Citi and Hilton File for Divorce
After more than 16 years together, Citibank and Hilton are going their separate ways. Earlier this year, the hotel chain created an exclusive partnership with American Express, and beginning in January of 2018, all Citibank credit cards with the Hilton logo will stop working.
Citi no longer offers an on-line application for either of its hotel cards, although the bank still services Hilton accounts. According to Citi, accounts that are in good standing might be offered the chance to convert to an AmEx card at the end of 2017. Citi cardmembers who decide to make the switch to American Express will find some nice benefits with the newer version of Hilton cards, including the latter bank’s highly regarded customer service, a reduced annual fee, and a lower surcharge on foreign currency transactions.
There were two Citi Hilton cards, one with a $95 annual fee, and one with no annual fee. There are two American Express Hilton cards—the Surpass Card, which carries a $75 annual charge, and the standard Hilton Honors Card with no fee. Presumably, account holders who had the Citi card with the annual fee would get the Surpass Card, and customers who had the no-fee card will get the regular Hilton Honors Card.
Both American Express Hilton cards provide the same interest rates, which vary based on creditworthiness. Both cards also come with car rental loss and damage insurance. An extended warranty is included on most purchases made with either card. Purchases made in the U.S. also come with return protection. If you buy an item and don’t want to return it, American Express also offers purchase protection in cases of theft or accidental damage. Booking a stay at any hotel in the Hilton lineup with either card earns 500 Hilton Honors bonus points.
There are also significant differences between the two cards. The Surpass Card provides some very lucrative benefits that the standard Hilton Honors Card does not have. For instance, it earns an additional 500 bonus points for any Hilton stay that’s booked online. It also garners 12 bonus points for every dollar of eligible purchases made with the card at a hotel in the Hilton portfolio and 6 points for every purchase at a restaurant, gas station, or supermarket in the United States. The no-fee card earns just 7 and 5 points, respectively. Both cards earn 3 points on all other purchases.
The Surpass Card includes a global assist hotline. This service provides medical, financial, legal, and other forms of emergency service to cardholders who travel internationally. American Express will help Surpass members with passport replacement, lost luggage, wires of funds, legal referrals, and more.
The Surpass Card also come with a Hilton Honors Gold membership. This enrollment has some really nice perks, including free room upgrades at all Hilton-branded hotels. Continental breakfast is also free at select hotels. All points earned with the card will have a 25% bonus added. Gold members also receive free Wi-Fi and late check out.
The Hilton Honors Card comes with Silver status. Cardholders who spend $20,000 annually will be upgraded automatically to Gold level. Silver members who don’t reach this status will receive some decent perks anyway. Hilton gives them a 15% bonus on all their points. As with Gold members, Silver members receive one night for free when booking a standard room for 4 consecutive nights with Hilton Honors points. Both Silver and Gold levels also get discounted and refundable rates.
Surpass cardmembers who aren’t satisfied with Gold status can upgrade to Diamond, the program’s highest tier. Hilton requires $40,000 in purchases annually to qualify. It may be worth it for some members as the status includes a 50% bonus on all earned points. Diamond members also receive 1,000 Hilton Honors bonus points on stays at Embassy Suites and a free hot specially-made breakfast at Hilton Garden Inn. Also up for grabs at this membership level are golf and restaurant discounts at Waldorf Astoria locations and access to the executive floor lounge at any Conrad Hotel.