This Little Known Benefit of the Hilton Reserve Makes Using the Card Worthwhile


The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card comes with Two Free Weekend Nights worldwide at top tier Hiltons after spending $2,500 on the card in the first four months.

As a retention bonus, the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card offers an additional free weekend night certificate after spending $10,000 within a cardmember year.

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Since any new cardholder will spend $2,500 on the card to get the first two free night certificates, that means that spending $7,500 more on the card during the first 12 months will entitle you to a third free night certificate, in addition to the Hilton points you’d normally earn on that extra $7,500 in spending.

This extra free night certificate is an incredible benefit for many people who highly value a free night at a top-tier hotel.

In fact, the benefit compares favorably to spending the same $7,500 on most other cards.

  • How much is a third free night certificate worth?
  • How does spending $7,500 extra on the Hilton Reserve card compare to spending $7,500 on another card?
  • Can you use all three weekend certificates for one stay?

How Do We Compare Spending on Different Credit Cards?

I use the idea of “rebate percentage” to compare spending on different credit cards.

Rebate percentage is simply the value of the miles, points, free night certificates, etc that we earn from spending on a card divided by how much spending we do on that card.

For instance, I value one SPG Starpoint at 2.5 cents. I get one Starpoint per dollar on my SPG card, so I get 2.5 cents per dollar rebated to me in the form of Starpoints when I use the card. That’s a rebate percentage of 2.5%.

In general, meeting minimum spending requirements to unlock sign up bonuses has the biggest rebate percentage, followed by category bonuses, followed by non-bonused spending.

Rebate Percentage Example for Citi Hilton Reserve

When spending on the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card, we earn Hilton points and free night certificates.

We need to value both in dollars in order to calculate a rebate percentage for the spending. What we’d like to determine here is whether or not spending an extra $7,500 on the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card is a good idea. The quick answer is: it depends!

That extra $7,500 in spending gets you one Hilton free night certificate. Hilton free night certificates can be used at all but a a few Hilton properties worldwide for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night check ins. Some of the hotels at which you can use a free night certificate go for $1,000 or more per night like the Conrad Koh Samui.

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 1.45.37 AM

That $7,500 in spending also gets you at least 22,500 Hilton points since the card earns:

  • Earn 10 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on hotel stays within the Hilton HHonors portfolio
  • Earn 5 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on airline and car rental purchases
  • Earn 3 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases

Hilton points can be redeemed for free nights, starting at 5,000 points per night.

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 1.50.06 AM

While the value in a free night certificate is staying at a Category 9 or 10 property, the value with points is a Category 1 or 2 property. I stayed at an awesome Category 2 in Kuala Lumpur. (Here’s a map and spreadsheet of all Hilton Category 1, 2, 9, and 10 properties.)

If you value all hotel stays at their retail value, you can get one cent of value per Hilton point at some properties. Most people will get half that value or less.

I’ve made a table of reasonable valuations for Hilton points and free night certificates below. Each column represents a person. I’m probably like Person 3, which means that my rebate percentage on an extra $7,500 of spending on the Hilton Reserve is 5.2%. Person 6, who values top-tier hotels at their retail value, gets a massive 16.3% rebate on his $7,500 in spending.

Rebate Percentage 2.23%3.72%5.2%6.69%8.17%16.33%
Free Night Cert Valuation$100$200$300$400$500$1,000
Hilton Point Valuation (cents)0.30.350.40.450.51.0

How Does Spending on the Hilton Reserve Stack Up Against Other Reward Cards?

Now let’s compare that rebate percentage to the rebate percentage you would get by spending the same $7,500 on another card.

Versus Non-Bonused Spending

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express gives you 1 point per dollar on all purchases, and I value one Starpoint at 2.5 cents. That means a rebate percentage of 2.5%.

My rebate percentage would be 5.2% on the last $7,500 of spending to get my annual free night certificate from the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card, so I’m better off putting non-bonused spending on the Hilton Reserve.

Versus Category Bonuses

The Citi ThankYou Premier Card earns 3x ThankYou Points on travel including gas, 2x ThankYou Points on dining out and entertainment, and 1x on other purchases.

I value ThankYou Points at 1.9 cents each, so travel/gas has a rebate percentage of 5.7%, and restaurants/entertainment have a 3.8% rebate percentage.

