Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Review [2019]

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The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass (formerly Hilton Ascend) is a great hotel credit card. You can count on it for a strong welcome offer, good bonus earning, and some pretty valuable benefits. In this article, I’ll break down everything you need to know about the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass including things like: free nights, elite status, and Priority Pass.  


Welcome bonus 

If you’re thinking about going for the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass, you might want to wait around until you come across one of the best offers. You can often find the bonus for the Hilton Surpass at over 100K Hilton points but sometimes it gets even sweeter. 

For example, we recently saw an offer for 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points and a free weekend night reward after you spend $4,000 in purchases within your first four months. So my advice would be to wait around until you can snag a free night with the welcome bonus. 

Top-tier Hilton properties go for 95K/night but you can find quality properties in the 60K range so a standard Surpass offer could cover two nights at a pretty solid Hilton property. You can read about how to get the best value for your Hilton points here

But what’s really exciting is that if you get a free weekend night, you can use at top properties like the Conrad Maldives. The free night could easily be worth $400+ or if you’re really strategic, you could get $1,000+ in value! If you used a free night and your points to stay at one of the most expensive Conrads or Waldorfs, you could potentially walk away with up to $2,000+ worth of value from a single credit card offer. 

Use your free night at the Conrad Maldives.

Eligibility 

Amex states:

Welcome Offer not available to applicants who have or have had the Hilton Honors Surpass® Card or the Hilton Honors Amex Ascend Card.

This means you can only get the bonus for this card once per lifetime. Also, the standard Amex application rules of 1/5, 2/90 apply to the the Surpass. By the way, I know credit card application rules can be complex and difficult to track, so I’d check out my new project WalletFlo if you’re looking for ways to manage your credit cards and applications. 


Credit card strategy 

If you are under 5/24 (meaning you have NOT opened up five new accounts in the past 24 months), you don’t want to burn a slot for the Hilton Surpass card. Instead, you should first stick with Chase and consider cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, World of Hyatt Card, etc. and then move on to a different issuer. If you go with Amex before Chase, you will usually end up regretting that move down the line. 


Bonus categories  

  • 12X for charges with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio
  • 6X at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations
  • 3X on all other eligible purchases

12X on Hilton purchases 

12X on Hilton properties is pretty darn good if you ask me. If you value Hilton points at .5 cent per point then that’s like 6% back on Hilton purchases which is competitive with top-earning cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which would earn 3X on travel. 

Hilton will also often run promotions where cardholders can earn even higher bonus rates on Hilton stays so in some cases you’ll be earning more than 12X on Hilton purchases, making the Surpass a high-earning hotel credit card. 

6X on restaurants, supermarkets, and gas

6X on U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations would come out to 3% back which is still not bad considering some good cash back cards offer similar returns.

But me personally, I’d rather earn 3X Ultimate Rewards or 4X Membership Rewards on many of those purchases. Virtually all of my dining and supermarket spend goes on my Amex Gold Card, allowing us to earn 4X on those categories. 

Still, if you want to maximize points on Hilton purchases worldwide, the Surpass is a great option.  

Hilton Playa del Carmen, an adult’s only all-inclusive.

Elite status 

You’ve probably heard me say it 100X, but I think Hilton Gold is an amazing mid-tier status considering you can get the status automatically with the American Express Surpass. Hilton Gold will hook you up with a lot of benefits like: 

  • Complimentary breakfast for two
  • Upgrades (subject to availability)
  • Late check-out
  • 80% bonus on base points
  • Lounge access when upgraded to lounge level rooms
  • 5th night free

Don’t forget that you can also get automatic Gold status with the Amex Platinum. 

I’m not crazy about spending $40K to earn Hilton Diamond when you can simply pick it up with the Hilton Aspire card and get that status instantly. The main Hilton Diamond benefits are:

  • Complimentary breakfast for two
  • Upgrades (subject to availability)
  • Lounge Access
  • Premium internet
  • Late check-out
  • 100% bonus on base points
  • 5th night free

The big difference to me is getting lounge access (and I’ve also received more upgrades and at time better welcome gifts, etc.). But overall, it’s not that large of a leap from Gold to Diamond. If you want to find out more about the differences between Hilton Gold and Diamond, you can check out my YouTube video here

Hilton Americas Executive Lounge.
The Hilton Americas Executive Lounge.

