Hilton’s New Credit Card Deal Eliminates Citibank, Goes Exclusive With American Express

Both American Express and Citibank issue Hilton cards. Hilton is relatively unique in having more than one credit card issuer, although now not alone in the U.S. since American Airlines has two card issuers. They’re also not alone in the world — for instance Etihad has multiple bank issuers in the same market.

A month ago Hilton’s CEO announced that they would have a new co-brand credit card agreement before the end of the second quarter. That agreement has now been finalized and it’s exclusive with American Express starting January 1, 2018.

  • They haven’t announced terms. Deals are usually 5 or 7 years. Given that there will be a cardmember transition (Citi will no longer offer Hilton cards) I’d guess this is a longer term deal.

  • It is also expensive. American Express had to pay a lot to not just renew but to gain exclusivity.

  • We do not yet know what will happen with Hilton co-brand cards come January 1, 2018. I’m asking whether American Express is buying Citi’s back book, or whether Hilton cardmembers will be product-changed to something else.

Conrad Koh Samui

A month ago I speculated on a new deal with only one issuer,

American Express has been aggressive since losing Costco (and jetBlue). They renewed Delta and Starwood (although Starwood is now in question with the merger). They’ve been increasing their marketing spend. They could be going after Hilton at a high enough price point to gain exclusivity, turnabout on Citi for taking the much larger Costco deal away from them.

Citibank cards will continue to earn Hilton Honors points for their spend through the end of 2017.

Conrad Bangkok

Hilton’s Mark Weinstein promises “new ways to enhance value for our most loyal guests” out of the deal, which could mean new benefits but any time a loyalty executive uses the word enhancement I’m not hopeful. With as much as this deal must be costing American Express there will hopefully be new benefits and cardmember opportunities aimed at acquiring customers and rewarding them for increased spending ont he products.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Interesting. I guess I should get that Citi Hilton card sooner rather than later. Do you have advice on getting a Citi Hilton card, Gary?

  2. AmEx will now really need to remove ForEx fees from the Surpass card (or whatever may replace it).

  3. Amex execs know that Hilton points are indexed to 0.4 cents each, right? It’s just a cash equivalent that’s not that equivalent. Wonder what they’re paying per point.

  4. AMEX most definitely overpaid to get this exclusive deal. Kind of sucks if you stay at Hilton’s and don’t want to burn one of your 5 AMEX cards on Hilton. Definitely agree that the ForEx fee has to go for this card to be competitive.

  5. Never had the annual fee Citi Hilton card but don’t think it’s worth burning a 5 in 24 spot on for two free weekend nights which must be used within a year. The free Citi card which I had years ago is definitely not worth burning a 5 in 24 slot on.
    Makes me long for the days when you could open multiple free citi Hilton cards with no worry!

  6. I can’t see how this is a great deal. AMEX is desperate. It most cost a fortune to be the exclusive HH provider. I doubt many consider this a card to be used for general spending the way many use SPG.

  7. I’m guessing we won’t see anymore increased offers for the Citi card. Bummer I just got the Surpass and was hoping to get the no-annual fee Citi card before the AMEX one.

  8. @chitownflyer – I was told around that time that it wasn’t something Hilton was doing. Of course that could well have changed with the new contract, we don’t know yet.

  9. @Daniel Make sure you give yourself enough time to meet the minimum spend and receive the bonus. Don’t want to give Citi any ability to drag their feet and not award the bonus.

  10. How long until Amex realizes they have purchased a lemon? Even the 100K Hilton Amex cards are only marginally worth getting for the signup bonus and free night. I suspect they will see many customers cancelling in a year after they get their free night and not putting much spend on these cards in the meantime. Hilton has damaged their points currency to the point that its just not worth accumulating their currency when better options exist. Even for Hilton hotel spend I would rather use the Chase Sapphire reserve and get points that have some potential.

  11. AMEX will be desperate to recoup the massive over-payment to sign the exclusivity deal.
    Either bonus points will come with a HUGE annual fee and HUGE spend requirement, or Hilton points will be devalued shortly.

  12. Damn. This is a problem. I’ve had the American Express Hilton cards before. I may be blocked from getting them now.

    I have the Citi Hilton card and use it for Gold status.

    Should I cancel and try to sign up for it again to get the two free weekend nights one more time?

  13. Cancelling it will trigger Citi’s 2 year rule.

    If you have had the card for more than 2 years, keep it open and apply for a new card. Once you have the new card, you can close the old one.

  14. I closed my AMEX Hilton Surpass about 2 months ago and stuck with the Citi Hilton Reserve, for which I have just hit the annual free night bonus. Guess I’ll see what happens when the card comes up for renewal next month.
    Doesn’t sound like that will come back to haunt me, but no second Surpass bonus if I need to get it again (for Gold status)

  15. @Craig There have been some reports that if you get the free AMEX card, they may send you an offer to upgrade to the Surpass with bonus points even if you have already had it.. Of course YMMV.

  16. The Surpass was always the better and more dependable card. I had the Citi Reserve and got rid of it because they consistently failed to award me the correct number category points (10HH/$) for stays at hotels named HILTON Milan or HILTON Chicago, because “the hotel did not provide the correct merchant code.” It was a bug that got me 50+K HH in retro credit + compensation, then after I asked them to fix it and was told that the Citi Reserve was not a large enough account to spend the resources hunting the problem, I canceled it and got the no-fee card and a 70K signup bonus. I now just spend $1K on the latter card to earn the annual 10K HH bonus points and put the rest Hilton spend on the Surpass.

    If you ask me, it is good riddance.

  17. Hoping to find out of $40k spend on Surpass card will still result in Diamond status in 2018

  18. @Paul, Yes, but if you hit that spend after the last statement in 2017, Diamond will only kick in January 2018 but will be valid for 2 and a quarter years until March 2020. Whether it’s actually worth it is another question.

  19. Don’t they realize that a lot of places don’t take AX …because of fees…So disappointed Marriott here we come

  20. As a Hilton Diamond member for years, this is terrible news!! I travel all over the world and AMEX is by far the most difficult credit card to use due to their fees. Hilton got screwed in this deal and will soon see their credit card usage drop dramatically.

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