Hilton Honors Credit Cards: How to Earn Points and Get Free Night Stays

Ellen Sirull

Ellen Sirull | Blog

Apr 18, 2019 | Updated Jul 19, 2019

There are four different co-branded Hilton credit cards — which one is right for you, to help you get the most out of every hotel stay?

We break down your Hilton card options, showing you how to earn more points than regular members and which benefits stand out above the rest.

Best Overall Hilton Honors Aspire Card
Best for Welcome Bonus Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (Review)
Best for No Annual Fee Hilton Honors American Express Card
Best for Small Business Owners/Freelancers The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (Review)

Hilton Hotels and the Hilton Honors Rewards Program

Hilton offers plenty of choices for lodging with 5,600 properties worldwide and 17 brands including DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Waldorf Astoria, and more.

The Hilton rewards program launched in 1987 as the HHonors Program. In early 2017 the company dropped the second “H” from the name to make it less repetitive, and made some changes to how points accumulate for rewards members.

Hilton Honors Membership Benefits

There are over 85 million members of the Hilton Honors program and, frankly, many of the offerings are pretty similar to other hotel rewards programs.

For example, members always get the lowest price on all Hilton hotels when they book directly on Hilton.com or the Hilton Honors app. The app’s “Order Ahead” feature lets you request extra pillows or a favorite snack for the room prior to arrival.

Members earn points for every eligible dollar spent with Hilton, and get exclusive deals and promotions to earn more points or access complimentary services.

Hilton also provides some additional niceties such as free WiFi, which all members receive both in their rooms and in the lobby during stays. Diamond status members get Premium WiFi for free (so they have faster internet to binge Netflix while lounging in a comfy hotel bed).

One unique addition to the Honors program came in September 2017, when Hilton became the first hotel brand to offer the opportunity to shop on Amazon.com with its points. Members just link their Honors account to their Amazon account to take advantage of it. While this was an industry first in the hotel space, many credit card reward programs offer the option to shop with points on Amazon.com.

While you can use your points for online shopping, we don’t recommend doing so because you’ll get the best point values when redeeming for award stays in the Hilton portfolio of hotels. Instead, just use a credit card to shop on Amazon to earn rewards as normal.

Additionally, Hilton Honors members can use points to gain exclusive access to private concert experiences in cities such as Houston, Nashville, D.C., L.A., and London. This isn’t too special, however, as other hotels like Marriott (through its Bonvoy rewards program) and Hyatt (via its World of Hyatt program) offer special events available to members only as do Amex, Chase, and Citi.

We break down some additional Hilton Honors benefits (by member level) below.

Earning Hilton Honors Points

How fast can you earn points with Hilton’s rewards program? Members earn 10 Base points for every dollar spent at most Hilton hotels, but you can earn extra Bonus points with elite status levels.

Hilton members with elite status will get a bonus on the Base points earned — the higher the status, the bigger the bonus. Take note that this bonus only applies to Base points in the Hilton rewards program, not Bonus points. Silver status provides a 20% bonus, for example, which would give you a total of 12 points per dollar when earning at the 10X rate.

Some of the value-focused brands earn fewer points: Stays at Tru and Home2 Suites hotels earn 5 Base points per dollar.

You can earn even more with a Hilton credit card, because the points you get from the card are added to any points you earn as a member. But those cards provide Bonus points, not Base points, so the elite status bonus won’t apply to them.

Hilton Honors Membership Levels

The basic member level in the Hilton Honors system is simply called “Member,” and there are three elite membership levels above that: Silver, Gold, and Diamond. Instead of the qualifications listed below, you can also reach some of these status levels simply by having or spending a certain amount with select Hilton credit cards.

Each membership level provides additional benefits and perks, including:

Member Silver Gold Diamond
Qualifications Join program 4 stays,
10 nights
20 stays, 40 nights,
75K Hilton Honors Base points
30 stays, 60 nights,
120K Hilton Honors Base points
Elite bonus (added to Base points) None 20% 80% 100%
5th standard reward night free No Yes Yes Yes
Room upgrades (space permitting) No No Yes Yes
Complimentary continental breakfast No No Yes Yes
Complimentary Executive Lounge access (where available) No No No Yes
Dedicated 24-hour customer support No No No Yes

As you can see, the elite statuses come with perks like complimentary room upgrades and a substantial bonus to your Base points — you’ll leave basic members in the dust when it comes to earning points and relaxing in style.

