Reviews Citi Hilton Honors Reserve card review
Citi Hilton Honors Reserve card review

Citi Hilton Honors Reserve card review

Published: May 30, 2017
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Ratings Policy
Hotel Rating:
3.9 rating
3.9 rating
3.9 / 5
Rewards Value: 3.3
Annual Percentage Rate: 5.0
Rewards Flexibility: 4.2
Hotel Options: 4.5
Features: 5.0

In a nutshell:

If you are a Hilton fan, the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve card offers some terrific benefits that make up nicely for a relatively high annual fee.

Rewards Rate

  • 10:1 Hilton portfolio hotel stays
  • 5:1 airline and car rental
  • 3:1 general purchases

Sign-up Bonus
2 free weekend nights if you spend $2,500 in first 4 months (worth up to 190,000 points)

Annual Bonus
1 free night each year that you spend $10,000 (worth up to 95,000 points)

Annual Fee
$95

APR
15.99%

Estimated Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$497

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Points don’t expire as long as card is active every 12 months
  • No blackout dates or capacity controls
  • Huge network of hotels with an array of brands, from budget to ultra-luxury
  • Redeem for hotel stays, experiences, on-property rewards, airfare, car rentals, cruises, shopping and dining, charity
  • Use points plus money to book rewards at some properties
  • Use points to upgrade a reservation
  • Transfer to 41 airline partners

Cons

  • Expensive rewards redemption scheme
  • Can only use free night certificate if standard room is available
  • Confusing and unpredictable “seasonal pricing” in some categories (e.g., the points spread in Category 7 is 30,000-60,000 points)
  • Hilton’s availability guarantee only applies to standard rooms – Poor rate for any redemptions other than hotels

Hotel Options

  • Properties: 4,600
  • Countries served: 100

Other Notable Features: Automatic gold status, 25% bonus on Hilton Honors base points, fifth night free for every hotel stay, airport lounge access, free Wi-Fi, late check-out, free room upgrades, no foreign-transaction fees, price protection, lost baggage insurance, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, damage and theft purchase protection, Apple Pay, discounts and special deals at luxury hotels, concierge service

Rewards Rating:
4.2 rating
4.2 rating
4.2 / 5
Rewards Value: 4.4
Annual Percentage Rate: 4.0
Rewards Flexibility: 3.8
Features: 5.0

In a nutshell:

One of the best hotel cards on the market, the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve card showers cardholders with ample rewards on hotel stays, airfare and general credit card purchases and gives moderate spenders an extra free night’s stay each year.

Rewards Rate

  • 10:1 Hilton portfolio hotel stays
  • 5:1 airline and car rental
  • 3:1 general purchases

Sign-up Bonus
2 free weekend nights if you spend $2,500 in first 4 months (worth up to 190,000 points)

Annual Fee
$95

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$497

APR
15.99%

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Points don’t expire as long as card is active every 12 months
  • No blackout dates or capacity controls
  • Huge network of hotels with an array of brands, from budget to ultra-luxury
  • Redeem for hotel stays, experiences, on-property rewards, airfare, car rentals, cruises, shopping and dining, charity
  • Use points plus money to book rewards at some properties
  • Use points to upgrade a reservation
  • Transfer to 41 airline partners

Cons

  • Expensive rewards redemption scheme
  • Can only use free night certificate if standard room is available
  • Confusing and unpredictable “seasonal pricing” in some categories (e.g., the points spread in Category 7 is 30,000-60,000 points)
  • Hilton’s availability guarantee only applies to standard rooms – Poor rate for any redemptions other than hotels

Other Notable Features: Automatic gold status, 25% bonus on Hilton Honors base points, fifth night free for every hotel stay, airport lounge access, free Wi-Fi, late check-out, free room upgrades, no foreign-transaction fees, price protection, lost baggage insurance, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, damage and theft purchase protection, Apple Pay, discounts and special deals at luxury hotels, concierge service

Travel Rating:
4.2 rating
4.2 rating
4.2 / 5
Rewards Value: 4.4
Annual Percentage Rate: 4.0
Rewards Flexibility: 3.8
Features: 5.0

In a nutshell:

Our top pick for regular Hilton hotel guests, this premium hotel card offers an outstanding number of points for hotel and airline purchases, extra points for everyday purchases and a sign-up bonus that’s worth up to two free nights at a Hilton hotel.

Rewards Rate

  • 10:1 Hilton portfolio hotel stays
  • 5:1 airline and car rental
  • 3:1 general purchases

Sign-up Bonus
2 free weekend nights if you spend $2,500 in first 4 months (worth up to 190,000 points)

Annual Fee
$95

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$497

APR
15.99%

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Points don’t expire as long as card is active every 12 months
  • No blackout dates or capacity controls
  • Huge network of hotels with an array of brands, from budget to ultra-luxury
  • Redeem for hotel stays, experiences, on-property rewards, airfare, car rentals, cruises, shopping and dining, charity
  • Use points plus money to book rewards at some properties
  • Use points to upgrade a reservation
  • Transfer to 41 airline partners

Cons

  • Expensive rewards redemption scheme
  • Can only use free night certificate if standard room is available
  • Confusing and unpredictable “seasonal pricing” in some categories (e.g., the points spread in Category 7 is 30,000-60,000 points)
  • Hilton’s availability guarantee only applies to standard rooms – Poor rate for any redemptions other than hotels

