What Happens to Citi HHonors Reserve Card Sign-up Bonus Now

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If you are (or were) a fan of the Hilton HHonors program, then you are probably already familiar with the Citi HHonors Reserve Card that came out in the middle of 2012.  If you are like me, you are also curious about what impact the recent HHonors changes are on this card since some of the benefits are tied to hotel categories that have now changed.

Application Link: Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card

First, here are the basics about this card and the sign-up bonus:

  • Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton HHonors portfolio after $2,500 in eligible purchases within 4 months of account opening* 
  • 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*
  • Enjoy the benefits of HHonors Gold status as long as you are a cardmember* 
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases*
  • Travel with ease and enjoy global acceptance with your Citi chip credit card
  • Earn an anniversary bonus of 1 weekend night certificate at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton HHonors portfolio each cardmembership year with qualifying purchases*

If you read the fine print, you see that the two weekend night certificates that come with the sign-up bonus are valid for one (1) weekend night standard accommodation at category 1-7 hotels and select Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, subject to availability and excluding All-Inclusive or Hilton Grand Vacation properties. Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts that do not offer standard rooms are excluded. Weekend night certificate is valid at participating hotels in the Hilton HHonors portfolio for twelve (12) months after the date of issuance, as noted on the certificate.

Up until the big HHonors changes from yesterday that increased the award chart from categories 1-7 to categories 1-10, the award nights that come with this card were good at almost all properties in the HHonors portfolio.  The main exceptions were some time shares, all-inclusive places, and some Waldorf Astoria resorts that didn’t offer standard rooms.  My fear was that the free nights would still just be good at category 1-7 properties, thus excluding many of the high end properties that were now classified as categories 8-10.

So, I reached out to my contacts for this card yesterday and got the following answers:

  • The free night certificates can still be used at all of the same hotels that were outlined prior to this HHonors announcement.
  • The new category levels of 8-10 will not affect the usage of the two free weekend nights. The wording on the certificates will be updated to include that hotels within Categories 1 – 10 are valid for these certificates.
  • Hotels where the free night certificates can be used will not change as a result of the program updates announced on February 19, 2013. The free night certificates can still be used at all of the same hotels that were outlined prior to this HHonors announcement.

This is great news!  This means that if you want to use your free nights at a property that is now up to 95,000 points per night, you are getting a ton of value from this sign-up bonus compared to the other Hilton sign-up bonuses that are available.  Some examples of properties that can run as high as 95,000 points per night are Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa and Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.  If you want to visit any of those properties (or any others that now cost a substantial number of points each night) using “free nights”, then it makes much more sense to get award nights using the sign-up bonus with this card rather than just rely on spending up to 95,000 HHonors points per night!

For the purposes of this card,  weekend nights are defined as Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, so if you and a partner both had the card you could use your free nights for a three-night long weekend.  Of course, you could potentially add on additional nights using points or cash, if you wished.

Certainly the major changes to the HHonors program were bad news for many, especially for those who like to use their points for aspirational properties, but at least the sign-up bonus and annual free night from this card are still available to use at the top end Hilton properties that many of us would like to visit someday.  I will note that while I consider the info I received about this card yesterday to be reliable, the official terms online have not been updated to reflect the category 1-10 language, so I do recommend keeping an eye on that verbiage yourself.

Disclosure: I do receive a commission if you are approved for a card using one of my affiliate links.  As always, thanks for your support. 

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. […] Mommy Points, View from the Wing, and a few others have argued in recent days that the two free nights from the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card are more valuable since Hilton raised the cost of points redemptions for its high end properties. In the other corner, Wandering Aramean, Points to Point B (Amol), and I have argued the opposite — that nothing changed, and if anything the free nights might actually be worth less. […]


  1. With the adjustment in pricing for Hilton Hotels, the Gold Status and weekend nights that this card delivers makes it worthwhile. At this rate, I value the status more than the points, and being able to retain Gold status for less than $100 annually would be enough for Hilton to keep my loyalty.

