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Citi Hilton Reserve Review
Citi launched the Citi Hilton Reserve card which should be useful for folks looking to get free Hilton hotel stays, for Big Spenders to get top-tier Diamond elite status and a free weekend night, and for folks who stay at a Hilton for a few nights a year to get Hilton Gold elite status for free breakfast and internet.
In 2007 Chase hired Gordon Smith, a top American Express credit card executive to head their credit card division. Citi followed in 2010 by hiring Jud Linville, another American Express credit card executive to head their US credit card operations.
And the new Citi Hilton Reserve card goes head-to-head with the American Express Hilton Surpass card, and in my opinion, is a better card than the American Express Surpass card.
With the Citi Hilton Reserve, you get 2 free weekend nights valid at most Hilton hotels, free Hilton gold elite status (free internet and breakfast) which can save at least $30 a day, and no foreign transaction fees.
If I was new to miles and points, I wouldn’t apply for this card instead of the 2 Citi American Airlines cards first. But the Citi Hilton Reserve card is worth considering later on (and perhaps you can get 2 of them) – especially since it isn’t a Chase card and because almost everyone can save money with the free weekend nights at a Hilton hotel or with Hilton gold status.
1. 2 Free Weekend Nights
You get 2 free weekend night certificates (weekend = Friday, Saturday, or Sunday) at any Hilton hotel after spending $2,500 within 4 months. The certificates are valid for 12 months from when they are issued and your Citi Reserve card must be open when you redeem the certificate.
The good news is that this includes category 1 to 7 Hilton hotels which cost 7,500 to 50,000 points a night AND Waldorf Astoria hotels which cost 60,000 to 80,000 points a night.
The annual fee is $95, so you’re effectively getting each night for $47.50 in addition to the free internet and breakfast because of the Hilton gold status!
The bad new is that you can only redeem the free night certificates for weekends i.e. Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, so you can’t use them to have a week long vacation in Paris. But you could use the certificates for the weekends and use regular Hilton points for the remaining days since there are many other ways to earn 450,000 Hilton points.
You also cannot use the free night certificates at all-inclusive or Hilton Grand hotels in addition to Waldorf Astoria hotels which do not offer standard rooms and have all suites or villas.
Hilton has over 3,800 hotels, and I’ve been told that fewer than 50 hotels are excluded. I’ve asked for a list of excluded hotels.
You can use the free night certificates at the Grand Wailea in Hawaii, the Hilton in Paris, or the Hilton in Bora Bora which offer standard rooms, but won’t be able to use them at the Waldorf Astoria in the Maldives which has only suites & villas.
You can usually get 2 Citi Hilton or Thank You cards every 3 to 4 months, unlike the Citi American Airlines personal cards which require a wait of 18+ months before applications. I wonder if folks can get 2 Citi Reserve cards and 2 sets of free weekend nights at the same time as well…
2. Free Gold Elite Status
You get free Hilton Gold elite status for as long as you have the card. Hilton Gold elite status is the best mid-tier status of any hotel chain because it includes free internet AND free breakfast, in addition to 25% extra points for paid stays, and a shot at room upgrades.
You also get a 15%, 20% & 25% discount when redeeming for a 4, 5 or 6 or longer night award as a Gold member.
The benefits of Gold elite status apply to both paid as well as award reservations using Hilton points.
Granted that there are often other ways to earn free Hilton Gold status, but for some folks Gold status can save you money when you stay at Hilton hotels and may be a reason to keep this card after the 1st year.
For example, if internet and breakfast each cost $10 per day at the hotel, you save $30 per day (more in expensive cities) if there are 2 of you in a room. So you recover the $95 annual fee in about 3 nights.
The American Express Hilton Surpass card offers free Gold status, but only for the 1st year after which you get only Silver elite status.
Status matching to get free Hyatt nights in suite
You may also be able to match Hilton Gold status to a Hyatt Diamond trial if you have a few points in your Hilton account, though sometimes you need to have a few stays in your Hilton account. You may only be able to match to Hyatt Diamond status once in your life so choose wisely!
