they offer. And when they do, be sure to pay close attention.

The last major switch happened in 2016, also involving Citi and American Express. That year, Costco decided to switch from American Express cards to Citi cards, and for the first time, the warehouse chain started allowing Visa cards to be used.

In this case, Citi and American Express have each offered Hilton cards for years. In June, Citi and Hilton announced that in early 2018, Citi would stop offering Hilton cards. In November, American Express announced that it would start offering additional Hilton cards starting in January 2018, and that people who have existing Citi Hilton cards would receive comparable new American Express cards in their place.

No sign-up bonus for automatic switch

As of mid-December 2017, it is not possible to apply for the new cards yet, and American Express has not announced any sign-up bonuses for them. The company has laid out the terms by which it is transitioning to the Citi cards. It says it will send out the new cards to existing cardholders in January 2018, and that they will start working on Jan. 30, 2018. Card balances will transfer to the new cards.

If you allow yourself to be transitioned from a Citi card to an American Express card, you won’t receive a sign-up bonus for the card, the company says. American Express has not said if there will be sign-up bonuses for people who apply for the new cards, but it seems to be a safe bet that there will be, since most rewards cards with annual fees have sign-up bonuses, and it is common for banks to make cards as appealing as possible when they launch them. 

The American Express policy on sign-up bonuses that went into effect in 2014 is that you cannot receive a sign-up bonus on a card if you have ever had that same card before. You would still be eligible for future sign-up bonuses on other American Express cards, but if you allow yourself to be transitioned to one of the new American Express cards, then close the account and apply for the same card again, you would not be eligible for a sign-up bonus on that card under American Express’ policy. But it is possible that if you went to cancel that new American Express card that the bank would offer you an incentive to keep the card open.

Considerations when canceling

One slight downside to canceling your Citi card and perhaps reapplying for one of the new American Express cards is that you will have another credit inquiry on your credit report, which temporarily lowers your credit score by a few points. If you just allow the card to transition from Citi to American Express, there is no credit pull. 

It is tough to give advice in the absence of full information. My guess is that American Express will release more information on its new Hilton cards in early January as it makes those cards publicly available. But by then, it is possible they will have already sent you a new American Express card. 

I would be tempted to cancel the Citi card and keep your eyes open to new offers from American Express. That might give you more and better options.

See related: Reward card sign-up bonuses not all created equal


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Updated: 03-19-2019