Playing the Hilton Citi to Amex Conversion

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Amex and Hilton’s new credit card lineup will be live on January 18th 2018. The new lineup means an end to Hilton Amex foreign transaction fees, a very attractive new ultra-premium card, a first-ever business Hilton card, and more.  Full details can be found here: Hilton Amex Cards. Everything you need to know.  See also: 5 things you need to know about the new Hilton credit cards.

Those with Citi Hilton cards should think through their options.  Should you keep your card and let it convert into an Amex card?  Or, should you cancel before the conversion?  In this post I’ll help you answer those questions.

In a separate post I covered questions for those who currently hold Amex Hilton cards: Playing the Hilton Amex to Amex Conversion.  Since that post was first published I added another great option: Hilton Surpass cardholders should consider downgrading to the no-fee Hilton card before the conversion.  Details can be found in yesterday’s post.

Existing Citi Hilton cardholders will be transitioned by January 30th 2018 to Amex Hilton cards as follows:

Current Card
New Card

Citi Hilton Honors (no annual fee)

Earning Rate: 6X Hilton, 3X grocery, drugstores, gas. 2X everywhere else.

Elite Status: Automatic Silver status. Gold status with $20K spend.

Foreign transaction fee: Yes

Hilton Honors American Express Card (no annual fee)

Earning Rate: 7X Hilton; 5X at U.S. grocery stores, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations; 3X everywhere else

Elite Status: Automatic Silver status. Gold status with $20K spend.

Foreign transaction fee: No

Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card ($95 annual fee)

Earning Rate: 10X Hilton, 5X airline & car rental, 3X everywhere else.

Elite Status: Automatic Gold status. Diamond status with $40K spend.

Foreign transaction fee: No

Spend Bonus: Earn 1 weekend night certificate after spending $10,000 each year.

Other Perks: None

Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card ($95 annual fee)

Earning Rate: 12X Hilton, 6X at U.S. grocery stores, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations; 3X everywhere else

Elite Status: Automatic Gold status. Diamond status with $40K spend.

Foreign transaction fee: No

Spend Bonus: Earn 1 weekend night certificate after spending $15,000 each year.

Other Perks: 10 free Priority Pass™ Lounge passes

Overall, the new Amex cards are pretty similar to the corresponding Citi cards, but there are a few significant differences.  I’ve underlined the features above where one card had a better perk than the other.

Advantages to keeping your Citi Hilton card through the transition

Here are a number of advantages to keeping your Citi Hilton card rather than cancelling it before the transition:

  • Retention bonus possibility: Amex might offer attractive bonuses (such as for adding authorized users)
  • Upgrade bonus possibility: Amex might offer attractive upgrade offers.
  • Break the Amex 5 credit card limit (maybe):  Amex currently limits cardholders to 5 credit cards (plus any number of charge cards).  If you already have 5 credit cards, it is likely that you will end up with more than 5 after the conversion.  Note though that it’s possible that your account will be closed rather than converted to an Amex.  The Hilton FAQ states: “American Express and Citi are evaluating which Citi Hilton Honors Card accounts are eligible to automatically transfer to American Express on January 30, 2018.”  This implies to me that not all accounts are automatically eligible.
  • Maintain credit history (maybe): It will be very interesting to see how Amex reports the Hilton cards to the credit bureaus.  Will they back-date the account open date to match the date you opened your Citi card?  If so, that would be ideal. If they report a new date then this would be a disadvantage to keeping your Citi card open.  For the record, it seems that when the Costco cards went in the other direction (Amex to Citi), Citi backdated some accounts if not all.

Advantages specific to the Citi Hilton Reserve to Amex Hilton Ascend transition:

  • Earn free weekend night with $10K spend: Citi Hilton Reserve cardholders have until the end of their membership year (even if it goes past January 30th) to get a free weekend night after $10K spend.  But the free night isn’t issued until your card anniversary date — if your account is still open.  If your anniversary date is after January 30th, the only way to get your free night is to keep the account open.  During the transition year, Amex will honor the free night benefit as promised with the Reserve card.  After that, weekend free nights will be based on the Ascend rules (e.g. $15K spend per calendar year to get a free weekend night).
  • Earn two free weekend nights with $15K spend: An ideal situation is if your card anniversary is late in the year.  In that case, you can wait until the card transition to start earning your final Citi Reserve free night.  At the same time, any spend on the Ascend card will count toward that card’s calendar year free night.  So, if you spend $10K after your card turns into an Ascend card, but before your membership year ends, and another $5K before the end of 2018, you’ll receive two free weekend nights.

