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American Express offers four different types of Hilton credit cards. While all of these cards earn Hilton Honors points they all offer something a little different and so you want to pick yours carefully.
In this article, I will break down all of the different types of Hilton Honors credit cards offered by Amex and give you some insight into which types of cards will be best for you based on your personal travel and spend goals.
American Express Hilton card overview
There are four different types of Hilton cards offered by American Express and the differences that you will find between these cards include things like:
- Annual fees
- Bonus earning rates
- Free nights
- Elite status
- Travel credits
- Airport lounge access
I will go into detail about the different cards below but here is a breakdown of all four of them:
- Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
- Hilton Honors Credit Card from American Express
- Hilton Honor American Express Surpass Card (this card was formerly known as the American Express Hilton Ascend)
- Hilton Honors Aspire
Hilton points worth
It’s a good idea to know how much Hilton points are worth so that you are not thrown off by the high bonus multipliers on their credit cards.
For example, the Hilton Honor American Express Surpass Card earns 6X at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations. Earning 6X on a category would usually be exceptional but Hilton points are not worth as much as most travel points.
Typically, travel points will be worth one cent or higher but when it comes to Hilton points we use WalletFlo valuations which are .52 cents per point. Since the point valuations are roughly half of one percent this means that you can divide any bonus categories by two to see the effective cashback rate.
So looking at the 6X at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations, if you divide that by two that means that you are getting around 3% back when you use the card at restaurants and supermarkets. Getting around 3% back on categories like that is pretty competitive with other hotel cards which is one reason why I like the Hilton credit cards.
All of these Hilton credit cards are subject to the American Express credit card application rules.
These are rules like the 1/5 rule, 2/90 rule, and also the 4 or 5 credit card limit rule. And in addition the Amex once per lifetime rule applies as well. The good news is that there is not a Hilton family rule so you can get approved for multiple Hilton cards.
If you do not understand all of these rules or are not clear on how they work then you should check out the new free app called WalletFlo. WalletFlo will automate your eligibility for all of these credit card rules and even notify you when you should apply.
Are you are under Chase 5/24?
If you are currently under the Chase 5/24 rule meaning that you have opened up fewer than five accounts in the last 24 months then you probably want to go for a Chase card first. Right now the Chase Sapphire Preferred is offering a 60,000 points welcome bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months which is one of the best bonuses you’ll find.
But, if you really want Hilton points then you can always go for the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card which will not count towards your 5/24 status. The card earns 12X on Hilton purchases and 6X on the following:
- Car rentals
- Phone Bill
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card also comes with complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status which is a fantastic mid-tier elite status offering free breakfast and upgrades. This is the same elite status that comes with the $550 annual fee American Express Platinum Card so it’s a very valuable credit card perk.
Do you want to avoid annual fees?
If you are someone who does not like to pay annual fees you can get a Hilton card with no annual fee. It’s known as the Hilton Honors Credit Card from American Express.
With this card, you can earn 7X on all of your Hilton purchases which is pretty solid. It also earns 5X at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations and 3X on all purchases.
This card does come with a complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status but I don’t value that status very much so I don’t think it’s that significant of a benefit. But if you spend $20,000 in a calendar year, you’ll earn Hilton Honors Gold status (more on that status below).
So for a no-annual fee card it’s a pretty all around credit card in terms of its bonus earning potential. One great thing about this card is that it has no foreign transaction fees so it’s perfect to use on your travels which was not always the case. (None of the Hilton cards have foreign transaction fees.)
Do you need or want airport lounge access?
If you are somebody who wants to dabble in airport lounge access, the Hilton Honor American Express Surpass Card is a fantastic card.
It earns a whopping 12X on Hilton purchases which is very good. It also earns 6X at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations and 3X on all purchases. So it’s good for every day spend but it is also a great card for certain types of people interested in airport lounge access.
That is because it offers you 10 Priority Pass lounge visits per year that you can use for yourself or for additional people traveling with you. So for example you could bring in your entire family into an airport lounge for free. This type of airport lounge access pass is fantastic for those who are not super frequent fliers.
On the other hand, if you do a substantial amount of flying then you might want a better airport lounge access pass. In that case, the Hilton Honors Aspire is a much better option.
The Hilton Honors Aspire comes with an entire suite of benefits that not only include lounge access but also top-tier elite status with Hilton known as Hilton Diamond status. So the Hilton Honors Aspire will provide better upgrades and it also has a fantastic earning rate of 14X at Hilton properties.
Do you stay at Hilton resorts?
If you stay at Hilton resorts at least once a year, then you can use the Hilton Honors Aspire’s $250 resort credit to offset your purchases, including your room rates. Advance Purchase Rates/Non-Refundable Rates are now NOT eligible for the resort credit for any property.
I’ve used this resort credit at some pretty amazing hotels like the Conrad Maldives and it has been a great way to knock down the cost of my stays.
In addition to that $250 resort credit, you also get a $250 airline credit that can be used on incidental expenses like baggage fees, lounge passes, etc. Together these two credits can completely offset the $450 annual fee of this card and allow you to essentially profit $50 each year.
But there is also one more type of credit you can use with the Hilton Honors Aspire….
Do you spend money at hotels on amenities like a spa treatment?
If you are somebody who likes to have spa treatments and to treat yo’ self whenever you visit a hotel the Hilton Aspire also offers a $100 property credit at Conrad and Waldorf properties on stays of at least two nights.
These are some of the most expensive Hilton properties that you will find so this type of credit is not for everybody. Also only certain types of rates can trigger this credit — you can’t book advanced purchase rates which are usually cheaper.
Do you spend $15,000 or more a year on credit cards?
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card offers a free night when you spend $15,000 or more on it per year.
The Hilton free night certificate offers some of the most valuable free nights you will get with any hotel card because they can be used on even the top tier properties that sometimes go for as much as $1,000 or more per night!
The Hilton Honors Aspire also offers a free night that you can earn with spend but it requires $60,000 worth of spend in a calendar year. That’s a lot of spend just for a free night but the good news is that you get a free night every year as long as you hold the Hilton Honors Aspire.
A good card combination could be both the Hilton Honors Aspire and the Surpass Card if you spend $15,000 on it each year. That would net you two free nights and you could cover an entire weekend potentially capturing several hundred dollars or even over $1,000 in value.
If you are not completely sold on the high annual fee Hilton Honors Aspire card then you could start off with one of the lower annual fee cards like the Hilton Honors card with no annual fee or the Surpass. Then, you could always upgrade to the Aspire later.
The big thing to watch out for is that if you upgrade to the Hilton Honors Aspire card, you will not be eligible for a bonus for that card later on. So you want to wait around until you receive an upgrade offer from American Express or simply inquire with them about potential upgrade offers.
Do you want a lot of points?
If you are trying to earn as many points as possible then the two cards I would look at would be the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card and the Hilton Honors Aspire. Sometimes you can find a welcome bonus at 150,000 points for each of these cards which is pretty incredible.
The most expensive Hilton properties go for 95,000 points per night so this easily covers a free night at the most luxurious properties but you could also cover two to three nights at some very good hotels with that many points. If you combine bonuses from two cards, then you could come closer to utilizing the fifth night free which greatly increases the value of your points.
It’s nice that you have so many options for Hilton credit cards to choose from. If you consider all of the factors above, you will be able to make an informed decision on what Hilton card is best for you.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.