Diamond status is obviously the best, and includes access to the Executive Lounge when the hotel has one (they’re usually in Hilton hotels and other higher-end brands). This is nice because they usually have tasty free food offerings like breakfast, evening appetizers and cocktail hours, snacks throughout the day, and comfortable seating to work, meet, or relax.

Members also have an unlimited milestone bonus that starts on their 40th night each year, which earns an additional 10,000 points for every ten nights. So, Gold and Diamond status members will usually get that bonus (unless they qualify using only credit card spend).

How Many Points Will You Earn?

A sample rate at the Hampton Inn in New York City’s iconic Times Square is $379/night (before taxes and fees, for the sake of example).

Example rates at the Hampton Inn Manhattan/Times Square Central.

Hilton Honors members earn between 3,790–7,580 points per night on that $379 stay, depending on their status level:

Status Points Earned/Dollar Points Earned/Night Points Earned/4-Night Stay
Member 10 3,790 15,160
Silver 12 4,548 18,192
Gold 18 6,822 27,288
Diamond 20 7,580 30,320

Redeeming Hilton Honors Points

The Hilton portfolio is vast, giving hotel aficionados a wide range from luxury properties like Waldorf Astoria to value-focused Hampton Inns, along with Home2 Suites for extended stays. The cost for an award night varies depending on the brand, category, location, and season (peak or off-peak).

For example, the Times Square Hampton Inn room mentioned previously would cost 70,000 Honors reward points:

An example reward night at the Hampton Inn Manhattan/Times Square Central.

Hilton also has special point offerings seasonally for various locations worldwide. For example, at the time of publication, there were some excellent 30,000-point offers including:

Some seasonal deals in hotels around the world. Image credit: Hilton

Some seasonal deals in hotels around the world. Image credit: Hilton

Hilton Credit Cards: Picking the Best One for You

There are four different Hilton Honors credit cards available. Remember that the Hilton Bonus points earned with these cards are in addition to the Base points you’ll earn as a member, but elite status bonuses won’t apply to Bonus points.

Here’s a snapshot of their offerings so you can compare them and find the best option to add to your wallet.

Hilton Honors Card Hilton Honors Surpass Card Hilton Honors Aspire Card
Welcome bonus 90,000 points for spending $2,000 in the first 3 months 130,000 points and a Free Weekend Night for spending $4,000 in the first 4 months 150,000 points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
Rewards
  • 7X: Hilton
  • 5X: U.S. Restaurants, U.S. Supermarkets, U.S. Gas stations
  • 3X: Other purchases
  • 12X: Hilton
  • 6X: U.S. Restaurants, U.S. Supermarkets, U.S. Gas stations
  • 3X: Other purchases
  • 14X: Hilton
  • 7X: Flights (direct with airline or Amex Travel), Select car rentals, U.S. Restaurants
  • 3X: Other purchases
Hilton Honors Business Card
Welcome bonus 130,000 points and a Free Weekend Night for spending $5,000 in the first 4 months
Rewards
  • 12X: Hilton
  • 6X: U.S. Gas stations, U.S. Restaurants, U.S. Shipping purchases, Wireless phone services (direct from U.S. providers), Flights (direct with airlines or Amex Travel), Select car rentals
  • 3X: Other purchases
Hilton Honors Card Hilton Honors Surpass Card Hilton Honors Aspire Card Hilton Honors Business Card
Annual fee $0 $95 $450 $95
Member status Silver, upgrade to Gold after $20K eligible spend in a calendar year Gold, upgrade to Diamond after $40K eligible spend in a calendar year Diamond Gold, upgrade to Diamond after $40K eligible spend in a calendar year
Free weekend night No Yes, after $15K spend in one calendar year Yes, after receiving your card and upon renewal of card membership each year Yes, after $15K spend in one calendar year
Priority Pass lounge access No 10 complimentary Priority Pass airport lounge visits per year Unlimited Priority Pass airport lounge visits 10 complimentary Priority Pass airport lounge visits per year
Statement Credits None None

Hilton resorts: $250 annually

Airline incidentals: $250 annually

Waldorf Astoria/Conrad: $100 per visit

None
Foreign transaction fees None None None None
Bottom Line A great option for any Hilton travelers who want to avoid an annual fee This card offers some added perks with a small annual fee The best Hilton card for frequent travelers, despite a higher annual fee A great Hilton credit card for small business owners

Note that credit card offers can change.