  2. What is your take on this? I’m saving points for the Grand Walai… Unfortunately, I can’t book before the devaluation. My kids spring break in 2014 is the first week of April so they won’t be booking that far out. So I’ll probably end up booking a trip in Sept/October when I can get more reasonable airfare. My hubby and I currently do not have the Hilton Reserve card. If we stay 8 nights, 4 of those nights are weekend nights & could be free.. The other 4 nights could be through AXON rewards. It will cost more points, but I would think overall, it won’t be horrible…Even if I had to use 95,000 points for 4 nights, that would be only 380,000 for all 8 nights. Is there is something I’m missing??

  3. FYI. The Grand Wailea is not a Woldorf that accepts the free night certificates. I just booked a few weeks ago and bumped into this.

  4. As quite a few of us were disappointed with the announcement ( myself included), I still think that having this card is worth it alone for the gold status. Hilton has a good presence here in my hometown (Tulsa) and when I travel as well. As far as redeeming points for stays, sure there wont be any exotic stays but just case stays, I will keep about 50-100k for a stay here and there at a Doubletree or Hilton.

  5. Do you think they will change the offer when they change the categories in March? I have wanted to get this card, but I would prefer to delay before my trip =)

  6. Jessica,

    It’s actually a bit better than that! With their new restructuring, Hilton has confirmed they will still have a fifth night free award for elites (you get Gold status with the Citi Hilton Reserve card). So you probably actually get five nights for 380,000 points (I say probably because they haven’t specified whether fifth night free is available for Waldorf Astoria properties) and will only need to use 3 weekend night certificates for the rest of the 8 night vacation.

  7. Joe, I agree the status alone for $95 a year makes it “worth it” for those who have even just a few Hilton stays each year.
    Jessica, I don’t think you are really missing anything major…except availability issues. That hotel can be a tough one to get standard rooms at during peak times. Not necessarily impossible, but since you are tied to one specific week there are no guarantees in that department.
    Ken, that is not my understanding as I believe they do have standard rooms pricing there, however the trick is finding standard room award availability in order to use the certificates. That said, I am still working on getting a full list of excluded properties…which is actually harder than it sounds.
    Alex, sounds like a good plan.
    eve, that is why I asked yesterday and the answer was essentially that they will be updating the free night certificates to say categories 1-10.
    The Miles Professor, assuming availability is there and all the stars line up then I think you are right!

  8. MMS says “You can use the free night certificates at the Grand Wailea ”

    Ken says:
    February 21, 2013 at 7:54 am
    FYI. The Grand Wailea is not a Woldorf that accepts the free night certificates. I just booked a few weeks ago and bumped into this

    Who is correct?

    • Linda, I think you can use them there, you just have to find standard availability. I have reached out again to try and get a list of excluded properties, but this is the first I have heard of that property potentially being on the list. It has standard room availability, so it should be included. Will keep you posted if/when I get a complete list.
      Seth, you know this answer. As you know, for many properties the number of points required went up – for some, almost double. However the free nights remain the same (well the wording will change to include higher categories, but redemption is the same). So, if you want to stay at some properties you have to now save up 95K points instead of 50K points – meaning twice as much time/investment/whatever than it was before. Or, just get the two free nights. More work and investment if you use points. No increase if you use free nights. Comparatively they are now worth more compared to points (depending where you use them, of course).

  9. It doesn’t sound more valuable, but still ways to get decent redemptions. I’m not tied to a certain week, only if I was to book before the devaluation… I’m going to go off peak & am flexible w/ dates, so hopefully I can find availability in Sept or Oct 2014! We will see.. Who knows maybe there will be another round of devaluations by then!

  10. I do know the answer; it is just that you are posting something else here so I’m confused.

    Some free nights might be worth more relative to the points in the short term. That doesn’t make the card overall a better value nor does it make the program overall a better value.

    The free nights are still free. Hooray. That’s not any more free than they were last week, though.

  11. Slight disagreement, Seth. The card is actually just slightly more valuable for two reasons. Increased liquidity and value stability.

    1. The cost of rooms going up in points makes room redemptions less accessible to those redeeming with points rather than free night certificates. This slightly increases the supply of rooms still available at the standard points redemption rate. This makes the free night certificates more liquid and increases their value.

    2. You can also look at the free night certificates as inflation-indexed bonds. While they will be worth exactly the same theoretically ten years from now, they are more valuable than bonds that are not inflation indexed.

