Reassessing and Liking the New Amex Hilton Cards, Especially for Low Hassle Points Travelers

The 4 new and refreshed Amex Hilton cards came out in January with the end of the Citi Hilton cards. Doctor of Credit has a great comparison table.

Initially I paid little attention to these cards. Discussions with several readers has me doing a reassessment.

Disclaimer: I am not an American express affiliate. That means I can say what I want. In this post I have included my refer-a-friend link for the Ascend card for 100,000 points + a weekend certificate, which is equal to the best public offer for the card. The refer-a-friend program earns me 25,000 points per approval up to 80,000 points per calendar year. Thank you for your support.

Hilton Aspire:

Hilton Honors Aspire

The new premium card, Hilton Aspire, has a load of benefits at $450 year.

Mark at Miles to Memories makes the case for it as the most valuable premium card on the market and shares his experience using the benefits.

With these benefits, I like the idea of getting the card and keeping it:

  • Hilton Diamond status
  • Anniversary weekend night usable at nearly all Hilton properties (see the exclusion list)
  • $250 Hilton Resorts credit (cardmember year)
  • $200 airline credit (calendar year, like Amex Platinum)
  • Priority Pass Select, if you need one/another

On first glance I didn’t realize the $250 Hilton Resorts credit can be used for the room rate, not just dining and incidentals. That makes it a whole lot more interesting to me. See the qualifying properties at hilton.com/resorts.

I’ve been waiting for a bonus point upgrade offer from the Hilton Ascend card. I’ve not received any nor have I seen any reports. The only offer I have is to upgrade for no bonus points. As I’ve thought it over, I may want to keep the Hilton Ascend card anyway.

For travelers who want a top notch hotel status without mattress running or generating big spend on a credit card, this is a a solid card to recommend.

Hilton Ascend (replaced Hilton Surpass):

Hilton Honors Ascend

100,000 point + free weekend certificate offer through 6/27/18 – requires $3,000 spend. Here’s my refer-a-friend link.

I have this card and wasn’t going to do much with it. Corresponding with a reader prompted me to reevaluate.

The reader is interested in hotel programs solely through credit card spend and benefits, and willing to do a moderate amount of spend effort.

The Hilton Ascend has a $95 annual fee and comes with Hilton Gold status = free breakfast. The other hotel programs either don’t have a credit card offering annual free breakfast status level or require spend to achieve it.

The Hilton Ascend earns 6x points at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations, and U.S. restaurants.

Someone willing to go to moderate hassle can find supermarkets selling Visa gift cards for $5.95-$6.95 per $500.

Even if just using those card for your regular spend, $15,000 over the course of a year earns 90,000 Hilton points (good for at least one night at most properties) plus a weekend certificate = a fun weekend with breakfast.

A $95 annual fee plus $178.50-$208.50 in gift card fees is a decent price for someone not wanting huge effort earning points.

Hilton Honors Business Card:

Hilton Honors Business

125,000 point offer through 6/27/18 – requires $5,000 spend. If you do a dummy booking on the Hilton site you should trigger an offer that adds a $50 statement credit.

The new Hilton Honors Business Card is sibling to the Ascend.

The key difference is to the 6x earn categories: no supermarkets.

Instead you get U.S. gas stations, U.S. restaurants, wireless providers, rental cars, and flights booked via AmexTravel.com. Some gas stations will sell $500 gift cards (look for 7-Eleven), but with higher difficulty than supermarkets.

For those watching their Chase 5/24 count, this being a business card avoids a hit to your count.

Hilton Honors Card (no annual fee):

Hilton Honors Card

75,000 point offer through 6/27/18 – requires $1,000 spend. If you do a dummy booking on the Hilton site you should trigger an offer that adds a $50 statement credit. I’d wait for a better offer rather than apply at this time.

This no annual fee Hilton Honors card is not all that exciting beyond the sign-up bonus.

If you get it, within a few months you should get a bonus point upgrade offer for the Hilton Ascend.

Upgrade offers are usually a bit lower than the best public offers, though have advantages of not requiring a new credit inquiry or reporting as a new account (meaning no impact on Chase 5/24 count) and not being subject to the ‘once per lifetime rule’. Repeat upgrades may not be honored with new anti-churning language.

My Strategy:

Amex has a ‘5 credit card’ rule that you can only have 5 of their credit cards open at one time. This excludes charges cards such as the Platinum/Gold/Green.

I have 4 slots taken up by Delta.

I use the Delta Platinum personal and business cards for my annual Delta Medallion Qualification Mile (MQM) boost. The refer-a-friend offers also have been as good as the public offers the past 2 years.

I have the Delta Gold personal and business cards solely for refer-a-friend offers. The Gold refer-a-friend offers for much of this year have been worse than the public offers, so I’ve not used them. In a good year, each card earns 55,000 in refer-a-friend offers (10,000 per approval, capped at 55,000 per calendar year).

I don’t have any SPG cards and category 1-5 anniversary certs are not as interesting to me as what the Hilton cards offer.

My final slot is the Hilton Ascend. I had been looking to upgrade to Aspire.

Going through this exercise, I may dump my two Delta Golds now to get Aspire and the Business card. I’ll keep the Aspire long-term. The business card I’ll keep a year and then look at the Blue Business Plus or an EveryDay card.

Readers, what is your Hilton credit card strategy?

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NinjaX

stefan. this is unrelated, but some time ago, you were going for the sears TYP card. did you ever get it? wondering if you successfully converting to TYP.

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I too love the Aspire, and plan on keeping it long term. I travel a lot in Asia, where I find Diamond status to be considerably more valuable than Gold, yielding consistently better upgrades and service, and the Aspire will not dilute the Diamond status due to it only being available in USA. I have the biz card but just for signup bonus, and I have the no-AF card, but only for the hopes of getting an upgrade offer.