How to earn 300,000 Hilton HHonors points? Citi Hilton Reserve Card is a plus

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About two months ago, I set up a plan to earn Hilton HHonor points.  Before then I was not interested because of the low valuation of Hilton Honor points.  For example, starting March 28, 2013, it would require 40,000, not 30,000, Hilton HHonor points to redeem one night at Hilton Los Angles - San Gabriel, which costs about $140 per night stay.

What led to my plan change?
  • Planning hotel stays outside of US.  We are planning to take a vacation in northern Europe or New Zealand in 2014.  Hilton points is still able to make a big difference. Both Hilton London Green Park Hotel and The Waldorf Hilton Hotel look attractive that fit our taste.  (£ 313 is about $450 at current 1:1.52 exchange rate, or $65 per 10K HH pts for that hotel.  If it costs more than $65 to earn 10K HH pts, then there is no incentive to apply for that Hilton credit card.)
    Hilton London Hotels, 70K HH pts after 3/28/13
    We have SPG points but preferably to reserve them for Sheraton Starwood Hotel stays or conversion to frequent flyer programs with 5000 bonus SPG points.  My wife, Isa, only stays at Sheraton during business trips. That rules out Marriott option.
  • Numerous credit cards offer Hilton points sign-up bonus with manageable minimum spending requirements and most importantly, some of them are churn-able.  The new Citi Hilton Reserve card offers two weekend nights certificates.
  • Incentives from Las Vegas Hilton Grand Vacation stay will add 15K HH points and $200 Hilton credits to my Hilton HHonor account.  My Hilton account has about 50K HH points.  These points alone would be enough only for two Hilton hotel nights.
Seven free Hilton hotel nights would be nice.

Hilton Honor Credit Card Choices:
  1. American Express Hilton HHonor Card - No fee, spend $750/3 months, 40,000 Hilton Honor points.
  2. Citi Hilton HHonor Visa Signature Card - No fee, spend $1000/4 months, 40,000 Hilton Honor points. There seems to be a No fee, spend $1500/4 months, 50,000 Hilton Honor points offer floating around, but the web page does not indicate that. I have not tried it personally.
  3. Citi Hilton HHonor Reserve Card - $95 fee, spend $2500/4 months, Two weekend (Fri,Sat, Sun) nights certificate for participating Hilton Hotels.
  4. Citi Hilton Reserve Card
  5. American Express Hilton HHonor Surpass Card - $75 fee, spend $3000/3 months, 60,000 HH points, but the first 40,000 HH points can be earned after the first transaction.
  6. American Express Virgin Atlantic Card (Thanks to $95 fee, spend $2500/3 months, 50,000 Virgin Atlantic points is an easy gain, which can be converted into 100,000 HH points.
  7. Virgin-Atlantic 65K
  8. Bank of America Hawaii Airline card - $79 fee, spend $1000/4 months, 35000 Hawaii Airline miles to be converted into 70,000 Hilton HHonor points. Plus a one-time 50% discount on companion ticket during the first year.
  9. Bank of America Hawaii Airline 35K
  10. Bank of Hawaii Hawaii Airline Card - $79 fee, spend $1000/4 months, 35000 Hawaii Airline miles to be converted into 70,000 Hilton HHonor points. Plus a one-time 50% discount on companion ticket during the first year.
  11. Bank of Hawaii Hawaii Airline 35K
As a current holder of Hilton credit cards, regardless issued by Citi or American Express, I am not eligible to apply for other Hilton credit cards.  (I forgot about this point, therefore was rejected for Hilton Reserve Card last week.)  If one does not feel comfortable to apply for all seven credit cards on the same day yet interested in most of them, they can be separated into two batches.  Apply Batch I first, then Batch II  90 days later.  Batch I consists of non-Hilton credit cards #5-7. Batch II consists of Hilton credit cards #1-4, with card #4 not a top priority if Batch No. 1 is approved.   Note the time-frame and the total minimum spending requirements for all these credit cards; plan well.
My application for Virgin-Atlantic card is in review mode.  I made second error, should wait for at least 90 days next time.  I applied three credit cards 60 days ago including cards #2 and 3, which will add 90,000 HH points to my Hilton account at the end of next billing cycle.    Isa applied for cards #1, 5, 6, and Chase Freedom card, with #1, 5, Freedom card approved, and #6 in review mode.  A good news is that it is not critical whether her Hawaii credit card application or my Virgin-Atlantic Airline card application will be approved. (See page bottom for latest update)

HHonors points will appear 4-6 weeks after meeting the minimum purchase requirements.  It seems that the amount of Hilton HHonors points required to redeem a Hilton hotel night does not increase as the travel date is near, as long as room is still available.  It required 30K HH pts to redeem Hilton Los Angeles San Gabriel one night stay two months ago.  As of today, it requires also 30K HH pts to redeem for one night stay which is only 3 days away.  I may need to wait as late as possible also to allow HHonors points to sink into my Hilton account, then redeem for Hilton hotel reservations.

The credit cards will arrive next week.  If our planning works out, my Hilton account will have 150,000 HH points four weeks later (45,000 + 15,000 + 90,000), which is good for two London Hilton nights.  Isa will have two Hilton weekend nights certificate and 100,000 HH points two months later.  We will pay for the remaining two nights, or use some SPG points then.

Meeting the minimum spending requirements is the next mind-teasing challenge.

Are you game?

One week later, my AMEX Virgin-Atlantic card was also approved.  Isa's Bank of Hawaii card was rejected (Alleluia! because it would be difficult to fulfill spending requirements of five cards).   There are four new cards total.

  • Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card - $2.5K spending requirement
  • (2) AMEX Virgin-Atlantic Card - $5K spending requirement
  • Chase Freedom Card - $500 spending requirement

Isa's credit score has been improved from 700 to 753.  My mission to improve her score is accomplished. She officially joins the excellent credit score club.  She had only two credit cards 18 months ago, and had not applied for more than five in her life.  To credit card companies, this is not good.  She hits 6 now.  That is enough.

Update  5/15/2013: 
Citi approves only one Citi-brand credit card (whether Hilton or AAdvantage) on a single day. This also implies two-browser strategy is no longer applicable.  Because of this, to earn 300,000 Hilton points, I recommend 3 batches

  • Day 1: Batch I: card #1, 2, 4
  • Day 91; Batch II: card #5, 6, 7
  • Day 240 (8 months): Cancel #1, 2, 4. Batch III: #3 card includes Hilton Reserve Card
In the Batch III, also apply one Chase card and one AMEX card.

Update  1/29/2014: 
Transfer from Virgin Atlantic miles to Hilton HHonors points will be 2:3 instead of 1:2 starting February 6, 2014.  It is a bad news, but in line with expectation, because airline and hotel programs will continue to devaluate their points and miles.

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