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As the choice of credit cards continues to increase, so too does the number of rewards programs attached to various cards. And if you particularly like the sound of enjoying the spoils of what the Hilton Hotel chain has to offer, as a result of using your credit card, the Hilton Honors rewards program could be a way of helping you achieve that.

So how exactly does this program work, in light of other rewards programs?

Reward programs in a nutshell

All reward programs are based on accumulating rewards points, or benefits you are eligible for as a result of what is considered everyday spending on your card, and the points gained are usually proportionate to the amount you spend.

You can then redeem the points for a range of rewards which are offered through the program. The type of reward you receive generally comes in four main forms, which may be a cashback, frequent flyer points, merchandise such as fashion items, electronics, homewares, fuel or event tickets, or shopping discounts on any or all of those items.

Most programs also offer a points-plus-pay option, where you use your points to redeem part of your reward and pay the rest in cash based on pre-set amounts by each program. 

Generally, credit cards with reward programs attached do attract higher interest rates and fees than cards without reward programs.

How does Hilton Honors work?

In the case of Hilton Honors Rewards, the program allows you to earn points on everyday purchases, as well as bonus points on purchases made with Hilton Hotels and its partners.

Those points can then be used in a number of ways to redeem a range of offers through the Hilton Hotel chain and members of its reward program alliance.  

Once you spend a certain amount of money on the attached credit card you can become eligible for an upgrade to the elite levels of Hilton Honors membership which include silver, gold and diamond status. The number of services and benefits you have access to through the reward program increases in line with the elevated membership status.

Becoming a member of the Hilton Honors Reward program is conditional when applying for any credit cards attached to the program.

The program’s global reach

The program is one of the largest hotel reward programs in the world and provides benefits within the group’s hotels, resorts and properties across more than 5,000 different locations and 100 countries, including a network of major cities and the world’s most popular holiday and tourist destinations.

Through Hilton Honors, members also have access to the Hilton portfolio of hotels which includes other leading accommodation brands and properties around the world:

  • Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts
  • Conrad Hotels and Resorts
  • Canopy by Hilton
  • Curio – a collection by Hilton
  • DoubleTree by Hilton
  • Tapestry Collection by Hilton
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton
  • Hilton Garden Inn
  • Hampton by Hilton
  • Tru by Hilton
  • Homewood Suites by Hilton
  • Home2 Suites by Hilton
  • Hilton Grand Vacations.

Redeeming your points and points expiry

All Hilton Honors bonus points earned are in addition to the points that you earn via the earning style option you select.

You can check your points balance online at any time and choose your reward option from the following options:

  • Hotels and resorts – this includes booking rooms or obtaining upgrades, or using points for special hotel services or meals from any of the Hilton group properties
  • Flights and car travel – convert your points into miles with participating frequent flyer partners, or car hire with program partners.
  • Shopping and dining – offers special rewards at the Hilton Honors Shopping Mall through program partners.
  • Events – apply to use your points to attend special events being held at Hilton properties around the world
  • Charitable donations – you can also donate points to a range of program charities.

Your bonus points will not expire, provided you do one of the following within a period of 12 consecutive months:

  • Remain a Hilton Honors credit cardholder
  • Stay at a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio
  • Earn Hilton Honors bonus points through any participating program partner
  • Purchase Hilton Honors bonus points

Transferring points

You can boost your Hilton Honors rewards balance by transferring points from an eligible travel or frequent flyer program, and Hilton Honors points can also be bought, gifted or transferred between members with annual points limits placed on each transaction. 

What should I consider before I apply?

You need to take into account the following factors when making your decision about choosing a credit card with a reward program:

  • Interest rates and fees – many reward card providers will offer a $0 annual fee for the first year to new card applicants as well as special interest rates on any balance transfers. However, you need to also look at what that annual fee reverts to beyond the initial period, as well as finding out what the interest rate is on any balance transfers beyond the initial specified period. Read the fine print.
  • Cost versus benefit – as enticing as any reward card sounds, you do need to weigh up the total annual cost of the purchases you need to make to be eligible for the card’s various rewards. If you’re spending more than you usually would in a bid to achieve a reward level, you need to determine if the additional financial pressure this puts on you to pay off that amount is actually worth it. Be realistic about whether you are disciplined with money and are able to remain living within your means if you have the card.
  • Paying off the balance in full – there’s no value in having access to the reward program if you can’t afford to pay for the items you put on the card in full within the interest-free period. The interest payments can quickly rack up when you consider many cards have revert rates which are commonly around 20 per cent.
  • Are the rewards relevant to your lifestyle – you need to look at the accommodation, travel and shopping benefits the card offers to determine whether this is a financial equation that makes sense for you, based on your lifestyle. You should have a pre-determined idea of what sort of rewards are right for you and if it will provide an efficient complement to your existing financial platform.
  • Compare what else is on offer – compare this card against the reward programs offered through partnerships between other leading hotel chains and card providers. Other hotel chains that have reward programs include the Starwood, Marriott, Hyatt, the Ritz Carlton and IHG and all offer different entitlements through their respective properties and partners. You need to compare apples with apples in order to feel comfortable that you’ve really done your homework.

