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Evaluating Value Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card

Last week, I introduced you to the Hilton Honors Surpass Card and Hilton Honors Card from American Express, but today’s evaluating value is not about those cards. Instead, I’m evaluating the value of the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card which is no longer available. My experience with the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card will influence how I redeem points from my new Amex Hilton Honors Surpass Card and other Hilton Honors credit cards. I primarily use Hilton Honors points for one thing: stays at beautiful resorts in Hawaii. If you have different goals, there are probably better cards out there for you.

I signed up for the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card in January 2016. It was my third points & miles credit card after the British Airways Visa and the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card. Today, I’m going to tell you how I used my sign-up bonus, how much value I got out of the sign-up bonus, and why I cancelled it in December 2017.

Evaluating Value Ground Rules

When evaluating value, I only include the sign-up bonus, the amount of points earned from the minimum spending requirement, and any additional benefits or bonus points earned through perks exclusive to the Hilton Honors program. Everyone’s spending habits are different so I don’t want to confuse the issue with all Hilton Honors points I’ve ever earned.

When I signed up for this card, the bonus was two free weekend night certificates after spending $2,500 in the first four months. The Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card offers 3x the Hilton Honors Points for every $1 spent with the card. While there were other bonus spending categories, for purposes of this evaluation, let’s just say I had 7,500 bonus Hilton Honors points. Also, I earned an additional free weekend night certificate after spending $10,000 on the card in my first year.

How I Used My Hilton Honors Bonus

I used the two free weekend night certificates from the sign-up bonus for two nights at the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa in Maui. I used Hilton Honors points to book a third night and paid cash for a fourth night at the property. You can read more about our stay at Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa in Maui With A Toddler.

I used my additional free weekend night certificate for one night at the Hilton Oakland Airport before our trip to Oahu. The Hilton Oakland Airport makes the list of places I will never stay again. There are a number of reasons for that. But it started with their refusal to acknowledge my free weekend night certificate booking.

At check out, I had the folio sent to my email like always. We checked out electronically and took the shuttle straight to the Oakland Airport for our flight to Oahu. It wasn’t until the next day that I took a closer look at the folio. For some reason, we were charged the rack rate for the room even though it had been booked with a free weekend night certificate. The rack rate was $469! No one ever pays that rate because it’s ridiculous for the mediocre quality of that property. I spent our first few days in Oahu trying to get someone from accounting on the phone. When I finally did, they claimed there was no error and refused to reverse the charge.

Then I called Hilton Honors directly. They confirmed I had booked the room with a free weekend night certificate and should not have been charged. Hilton Honors gave the property three days to reverse the charge or they would reimburse me directly. Sure enough, the property reversed the charge. In the end, even though the Hilton Oakland Airport sucked, Hilton Honors did not and they managed to correct the situation.

How Much Value I Got From My Hilton Honors Bonus

Rooms at the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa were about $360 per night. Those two free weekend night certificates saved us $720.

Rooms at the Hilton Oakland Airport were about $210 per night. (Nowhere near that stupid rack rate!) That additional free weekend night certificate saved us $210.

I paid the $95 annual fee two times before I cancelled this year. The fee was not waived the first year. Also, I had to pay the fee for the second year to use the additional free weekend night certificate.

Between all three free weekend night certificates I saved $930. After paying the annual fees, my savings came down to $740.




Why I Cancelled the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card

I cancelled the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card because I have better cards in my wallet. Once I signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, I had no reason to use the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card for everyday spending. I wasn’t going to earn that free weekend night again and the card was going to be transferred to American Express anyway.

Instead, I signed up for the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express to earn that sign-up bonus before the two cards were combined. This also negates the negative impact on my credit report due to a decrease in total available credit.

I managed to net great value from my free weekend nights from the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card. Apart from those certificates, Hilton Honors points are a little difficult to redeem for great value, but I’ll talk more about that in a later post.

How I Will Use the Points from the Amex Hilton Honors Surpass Card

The downside of the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express as compared to the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card is the lack of free weekend night certificates. Yes, you can earn one after spending $15,000 in a year, but that’s a pretty high spending requirement. Instead, you earn a larger pool of Hilton Honors Points when you meet the initial minimum spending requirement.

I signed up for the Hilton Honors Surpass Card when the bonus was a total of 125,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months. With a minimum of 3x the Hilton Honors points per $1 spent, I’ll have 137,000 bonus points. I will use those points for two nights at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island of Hawaii. Rooms at the Hilton Waikoloa Village run about $250 per night or 50,000 Hilton Honors points. Rates vary by season. Those points will have a value of around .5 cents each. If I pay with points and cash, I should be able to stretch those points to three nights.

Although it’s difficult to get insanely high value out of the Hilton Honors system, Hilton Honors credit cards will likely always have a place in my wallet so long as I can keep getting great sign-up bonuses. That’s more difficult to do with American Express since they limit you to one sign-up bonus per lifetime. But American Express is set to offer three personal Hilton Honors cards so there is still a lot of opportunity to collect Hilton Honors points. And Hawaii is always calling my name.

The Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card had a great sign-up bonus of two free weekend night certificates. I used mine for a fabulous stay in Maui. While new Hilton Honors credit cards don't offer those without high spending, you can still get great value from the sign-up bonuses especially in Hawaii.