American Express offers three different Hilton Honors co-branded credit cards. There’s a base-level Hilton Honors AMEX card with no annual fee and the luxury Hilton Honors Aspire AMEX. That card comes with a hefty $450 annual fee but provides automatic Hilton Diamond status along with other perks.
In between those two cards, there’s what I call the mass-marketed co-brand card. The one with a moderate annual fee and provides benefits that semi-regular travelers will find appealing. That card is the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card.
$95 Annual Fee
Sign Up Bonus
The current sign-up bonus for the Hilton Surpass AMEX card is 150,000 Hilton Honors points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months of having the card. You can earn an additional 50,000 Points after spending another $8,000 on the card (for a total of $10,000 in combined purchases) in the first 6 months of card membership.
We do have a referral link for this card but the sign-up bonus is only 130,000 points. AMEX pays 20,000 points per referral (by giving you 20K less?) I’ll add the link here, if AMEX decides to increase the bonus at a later time.
When spending on the card, you earn points in the Hilton Honors program as follows:
- 12 points per $1 spent at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton Portfolio
- 6 points per $1 spent on:
- U.S. restaurants (including take out and delivery)
- U.S. gas stations
- U.S. supermarkets
- 3 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
That’s not bad if you’re interested in earning Hilton points. This card earns almost as many points at Hilton hotels as the $450 card. I assign a value to Hilton points of 0.5 cents each. For all your spending, you’re earning 1.5 cents per dollar. Now you could be earning up to 2 cents per dollar with a cashback card, so you have to decide if you want to earn Hilton points or cash.
The Hilton Honors Surpass AMEX includes these benefits:
- Cardholders get immediate Hilton Honors Gold status, which includes 80% bonus points on stays, space-available room upgrades, some form of food/beverage benefit and milestone bonuses.
- When redeeming points, Gold members get the fifth night free on award stays.
- Earn a free weekend night reward after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases in a calendar year.
- If you spend $40,000 on your card in a calendar year, you can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year. If you want Diamond status, you should just sign up for the Aspire.
- Priority Pass Select membership with 10 free visits per year.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees
- The Hilton Honors Surpass card provides secondary coverage for rental cars.
- Cardholders receive Purchase Protection coverage, which I’ve found can come in handy.
What makes things interesting is that Hilton members earn 10 points per dollar for spending at Hilton properties. Hilton Gold members, a status level which all AMEX Surpass cardholders are automatically granted, earn an 80% bonus on base points. When you add to that the 12 points per dollar earned for using the Surpass card and you’re earning 30 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 15% return.
Ways to use Hilton Honors points
The points you earn with the sign-up bonus and spending on the card are deposited into your Hilton Honors account. From there you can use the points to book hotel rooms. Knowing the Honors points’ actual value is difficult because Hilton no longer publishes an award chart.
The number of points needed for a room varies based on the cash price required 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 cost 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.
Of course, there’s the time when we looked to use Hilton points in Key West and the price for a room at the Hampton Inn was over 300,000 points a night.
There are other uses for Honors points, such as booking “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 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 make sure your Hilton account has a strong password that you do not use for any other website.
The Surpass is the Hilton co-brand card that we currently have. It makes sense for our travel style and since Hilton is not our primary brand, the luxury card provides benefits that we’re not going to use.
The Hilton Honors Surpass AMEX checks all of the boxes for a co-brand credit card. It provides worthwhile status to travelers who wouldn’t usually qualify. There are some perks for using the card regularly (free night) and benefits to make traveling more comfortable (Priority Pass.) I’d hoped it would offer some additional travel benefits, but those are limited to the $450 Aspire card. Having the card also makes it easy to keep your Hilton miles from expiring.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary