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Yesterday I reviewed the improved offer on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, which now offers 30,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $3,000 in the first three months.
There’s another hotel card with a temporarily increased sign up bonus. The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card is offering 75,000 bonus Hilton points after $2,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening My review of the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card explains how the sign up bonus is worth 18 free nights at Category 1 hotels
So which limited time offer is better?
This comparison will be useful for anyone considering getting a hotel card. I’ll break down the comparison by:
- value of points
- sign-up bonus
- category bonuses
- annual fee
Value of Points
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express earns 1+ Starpoint per dollar, which I value at 2.5 cents each. The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card earns 2+ HHonors points per dollar, which I value at 0.4 cents each.
Starpoints can be used to book free nights at SPG properties for 2,000 to 35,000 points per night or can be transferred to 30 airlines, and most partners offer a 25% transfer bonus.
HHonors points can be used to book free nights at Hilton properties for 5,000 to 95,000 points per night.
Sign Up Bonus
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express: 30,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 in the first three months
- Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card: 75,000 Hilton points after spending $2,000 in the first three months
Multiply the points by your value of the points to figure out which offers you the more valuable sign up bonus. The bonus on the Starwood card is worth $750 after spending $3,000 to me. The sign up bonus on the Hilton card is worth $300 after spending $2,000 to me.
Your point values could be vastly different based on how you plan to use the points. If you use Hilton properties exclusively at Category 1 and 2 properties and take advantage of the 5th night free on awards, you could get 1 or even 2 cents of value per point. That would bump the bonus to being more valuable than the SPG bonus. Do the match based on your likely redemptions.
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express: 2 Starpoints per dollar at SPG properties
- Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card:
- Earn 6 Hilton points per dollar on Hilton stays
- Earn 3 Hilton points per dollar at gas stations, supermarkets, and drugstores
- Earn 2 Hilton points per dollar on all other purchases
After hitting the minimum spending requirement on the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card, it doesn’t offer an attractive proposition to continue spending on the card. Even its 6x category bonus on Hilton stays isn’t as good as putting the same purchase on a Starwood card for 1x according to my point valuations.
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, on the other hand, is one of three cards you should consider for non-bonused spending, along with the Arrival Plus and United Club card.
- Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card: Automatic Hilton Silver Status
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express: 2 stay credits and 5 night credits
The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card offers Hilton Silver status for as long as you hold the card. Silver members get a 15% points bonus on Hilton stays, late checkout, and free access to fitness centers. Plus only folks with Hilton status get the 5th night free on award stays.
Better yet, if you complete four Hilton stays in the first 90 days of card membership, you get bumped up to Hilton Gold status, which earns a 25% points bonus on Hilton stays and maybe a little better treatment at the front desk.
The Starwood card does not give you automatic status. The cards confer 2 stay credits and 5 night credits toward elite status, leaving you 8 stays or 20 nights short of Gold Status.
Gold Status entitles you to free internet and a 4 PM checkout.
- Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card: no annual fee ever
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express: $0 for the first 12 months, then $95 thereafter
Which Card is Better?
For most people, the SPG card is better, which is an important lesson in looking past the number of points to the value of those points.
However the Hilton card could be better for you if you use it optimally, for Category 1 and 2 Hilton stays. The card offers a strong value proposition for a card with no annual fee ever.
The good news is that this is not really an either/or decision. You can get both the Starwood and Hilton cards to rack up both bonuses and to use each type of points in situations that offer maximum value.
- Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.