We’ve selected this as the best Hilton Honors credit card because it has great perks that many travelers can take advantage of, even though it has a $450 annual fee. You’ll have to use the card enough to make it worth the cost, of course, so infrequent travelers may be better off using a card with a lower fee (or no fee).

The Aspire quickly pays for itself if you travel enough, with the statement credits and especially the free weekend night. For example:

  • Up to $500 or more with your free weekend night: There are a few exclusions, such as some all-inclusive properties, but most Hilton brand hotels will qualify so if you pick a nice one like the London NYC in Manhattan you’ll get a lot of value from this perk.
  • $250 statement credit on Hilton resort stays: You’ll get this statement credit if you stay at any of the 232 Hilton resorts around the world. Prices will vary, but some Hilton resorts are available for as low as $88/night.
  • $250 airline incidental credit: Select one airline from your American Express member dashboard online or by calling the number on the back of your card. Do keep in mind that only incidental charges will qualify, like in-flight food (not flight tickets). And items charged by third parties like Gogo Inflight WiFi won’t count since they’re not coming directly from the airline.

All that could equal $1,000 or more, offsetting the annual fee in full and providing quite a bit of extra value.

The elevated Diamond status you’ll get with the Aspire means you’ll earn points more quickly and be eligible for upgrades and other perks at Hilton. This card also offers unlimited airport lounge visits for you and two guests via the Priority Pass Select membership (providing access to over 1,200 lounges and restaurants in 143 countries).

How Many Points Will You Earn?

On the Times Square hotel stay mentioned above, you’d earn 12,886 points with the Hilton Honors Aspire Card for your $379 Hampton Inn night. You’d earn a total of 34 points per dollar: 14 points per dollar on the card and then an additional 20X points with the Hilton Honors Diamond status the card provides.

That’s 3.5X the points a regular Hilton Honors member would earn (over 9,000 more points) and 5,685 more points than someone with the basic Hilton Honors American Express Card.

 

Want a lot of points fast, for a small fee? The Surpass card’s welcome bonus (also known as an introductory bonus) is pretty easy for most consumers to get.

While the Aspire card has a bigger welcome bonus, this card’s bonus is more easily attainable and provides a better return on your spending since you get more points per dollar spent. You’ll also get Hilton Honors Gold status, so you’ll earn points more quickly than with the Hilton Honors American Express Card and its Silver status.

How Many Points Will You Earn?

On the Times Square hotel stay mentioned above, you’d earn 11,370 points with the Hilton Honors Surpass Card for your $379 Hampton Inn night. You’d earn a total of 30 points per dollar: 12 points per dollar on the card and then an additional 18X points with the Gold status the card provides.

That’s 3X the points a regular Hilton Honors member would earn (over 7,500 more points) and over 4,000 more points than someone with the Hilton Honors American Express Card.

 

If you’re looking for a way to earn Hilton Honors points faster than a normal member but don’t want to pay an annual fee, this card is probably the best pick for you.

There’s a decent welcome bonus, 90,000 points for spending $2,000 in the first three months, and you’ll automatically get Silver status, so you can earn points a little more quickly than regular Honors members. You won’t earn as many Hilton Honors Bonus points, though, as you will with other Hilton credit cards. And the Silver point bonus is quite a bit smaller than the Gold and Diamond levels.

How Many Points Will You Earn?

On the Times Square hotel stay mentioned above, you’d earn 7,201 points with the Hilton Honors American Express Card for your $379 Hampton Inn night. You’d earn a total of 19 points per dollar: 7 points per dollar on the card and then an additional 12X points from the Hilton Honors Silver status.

