Surpass vs Reserve – Which Hilton Credit Card Works Best For My Family?

Now that my children are getting a little older, I am willing to start traveling with them. This year we decided that our family vacation will be to Scotland.  More on that in another post.  In my planning for our family vacation I am exploring hotel options. I want to minimize the capital outlay and have been exploring various credit card offers. We spend a fair amount on our credit cards, applying my son’s school tuition which makes it relatively easy to meet credit card spend for sign-on bonus rewards.

Most hotel chains offer only one credit card option, but as everyone knows there are not one, but four different credit cards for the Hilton brand of hotels. My top preference is Hyatt, but Hyatt has very little presence in the UK. There are some Hiltons, Marriotts, and a fair number of IHG (Holiday Inn) hotels in Scotland.

I have had the American Express HHonors Card for a while, but was intrigued by the 100k Amex Surpass offer and was wondering whether the Citibank Hilton Reserve Visa would work for me as well. All the travel blogs (except one that I found) tout the value of the weekend hotel free night certificate after initial sign on bonus of the Citibank Hilton Reserve Visa as being more valuable than the American Express Surpass.

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card   VS  AMEX Hilton HHonors Surpass

For travel with my family of four, I don’t know if that holds true. We do not fly frequently to international destinations, and most of all, many standard rooms internationally have a maximum capacity of 3 (2 Adults, 1 child) or even 2. We might do one big trip a year. So if I want to take the whole family, I’m out of luck and the certificate will not accommodate all four of us! For example, I just looked up Hilton’s in Hong Kong and there is the Conrad Hong Kong, but they do not have rooms that accommodate 4 people. Only 1 child allowed! This and the fact that you have to spend $10,000 per annum to get the certificate lowers the potential value of the certificate for me. I already hold the Hyatt and Marriott credit cards which have free nights attached without spend requirements and will likely use those stateside.

You can use points to pay for non-standard rooms with Hilton, so the 100k sign up of the Surpass appeals to me. Is the Gold status worth the $75 the second year? I’m not sure. If the AMEX Surpass had no foreign transaction fees, then it would be positive factor in my keeping the Surpass as a primary Hilton card for earning points at supermarkets and gas spending AND for all Hilton stays. Without the no-foreign transaction fees I’m torn on what card to use for my overseas Hilton stays. Take note AMEX/Hilton!  Not having a no-foreign transaction fee feature on your premium card is a travesty since it is a TRAVEL card.