Citi Hilton Reserve Retention and Downgrade

I got two Citi Hilton Reserve cards when the card was first introduced last year. Getting the cards at the time was easy, getting both sets of certs not. Now Citi has tightened up and new applicants will need to be content with one card.

Annual fee time came and much has changed at Hilton in a year. The last pre-IPO  ‘screw you’ to customers while in the clutches of private equity was the March 28 massive devaluation of HHonors points. Combined with new seasonal pricing, it totted up to as much as 90% increase in award prices. I have not had a paid stay at a Hilton property since.

The Reserve card is a good first-year value, the $95 annual fee is not waived, however two weekend night certificates after $2,500 spend, and HHonors Gold status throughout cardmembership are good benefits. Unlike some competing hotel cards, there is no complementary night at annual card renewal, instead a weekend night certificate is only earned after $10,000 spend.

Ways to obtain Gold status come and go, and since I am not staying at their hotels except rarely for business, that status means little to me. Finding ways to spend an extra $10,000 just for a hotel night is not worth it to me. Even employing Vanilla Reloads I would be paying $95 annual fee plus $79 ($3.95 x 20 VRs), so $174 and a lot of hassle to get a hotel night. I do not like spending my time hunting VRs in NYC. For $174 I can do very well with Priceline if I need a room. So I wanted to either get the fees waived or unload the cards.

I procrastinated until day 30 from the statement date in which the annual fees were billed so yesterday had to take action. Note that I have put minimal spend on either card.

First call the agent would not do anything about the fee or offer any statement credit. She had a 5,000 point offer if I had some rather high spend in 3 months, which I promptly forget. It was something like $2,000. Not interested.

She then offered to convert the card to a no fee card. We went through the available offers. Downgrade to the no annual fee Hilton Visa Signature with a 750 point bonus? Haha, nope. ThankYou card with 6,000 point bonus for $300 spend? Interesting. Dividend card with an extra 1 point per dollar spend for 12 months? Also interesting, considering that stacks with their quarterly 5x categories. A nice thing about the quarterly categories is that while the annual rewards cap is $300, that can all be earned in one quarter if desired. Downside is cash back is only paid in minimum $50 increments. Also the Dividend can be either MasterCard or Visa.

I tried multiple times to inquire about the Citi Forward/Forward for Students which has 5x on dining. No success.

Second call later in the day produced the same result.

With these offers I put my unused Hilton Visa Signature in play as well, since I am good for Silver status with my Amex Hilton.

Here’s what I decided:

Reserve 1: downgraded to ThankYou for the 6,000 point offer.

Reserve 2: downgraded to a Dividend MasterCard for the 2x offer.

Hilton Visa Signature: downgraded to a Dividend Visa for the 2x offer.

My rationale was that I could in theory get a nice quarterly bonus on the two Dividends before year-end. Two is more than enough, I am already worried about the extra work I have brought upon myself, so the other I took the easy ThankYou with 6,000. Keeping the credit limit available is important for credit score and as trade bait for future applications.

The conversion process takes 60 days in which time I can opt out and revert to the old accounts. I wonder if I reverted how the Reserve annual fees would be handled.

I am supposed have have my annual fees refunded within a few business days. I have often had issues with Citi and reports online are that the downgrade process is often not smooth.

The ThankYou and Dividend cards should have one of the great unheralded international credit card benefits, true worldwide CDW with no country exclusions. I will verify when I get the cards. I am curious about the Dividend MasterCard since all the others are Visa. Unfortunately all of these card do have a 3% foreign transaction fee. Those who want this benefit without a new credit application can consider downgrading an existing, unused card like a Hilton Visa Signature, of which some people have stacks from their old quarterly plan.

Disclaimer: in the above I link to several offer pages for the above mentioned credit cards, which pay me a referral commission if you use them to apply and are approved. Thank you.

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  • D

    You AF will be charged in full and then refunded pro-rated. I recently downgraded my AA card to Bronze. I was charged my $85 AF, and when the bronze card was issued I received a credit of $70.xx. So I was out $14 and change for not acting at the 9 or 10 month mark. Note, I downgraded one AA card and got a $95 fee waiver (actual fee $85) on my AA Amex, so I was really only out $4 and change.

    I may flip an old TY Pref to a Dividend card. See if I can get that 2x offer.

  • William

    Steve, just let you know that I confirmed with Citibank that my Citi Prestige Card offers secondary CDW benefits.

  • @William – internationally that will become primary assuming your car insurance does not cover US, the question is does the coverage for the Prestige have any country exclusions or is it the true worldwide one offered by Chubb.

  • I was able to downgrade to the no-fee citi hilton card and have my annual fee refunded.

  • TonyL

    Steve, doesn’t Chase Ink CC also provide true CDW with no country black listing? In addition, both Ink Bold and Ink Plus have no foreign exchange fee. Please let me know if my understanding is incorrect.

  • @TonyL – the existing civerage does have country exclusions, the new terms effective 11/1 appear to cover all countries however there is some wiggle room so on 11/1 I will be calling to try to get explicit proof of coverage.