Advantages to cancelling your Citi Hilton card before the transition

  • New signup bonuses if you’ve never had the Amex Hilton cards before: If you’ve never had the Amex Hilton cards before, then cancelling your Citi Hilton card will ensure that you’ll be eligible for the signup bonuses on the new Amex Hilton cards.
  • New signup bonuses (maybe) even if you’ve had the Amex Hilton cards before: We still don’t know whether Amex will allow people to get signup bonuses with the new Amex Hilton cards if they’ve had the corresponding old Amex Hilton cards before.  In case they do allow it, there’s an advantage to making sure that none of your cards (Amex or Citi) get converted to the new Amex Hilton cards.
  • No new account for 5/24: If you’re trying to stay under, or get under 5 new accounts in the past 24 months (so that you can signup for Chase cards), then cancelling your Citi card is a good idea.  If you opened the Citi card more than 24 months ago and if Amex back-dates the new account, then it won’t matter.  If you opened the Citi card more recently, though, or Amex doesn’t back date the new account, then the conversion will certainly add a new account to your 5/24 count.

Product changing is not an option

In many cases it would make sense to product change from your Citi Hilton card to a different Citibank card.  Unfortunately, Citi is no longer allowing any product changes from their Hilton cards.

Tough Decisions

According to my records, my wife has never had either Amex Hilton card before (hard to believe!) but she currently has a Citi Hilton Reserve card with about $8K spend towards its annual free night (which requires $10K spend).  Arguably, her best bet would be to signup now for the 125K Surpass offer and keep her Citi Reserve card open to collect the free weekend night after $10K spend.  The problem is that she already has five Amex credit cards and so cannot get the 125K Surpass offer unless she drops one of the other cards.  She will probably drop the SPG personal card (but keep her SPG business card) to make room for the Surpass.

In my case, I’ve had both Amex Hilton cards in the past (but neither right now), and currently have the Citi Hilton Reserve card, also with about $8K spend towards its annual free night.  Since I’ve had the Surpass card before, I can’t qualify for the 125K offer.  But, if I cancel the Hilton Reserve card now there is some hope that I can qualify for a signup bonus for the new Amex Hilton Ascend card.  I’ve warned that there’s a good chance, though, that the Ascend signup offer will say something like  “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product or the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express.”  If they do include those terms then I’d be out of luck.

I’m very close to earning a free weekend night with my Citi card.  If I cancel, I’ll gain the possibility of a new signup bonus, but I’ll lose the certainty of the free weekend night.  I think I’ll go with the bird-in-hand rather than the shiny unknown bird in the bush.  In other words, I’ll probably keep my Citi card open.  What do you think?  Please comment below.

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[…] Playing the Hilton Citi to Amex Conversion  […]

helga oliveros

I transition from surpass with Citi to ascend with Amex and already spend over $10k before my anniversary year, my anual fee just posted and still no free night… when should I expect that.
Also I’m close to the $15k spend, should I expect a second fee night when that hits?
When I called Amex to ask these questions they seemed to have no idea what I was talking about

[…] Playing the Hilton Citi to Amex Conversion […]

Paul Davis

I have a question that’s giving me a headache. My wife at the present time has 2 Ascend cards. One that is a conversion from Citibank (which we decided to rollover because we had earned another free weekend night due to spend), and one that was formerly an Amex surpass card that was converted to an Ascend. She also has a “regular” Hilton Amex card. We want to get her the business Hilton card to bulk up on more points, but we need to cancel 2 existing Amex cards to open up space. I don’t see how we’re ever going to get the sign up bonus for Ascend unless it’s an upgrade from the “regular” Hilton card.

