Middle Age Miles

Grocery-Spending to Diamond Status on the Amex Hilton Surpass Card

american express amex hilton honors surpass card diamond elite status

Executive Summary

It’s possible to earn Hilton Honors Diamond status by spending $10,000 at US Supermarkets on an Amex Hilton Honors Surpass card from 5/1 through 7/31/2020.

How It Works

Earlier this month, Amex introduced a number of temporary enhancements to many of its credit cards, including the Surpass card. Two of the new benefits for Surpass were:

(1) Earn a total of 12x Hilton Honors Bonus Points per dollar for purchases at US supermarkets from 5/1 through 7/31/2020:

(2) Bonus Points earned through purchases that post to your Hilton Honors account between 5/1 and 12/31/2020 will be considered Base Points, which count toward elite tier qualification and Lifetime Diamond status:

Hilton Honors allows members to qualify for elite tiers through nights, stays, or accrual of Base Points during a calendar year. For top-tier Diamond status, the qualification requirements are 30 stays, 60 nights, or 120,000 Base Points.

Thus, if you spend $10,000 at US supermarkets from 5/1 through 7/31/2020, you’ll accrue at least 120,000 Base Points, which count toward elite tier qualification and would therefore earn you Diamond status for the rest of 2020, all of 2021, and through 3/31/2022.

What Does Diamond Status Get You?

In the scenario we’ve set up here, we’ve talked about using the Surpass card to earn Diamond status. Surpass card holders automatically receive Hilton Honors Gold status, so the only difference to them would be the incremental benefits of Diamond over Gold.

Formally, the key incremental benefits of Diamond over Gold include:

  • An extra 20% points bonus on paid stays
    • Diamond members earn a 100% bonus; Gold members earn 80%
  • Executive lounge access
    • Gold members may receive room upgrades to the executive level, but those are availability-based and not guaranteed
  • Additional room upgrade opportunities
    • Diamond members receive space-available upgrades up to a 1-bedroom suite, whereas space-availability upgrades for Gold members do not include suites
    • When allocating upgrades, Hilton properties may prioritize Diamond members over Gold members, resulting in more and better upgrades for Diamond members
  • Free Premium WiFi
    • Gold members receive free “regular-speed” WiFi
  • 48-hour room guarantee
    • When a hotel is otherwise sold out, this availability usually comes at a high rack rate, but it can be a difference-maker if you really need to stay at a particular location. In addition, in the past we’ve found that rooms with this guarantee-based availability could be booked with points, which has at times been quite valuable.
    • The “guarantee” is not always fully guaranteed because it’s subject to blackout dates; don’t plan on it working at the Hampton Inn Tuscaloosa-University on the weekend when LSU comes to play Alabama

Thoughts and Analysis

When Amex announced the new temporary Surpass benefits a couple of weeks ago, we almost missed the fact that Bonus Points from spending on the card would count as Base Points toward earning elite status for 2020. We noticed that these Base Points would count toward earning Lifetime Diamond status and saw some commentary on that, but we didn’t pay close attention to the “this year” benefits. But when the points from our May Surpass statement posted, we immediately noticed the Base Points from our Surpass spending in our year-to-date snapshot on the Hilton Honors app:

With no head-in-bed Hilton stays yet this year, all of the 64,000+ Base Points on this tracker came from spend on our Surpass card for our statement that closed in May

Some people would say that the incremental benefits of Diamond status over Gold are not enough to justify significant additional expense or effort. Gold status is a bit of a sweet spot with Hilton, as it already includes free breakfast and space-available upgrades to executive level rooms that include lounge access.

The Surpass card already includes the ability to spend your way to Diamond status with $40,000 in purchases in a year. The current temporary benefits allow you to spend your way to Diamond for much less.

Of course, the higher-fee Amex Hilton Aspire card includes Diamond status as a benefit, so many people who want Diamond status can just get an Aspire card (or upgrade a Surpass card). The downside there is that the Aspire comes with an annual fee of $450, compared to just $95 for the Surpass (although the Aspire comes with other valuable benefits that can justify its annual fee).

Remember also that one of the Surpass card benefits is a Hilton Free Weekend Night Certificate if you spend $15,000 in a calendar year. If you haven’t already met that threshold, then using the US supermarket 12x promotion is a great way to earn Diamond status and a Free Weekend Night Certificate. (Remember also that another temporary benefit is that any new Certificate earned from 5/1 through 12/31/2020 can be used any night of the week (not just weekends) and will be valid for 24 months from the date of issuance.)

Remember also that Bonus Points from all Amex Hilton co-branded cards that post from 5/1 through 12/31/2020 will be considered Base Points and count toward elite status qualification (not just on the Surpass card). So, if you have spend on an Aspire, no-fee Hilton Honors personal card, or Hilton Honors Business card, you’ll also pick up Base Points. You may also have Base Points that you earn this year through paid Hilton stays. If you’ve earned Base Points from other sources, you’ll be able to earn Diamond status for less than $10,000 in US supermarket spend on the Surpass card.

We certainly understand that this is a bit of a niche opportunity, as many people who stay with Hilton enough to get sufficient benefits from Diamond status will already hold an Aspire card. But there are people who don’t want to pay the Aspire’s $450 annual fee (especially in current times), and we’ve read comments from people who hold the Surpass card expressing interest in spending $40,000 to get Diamond. In fact, it’s worthwhile to note that even $40,000 in unbonused spend on the Amex no-fee Hilton Honors card that posts 5/1 through 12/31/2020 would earn 120,000 Base Points under the temporary promotions and would thereby earn Diamond status.

Note that it’s also possible that we will see status-match opportunities in the future where having Hilton Honors Diamond status from now through 3/31/2022 could be useful. We may see more status-match opportunities than usual as the world emerges from the current coronavirus-induced travel restrictions (hopefully!).

And one final note, related to Amex Hilton card upgrade-downgrade strategies – If you start a calendar year with a Surpass card and then upgrade that card to an Aspire during the year, your spend-to-date for the year while holding the Surpass counts toward your yearly spend for the Aspire. This can be useful, given that you can earn another Hilton Free Weekend Night Certificate for spending $60,000 on an Aspire card during a calendar year. For more detail, see our previous article:

Wrap-Up

As we mentioned, this is a bit of a niche opportunity, but we thought it was worth pointing out and writing about. We always enjoy finding creative ways to get elite status, and sometimes that status can pay off in unexpected ways through status match opportunities.

In addition, we believe that grocery spend on the Surpass (and Aspire) cards at 12x Hilton Honors points is a good deal, even without considering secondary benefits like this one. We’re hoping that the points we’re earning through this promotion will pay off with some nice Hilton-property stays in the future!

Philly and I certainly wouldn’t mind a return visit to the Grand Wailea in Maui!

Do you have thoughts or data points on the Amex Surpass opportunity for Diamond status? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!


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38 thoughts on “Grocery-Spending to Diamond Status on the Amex Hilton Surpass Card

  1. HoKo

    Thanks for posting. Hadn’t thought about the angle to earn diamond for this year and next.

    I was already planning on doing this but now the deal is even sweeter.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi HoKo – Thanks for the comment. I’m very glad you enjoyed the article, and I’m also glad to hear that you’re doing it. Enjoy your Hilton points and status! ~Craig

  2. HaMa

    This is interesting. Is there a way to be safe with Amex spending that much on groceries in short time?

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi HaMa – Great question. I suppose nothing is ever 100% safe with Amex. I can say that we’ve personally never had any problems with grocery spending on our Surpass or Gold cards. And I don’t believe I’ve ever read any DPs of anyone reporting a problem with grocery spend on a Surpass. That said, in all cases, sudden increased spend may raise issues if the spend is significantly disproportionate to your reported income. So – I feel pretty good about this, with the caveat that there’s never a true guarantee. Thanks for commenting and best of luck! ~Craig

        1. Matthew

          Chase has claimed in the past to block transactions because they see a gift card being charged, so YMMV. For my grocery stores, I don’t see any transaction details as I do with Staples and Amex, but they may just not pass that info along on the Amex site. I think it varies from merchant to merchant what the banks see, and maybe they can gather more details about a transaction like they would for a dispute/chargeback investigation.

  3. Charlie

    Thank you for bringing this to my attention,I didn’t realize that they were considered base points till you posted this. I do this every year on the surpass card for diamond status … I find good value in the points

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Charlie – Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the article and got some value out of it. It sounds like you were definitely in the target audience!

      I agree, we get some good value from our Hilton points too. It’s part of what makes points-and-miles a fun hobby for us! ~Craig

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  6. Traveltheworld

    Have you had any issues with points posting? It has been over a week since the statement closed, the statement showed the points, but they have not shown up on the Hilton side.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hey Traveltheworld – Sorry about your issue with points posting. In May, my Hilton points posted quickly after my May statement closed. My June statement hasn’t closed yet. I hope your HH points show up soon! ~Craig

      1. Traveltheworld

        My points are “under review” to make sure “I met the spend requirements to earn the points”, this is on a card I have had open for over 3 years. They say 8-12 weeks for a decision. I’ve had considerable spend on that card for the last few years, but not much in the last 2 months due to sitting at home.