This means that you have Hyatt Diamond status for 60 days and 4 confirmed suite upgrades in Hyatt hotels for paid stays. And you can keep the Diamond status if you stay 12 nights within the 60 days of your trial Diamond membership.
But if you apply for the Chase Hyatt credit card as a Diamond member (even on a trial), you should get the 2 free Hyatt nights in a suite!
You can email Hyatt at email@example.com call Hyatt to ask for the status match
3. Free Weekend Night After Spending $10,000 Each Year
You get a free weekend night after spending $10,000 within your membership year (1 year from the date when you are approved and resets each year).
The free weekend night is not valid at all-inclusive or Hilton Grand hotels in addition to Waldorf Astoria hotels which do not offer standard rooms and have all suites or villas.
This isn’t, in my opinion, as good as the Chase Priority Club card which gets you a free night every year just by keeping the card (worth every cent of its $49 fee) or even the Chase Hyatt card which gets you a free night in a category 1 to 4 Hyatt hotel.
But I do see this as the trend going forward – cards which make you spend money to earn an additional benefit each year.
4. Top Tier Hilton Diamond Status After Spending $40,000
The Citi Hilton card also gets you top-tier Hilton Diamond status after spending $40,000 within a calendar year (January to December). The Diamond status is valid for the year in which you earn in and the entire next year.
Diamond status gets you a 50% point bonus on paid rooms and a real shot at good room upgrades.
The American Express Surpass card also gets you Hilton Diamond status after spending $40,000 a year, but you do NOT get the free weekend night which you get with the Citi Reserve card after spending $10,000.
So Big Spenders are better off earning Hilton Diamond status on the Citi Hilton Reserve card since they will get top tier Hilton Diamond status AND a free weekend night for spending $40,000.
5. No Foreign Transaction Fees & Card Has a Chip
Unlike the American Express Surpass card which charges a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, the Citi Hilton Reserve does NOT charge a foreign transaction fee.
Paying a foreign transaction fee is usually never worth the miles and points you earn, so this is a welcome feature of the card.
The card also has Chip and Signature technology, which could make using automated machines in certain countries easier to use, but don’t count on it.
6. 10 Points at Hilton Hotels, 5 Points for Airline and Car Rental and 3 Point per $1 for Everything Else.
You earn 10 points per $1 spent at Hilton hotels which is better than the 9 points per $1 spent using the American Express Surpass card. And this is also the better card for using at Hilton hotels outside the US because it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
However, you do earn 500 points for online bookings made using an American Express Surpass card, so the extra 1 point per $1 could be a wash depending on how much you pay per stay.
The American Express Surpass card earns 6 points per $1 at spent supermarkets, drugstores, gas stations, phone, internet & cable, so that could be more valuable to some than the 5 points per $1 spend on airlines and car rentals with the Hilton Surpass card.
7. $95 Annual Fee
The $95 annual fee is not waived for the 1st year, but I’d gladly pay that for 2 free weekend nights at a Hilton hotel worldwide and free Hilton Gold status.
Why you still want a no-fee American Express Hilton card
Both the American Express Surpass card and the no-fee American Express card get you access to AXON awards where you can redeem 4 nights at a top category 7 hotel for 145,000 points.
With the Citi Hilton Reserve, you would have to pay 170,000 points for 4 nights at a top category 7 Hilton after the 15% discount.
So the best strategy if you collect Hilton points (and there are lots of ways to do that) could be to get the Hilton Reserve Card for the free nights, gold elite status, and potential to earn Hilton Diamond status, but to also get a no-fee American Express Hilton card for access to discounted award redemptions.
Bottom Line: The Citi Hilton Reserve card is a welcome addition from Citi which hasn’t had a lot of new offers in the miles and points world. I wouldn’t get the card for the free weekend nights unless I knew I was going to use them within the next 12 months since the free night certificates expire, but the card does give you an easy way to get 2 free weekend nights & free internet and breakfast.
If you stay at Hilton hotels more than 3 or 4 times a year and don’t have Hilton Gold status, it could be worth paying the annual fee for Hilton Gold Status. And the card is the best option for Big Spenders who can spend $40,000 for Hilton Diamond status.
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