Any thoughts or suggestions or speculations on which Ascend card would be more advantageous to keep?
I’m looking for something to bring me to a tipping point to pull the trigger on cancelling one.

thank you for all the useful advice!

Anne

I had to cancel a flight and was told the refund will take awhile to process. Will it automatically be transferred to my new Am Ex ?

Anne

Thanks! The airline said up to six weeks. Citi seems to think it won’t be a problem-but, he did say to hold onto the card for while-just in case…

Byron

The confusing part was about the Jan. 18 date. Additionally, a whole lot easier to MS with Citi than Amex.

Thanks for your response in both places.

Byron

Greg, My anniv. date for the Reserve is Nov. I made enough spend for the Diamond and free night during Dec. If I spend $15K before Jan. 18, do I then qualify for 2 more nights, or must I wait and do that spend specifically on the Ascend card?

Nick Reyes

You want to wait until after your Reserve card becomes an Ascend card (expected to be January 30th) to do your spend. The free night after $15K is a feature of the Ascend card. You can still spend for your Nov Reserve anniversary night (which requires $10K). You don’t have to wait until January 30th to do the $10K for your last Reserve free night, but you do for the Ascend free night. If you wait until the card converts on January 30th and then do $15K spend, you should get both free nights (of course you won’t get the nights until the end of your anniversary year). If you spend $10K right now, you’ll need another $15K after the card converts.

Here is the relevant section of this post that says the same thing I’m explaining:

Earn two free weekend nights with $15K spend: An ideal situation is if your card anniversary is late in the year. In that case, you can wait until the card transition to start earning your final Citi Reserve free night. At the same time, any spend on the Ascend card will count toward that card’s calendar year free night. So, if you spend $10K after your card turns into an Ascend card, but before your membership year ends, and another $5K before the end of 2018, you’ll receive two free weekend nights.

[…] Everyone who currently has an Amex Hilton card should think through the pros and cons of keeping their cards through the transition.  Similarly, everyone who is thinking of getting an Amex Hilton card before the new cards are released should think through the pros and cons of doing so.  And those with Citi Hilton cards should think through the pros and cons of keeping those cards through the conversion to Amex cards.  In this post, I’ll tackle the questions around the Amex to Amex conversion.  I covered the Citi to Amex conversion questions in a separate post: Playing the Hilton Citi to Amex Conversion. […]

RG

My wife got the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve in October and qualified for the 2 free weekend nights soon afterwards. If she cancels the card before the conversion ( certs already deposited), will the certificates be forfeited because she hasn’t had the card for a full year?

Ann

I’m in the same boat (tho I applied in June) and am trying to find an answer to this as well. So far I’ve not been able to turn anything up across several credit card/travel forums.

P

I canceled my card in December after applying in June and called two weeks ago to book the certificates for free nights. I wasn’t able to book because no standard nights but I was able to confirm the certificates are active.

Ann

Thank you, just the info I needed!

Joeheg

I cancelled the card but was later able to use the certs with no problems. Just the hassle of having to call in to use it.

Byron

any indications on what the sign on bonus will be when the new amex launches?

Jed

I have the limit of amex cards (five), one of which is a hilton surpass. I have two Citi Reserve cards. I got letters from Amex indicating both citi cards will be converted to Ascend cards. So I guess I will have seven Amex cards, three of them being Ascend cards.

Derek

I received the same letters from Amex too. But the Citi representative that I talked to specifically said I will maintain my relationship with Citi and it will be converted to a Preferred card.

Derek

Hi Greg,

I was on the phone with a Citi representative and he told me that my Citi Hilton Reserve card will not be converted to an American Express card. (This is actually what I was hoping for because I have 5 Amex credit cards already and could be over the limit).

Instead, he had told me that my Citi Hilton Reserve card will be converted to a Citi Thank You Preferred card some time in January.

I just wanted to let you know because apparently not all Citi Hilton cards will be converted to American Express cards. Some card holders will maintain their relationship with Citi and the cards will be converted to other products (in my case, the Preferred).

I thought I’d share my data point.

Thanks,
Derek