  12. Saw this on flyertalk(I’m not sure)

    Join Date: Feb 2013
    Posts: 2
    Hilton Points Devaluation
    I called Hilton today and the AXON and GLON discounts are gone.
    So much for using my Amex Honors Card. So long Hilton !

  13. I booked two nights at the Grand Wailea no problem with my two free certs. I did it through the diamond desk. I made the booking in October and stayed in December.

    Mommypoints — did the information you receive apply both to the annual cert for 10k spend and the sign up 2 free certs?

    • Larry, it was implied to apply to all certs. I have no reason to think the annual certs will be treated differently…but will be nice when the officially update the terms. Also, thanks for the info on the Grand Wailea – that is what I thought to be true.

  14. @MilesProfessor #13

    Point number 1 is extremely trivial – they’re only available on weekends anyways, when most of the places where one would want to use them are rarely sold out (which not coincidentally, is the reason they can only be used on weekends in the first place!)

    Point number 2 is irrelevant. You have a year to use them

    The benefits of the card are exactly the same. 2 free nights to use at the same portfolio of properties that you had before.

    Let’s not use Hilton’s devaluation as an excuse to prop up an affiliate $$$ card as anything more than it was pre-devaluation

  15. I think it is wrong to say the *absolute* value of this card changed in any way, shape or form. As Seth points out, it was two free weekend nights last week, and it is two free weekend nights this week.

    However it is fair to say that the *relative* value of this card versus other Hilton cards has increased. So whereas before I thought the Amex Surpass was as good if not better than this card (because of the more flexible points on sign up and better earning structure) I would now say this card has a significantly better sign-up as the two nights could cost you as much as 190k points whereas the Amex sign-ups are in the 50-60k range.

    Which does lead me to think that Amex will likely need to completely rethink it’s Hilton card lineup to stay competitive. Let’s see what they do with the AXON’s.

    And now we are all going to have to start studying hard the churnability of the Citi reserve card!

  16. @Jessica, I am also thinking of the Grand Wailea, but I’m making a pre and potentially post reservation depending on how this whole thing shakes out. If I’m calculating correctly, off peak 5 night stay may be cheaper with the new point system.

  17. Thanks for outlining this, MP. I had a though 😛
    So if the certificates are worth $95k HHonors points at high-end hotels, do you see a sort of trade market evolving, where those with certificates “trade them” for 50k (or whatever) HHonors points (likely via AMEX MR or the Hawaii/Virgin cards) to those who may only need/want the 50k points for a stay in DC/Orlando/etc?
    Or is this crazy talk? LOL!

  18. Have you been able to find out what will happen to the AXON awards? Seems like Amex will have a hard time adapting the award to the “seasonal” award structure.

  19. What really get’s a guy is, this is a rewards program they want us to participate in and every thing is a secret.AXON awards, list of properties excluded from citi reserve. Thanks for you effort however it’s time for some transparency.

  20. Thanks for getting the update on the certs. I still think the prime benefit of this is the gold status, but I do view the certificates as more stable – getting me the same room availability as a few weeks ago. Unlike my points. Now eagerly awaiting the word on AXON.

  21. I said they are *like* inflation indexed bonds. 10 years was only an analogy. And, as we can see, one year is a short enough horizon where Hilton points can experience severe inflation!

    You have to look at the market value of free night certificates the way commodities trade. I understand they buy the same thing they did before, but look at the price of oil. When oil supply is cut, the value goes up. That is, it’s market value goes up. The same amount of oil still gets you from point A to point B or gets you a certain amount of heating, but it’s value has gone up and it trades higher. Same with these certificates. They may get you the same free night, but with other opportunities for free nights diminished, they become a commodity. The market is no longer flooded with Hilton points that get you free nights at 50,000 points for top hotels. It’s like Russia and Norway cutting their oil production 🙂

    Let’s say you can get 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points per free night certificate before the change. I am not saying that’s what they are worth, just giving a number. It may be you can get more for them now.

    On the other hand, it can be argued the value of the certificates has gone down. It now costs more to collect enough points to add enough nights for a 6 night vacation, for example. Guess we have to wait and see how the market reacts… and Citi will see how their customer volume changes in terms of signing up for the cards!

