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As expected, American Express officially launched their new Hilton cards this week. The new offerings include 4 options – 3 personal cards and a business offering. If you have one of the previous Hilton offerings from AmEx or Citi, you can expect a new card in the future.
Should you keep it? Let’s take a look…
A few things across the board: None of these new cards have foreign transaction fees. Although that’s an easy to find feature, its always nice not to worry about fees! Each card also comes with car rental insurance and travel accident insurance (another common benefit).
The Hilton Honors card remains largely unchanged from the previous American Express edition. If you found it useful before, you’ll be able to keep it in your wallet without another thought. For me, it doesn’t earn enough. When Hilton points are worth so little on their own, and the card doesn’t offer many other benefits, I’d be hard-pressed to keep this one in my wallet. There’s no harm in keeping your AmEx Hilton Honors card open, but I certainly won’t be going out of my way to apply for it right now. Maybe in the future, they’ll offer a more enticing sign-up bonus we can jump on.
The previous Surpass card is getting a facelift, and has been renamed the Hilton Honors Ascend. For all you Citi cardholders out there, the Ascend will also be replacing the former Citi Hilton Reserve. The card’s earning structure and sign up bonus are similar to the last edition, though higher bonuses have been seen in the past. Compared to the Surpass, you’ll pay $20 more for 10 entrances to Priority Pass lounges. Previously, the Surpass card waived the Priority Pass membership, but you’d still have to pay access fees each time you stopped by a lounge.
The Hilton Honors Aspire card will be stepping in as a new top-tier card. Previously, there wasn’t a premium-level card on offer. The Aspire will set you back $450 a year, but gives you some great benefits – $100 Hilton property credit at participating properties on all 2 night minimum stays booked through the Aspire package, 1 free weekend night automatically each year, a $250 airline credit, Hilton Diamond status, and full Priority Pass Select membership.
Another new option, the Hilton Honors Business card is similar to the Ascend, but offers bonus points on additional categories. Instead of 6x points on gas, groceries, and restaurants like the Ascend, you’ll earn 6x on gas, restaurants, shipping, car rentals, and airfare booked directly or through AmEx Travel. Other than the expanded bonus categories (note groceries are not included), and access to AmEx OPEN savings, this an identical card to the Ascend.
Who should get these cards?
My recommendation? If you really love Hilton properties, or have to book them for work, these might be a good option. I’ll echo Ian, and point out that if you’re a classic road-warrior and prefer Hiltons, the Gold or Diamond status on the Ascend/Business card and Aspire, respectively, become a nice perk. If you can book the hotels yourself and get reimbursed by your employer, even better. In that case, I’d absolutely recommend the Aspire. The credits will make up for the annual fee, and you’ll be earning 14x points on essentially someone else’s money. With all those extra points, be sure to book some stellar redemptions!
(SEE ALSO: The 5 best uses of Hilton points)
Hotel status really does make a difference if you’re at their properties every week, and the business traveller will definitely get some benefit out of Diamond status, if they don’t have quite enough stays to qualify organically.
A note of caution, however – you don’t need to rush to apply. With American Express’s once per lifetime rule, readers looking for a new hotel card might want to wait this one out a few months, and see what the issuer can do for us.
(If you don’t have one of these cards yet, feel free to pick one up over on our page!)
I currently hold the AmEx Surpass (now Ascend), and will at least hang onto it until my fee comes up, what’s your plan?
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