Once you do all your research, you’ll then be in a more considered position to determine whether the card and the program will financially suit your needs.

Frequently asked questions

What's the best credit card for rewards?

There is no one-size-fits-all best rewards credit card. It's best you research what type of rewards program you'd like, as well as the fees, interest rate and conditions associated with those types of cards before making a choice. 

Rewards credit cards can also come with high annual fees that may end up nullifying the rewards, so think how often you use the card to decide whether the benefits outweigh the extra cost for you. A card with a lower annual fee might require a lot of spending to get any useful rewards, while another card with a higher annual fee might need fewer purchases to get a reward. 

How do you cancel a credit card?

It’s important to cancel your old cards to avoid any additional fees. Unless you’re doing a balance transfer, you’ll need to pay the outstanding balance before you cancel your credit card. If you’ve opted for a card with reward points, make sure you redeem or transfer the points before you close your account. To avoid any bounced payments and save yourself an admin headache, redirect all your direct debits to a new card or account. Once you’ve done all the preparation, call your bank or credit card provider to get the cancellation underway. Once you receive a confirmation letter, destroy your card and make sure the numbers aren’t legible.

How do you use a credit card?

Credit cards are a quick and convenient way to pay for items in store, online or over the phone. You can use a credit card as a cashless way to pay for goods or services, both locally and overseas. You can also use a credit card to make a cash advance, which gives you the flexibility to withdraw cash from your credit card account. Because a credit card uses the bank’s funds instead of your own, you will be charged interest on the money you spend – unless you pay off the entire debt within the interest-free period. If you pay the minimum monthly repayment, you will be charged interest. There are many different credit card options on the market, all offering different interest rates and reward options.

Can a pensioner get a credit card?

It is possible to get a credit card as a pensioner. There are some factors to keep in mind, including:

  • Annual income. Look for credit cards with minimum annual income requirements you can meet. 
  • Annual fees. If high fees are a concern for you, opt for a card with a low or $0 annual fee. 
  • Interest rate. Make sure you won’t have any nasty surprises on your credit card bill. Compare cards with a low interest rates to minimise risk.

How do you use credit cards?

A credit card can be an easy way to make purchases online, in person or over the phone. When used properly, a credit card can even help you manage your cash flow. But before applying for a credit card, it’s good to know how they work. A credit card is essentially a personal line of credit which lets you buy things and pay for them later. As a card holder, you’ll be given a credit limit and (potentially) charged interest on the money the bank lends you. At the end of each billing period, the bank will send you a statement which shows your outstanding balance and the minimum amount you need to pay back. If you don’t pay back the full balance amount, the bank will begin charging you interest.

How easy is it to get a credit card?

For most Australians, there are no great barriers to applying for and getting approved for a credit card. Here are some points that a lender will consider when assessing your credit card application.

Credit score: A bad credit score is not the be all and end all of your application, but it may stop you being approved for a higher credit limit. If your credit score is less than perfect, apply for the credit limit that you need, rather than the one you want.

Annual income: Most credit cards have minimum annual income requirements. Make sure you’re applying for a card where you meet the minimum.

Age & residency: You need to be at least 18 years old to apply for a credit card in Australia, and most require that you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident. However, there are some credit cards available to temporary residents.

What is a balance transfer credit card?

A balance transfer credit card lets you transfer your debt balance from one credit card to another. A balance transfer credit card generally has a 0 per cent interest rate for a set period of time. When you roll your debt balance over to a new credit card, you’ll be able to take advantage of the interest-free period to pay your credit card debt off faster without accruing additional interest charges. If your application is approved, the provider will pay out your old credit card and transfer your debt balance over to the new card. 

How to get a credit card for the first time

A credit card can be a useful financial tool, provided you understand the risks and can meet repayment obligations.

If you’re a credit card first-timer, review your options. Think about what kind of credit card would suit your lifestyle, and compare providers by fees, perks and repayments.

Once you’ve selected a card, it’s time to apply. Credit card applications can generally be completed in store, online or over the phone.

When you apply for a credit card for the first time, you must meet age, residency and income requirements. As proof, you must also provide documentation such as bank account statements.

Should I get a credit card?

Once you've compared credit card interest rates and deals and found the right card for you, the actual process of getting a credit card is quite straightforward. You can apply for a credit card online, over the phone or in person at a bank branch. 

How is credit card interest charged?

Your credit card will be charged interest when you don’t pay off the balance on your credit card. Your card provider or bank charges you the individual interest rate that is associated with your card, which is usually between 10 and 20 per cent. 

The interest will be added onto your bill each month or billing period if you don’t pay off the balance, unless you are in an interest-free period.

You will be charged interest on anything that hasn’t been paid for inside the interest-free period. Usually you will receive a notice on your bill or statement saying you will be charged interest so you have some form of notice before you’re charged.

How does credit card interest work?

Generally, when we talk about credit card interest, we mean the purchase interest rate, which is the interest charged on purchases you make with your credit card.

