American Express has recently come out with some great new sign-up bonuses for its Hilton co-branded cards, for sign-ups through referral/affiliate links:
- 150,000 Hilton Honors points for the Amex Hilton Aspire premium card
- 150,000 Hilton Honors points for the Amex Hilton Ascend mid-range card
- 100,000 Hilton Honors points for the Amex Hilton Honors no-fee card
We believe that these are high-water marks for the sign-up bonuses on these cards, so now is the time to apply for one or more of these cards if they fit into your overall credit card/points-and-miles strategy.
Here are links to the sign-up offers. All of these are our referral links. For the Ascend and the No-Fee Cards, these sign-up bonuses are 25,000 points higher than the current publicly-available offer, so you get more by signing up here than directly through Amex. For the Aspire card, our sign-up bonus is the same as the publicly-available offer, and you can help support Middle Age Miles by using it!
Sign-Up Link for the Amex Hilton Aspire card (Referral Link)
Sign-Up Link for the Amex Hilton Ascend card (Referral Link)
Sign-Up Link for the Amex Hilton Honors (no-fee) card (Referral Link)
We believe that these sign-up bonus offers are great, and now is the time to strike if you’re interested in one of these cards. Given Amex’s “once per lifetime” rule on sign-up bonuses, it’s important to strike at or near an all-time high for each card, and we believe that these offers are likely to be the high-water marks for sign-up bonuses on these cards for the foreseeable future. Looking back, the bonus on the Ascend card is at an all-time high, even including the history of its predecessor, the Surpass card. The other cards are new as of this year, but these sign-up bonuses are higher than they have been to date.
These cards – especially the premium Aspire card and the mid-level Ascend card – are also valuable to continue to hold and use. Let’s look at each card (keeping in mind that Middle Age Miles’ baseline value for Hilton Honors points is 0.5 cents per point):
The Amex Hilton Aspire premium card
The Aspire card is one of the most valuable cards on the market today – and probably the most valuable hotel co-branded card. It has an annual fee of $450, but it has a ton of fantastic benefits:
- Current sign-up bonus: 150,000 Hilton Honors points (baseline value $750)
- Airline fee credit of $250 per calendar year
- $250 Hilton resort statement credit, per cardholder year
- Bonus Category: 14x at Hilton properties (baseline value 7 cents per dollar of spend)
- Bonus Categories: 7x for US restaurants, airfare (from airline or on amextravel.com), and car rentals from “major” companies (baseline value 3.5 cents per dollar of spend)
- Complimentary Hilton Diamond elite status
- Hilton Free Weekend Night Certificate in your first year, and annually upon renewal thereafter
- Additional Hilton Free Weekend Night Certificate with $60k spend in a calendar year
- Priority Pass – 10 complimentary visits; $27/visit thereafter
- $100 On-Property Coupon at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties – requires a 2-night stay and booking through a specific Hilton portal
For anyone who stays at Hilton properties, this is a tremendous value. In my view, the complimentary Diamond status and annual Hilton Free Weekend Night certificate alone justify the $450 annual fee for the card. [Philly and I had a great time using a Free Weekend Night certificate recently for Date Night at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills!]
In addition, the $250/calendar year airline fee credit is worth close to face value. Reports are consistent that certain airline gift cards trigger the credit. Indeed, our own data point is that we were able to select American Airlines as our preferred airline and receive the credit after purchasing $100 and $50 AA gift cards. Also note that you can double-up on the airline fee credit during your first cardholder year (for example, claim it once in 2018 and again in 2019 before your next annual fee comes due), giving you even more first-year benefit.
There are currently 216 Hilton-affiliated “resort” properties that qualify for the $250/cardholder year resort statement credit. You can find a complete list here. Be sure to check the list if you’re looking to use this credit, because the list includes properties you might expect. For example, here locally in the DFW area, the Hilton Anatole in Dallas and the Hilton Dallas/Rockwall Lakefront are included. Looking west to California, I might not have guessed that the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines or the Hilton Palm Springs would be included, as neither has “Resort” in its name. Bottom line, you will have a whole lot of hotels and resorts to choose from, in using your $250/year resort statement credit.
The 14x Bonus Category for Hilton stays is also useful to me, as it’s effectively a 7% rebate in the form of Hilton Honors points, on our Hilton spend. That, combined with Hilton’s regular promotions, including its current Moments Made Bigger double/triple points promotion, can result in a spectacular rebate. For example, now, if you have an Aspire card (which comes with Diamond status) and stay at a Hilton “Luxury & Resort” property, you will earn a whopping 54 Hilton Honors points per dollar on your Hilton spend – an effective 27% rebate!
