Exciting – New Hilton Credit Cards Launching This Week

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With American Express getting exclusivity to issue Hilton co-brand credit cards in the U.S., and Citi’s Hilton cards retired, Amex will be launching new cards and improving benefits this week — expected for Thursday the 18th.

The base Hilton Honors American Express Card remains the same but eliminates foreign transaction fees.

The Hilton Honors Surpass® Card from American Express is going to become the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card. The annual fee goes up from $75 to $95, but it adds 10 Priority Pass free visits per year and a free weekend night each year after spending $15,000 in purchases on the card in a calendar year. And the card looks attractive, too.

It’s important to note that if you’ve had the Surpass card, the Ascend card will not be considered a new product. Reader Eric F. shared an online chat with American Express where they copied the terms of the new product. Notably,

As you currently have or have had the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card in the past, you will not receive the welcome bonus offer for the refreshed Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card, as you will only receive a welcome bonus once per Card product in your Card Membership.

There will be however a new small business version of this card as well. And that’s a new product.

This was already a good card giving you Gold status just for having it and letting you earn Diamond based on spend. And it’s getting better, rewarding spend not just with points but a free weekend night.

However the card I’m really excited for is the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. It’s a $450 annual fee card that comes with complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status and also a free weekend night each cardmember year. $60,000 in purchases in a calendar year earns another weekend night.

Offsetting the fee are:

  • $250 airline incidental fee credit per calendar year. This runs on the same rails as American Express’ current fee credit system. You’ll choose one airline, and presumably certain electronic gift cards will continue to work for reimbursement even though they aren’t supposed to.

  • $250 Hilton resort statement credit per cardmember year. So be sure to stay at one resort per year and pay with the card to maximize value from the product.

  • $100 on-property credit at Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts but to receive this you have to book “the exclusive Aspire Card package” which I expect to be a competitive rate but higher than paying a corporate or AAA rate.

Conrad Koh Samui

The card comes with Priority Pass with unlimited visits and no foreign transaction fees.

Points earning is greater, but you’d expect that:

  • 14X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
  • 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants
  • 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on other purchases

Hilton Honors points are pretty clearly worth 4/10ths of a cent apiece making actual spend on the card not super compelling outside of paying for actual Hilton stays (worth a 5.6% rebate based on my points valuation)

This strikes me as a great card to have for Diamond status if you value that.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Thanks for writing a “get excited / reminder” post about this, Gary! I’m stupidly excited for the new Aspire product 😀 The annual free night + $500 in credits + top-tier status + strong earning rate at Hilton properties makes this one of the strongest hotel cards to come to the market…perhaps ever? I’m also curious to see if it will have a 1 or 2 free night signup bonus (like Citi did with the outgoing Reserve), or if it will be a point-based signup bonus (which the prior Amex Hilton cards have been known for).

  2. So it seems the Citi surpass holders won’t get the bonus? Do you know if the same applies to former Citi Reserve holders who were told they would receive the Ascend? I closed my reserve so I’m wondering. Thanks

  3. I am not crazy about the Ascend card. Having to spend $15K to get a free night is a bit ridiculous. The Aspire card offers way more value.

  4. Gary,

    Why doesn’t the new Aspire card (with the $450 annual fee, which is in line with their other ‘high end’ products) not include access to their Centurion Lounges?

    As far as Priority Pass lounge access, my T&C of the Surpass card said 10 per cardholder…and my spouse, as an authorized card holder/user, has an additonal card issued to her on this account (but a different number on the card itself). It says to access the lounge you show your Priority Pass Select membership card and boarding pass. Question: will only I get th free entrance and she will get the $27 guest charge, or is it possible for each of us to get the complementary entry (towards the 10)? Thanks

  5. @JohnB

    But if you didn’t have lounge access 10 a year free is a nice upgrade from the surpass.

    But I agree if you can use the benefits the Aspire is a no-brained.

  6. I have had a regular no-fee Hilton Amex for years, which usually sits in my sock drawer. Tonight I saw an offer on Amex.com which allows me to upgrade to the Surpass/ Ascend card for a $75 AF if done on/before Jan. 17, so I grabbed it. I was offered instant Gold status, 75K points for $3K spend in 3 months. Now I come here & learn about the Priority Pass and free night for $15K spending.

  7. Hi Gary: I’m an existing Surpass cardholder in the middle of Year 1 or ownership. In addition to the 100k points I got for signup, the other main reason I paid the $75 annual fee (upfront) is because I get a Free Night if I keep the card for Year 2. But with my card being converted, does this mean I have to put $15k of annual spend on that card in order to get my Free Night that was promised (at the beginning of year 2) when I signed up? Thank you

  8. Wonder about the $250 resort credit… what Hilton Hotels would that apply to? Plenty of Hiltons have spas; however does it have to be some beach hotel??? I’d be interested in this card if I could utilize this “resort credit;” but would like to know the details first. I stay at plenty of Hiltons, but not necessarily “resorts”…

  9. Gee, then I’ll have 4 different Priority Pass cards. Maybe I can work out a deal with the lounge to get paid for using all 4

  10. Gary:

    -How often can the designated airline (for credits on Aspire) be changed after the initial designation? Once in calendar year? More?
    -Is the Priority Pass 10 entries tied to the PP Membership Card itself or the Amex Cardholder? In other words, would my spouse who has her own authorized card from my account with a separate card number, still be considered a guest and charged the $27? Or is it possible for her to enter and have her visit count towards my 10 free?
    -Any idea why the Aspire with it’s $450 annual fee, which is similar in cost to other Amex high end cards, didn’t come with access to their Centurion Lounges?


  11. @Gary — Will upgrades from Surpass/Ascend to Aspire be eligible for a sign-up bonus? Or would it be better to cancel/hold on to existing card and apply separately for Aspire?

  12. @Gary, do you know what will happen to the reserve card holder who already completed $10,000 purchased requirement before 12/31/17 but still not receive the free night certificate because the card anniversary is sometime in 2018?

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