American Express is currently the only bank offering co-branded cards with Hilton Honors. They have a diverse card line of cards with options ranging from one with no-annual-fee to a premium card with a $450 annual fee. When I wrote about how I’m stuck at Hilton Gold status, I mentioned that I could just sign up for the Hilton Aspire AMEX and I’d automatically have Diamond status. One comment to the post asked why I just didn’t sign up for the card. Good question. Here’s a look at what the card offers and if it’s worth the annual feel for the benefits it provides.
If you decide that you want to sign up for the Hilton Aspire card, or any of the Hilton credit cards (or any AMEX card for that matter), we’d appreciate if you use our link. We receive a bonus for each referral and that helps us keep Your Mileage May Vary HQ going strong.
$450 Annual Fee not waived the first year
Sign Up Bonus
The current sign up bonus for the Hilton Aspire AMEX card is 150,000 Hilton Honors points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months of having the card. This is the highest sign-up bonus we’ve seen for this card.
When spending on the card, you earn points in the Hilton Honors program as follows:
- 14 points per $1 spent at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton Portfolio
- 7 points per $1 spent on:
- Flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
- Car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies
- U.S. restaurants
- 3 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
If you’re interested in earning Hilton points, this is the card for you. Figure that Hilton points can be worth 0.5 cents each. For all your spending, you’d be earning 1.5 cents per dollar. Now you could be earning up to 2 cents per dollar with a cash back card so you really have to decide if you want to earn Hilton points or cash.
What makes things interesting is that Hilton members earn 10 points per dollar for spending at Hilton properties. Hilton Diamond members, a status level which all AMEX Aspire cardholders are automatically granted, earn a 100% bonus on base points. When you add to that the 14 points per dollar earned for using the Aspire card and you’re earning 34 Honors points per dollar spent at Hilton hotels. That’s crazy good. Even if points are even worth 0.5 cents each that’s a 17% return.
The Hilton Aspire AMEX also has a number of valuable benefits.
- As mentioned before, AMEX Aspire cardholders are granted immediate Hilton Honors Diamond status, which includes free breakfast and lounge access. Free breakfast at Hilton properties might not actually be free, as we found out at a Walforf=Astoria property.
- Cardholders get a free weekend night upon signing up and every year upon renewal. If you spend $60,000 on the card, you get an additional free night. There are some Hilton hotels that are excluded from this benefit.
- There is a $250 statement credit each year for eligible expenses at Hilton Resorts. Note: this benefit only works at properties designated as resorts, not all Hilton hotels.
- The Aspire card provides a $250 annual airline fee credit. Beware that this benefit is hampered by the restriction puts on all of its cards where you have to choose one airline to use the credits and they will only reimburse for specific expenses. That is why I warn that this credit is not like cash.
- When booking a two-night stay or more at a Waldorf Astoria or Conrad hotel, you can receive a $100 on-property credit when booking through the Aspire card website link.
- Cardholders get a Priority Pass Select membership good for club access for the member and 2 guests per visit. Like other AMEX cards, this benefit only is good for lounge visits and no longer includes benefits at other locations, such as restaurant credits.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees
Ways to use Hilton Honors points
The points you earn with the signup bonus and for spending on the card are deposited into your Hilton Honors account. From there you can use the points to book hotel rooms. Knowing the actual value of Honors points is difficult because Hilton no longer publishes an award chart for their hotels.
The number of points needed for a room can vary based on the cash price needed to book the room on any given day.
For example, I needed a room for the night in Tampa after seeing a concert. Cash prices for hotels were costing over $250 a night but I was able to find a Hampton Inn for 40,000 Hilton points. In that example, I was able to get 0.625 cents per point value for an Honors point.
There are other uses for Honors points such as the ability to book “experiences” like concerts or tours. These may be a good value and may not be available to book on your own so make sure to check out what you’re getting to see if it’s a good value. Another option that’s not a good value is using your points to pay for things on Amazon.com.
Finally, I’d just like to mention that the Hilton Honors program is notorious for hackers breaking into accounts and siphoning off points. There seems to be no foolproof way to protect your account but at least make sure your Hilton account has a strong password that you do not use for any other website.
If you think the Hilton Honors Aspire AMEX card is right for you, here’s our referral link.
I wanted to give this card a good look because of the automatic Diamond status it provides. Since I’m already a Gold member, I get most of the same benefits and only earn 20% less of a bonus on points during stays (Diamond guests get a 100% bonus, Gold members only get an 80% bonus)
The 150,000 point sign up bonus is large and worth at least $750. However, you do need to pay the $450 annual fee.
As with any “premium” credit card, the value of the card depends on if you’re going to be able to take advantage of the benefits and credits that are offered. With the Hilton Aspire card, this means knowing how much value you can get from the free weekend night certificate, making sure you stay at a Hilton resort during the year to use the $250 credit, figuring out how you would be able to use the airline fee credit (which is great if you fly on Spirit or Frontier) and taking advantage of the limited Priority Pass membership AMEX provides.
You also earn more Hilton Honors points with this card than any other option on paid Hilton stays but what that’s worth all depends on how much money you spend in a year at Hilton branded properties.
I’ve made my decision. Is the card is right for you? Your Mileage May Vary.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary