Middle Age Miles

YTD Spend Prior to Amex Hilton Ascend-to-Aspire Upgrade Counts Toward $60k Aspire Free Night Threshold

ytd spend before prior to Amex Hilton Ascend Surpass to Aspire upgrade counts toward $60k Aspire threshold Hilton Free Weekend Night Certificate
Hilton Free Weekend Night Certificates are awesome – we recently used one to stay at the lovely Waldorf Astoria Trianon Palace in Versailles!

This post is about a small nuance that’s right there in the Amex Terms & Conditions – but that I didn’t know or expect:

When you upgrade an Amex Hilton Ascend/Surpass card to an Aspire card, all purchases that you made on the old Ascend/Surpass card during the calendar year of the upgrade do count toward the $60k threshold to get a Hilton Free Weekend Night Certificate as a benefit of your new Ascend card.

I first noticed this unexpected rule when checking the “Free Weekend Night Reward” tracker in my online account for my newly-upgraded Aspire card. In our situation, we had spent a little over $15,000 in 2019 on this card while it was an Ascend card – enough to hit the $15k threshold to qualify for the Free Weekend Night Certificate on the Ascend. Then, after the upgrade, we spent a little over $4,000, to earn our upgrade bonus. Total spend for the year so far, as reflected in the tracker – $19,466.

I was a bit skeptical that this was correct, so I went back and double-checked the terms and conditions of the upgrade offer. Sure enough, it was right there in black and white – prior spend while the card was an Ascend/Surpass would count. How about that?

Here are the relevant excerpt from the Amex Terms & Conditions for the Ascend/Surpass-to-Aspire upgrade offer:

This opens up some other questions:

Is It Worth It to Spend Another $40k to Get the Free Night Certificate?

Short answer: Probably not. But it depends on a few factors.

For purposes of analyzing big-spend bonuses in the past, we’ve used a rule of thumb that manufacturing the spend costs about 2.5%, or alternatively, that there’s an opportunity cost of about 2.5% of placing organic spend on a card. These costs are offset by the points you’d earn by spending on the Aspire card. For simplicity, we’ll assume that all such spend is non-bonused, earning 3x Hilton Honors points per dollar. At our baseline value of 0.5 cents per Hilton point, you’re earning back about 1.5%. Thus, the “net cost” to placing the spend on the Aspire card is about 1%.

Using that rule-of-thumb analysis, the net cost of an additional $40k of spend would be $400.

Is a Hilton Free Weekend Night Certificate worth $400? Probably not. There are only a handful of Hilton properties worldwide where you’d spend more than $400 on a paid rate. On the upside, the certificate covers all resort fees and taxes. On the downside, you’d be foregoing the Hilton points that you’d be earning on a paid rate, and these are usually substantial (especially given Hilton’s recurring promotions and the fact that if you hold the Aspire card, you’ll earn bonus points based on your Diamond status). Another downside factor is that it may be difficult to find availability to use a Free Night Certificate at these highest-end properties. We’ve noticed a trend lately where even if standard rooms are available on points, the property may require a multiple-night stay to book it – and you have to find single-night standard award redemption availability in order to use a Certificate.

Middle Age Miles has also used a Free Weekend Night Certificate at the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas – it didn’t save us $400, but it was pretty close!

On the other hand, if your own personal “net cost” for the extra $40k in spend is lower, you might feel differently about this analysis. Perhaps you can manufacture spend at a lower cost than 2.5%; perhaps your “opportunity cost” of organic spend is less than 2.5%; perhaps you value Hilton points at more than 0.5 cents per point (I’m not sure anyone actually values the points this high, but you get the idea). If your net cost is in the $200-250 range or lower, it may be very well worth it for you to spend enough to get the extra Free Weekend Night Certificate.

Does the Same Rule Apply in Reverse?

Let’s flip the situation – if you downgrade from Aspire to Surpass, will your prior YTD spend on the Aspire card carry over toward the $15k spend threshold for a Free Weekend Night Certificate on the Surpass?

We don’t know. It seems like the prior spend would not carry over in this downgrade scenario. But we’re not sure. And we don’t know of any terms & conditions applicable to downgrades that we could check.

But we expect to be able to find out the answer to this question later in 2019. We plan to downgrade an Aspire card to Surpass soon, after we receive our anniversary Free Weekend Night Certificate while the card is an Aspire. Our Aspire has some modest YTD spend on it – roughly $1,000 – and we should be able to tell whether this prior spend is counting toward our $15k threshold. Worst case, we’ll put enough spend on the downgraded card to hit $15k if you include the prior spend – and if we don’t get the Certificate then, we’ll put enough additional spend on the downgraded card to hit $15k by the end of 2019, excluding the prior spend.

We’ll report back on this data point when we know more – noting that it may not be until much later in the year.

Thinking of another similar question, we wonder aloud whether prior spend counts on No-Fee-to-Surpass upgrades and No-Fee-to-Aspire upgrades. We suspect that the answer is “yes,” based on the Ascend/Surpass-to-Aspire rule we’ve discussed here. But we’re not positive on this, so be sure to check the express terms and conditions of the specific upgrade offer if you’re in one of these situations.

Finally, if any of you have any data points on these scenarios, please share with us and your fellow Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!

Did you know that prior YTD spend counts toward the Aspire $60k threshold? Would you spend an additional $40k on the Aspire in order to get an additional Free Weekend Night Certificate? Please let us know in the Comments.

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4 thoughts on “YTD Spend Prior to Amex Hilton Ascend-to-Aspire Upgrade Counts Toward $60k Aspire Free Night Threshold

  1. Grant

    The maximizer in me thinks that it would be great if you MS’d $56K on the AMEX Hilton Ascend/Surpass, then upgraded to the AMEX Hilton Aspire, then completed the $4K spending requirement.

    I believe the AMEX Hilton Ascend/Surpass has better MS categories (grocery) than the AMEX Hilton Aspire.

    I currently only have the AMEX Hilton Aspire and just got my free night cert. It would be great to downgrade to a lower / no AF Hilton CC and retain my Diamond Elite status. What do you think?

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Grant – I love this strategy of $56k on the Surpass (groceries category), then upgrade to Aspire, then spend $4k on the Aspire to score an upgrade bonus plus get the $60k Free Night Cert! Now that we know the rules better, that may be a great plan to implement in the future.

      How quickly do you lose Diamond status when you downgrade an Aspire? I don’t know the answer to that question. If you downgrade to Surpass, you’d still be Gold, which many people think is the sweet spot for Hilton anyway since it comes with free breakfast and some upgrade potential. And you could presumably spend $15k on Surpass (perhaps with credit for prior YTD Aspire purchases?) to get another free night. Not a bad play, even if you lose Diamond. And you might get a valuable offer at some point to upgrade back to Aspire. ~Craig

      1. Grant

        That’s true, but I don’t want to test out the downgrade option until after I have used up my $250 Hilton Resort Credit for this cardmember year.

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