Other Notable Features: Automatic gold status, 25% bonus on Hilton Honors base points, fifth night free for every hotel stay, airport lounge access, free Wi-Fi, late check-out, free room upgrades, no foreign-transaction fees, price protection, lost baggage insurance, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, damage and theft purchase protection, Apple Pay, discounts and special deals at luxury hotels, concierge service

The Hilton Hotels and Resorts brand is affiliated with several credit cards that allow you to earn extra points that you can use for free stays at the company’s hotels or resorts.  Among those, the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve card is unusual in its approach – rather than offer a fixed amount of points as a sign-up bonus, it awards you with two free nights at almost any Hilton property in the world, with a few exceptions. The superb flexibility that Hilton gives you in redeeming this certificate makes it far more valuable than your typical sign-up bonus.

Among other valuable perks are an upgrade to the mid-tier elite status with some fantastic benefits, and a chance to earn another free night annually. There is also the possibility of obtaining the top diamond elite status through credit card spending alone – a  rare benefit for a co-branded travel credit card.

Massive sign-up bonus
You get two free nights at any Hilton worldwide after spending $2,500 in the first four months. Since the most expensive Hilton property costs 95,000 points per night, that’s the equivalent of up to 190,000 points, which is three to five times more than the sign-up bonus normally offered by other Hilton co-branded credit cards. One caveat: You can use your bonus only on weekend nights, so you can stay on Friday and Saturday, or Saturday and Sunday.

The Citi Hilton Honors card also offers a very generous yearly bonus for loyal cardholders. You get one free weekend night each anniversary year after you spend $10,000. Again, the certificate is applicable to any Hilton property, worth up to 95,000 points.

Excellent earning scheme
The Citi Hilton Honors Reserve card has quite a good earning scheme. You get 10 points per dollar spent at Hilton properties, five points on airfare and car rentals, and three points on everything else.  Most travel credit cards, including hotel cards, offer a rate of one point per dollar of spending. The Citi Hilton Honors card offers triple this amount on general spending, meaning you can easily accumulate points in a short amount of time.

The high fee is worth it
The Citi Hilton Honors Reserve card includes a $95 annual fee with no waiver in the first year. This is quite high for a hotel card, but the value of the perks and rewards make it well worth it, especially for loyal guests of Hilton hotels. By our estimate, the sign-up bonus on its own is worth more than $800.  Also, the card’s benefits easily surpass the fee after just one or two stays if you value upgrades and a free breakfast.

Flexible rewards redemption
Hilton Honors boasts one of the most flexible redemption policies among hotel rewards programs. Hilton guarantees in its terms and conditions that it does not impose blackout dates or capacity controls on rewards rooms. If a standard room is available, you can book it with rewards points. Also, Hilton offers the ability to use points plus cash to book rewards rooms at some properties. This option may be subject to blackout dates and capacity controls, however.

Huge footprint of hotels
With 4,600 properties in 100 countries, Hilton offers one of the largest networks of hotels in the world. And since Hilton is flexible with rewards bookings, you should be able to find availability at most properties if you book far enough in advance. Basically, your rewards points should be able to take you most places you want to go.

Immediate access to elite benefits
Your card membership automatically grants you gold status in the Hilton Honors program. Hilton gold is the mid-tier status, and it’s one of the best mid-tier elite statuses among hotel loyalty programs. You get a free breakfast – which can be quite expensive and sumptuous at some properties – and a good shot at a free upgrade. In addition, you get a fifth night free on rewards stays, a 25 percent bonus on all Hilton Honors earnings and many other valuable benefits.

The card also lets you earn your way to Hilton’s top tier status simply by using the card. You can qualify for diamond elite status if you spend $40,000 a year on the card. Although this may be too high a level of spending for some cardholders, it should be within the means of many cardholders. It’s rare for a travel credit card to allow members to earn all their status points through credit card spending, especially with such a low threshold.

Tons of other benefits
The Hilton Honors card comes with a generous set of travel benefits. On top of the slew of elite benefits mentioned above, the card features valuable Visa Signature benefits, including car rental insurance, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, and lost baggage insurance. Most notable is its lack of a foreign-transaction fee. You can freely use the card while traveling in foreign countries without having to pay an extra 2 to 3 percent for the convenience.

Reasons to sign up for it:

  • You’re looking for a card with a generous sign-up bonus.
  • You’re a Hilton fan.
  • You’re looking for a hotel rewards card with a large array of hotel options.
  • You want to boost your points collection with an excellent earning scheme.
  • You stay in hotels often enough to take advantage of the perks that come with Honors gold status.
  • You spend a large enough amount on a credit card to qualify for Honors diamond elite status.

How to use it:

  • Meet the $2,500 spending requirement in three months to get two free nights.
  • Consider redeeming the two-night bonus in conjunction with a longer stay. As an elite member, you can book a five-day stay for the price of four and add the two-day bonus at the end or the beginning of your vacation.
  • Book your stay at some of the best Hilton hotels or resorts to maximize the value.
  • Try to spend $10,000 a year on the card to get the annual free night certificate.
  • Take advantage of the third free night benefit for your paid stay, which is part of your premier elite status.

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