I don’t put a lot of value on the other benefits – I already hold Priority Pass memberships that include unlimited visits, and I’m not sure whether the rates at which you can use the $100 Waldorf/Conrad coupon are competitive – but I don’t need to. The Aspire card benefits far outkick its annual fee. If you stay at Hilton properties, the Aspire card is a must-have.
For more details on the Amex Hilton Honors Aspire card, see the Amex web page for this card here.
The Amex Hilton Ascend mid-level card
The Ascend card is also a compelling mid-level card. I actually hold both the Aspire and Ascend cards at the moment (this is a bit of a nuanced strategy on my part – let’s just say that I’m looking for upgrade/downgrade opportunities!). Not surprisingly, given the difference in annual fee ($95 vs $450), the benefits on the Ascend aren’t as strong as the Aspire, but they’re still really good:
- Current sign-up bonus: 150,000 Hilton Honors points (baseline value $750)
- Bonus Category: 12x at Hilton properties (baseline value 6 cents per dollar of spend)
- Bonus Categories: 6x for US restaurants, US supermarkets, and US gas stations (baseline value 3 cents per dollar of spend)
- Complimentary Hilton Gold elite status
- Hilton Free Weekend Night Certificate with $15k spend in a calendar year
- Earn Hilton Diamond elite status if you spend $40k in a calendar year
For starters, the ability to earn a sign-up bonus worth $750 on a card with a $95 annual fee is fantastic. That alone would be enough reason to get this card. (As always, you must consider how the card fits into your overall strategy, and what impact it would have on your Chase “5/24” status.)
The 12x bonus on Hilton spend (basically a 6% points rebate) is also excellent. And as we discussed with the Aspire card above, this earning stacks with the regular Hilton promotions. Thus, with the Ascend, you can earn 52 Hilton Honors points per dollar (effective 26% points rebate) if you stay at a Hilton “Luxury & Resort” property during the promotion period.
The 6x bonus category for US supermarkets is also intriguing, as there aren’t many cards that can beat that rate. Similarly, 6x Hilton Honors points for gas would be top-of-wallet for many people.
Hilton Gold status is another great benefit, especially for a $95/year card. Most importantly, Hilton Gold elite members get complimentary breakfast at Hilton-family hotels, which is huge.
And finally, I’m a firm believer in spending $15k a year on the Ascend card to get the Free Weekend Night Certificate. I’ll save the math for another time, but let’s just say that it’s very easy for us (and I expect, for most people) to get excellent value out of this – not to mention, it could turn into a very fun and luxurious stay!
For more details on the Amex Hilton Honors Ascend card, see the Amex web page for this card here.
The Amex Hilton Honors no-fee card
Last but not least, we have the Amex Hilton Honors no-fee card. I won’t dwell on this card too much, but the current sign-up bonus of 100,000 Hilton Honors points and the other benefits are very strong for a no-fee card:
- Current sign-up bonus: 100,000 Hilton Honors points (baseline value $500)
- Bonus Category: 7x at Hilton properties (baseline value 3.5 cents per dollar of spend)
- Bonus Categories: 5x for US restaurants, US supermarkets, and US gas stations (baseline value 2.5 cents per dollar of spend)
- 3x Hilton Honors points on all other purchases (same as the Aspire and Ascend)
- Complimentary Hilton Silver elite status
- Earn Hilton Gold elite status if you spend $20k in a calendar year
- No foreign transaction fees (same as the Aspire and Ascend)
If you don’t want an annual fee card, this card is a very good choice. Even beyond the sign-up bonus, 5x on US supermarkets and US gas stations are particularly strong category bonuses for a no-fee card. Silver elite status and no foreign transaction fees could also be valuable. Also, if you originally get the Aspire or Ascend and later decide that you don’t want to pay the annual fee, it’s nice to have this no-fee card as a downgrade option, to preserve your Average Age of Accounts for credit score purposes.
For more details on the Amex Hilton Honors no-fee card, see the Amex web page for this card here.
We hope you’ve found our analysis of these Amex Hilton co-branded cards to be helpful. We think that one or more of them should hold a place in most wallets, if you have many Hilton stays at all. And we appreciate you using our referral links to get the increased bonus offers, if you decide to apply.
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