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Hilton has one of the world’s largest hotel portfolios, with properties ranging from high-end luxury resorts to budget-friendly hotels in small cities around the globe. If there’s a certain Hilton property you’ve been eyeing, there are many ways to earn Hilton Honors points to redeem for an upcoming trip.
Hilton currently has welcome offers of up to 150,000 bonus points plus a free night certificate available on its credit cards, and you can earn plenty of extra points on paid stays at Hilton properties when you use the right card. Plus, some cards even come with some Hilton perks like elite status and free night certificates. With so many options, there’s no reason not to have the right credit card for your next stay at a Hilton.
The best Hilton credit cards of 2023
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Best for occasional Hilton travelers.
- Hilton Honors American Express Card: Best for no annual fee.
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Best for business travelers.
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Best for Hilton benefits.
- American Express® Green Card: Best for flexible travel.
Let’s dive into each of these cards to see how they compare to one another, and also take a look at how one credit card that isn’t even from Hilton could potentially maximize the number of miles you earn on travel purchases.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card: Best for occasional Hilton travelers
If you’re looking for a strong welcome offer on a Hilton credit card, a reasonable annual fee and some great Hilton benefits, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card fits the bill perfectly.
Right now, new card members can earn 130,000 bonus points plus a free night reward after spending $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months after opening the account. Based on the point valuations of frequent flyer website The Points Guy, Hilton points are worth 0.6 cents apiece, making the 130,000 bonus points worth as much as $780 in travel. And while the card carries a $95 annual fee annual fee (see rates and fees), there’s fortunately many perks that can help offset the fee.
When you use your Hilton Surpass card for purchases, you’ll earn 12 points for every dollar you spend on eligible purchases at Hilton hotels and resorts, and 6 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and U.S gas stations. All other purchases earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on them.
You’ll get a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership with 10 complimentary visits a year with the Hilton Surpass card, as well as automatic Hilton Gold elite status, which is one of the best mid-tier statuses available across major hotel chains. Gold status perks include complimentary breakfast, space-available upgrades and late checkout when you stay at a Hilton.
If you want, you can also buy your way all the way up to top-tier Hilton Diamond status by spending $40,000 on the card in a calendar year. But that’s a significant amount of money to put on a hotel credit card, and probably not worth it solely for elite status.
Finally, you can earn a free night reward certificate with the Hilton Surpass card if you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year. This certificate can be used at any Hilton property as long as a standard room is available.
Learn more and apply for the Hilton Honors Surpass Card.
Read CNN Underscored’s full review of the Hilton Honors Surpass Card.
Hilton Honors American Express Card: Best for no annual fee
For a card that never has an no annual fee (see rates and fees), the Hilton Honors American Express Card shines thanks to its current welcome bonus. While the offer might not be as high as the ones that come with other Hilton credit cards, you’ll never have to worry about paying a dime out of your pocket to reap the benefits.
Right now, the Hilton Honors Amex card is offering new card members 70,000 bonus points plus a free night reward after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months after opening the account. Based on The Points Guy’s valuations, the points are worth about $420 at a Hilton hotel.
Related: Lower your expenses by getting one of these credit cards with no annual fee
With the Hilton Honors Amex card, you’ll earn 7 points for every dollar you spend on eligible purchases at Hilton hotels and resorts, and 5 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations. You’ll also earn 3 points per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.
Although this card is lowest on the totem pole in terms of Hilton benefits, you’ll still get complimentary Hilton Silver elite status with the Hilton Amex Card. And while Silver status isn’t nearly the same as Gold, checking into a Hilton hotel with some sort of elite status — versus no status at all — can only help.
You’ll also have the opportunity to upgrade to Hilton Gold status if you spend $20,000 on the card within a calendar year, but again, it’s not something we would necessarily recommend doing.
The Hilton Honors Amex card is best for those who don’t stay at Hilton properties often enough to warrant paying an annual fee, but are still loyal enough to the Hilton brand that the benefits and the points earned from the welcome bonus are useful. The card is also eligible for Amex Offers and doesn’t carry any foreign transaction fees — a big perk on a no-annual-fee card.
Learn more and apply for the Hilton Honors American Express Card.
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Best for business travelers
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card is very similar to the Hilton Surpass Card, even offering the same bonus offer — albeit a slightly different minimum spend requirement. It also comes with the exact same annual fee of $95 (see rates and fees).
Right now, new card members can earn 150,000 bonus points plus a free night reward when you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first three months after opening the account. Those 150,000 bonus points are worth as much as $900 in travel, based on the valuations of The Points Guy.
Also like the Hilton Surpass, you’ll get Hilton Gold status simply by being a Hilton Amex Business card member (along with the opportunity to upgrade to Diamond status by spending $40,000 on the card within a calendar year), a free night reward certificate after spending $15,000 on the card within the calendar year, a second free night certificate after spending $60,000 total on the card within the calendar year and a Priority Pass Select membership with 10 complimentary lounge visits a year.
Related: These business credit cards earn rewards and can get you through a cash crunch
One big difference on the Hilton Amex Business card is that the bonus categories are catered more toward small businesses, and it’s a much longer list. You’ll earn 12 points for every dollar you spend at Hilton hotels and resorts, and 6 points per dollar spent at all of the following:
- U.S. gas stations
- U.S. restaurants
- U.S. purchases for shipping
- Wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers
- Fights booked directly with airlines or with Amex Travel
- Car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies
And like all the Hilton credit cards, you’ll also earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on any purchases made outside the bonus categories.
