A LoyaltyLobby reader sent us an email about an issue with Hilton gift cards that use the American Express network and are issued by Amex.
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Here’s the email from the reader:
I have a Hilton Gift card (issued by AMEX with AMEX card number standards). I have had issues using it at several Hilton hotels in the past four years that I’ve had this gift card. Sometimes, I can just simply pay with it by sliding it in the card reader and it charges their system as an AMEX. Sometimes, it won’t work and they try to enter it manually and it will decline.
Long story short – I’ve had more Hilton hotels unable to process it than I care to count. Of all places, an old Hampton Inn in Mississippi was able to process it just fine. The lady told me that most front desk agents forget to “remove the temporary hold, which is why this card won’t allow you to charge it. You need to make sure at check-out that only the total amount is entered by the agent and not the hold. In some systems, they need to choose gift card or certificate to process payment.” Well, I have tried to explain this and it still won’t work.
Last week, I stayed at the Doubletree Lisbon. At check out, the card was declined twice. I ended up paying with my own VISA card and then contacted the hotel via email and explained how they need to process it. They offered me to call in with the number. On the phone, they tried again twice to no avail. The card itself is fine, has a positive balance on it and I have checked it several times online.
When I contact Hilton customer service, they always refer me to the “number on the back of the card.” When you call that number, it goes to the generic AMEX gift card hotline, which goes to a foreign call center, and they usually just read a script telling me that “restaurants may hold 20% on this card for tip.” Essentially, none of them can differentiate the Hilton card vs other generic AMEX gift cards.
I’m just curious if you’ve had or heard of this problem in the past. I have a decent chunk in my card that I’d like to use….
Here’s how Hilton sells these:
Hilton claims that these can be used at ALL hotels and resorts within their portfolio. Additionally, there is a note on the T&Cs that these can be used at all hotels that accept American Express cards.
I believe that the problem is that hotels that cannot process a payment using these gift cards are not correctly programmed at the system that accepts or declines charges coming from them.
As these cards can only be used at Hilton-affiliated hotels, although they use the Amex network, the system that accepts the incoming charge must be aware that the merchant is an affiliated hotel. The problem is that the name these hotels are under with banks often has very little to do with the hotel’s name.
Unfortunately, Hilton appears not to OWN the issue even when these cards carry their name. Last week, I was in touch with the Hilton spokesperson about the problem surrounding these cards, but they had not returned to us by the time this article was published.
As the reader, I have had similar issues with IHG Rewards prepaid Mastercard debit cards that you can redeem using your points. I would say that it is roughly fifty-fifty chance whether the hotel’s system accepts or declines them. It is not much better with Marriott that uses a separate system to redeem their gift cards. Be prepared for very lengthy checkouts and utter confusion with front desk clerks.
As the reader correctly notes, you must use another form of payment to guarantee the stay at the time of checking in and then settle the folio charges to the gift card at the time of checking out.
If these hotel companies continue to offer gift cards, they should ensure that it is not a PITA to use them.