Hilton Reaches Exclusive Credit Card Agreement with American Express

Hilton has been a bit of anomaly with respect to its co-branded credit cards in that it had partnerships with two separate issuers: Citi and American Express. Outside of American Airline’s partnerships with Barclaycard and Citi, this arrangement was very much a rarity. However, this will no longer be the case as Hilton has just announced that it will enter into an exclusive credit card partnership with American Express come January 1, 2018. 

The current landscape of Hilton credit cards

This deal will change the landscape for Hilton credit cards since there are currently four different versions offered. Together with both of the partnerships with Amex and Citi, Hilton offers:

  • Hilton HHonors Card from American Express
  • Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express
  • Citi® Hilton HHonors Visa Signature® Card
  • Citi® Hilton HHonors Reserve Card

The no-annual fee versions of these cards come with lower Hilton Honors Silver status while the annual fee versions come with Hilton Honors Gold Status, which offers perks like complimentary breakfasts, upgrades, and late check out. The sign-up bonuses vary but typically a high bonus on the no-annual fee card is around 75,000 points while the annual fee versions offer 2 free weekend nights or 100,000 points.

A big break for American Express

This is a major win for American Express.

They recently lost key co-branded partnerships with JetBlue and more notably, Costco (who they lost to Citi/Visa). As the WSJ points out, “Costco and JetBlue accounted for 23% of AmEx’s U.S. balances at the end of 2015.” That was a major hit and after that investors started to worry about Amex, especially with the success of the newly launched Chase Sapphire Reserve and the inevitable demise of the SPG card.

So with their backs somewhat against the wall, American Express outbid Citi for this exclusive Hilton relationship. This result didn’t surprise me given how desperate Amex had to be to not lose another key partnership. Also, Amex seemed more vested in their relationship with Hilton, offering better earning rates on their Hilton cards and also tons of Amex Offers for savings at Hilton properties.

I’m hoping that this will result in a revamped American Express Hilton card come 2018 perhaps offering free nights as a sign-up bonus or a more obtainable (and recurring) free anniversary night. Maybe we’ll even see a third card come out offering more premium benefits. However, with Citi out of the game and therefore less competition that might not happen. At the very least, hopefully these Amex Hilton cards will no longer come with foreign transaction fees since they are some of the only premier travel cards with such fees.

It’s still unclear what this means for current Citi Hilton card holders. Citi stated that they will make a decision by the end of the year if they will merely product change customers from their cards or sell off their portfolio to American Express.

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