Priority Pass Select

The Hilton Surpass will grant you Priority Pass Select membership which gets you access to 1200+ airport lounges. These lounges vary greatly in terms of quality and features but some can be very nice and be an absolute life-saver between long flights, offering free wifi, snacks/food, drinks (including alcoholic), showers, and more. 

This is not a standard Priority Pass Select membership that offers unlimited lounge visits though. Instead, you’ll be given ten free lounge visits every year. This is the perfect amount for someone who only takes a trip or two with their family and doesn’t need an unlimited amount of visits. 

Lounges have discretion with how many guests you can bring in so it’s ultimately up to the lounge but in theory you would be able to use all ten passes at once (not recommended). If you exceed your ten visits, your card will automatically be charged the guest fee amount (likely around $27). 

A couple of rules to note: 

  • You must enroll your Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card in the Priority Pass Select program to access the benefits.
  • Any unused complimentary lounge visits will be forfeited at the end of each Priority Pass Membership year.
  • To access a lounge, you must show your valid Priority Pass Select card and an airline ticket for travel on the same day for you and each of your guests.


Free weekend night

  • Free Weekend Night Reward when you spend $15,000 in a calendar year

Hitting $15K worth of spend in a calendar year isn’t that difficult so this free night is very obtainable in my opinion. Many cards offer annual spend bonuses that require much more in spending but don’t necessarily offer better value, so I think the Hilton Surpass compares well against them. 

For example, the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select offers $125 worth of AA credit when you spend $20,000 in a year. That’s much less in value than one free weekend night from Hilton (which could be worth $1,000+) and it requires more spend. 

The drawback to the Surpass free night is that other hotel credit cards like the World of Hyatt, IHG, Marriott Bonvoy, don’t require you to put down any annual spend to earn the free night (granted they place category restrictions on the redemptions so their value is capped). 


No foreign transaction fees

This cards used to have foreign transaction fees which was a major drawback but a couple of years ago Amex removed them, making this card much more competitive. 


Annual fee

  • $95 annual fee 

Hilton Surpass protections and benefits 

Here’s a look at some of the major benefits and protections offered by the Hilton Surpass. 

Extended warranty 

With the Hilton Surpass, you can get up to two extra years added to the original manufacturer’s warranty on warranties of five years or less.

If the the original manufacturer’s warranty is less than two years, then Amex will match that warranty. So for example, a one year manufacturer warranty will result in you getting matched to an additional year of warranty coverage under Amex.

If the original manufacturer’s warranty is between two years and five years, then Amex will add on an additional two years to the warranty coverage. So, for example, if your warranty is for four years, then Amex will add on two years so that you’ll be covered for a total of six years.

The extended warranty is definitely one of the best Amex benefits out there. Read more about how the Amex extended warranty works here. 

Return protection

If it has been 90 days from the date of purchase and the merchant won’t take your item back, American Express may refund the full purchase price excluding shipping and handling, up to $300 per item, up to a maximum of $1,000 per calendar year. Read more about Amex return protection here. 

Purchase Protection

You can get protection for accidental damage and theft for certain products up to 120 days after purchase and up to $1,000 per occurrence ($50,000 per calendar year). The $1,000 limit is a bit on the low side compared to some premium products like the Amex Platinum which allow up to $10,000 per occurrence so I would probably stick to other cards for this protection. Read more about Amex purchase protection here. 

Roadside Assistance

American Express roadside assistance is a program offered by American Express cards that offers you special services when you have issues with your vehicle for no additional cost. These services include: 

  • Towing up to 10 miles (Card Member will be charged for the costs of towing in excess of 10 miles)
  • Winching
  • Jump starts (for dead batteries)
  • Flat tire change when Card Member has a workable spare
  • Lockout service when key is in vehicle (lockout service may be unavailable for vehicles with transponder keys.
  • Delivery of up to 2 gallons of fuel.

Read more about Amex roadside assistance here

 ShopRunner

The ShopRunner program offers the following benefits from select retailers:

  • Free two-day shipping
  • Free return shipping
  • Specials deals and discounts

Amex ShopRunner is a special complimentary ShopRunner membership available to certain American Express cardholders (typically, there is an annual fee of $79.00 to maintain ShopRunner). You can find out more about Amex ShopRunner here


Final word 

Overall, the Hilton Surpass really is a great hotel card. If you catch it at the right time, it has one of the best welcome offers out there, competitive bonus spend categories, and a lot of value to offer with Priority Pass and the free night award after only $15,000 in spend. 

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