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.
Key facts: No annual fee
The representative APR is 18.9% variable.
About the card
The Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa is issued by Barclaycard.
Three years ago I 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. I also ensured that I spent enough to earn Hilton Gold for 2016.
Who can apply?
Barclaycard has recently brought in new rules on who can apply for its cards. You will not find this information in writing anywhere, but unofficially:
a) you cannot have two Barclaycard issued cards at the same time
b) you must wait six months after cancelling a card before you can reapply for the same one
c) you can immediately apply for a different Barclaycard immediately – if you cancel the IHG card, for example, you can get the Hilton card straight away
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 well 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, although note that Amex Platinum will soon be adding Hilton Gold as a perk.
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.
Remember that the Hilton card has a fee of almost 3% for foreign currency transactions. You may want to consider getting a separate card to use abroad which charges no foreign exchange fees, such as the Post Office Money Platinum card (free, no rewards) or the Lloyds Avios Rewards card (£24 fee, earns Avios).
What is a Hilton Honors point worth?
Long time Head for Points readers will know that Hilton massively devalued their reward scheme in 2013.
If you were the sort of person who redeems their hotel points for stays at five-star properties in major cities, then you took 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 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 dropped from 0.5p to 0.3p. This meant that the return from your card spend – at 2 points per £1 – dropped from 1% to 0.6% of your spending.
Regional, smaller city properties were not devalued at highly. 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 Hilton card just beats this, although you are trading cash for illiquid points. 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.
How else can you earn Hilton HHonors points from a credit or charge card?
There are two alternative ways of earning Hilton HHonors points from your card spending:
The American Express Platinum charge card offers 30,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up. These convert to 60,000 Hilton points. It has a £450 fee, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.
As the earning rate on these Amex cards is the same as the Hilton card (you earn 1 Amex point per £1, which converts to 2 Hilton points) you may find the Amex route preferable for long-term spending. You retain more flexibility – you can transfer to Hilton as and when needed, but you can also transfer to many other hotel and airline schemes if you change your plans.
The downsides to this plan 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 (albeit Amex Platinum will soon offer this too) and the 2,500 point bonus for your first four stays.
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.
The application form for the Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa can be found here.
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. By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.