  22. @MP, thanks for this post! I was just wondering what would happen to the two free nights. My fiancée and I just met the minimum spend on our new reserve card and are planning to use the two free nights for our honeymoon in April. Glad to know that benefit is stable; now we just have to hope the certificates don’t take too long to arrive!

  23. I tried booking the Waldorf in late Dec with the certificates for an April stay. Didn’t use Diamond desk. Maybe I got an ill-informed Hilton rep, but it sounded like she was just reading off the computer screen. Maybe then lesson here is the old “if you get a no, hang up and try again.” or…something has changed with the property being qualified.

    • Ken, or maybe it was just an availability issue and she didn’t explain it accurately. Either way, sorry it didn’t work for you!

  24. I do think the value of the certificate has changed and increased. Not that I want to give HH any business whatsoever, but suppose the following:

    What if I have a non-discretionary hotel visit (suppose it’s a destination wedding that I simply must go to). In the old point scheme, it use to cost me $500 worth of points for 2 nights, but now it would cost me $1000 in points. In that case, a certificate would be equivalent to the cash I’m going to pay anyway to acquire those points (assuming they’re still cheaper than the revenue price itself).

    Or, suppose that I abandon holding points altogether knowing that I hate hilton and they could easily be devalued again. In that case, the certificate is now worth the cash I’d actually shell out for the room (assuming I have no points at all and this is a must-do trip). In the old system, the certs would be worth the less cost between points and cash (i.e., the points). Now, they end up being worth the $1200 I’d have to had paid in cash.

    Therefore, I have identified two scenarios where the certificates have increased in value to me.

    But these are unsatisfying examples. It seems there’s another one. Consider the value due to the stability that the certs carry, and the scarcity of them. It’s hard to make more of them, so that changes what I’m willing to cash them in for. In some ways that makes them worth less, and in some ways that makes them worth more. It’s also tricky for a similar reason that calculations of “dollars lost to piracy” are always wrong. Value is not really based on some mythical price I would pay — because I wouldn’t pay much for any of this. Rather, it’s a matter of tradeoffs, and the tradeoffs have changed with increased scarcity. This is the harder case to argue rationally, but in some ways — because the cost of Koh Samui has gone up, my value of it has too. Now supposing we were to label that mythical value that I assign — then maybe I would have though I’d pay $50 before, and now, maybe I’ve decided, I’d now pay $75. What happened? Is that rational? Not really, but it’s human.

  25. Will the 2 free night certificate good for Category 1-10 apply to those who have the Citi Hilton Reserve Card in May of this year?

  26. I just received my certificates today, and they read category 1-7, after lengthy conversations with both Citi and HHonors, I was told in no uncertain terms that I have to book the rooms BEFORE 3/28 in order to stay at any of the hotels that will be in category 8,9,or 10. Any changes to reservations made after 3/28, and the new hotel categories are in effect. Please let me know where I can see that all the same hotels available before the change will be available after the category increases. Thanks!

  27. Mike F,

    How long did it take after you met the spend requirement for your certificates to arrive?
    Are the also available to you electronically?

    I met my spend requirement and my statement closed yesterday. Wanting to do some planning/booking.

  28. Mike, that is the opposite of what was sent to me, but as I pointed out I would keep an eye on official verbiage in addition to what I was told. I will be surprised if they truly end up limiting it to Cat 7, but I guess you never know for sure. Clearly the safest bet is to book now if you can.

  29. I was just told by the Diamond Desk after a lengthy hold that reservations AFTER 3/28 could ONLY be used for a Cat 1-7 hotel. They stated that the Citi Certs are different from the normal Hilton points award reservation in that it is a promotion and the promotion certificates are good only for the categories listed on the certificate, viz. Cat. 1-7

  30. Hi all,
    I keep reading that people plan to use multiple free night certificates for one stay. The blog even says that if you and a partner both have the certificates, you could get 4 our of 8 nights free. But the terms on the Hilton website are very clear that you can only use one certificate per stay, even if you check out and check back in. Thoughts???

  31. I’ve got a a Saturday & Sunday night stay booked for NYC and HH had no issues with me using the two certificates for 2 consecutive nights, 1 stay.

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