This is my review of the Hilton HHonors UK Platinum Visa credit card.
It is part of my series of articles looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether or not they are worth applying for. These articles will be linked to the relevant sections of the ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page. My other UK airline and hotel credit card reviews can be found here.
(EDIT: This review was updated in July 2015 and all the information is correct as of that date)
Key facts: No annual fee
The representative APR is 18.9% variable.
About the card
The Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa is issued by Barclaycard.
I have already had this card, claimed my free night, redeemed it at the Waldorf-Astoria Syon Park (now downgraded to the Hilton Syon Park) and cancelled the card. I recently successfully applied for it again after a gap of two years, using the voucher for a family member to stay at the Hilton Park Lane in London.
What is the sign-up bonus?
A free weekend night at any hotel in the Hilton system (not just the Hilton brand properties) when you spend £750 within 90 days – something that anyone should be able to achieve easily.
A ‘weekend night’ is treated as Friday, Saturday or Sunday for the purposes of redeeming the voucher.
There are no additional restrictions on using the free night – if a standard reward night is available, you can use the free night voucher. You are e-mailed when you have hit the qualifying spend (in my experience, this can take a few weeks) and you must ring Hilton to redeem it.
This is clearly a very valuable benefit. At the extreme end, a night at the Conrad Maldives would be worth over £750. A free night at a top property in London or New York, such as the Conrad New York I reviewed here, would be worth £250+.
The only point you need to remember is that the voucher is only valid for six months. If you want to use it over the Summer, do not apply for the card in the Autumn or Winter!
Any other benefits?
You get Hilton HHonors Silver status for as long as you hold the card. I do not rate these benefits too highly, as Silver is not worth much. The official list of Silver and Gold benefits can be seen here.
You will receive Hilton HHonors Gold status when you spend £10,000 on the card in a calendar year (note, calendar year, not card year). Hilton Gold is probably the best mid-tier status in the hotel industry (free breakfast, room upgrade). This benefit has got more valuable since Hilton cut back on its special promotions to gain Gold status quickly.
You also get 2,500 bonus Hilton HHonors points for each of your first four stays (within 12 months) after getting the card. This is obviously worth having, and is worth about £30 of free hotel stays.
What is the annual fee?
There is no annual fee.
What do I earn per £1 spent on the card?
The earnings rate on the card is 2 Hilton HHonors points per £1 for general spending (3 per £1 at Hilton properties). In my experience, Barclays is slow at posting the points to your card and it can take a month from receiving your statement for them to appear.
What is a Hilton Honors point worth?
Regular Head for Points readers will know that Hilton massively devalued their reward scheme in 2013.
If you are the sort of person who redeems their hotel points for stays at five-star properties in major cities, then you have taken a major hit. The price of a night in a top London or New York property went up from 50,000 points to 80,000 points (with some seasonal variation). Conrad Maldives has jumped from 50,000 points to 95,000 points per night.
If you work on the basis of a 5-star hotel in a major city being worth £250, then the value of a Hilton HHonors point has dropped from 0.5p to 0.3p. This means that the return from your card spend – at 2 points per £1 – has dropped from 1% to 0.6% of your spending.
Regional, smaller city properties have not been devalued at highly, though. Some hotels even reduced in price, as this post shows. However, these properties were arguably overpriced in the first place. If you can book either of the Prague Hilton properties for 30,000 points, for example, you are arguably still getting 0.5p per point. Your card spend is still worth 1% back on this basis.
There are some Hilton properties available at incredibly cheap rates – just 5,000 points per night – as I discussed here.
How does this compare to a cashback credit card?
The best cashback card on the market which offers a) a MasterCard or Visa, b) no annual fee and c) unlimited cashback is the Asda card, which pays 0.5%. The best ‘pseudo cashback’ card is the House of Fraser MasterCard, which offers 1% of your spend in House of Fraser gift vouchers.
The Hilton card struggles to match this. In any event, the sheer number of points needed for a free night at a high-end property means that this card is of little long-term use if you do not stay at Hilton properties and collect points that way as well. Spending £40,000 to get a single free night at the Conrad New York is too much work for me.
Other points to note
It is worth remembering that UK American Express Membership Rewards points can be transferred to Hilton HHonors at the same rate as you get from this card – £1 (1 MR point) = 2 Hilton HHonors points. If you were tempted to get this card for on-going use, an Amex charge card may be a better option as you retain more flexibility – transfer to Hilton as and when needed, but you can also transfer to many other hotel and airline schemes.
The downsides are the annual fees on Amex cards, more limited acceptability than a Visa and the lack of the £10,000 Hilton HHonors Gold status upgrade and the 2,500 point bonus for your first four stays.
That said, the sign-up bonus on Amex Gold (20,000 points) transfers to 40,000 Hilton HHonors points – and the card is free for the first year. You may want to consider it as a partner to the official Hilton Visa.
Similarly, if you can justify the £450 annual fee because of the strong benefits package, the sign-up bonus on Amex Platinum (30,000 points) transfers to 60,000 Hilton HHonors points.
It is difficult to argue that this is most generous sign-up benefit currently offered on any Visa or MasterCard in the travel sector. If you maximise the use of your free night you will receive a hotel room worth £250+ and the £750 qualifying spend to trigger it is very low. The lack of an annual fee makes this an even better deal.
On-going earning is less interesting. If you are careful about where you redeem, you may still get 0.5p per Hilton point, so 1% of your spend back. However, unless you collect Hilton HHonors points from other sources, you will struggle to get enough for a free night. The 2,500 extra Hilton points for each of your first four stays after getting the card is a decent bonus.
The free upgrade to Hilton Silver gives few practical benefits. Gold status for £10,000 spend seems a lot, but it depends on your personal Hilton stay pattern and the benefits (free breakfast, upgrade) are decent.
(Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.)