(EDIT, August 2014 – whilst originally written in April 2014, all of the information in this review is still accurate.)
This is the 10th of my series of posts looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether of not they are worth applying for. These posts 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.
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 intend to apply again in the near future – Barclays appears happy to let you re-apply after a gap of at least a year.
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?
Yes, you get Hilton HHonors Silver status for as long as you hold the card, and are upgraded to Gold when you spend £10,000 on the card in a year. 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.
Hilton Gold is probably the best mid-tier status in the whole industry (free breakfast, free internet, room upgrade). This benefit has got more valuable since American Express Platinum stopped giving away a free year of Hilton Gold status to cardmembers.
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 early 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 has gone 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.
The Head for Points Verdict:
Score for the sign-up bonus – 10/10, full marks! The free night is worth £250+ if used wisely and the £750 qualifying spend to trigger it is very low. The lack of an annual fee makes this an even better deal.
Score for on-going earning – 5/10. 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 Honors 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 is not exciting in my view. Gold status for £10,000 spend seems a lot, but it depends on your personal Hilton stay pattern and the benefits (free breakfast, free internet, 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.)