If you don’t pay your full balance each month (or even if you pay the minimum amount), you are charged interest on all the outstanding transactions and the remaining balance. However, interest is also charged on cash advances, balance transfers, special rate offers and, in some cases, even the fees charged by the company.

The interest rate can vary, depending on the credit card. Some have an interest-free period, otherwise you start paying interest from the day you make a purchase or from the day your monthly statement is issued. So avoid interest by paying the full amount promptly.

Which credit card has the highest annual percentage rate?

The credit card market changes all the time, so the credit card with the highest annual percentage rate is also liable to change.

Keep in mind that credit card interest rates are expressed as a yearly rate, or annual percentage rate (APR). A low APR is generally good but also consider:

  • There can be different APR's for each feature of the card (e.g. purchases may have an APR of 14 per cent, while cash advances on same card could have an APR of 17 per cent.
  • Credit cards with a variable rate can change throughout the year, affecting your APR, so check the full details.
  • If you pay your balance in full every month, having the lowest APR is not as important as the other fees associated with the card. However, if you carry a balance from month to month, then you want the lowest APR possible.

How to calculate credit card interest

Credit card interest can quickly turn a manageable balance into unmovable debt. So being able to understand how interest rates translate into dollars is an important skill to acquire.

The common mistake people make is focusing on the credit card’s annual percentage rate (APR), which often sits between 15 and 20 per cent. While the APR does provide a rough idea of how much interest you’ll pay, it’s not entirely accurate.

This is because you actually accrue interest on your balance daily, not annually. So, you need to work out your daily periodic rate (DPR). To do this, divide your card’s APR by the number of days in a year (e.g. 16.9 per cent divided by 365, or 0.05 per cent). You can then apply this figure to the daily balance on your credit card.

How to get a free credit card

There's no such thing as a free lunch. All credit cards come with associated costs when used to make purchases, even if it’s simply the cost of making repayments.

However, many lenders offer incentives for customers such as a $0 annual fee or 0 per cent interest on purchases during an introductory period. Additionally, paying off your balance in full during an interest-free period means you could only have to pay back the cost of purchases without interest. You could also be eligible for additional rewards such as cashback during that time, saving you more money.

How do you apply for a credit card?

You can apply for a credit card online, over the phone or in person at the bank. Once you’ve compared the current credit card offers, the application process is quick and easy. Before you get your application started, you’ll need to gather your personal information like proof of ID, payslips and bank statements, proof of employment and details of your income, assets and liabilities. To be eligible for a credit card, you’ll need to be an Australian citizen over 18 and earn a minimum of $15,000 each year. Once you’ve applied for a credit card, you should get a response fairly instantly. If your credit card application has been approved, you should receive a welcome pack with your new credit card within 10-15 days.

How to pay a credit card from another bank

Paying or transferring debt from one lender to the other is called a balance transfer. This involves transferring part or all of the debt from a credit card with one lender to a credit card with another. As part of the process, your new lender will pay out the old lender, so that you now owe the same amount of money but to a new institution.

Many credit card providers offer an interest-free period on balance transfers to help new applicants better handle their debt. During this period, cardholders are not required to pay interest on the debt they brought over from the other card. This can be a great opportunity for consumers to pay off credit card debt with no interest. There are often fees associated with balance transfers; normally, these are a percentage of the amount transferred.

So make sure you read the terms and conditions of the card before transferring any debt across.

How to pay a credit card

There are a few ways to pay a credit card bill. These include:

  • BPAY - allows you to safely make credit card payments online.
  • Direct debits - set up an automatic payment from your bank account to pay your credit card bill each month. You can choose how much you want to pay of your credit card bill when you set up the auto payments.
  • In a branch.
  • Via your credit card provider's app.

What should you do when you lose your credit card?

Losing your credit card is a serious situation, and could land you in financial trouble. Here is a simple guide detailing what to do when you lose your credit card.

Lock you card – Contact your provider and inform them about your lost credit card. From here lock, block or cancel your card.

Keep track of transactions – Look out for unauthorised credit card transactions. Most banks protect against fraudulent transactions.

Address recurring charges – If your card is linked to recurring charges (gym membership, rent, utilities), contact those businesses.

Check credit rate – To ensure you’re not the victim of identity theft, check your credit rating a month or two after you lose your credit card.

What is a credit card?

A credit card is a payment method which lets you pay for goods and services without using your own money. It’s essentially a short-term loan which lets you borrow the bank’s money to pay for things which you can pay back – potentially with interest – at a later date. Credit cards can also be used to withdraw money from an ATM, which is known as a cash advance. Because you’re borrowing money from a bank, credit cards charge you interest on the money you use (unless you repay the entire debt during the interest-free period). When you apply for a credit card, the bank gives you a credit limit which sets the maximum amount you can borrow using your card. Credit cards are one of the most popular methods of payments and can be a convenient way of paying for goods and services in store, online and all around the globe.

What happens if I have a bad credit score?

If you have a bad credit score, you might encounter two main problems. First, the lower your credit score, the more likely you are to be rejected when you apply for a loan or any other credit product. Second, if your application is accepted, the less likely you are to qualify for the lowest interest rates.