If you stay at Hilton properties occasionally, the Hilton Amex Business card will help you earn as many rewards as possible during your business travels. And even if you don’t own a large formal business, if you sell products online, work as a ride-share driver or even have a side hustle that you do in your spare time, you may already be a business owner.
In most cases, small businesses are allowed to legitimately apply for many business credit cards using an owner’s Social Security number. So even if you’re just starting out in your new venture, don’t let that deter you — just be honest on your application.
Learn more and apply for the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Best for Hilton benefits
If you’re looking for a high-end luxury card that provides plenty of VIP travel benefits — both at Hilton properties and elsewhere — the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is your best option. Although this card comes with an expensive $450 annual fee, for the right person, the benefits on the card can outweigh the fee by a lot.
The Hilton Aspire currently comes with 150,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within your first three months of card membership. And with the Hilton Aspire, every year you have the card, you’ll earn up to a $250 Hilton resort statement credit and up to a $250 airline fee credit. If you’re able to use these credits in their entirety on purchases you would have otherwise paid for in cash, then you’re already saving $500 a year, putting you $50 ahead even after paying the $450 annual fee.
Additionally, you’ll receive a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership with unlimited visits, and complimentary top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond status without even having to put any additional spending on your credit card — or even having to step foot into a Hilton hotel. Diamond elite status grants you lounge access, space-available room upgrades, complimentary breakfast and late checkout.
The Hilton Aspire card also comes with a free night reward certificate every year — including the first year you’re a card member — and the opportunity to earn a second certificate when you spend $60,000 on the card within a card member year (meaning each year starting from the date when you first opened the card).
On top of all these travel benefits, the Hilton Aspire also features the highest points-earning rate when staying at Hilton properties. You’ll earn an amazing 14 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at Hilton hotels, along with 7 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, on flights booked directly with airlines and car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies. You’ll also earn 3 points per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
American Express Green Card: Best for flexible travel reward
If you want just one card for all of your travel needs, then you might want to consider the American Express Green Card. While it’s not a Hilton-specific card, it earns Membership Rewards points, which can be transferred to many airline and hotel loyalty programs, including Hilton Honors.
When you transfer points earned with the Amex Green card to Hilton, you’ll earn 2 Hilton points for every Membership Rewards point you transfer (meaning a 1-to-2 ratio). The Amex Green currently has a welcome offer of 60,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on the card within the first six months after opening the account, so those points can be transferred into 120,000 Hilton points if you choose. Additionally, as part of the current welcome offer, you’ll also earn 20% back on eligible travel and transit purchases made during your first six months of card membership (up to $200 back in the form of a statement credit).
While this is another way to earn Hilton points, it’s important to remember that Amex Membership Rewards points typically can be worth even more when transferred to other loyalty partners — especially international airline partners if you’re looking to redeem your points for business and first class travel.
Related: Green, Gold, Platinum: What’s the difference between American Express cards?
With the Amex Green, you’ll earn 3 points for every dollar you spend at restaurants, on transit, and on most travel purchases, not just Hilton stays. And while Hilton’s own credit cards earn 3 points per dollar on all non-Hilton travel purchases, you earn two Hilton points for every one Membership Rewards point you transfer, meaning the points you earn with the Amex Green are worth twice as many Hilton points.
The perks that come with the Amex Green can also be useful if you’re currently traveling, as you’ll earn up to $189 in Clear membership credits, as well as up to $100 in LoungeBuddy airport lounge credits. If you’d normally pay cash for these purchases, they more than make up for the card’s $150 annual fee.
Related: Earn up to $100 a year in airport lounge access with the Amex Green card
Which Hilton credit card is right for you?
With more than 6,300 Hilton properties worldwide, it’s very easy to be loyal to Hilton, regardless of where you’re traveling and whether you’re looking for a budget or luxury property. And if you’re planning a longer stay, one of the best perks in the Hilton Honors program is that you receive the fifth night free on award stays — allowing your points to go even further.
Many Hilton travelers will be best off with either the Hilton Surpass card or the Hilton Amex Business card. Both have great welcome bonuses and come with complimentary Hilton Gold status. The main difference between the two credit cards ultimately comes down to the bonus categories and whether you’re eligible to apply for a business card.
On the other hand, if you’re not traveling much but you’d still like to rack up Hilton points without paying an annual fee, then the Hilton Honors Amex card is your best bet.
If you’re planning on spending a lot of time at Hilton properties in the next 12 months, then the Hilton Aspire card might be worth considering. Although the card has a significantly higher $450 annual fee, the benefits are by far the best. As long as you can take advantage of the up to $500 in annual credits, the free night reward certificate and the unlimited Priority Pass airport lounge membership, your cost will easily outweigh the annual fee.
And at the end of the day, if you want more flexibility when you’re earning and redeeming travel points, you might find that a credit card outside of the official Hilton lineup is a better option. The Amex Green card earns 3 Amex Membership Rewards points on all travel purchases, and your points can be transferred to your Hilton account at a 1-to-2 ratio — or to many other travel partners at other ratios.
Learn more about the Hilton Honors Amex Surpass card.
Learn more about the Hilton Honors Amex Card.
Learn more about the Hilton Honors Amex Business card.
Learn more about the Hilton Honors Amex Aspire card.
Learn more about the Amex Green card.
Click here for rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Surpass card.
Click here for rates and fees of the Hilton Amex card.
Click here for rates and fees of the Hilton Business card.
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