My rebate percentage would be 5.2% on the last $7,500 of spending to get my annual free night certificate from the Hilton Reserve, so I am better off putting travel and gas purchases on the ThankYou Premier but restaurant purchases on the Hilton Reserve.

Strategies for Maximizing Hilton

Especially considering Citi’s new sign up bonus rule that you’re only eligible for one sign up bonus per brand per 24 Months, it’s important to know that there are two opposite strategies to maximizing the Hilton loyalty program. Either you…

  1. get the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card with Two Free Weekend Nights certificates, and use them at Category 9 and 10 Hiltons that cost $1,000+ per night (that also cost too many Hilton points per night).
  2. get the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card with a 75k Hilton point bonus after spending $2k in three months, and spend them at Category 1, 2, and maybe three Hiltons (that cost 5k to 10k points per night).

If you choose strategy #2, you should also know that there’s another Hilton card you can sign up for at the same time (not a Citi card–Amex) to bulk up on Hilton points. Through November 30, 2016, the Hilton Surpass card comes with 100,000 Hilton points after spending $3k in three months. If you got both the Citi Hilton Visa Signature card along with the Amex Hilton Surpass, you’d be flush with 188k Hilton points to spend on…

Grand Wailea Maui, A Category 10 Hilton

Bottom Line

The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card has a great sign up bonus of two free weekend nights at top-tier hotels worldwide. It also comes with free Gold Status, which more than cancels out the $95 annual fee for me.

You need to spend $2,500 to get the sign up bonus of two free weekend night certificates.

If you spend another $7,500, you will get a third certificate on your cardmember anniversary.

Spending that extra $7,500 will also get you at least 22,500 Hilton points.

The total value of the Hilton points and free night certificate vary by person, but at reasonable valuations, most people will see a rebate of 5%+ on that $7,500 in spending, which is a better rebate than you’d get putting that spending on most cards.

For more info on the free nights, and the $1,000-a-night hotels see:


You can use your three free weekend night certificates for one stay. Each is good for a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night, so the stay would be from Friday until Monday.

Each certificate is good for one year from issuance, so you’d want to take as much of the four months as possible to meet the minimum spending requirement to get those certificates as late as possible. You’ll get the third certificate on your cardmember anniversary, giving you about four months in which all three are valid.

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    • No, it doesn’t. It says the Conrad Koh Samui Residences, a separate time share part of the resort, is excluded. You can stay at the Conrad Koh Samui with these certs.

  1. Just be prepared to wait for it. I completed the spending last year in November but they told me I had to wait until my first year was up in February. That came and went, I had to pay the $95 fee and then waited and asked and waited and waited and badgered … until it finally arrived this week – 5 months after the end of the “year”.

    • My wife had exactly the same problem with Citi and Hilton at the same time after we met $10K required spending last year. Last January an annual fee was charged automatically though we did not see the certificate for the next few months! We called Citi who transferred us to Hilton who finally told us that Citi is in charge. A few weeks later we called again just to go over and over again. After 45 minutes we were offered a courtesy bonus of 1K Hilton points and a case number! 10 days later passed no issue was resolved so we called to complain and investigate, so $100 credit was offered. Finally, the certificate was emailed to my wife barely last month. We cannot complain at the moment, since last Saturday we received somehow another certificate for a free weekend night 🙂

      • are you certain about this? the applications small print says:

        Weekend Night Certificates offer is not available if you have had a Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card account that was opened or CLOSED in the past 18 months.

        Caps mine.

  2. Just got AMEX target offer of 150,000 miles for platinum business card if spend 20K within 3 months. FYI. Sounds pretty good as easy to do with a business and good if activated before September 6

  3. Your math above does not include the additional $95 annual fee that Hilton will get on your 1st anniversary, and as your other readers have commented, the certificate takes several weeks if not longer to arrive.

    One workaround would be to get the anniversary cert then cancel the card, assuming Hilton/Chase will let you do that. Barclays is super strict about charging the annual fee as soon as your first year is up (e.g. USAirways or Arrival cards).

  4. […] As an already included retention bonus (i.e. you don’t need to call in negotiate for it), the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card offers an additional free weekend night certificate after spending $10k within a cardmember year. Read more about this little known benefit of the Hilton Reserve that could makes continued use of the card worthwhi…. […]


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