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Hilton’s Aspire and Surpass Cards Get New and Improved Benefits

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It’s not always good news when card changes come knocking on your door. However, today’s announcement from Hilton Honors and American Express should delight most travelers.

Hilton’s top cards, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card*, have undergone a significant refresh — with interesting benefits to get excited about.

Unfortunately, these updates do come at the expense of a $55 and $100 annual fee increase, respectively. Let’s walk through the benefits to see if the value-add remains for these popular Hilton Honors cards.

*All information about these cards has been collected independently by Upgraded Points.

Hilton Aspire Card Changes

The Hilton Aspire card is the hotel chain’s top rewards card that now comes with a $550 annual fee. Beyond a generous welcome bonus offer, the Hilton Honors Aspire card comes with new and existing benefits that make it easy for travelers to rationalize the yearly cost:

  • Up to $400 in annual statement credits for eligible purchases made directly with participating Hilton resorts — distributed up to $200 in statement credits semi-annually
  • Up to $200 back annually on eligible flight purchases at any airline or through AmexTravel.com — distributed up to $50 in statement credits each quarter
  • Up to $189 in statement credits per calendar year after you enroll and pay for an annual CLEAR Plus membership
  • 1 Free Night Reward after you spend $30,000 on purchases in a calendar year
  • Complimentary National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive elite status
  • Cell phone protection
  • 14x points on Hilton purchases, 7x points on select travel and at U.S. restaurants, and 3x points on all other purchases
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status
  • 1 Free Night Reward every cardmember anniversary
  • 1 additional Free Night Reward after you spend $60,000 on purchases in a calendar year

Is the Hilton Aspire Card Worth It?

This is a great deal of changes — here’s our analysis.

First, there are several exciting things to note about the refreshed Hilton Aspire card. Cardholders will now receive close to $800 in annual statement credits. In fact, you’ll receive double the Hilton resort credit than you previously did. However, it’s important to note that this up-to-$400 credit is distributed semi-annually, so you’ll want to book your Hilton stays wisely for maximum value.

Zemi Beach House Guest Balcony
Use your annual Hilton resort credit or free night certificates at the Zemi Beach House property in Anguilla. Image Credit: Stella Shon

The flight credit is also a quarterly benefit, but now it’s valid with any airline. Previously, the airline credit was restricted to ancillary fees on 1 airline of your choice every year. (But if you’re an Upgraded Points reader, you probably spend more than $50 on flights every quarter.)

Other changes to get excited about are the opportunities to earn 3 Free Night Rewards every year, which can be used at top-tier Hilton properties worldwide.

The previous version of this perk only allowed cardholders to earn 1 extra Free Night Reward after spending $60,000. However, now the perk is more generous, allowing cardholders to earn 1 Free Night Reward after spending $30,000 and an additional Free Night Reward when spending $60,000. This means that cardholders can now earn up to 2 Free Night Rewards per year in addition to the 1 earned every cardmember anniversary.

The Hilton Aspire card now includes additional benefits such as complimentary National Emerald Club Executive elite status and cell phone protection, providing even more value for cardholders.

Hot Tip:

Cell phone protection is an overlooked credit card benefit that can come in handy in a pinch. Charge your monthly cell phone bill to your card and receive up to $800 per claim (subject to a $50 deductible; maximum of 2 claims per year) for stolen or damaged phones.

Hilton Surpass Card Changes

One rung down the ladder is the Hilton Surpass card with a new $150 annual fee (rates & fees). Here’s an overview of the card’s benefits:

  • 4x points on U.S. online retail purchases
  • Up to $200 back annually on eligible Hilton purchases — distributed up to $50 in statement credits each quarter
  • Complimentary National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive elite status
  • 12x points at Hilton hotels, 6x points at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations, and U.S. restaurants, and 3x points on all other purchases
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status
  • Earn a Free Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 on purchases in a calendar year
  • Spend $40,000 on eligible purchases in a calendar year for Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year

Is the Hilton Surpass Card Worth It?

If you stay at Hilton properties several times throughout the year, the new $200 annual credit can be an easy way to trim down the costs of your hotel bill. While it’s distributed in up to $50 increments each quarter, the full potential of this benefit could justify the annual fee alone.

Adding U.S. online retail purchases as a bonus category is generous, but remember that Hilton Honors points aren’t as valuable. We estimate they’re worth 0.5 cents apiece, so that’s like getting a 2% return on your eligible online shopping purchases — not bad, but not necessarily extraordinary.

Having National car rental elite status can be beneficial for certain travelers, making it a valuable perk for a card with a reasonable annual fee. Ultimately, it’s nice to see that the other long-standing benefits, such as complimentary Gold status (with a pathway to Diamond) and the free night certificate, are here to stay.

Hot Tip:

Unfortunately, cardholders who used to enjoy accessing airport lounges will be disappointed to know that Priority Pass lounge access will be removed from both cards. The Hilton Aspire card included a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, granting access to over 1,400 Priority Pass lounges. On the other hand, the Hilton Surpass card offered 10 complimentary passes to visit any Priority Pass lounge. Starting February 1, 2024, the cards will no longer include a Priority Pass membership or passes.

Final Thoughts

It has long been rumored that a devaluation to the Hilton Honors cards would surely come sooner rather than later. Yes, the annual fees for both cards are increasing, but in our opinion, the cards have received (surprising!) enhancements such as the ability to use the airline incidental fee credit with any airline and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive elite status, in addition to legacy perks such as complimentary elite status and the ability to earn free night certificates every year.

The information regarding the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

For rates and fees for The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, click here.

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About Stella Shon

With a degree in media and journalism, Stella has been in the points and miles game for more than 6 years. She most recently worked as a Corporate Communications Analyst for JetBlue. Find her work in The New York Times, USA Today, and more.

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