That’s almost double the points a regular Hilton Honors member would earn (3,411 more points).

 

This card is the best option for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and freelancers (if you don’t want to go big with the Aspire, that is). It’s pretty similar to the Surpass card, but you might want it for the different bonus categories.

The bonus categories, which include many common business expenses, can help you earn rewards on purchases you’re likely already making for your small business. But if those aren’t very attractive or relevant for your business, you may want to stick with a Hilton consumer card.

There are plenty of other credit cards that complement the freelance lifestyle. Check out our top freelancer credit cards to learn about our favorites.

How Many Points Will You Earn?

On the Times Square hotel stay mentioned above, you’d earn 11,370 points with the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card for your $379 Hampton Inn night. You’d earn a total of 30 points per dollar: 12 points per dollar on the card and then an additional 18X points with the Gold status.

That’s 3X the points a regular Hilton Honors member would earn (over 7,500 more points) and over 4,000 more points than someone with the Hilton Honors American Express Card (just like the Surpass).

Applying for a Hilton Credit Card

Ultimately, the best card for you will probably depend on three factors:

  • How frequently you stay at Hilton hotels
  • How much money you’ll spend on the card
  • Your ability to get value from the benefits offered

As with any credit card, you’ll have to apply through the credit card issuer (in this case, Amex). Most of these cards are accessible to anyone with good credit scores or better but each situation is unique.

To give you an idea if you’re likely to get approved, a good FICO Score ranges from approximately 670 to 739. Your credit history and current financial situation will weigh into American Express’ decision, so it’s not all about credit scores. You can always check to see if you’re pre-approved for any offers, so you can see the credit cards you’ll likely qualify for.

If you had a Hilton Honors credit card prior to January 30, 2018, it would’ve been a Citi card. However, Hilton Honors moved to solely offering cards through Amex at that time so any existing Citi Hilton Honors cards were replaced. American Express is now the sole credit card issuer for all Hilton credit cards.

Hacks to Get the Most from Your Hilton Credit Card

Follow these tactics to get even more from your Hilton card:

  • Make it a point to seek out Hilton brand hotels whenever you travel. Use your Hilton credit card for any Hilton stays.
  • Depending on which card you have, take advantage of the extra points you can earn outside of Hilton, like at U.S. gas stations, unless you have a more rewarding card for those purchases.
  • Hilton offers bonus point promotions throughout the year. Check the OFFERS section of the site regularly to see what’s available.
  • Research to make sure you don’t see any lower prices when you book on Hilton.com. If you do, Hilton matches any lower prices and gives you 25% off that stay.
  • You can pool points by transferring to family members, which can help you reach the point requirements for reward stays. Diamond Honors members can also gift Gold status to their favorite travel partner (if you stay 100+ nights, that gift upgrades to Diamond).
  • Don’t forget to use that weekend night reward you earn when you spend enough on eligible purchases or after your annual card membership renewal. You’ll need to call Hilton ahead of your stay to redeem your free nights.
  • If you have the Hilton Surpass, Aspire, or Business card, you can see if there’s an airport lounge available with your Priority Pass Select membership to make that layover or extra airport time more comfortable.
  • You can transfer Amtrak, Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, or Amex Membership Rewards points to Hilton Honors points (or transfer your Honors points to any of these partners). These may not provide the best values for your points, but if you’re trying to collect points quickly for a special trip it may be worth it.

Other Travel Credit Cards to Check Out

If you’re not sure a Hilton Honors credit card is the right fit for you (or if you regularly stay at a variety of hotels and fly with a variety of airlines), you may want to consider other cards with broader travel perks and benefits. Many travel credit cards offer valuable perks that are good for travel in general, rather than for specific brands, like free TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, travel credits, and access to airport lounges.

These cards also often offer introductory bonus points (like the Hilton Amex cards do) if you spend a set amount in the first three or four months. Signup bonuses like these are some of the best ways to get a big return on your spending.

Some other great credit cards tailored for travelers include:

If Hilton’s not your style but you’re a fan of other hotel brands, check out the Best Hotel Credit Cards. You’ll find cards co-branded with other rewards programs like World of Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy, and IHG Rewards Club.
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