        1. HoKo

          That’s an obnoxious move by Amex. Do you have any history of abuse with them?

          I wonder what impact this could have on Hilton points counting towards the lifetime points counter.

          “Until December 31st all points earned through card purchases will be considered base points, counting toward elite qualification, including Lifetime Diamond Status. ”

          So lets say you have points earned in your December statement…if those points don’t post to your Hilton account till Feb 2021 then I would be concerned Hilton’s IT won’t count that towards lifetime diamond…

          1. Traveltheworld

            I have earned Diamond from spend on the Surpass in previous years (I was just going for the free night this year since status was extended anyway). No return fraud or any such non-senses. I’ve also never closed a card in under 12 months or had anything clawed back.

            Hilton’s IT won’t count them for sure. They count them only when they are trasnfered from Amex. Unless they re-code the system or manually adjust on request.

        2. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

          Hi Traveltheworld – Thanks for the update and sharing your DP. But I’m very sorry to hear this. It definitely serves as a warning beacon about dramatically increasing spend on an Amex Hilton card. I hope you come through this ok. HoKo also has an interesting point in his reply about the timing for Lifetime Diamond. Based on the timeline Amex gave you, it sounds like you should be fine on timing. Definitely an obnoxious move by Amex, though. ~Craig

  7. Andy

    Similar to travelhead i have not received my may points. My statement closed on May 25th. The points are always transferred to my Hilton account by the 28th at the absolute latest. I went big with the promotion and spent 30k+ in that statement with 365,000 points coming my way. My intent was to earn 2 million points during the 5/1 – 12/31 time frame to be able to earn lifetime diamond.

    I have dialed back and I’m hoping a get s resulting before the 12x is over.

    1. HoKo

      Looks like my points from my most recent statement posted within a few days of the statement closure…perhaps Amex is only delaying when they see a big spike in spending relative to normal spending and/or when you’ve crossed a certain dollar threshold.

    2. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Andy – Thanks for the DP but this is unsettling (along with Traveltheworld’s DP). Looks like HoKo had a more positive experience. My own statement closed within the past day or 2, and I’ll try to remember to report back here as to whether the HH points post or not within the next few days. ~Craig

  8. Andy

    I’m hopeful that my next statement will post fine in going to keep it under 150,000 on both mine and my wife’s accounts.

    I don’t know if it’s being reviewed or i just hit to high of an amount and the system didn’t take it. It does at in the fine print it could take 12 weeks. I don’t want to call and draw attention to it either way. Maybe months down the road. I use multiple blue cash preferred cards to MS, so i don’t want eyes on it!

    1. Traveltheworld

      Mine was under 150k points, just 110k, so I don’t know the threshold to trigger a manual review. There might have been a spike compared to when everything was on lockdown, but not to earlier on my account or last year. The points showed up on my statement, just not in my Hilton account. I chatted them up on the website, not really anything to lose. If it is flagged for under review only a human will clear it. There is probably a note on the account that I asked now, I doubt that will make a difference. Logically a person would ask about points they did not get, nothing to hide.

      1. philco

        Wow you are I think the lowest data point I have seen. I know there isn’t a fixed line in the sand but I am also a little surprised you got the review at such a relatively low amount. This impacts Bonvoy (which was capped) and Delta too it seems.

  9. curtis leasure

    Is 10K a month in spend going to get people flagged? I have plenty of monthly spend on my Aspire card but 10K in one month would be five times the average. Any thought on what a good, safe spend is for the last month of the increased offer?

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Curtis – Based on my own experience and what I’ve read, I’d say that 10k/month is in the danger zone to get Hilton points held up by Amex. That would be 120,000 HH points if all spent at grocery stores for 12x. It seems like anything roughly 100k and above is at risk of Amex review. I’m not sure what’s fully “safe,” but you might want to stay well south of 100k HH points. Others may have more DPs on this and be more well-informed than I am, so I invite others to chime in here. ~Craig

      1. Traveltheworld

        On a FB group someone posted that they had about 54k points being held up. That would put them at about $4500. That is the lowest data-point I have seen.

        I find it somewhat amusing that some of the other blogs are pushing MS on the Hilton cards all of a sudden. Thining the herd?

        1. HoKo

          Wow, this is quite concerning. I hadn’t seen any DP’s of ppl below 100K having issues. Are there positive DP’s of 50K-100K points posting?

          1. Traveltheworld

            Not that I have seen, however its hard to track them. If someone got their points they probably won’t be on here bragging about it or posting on FB (kind of like those that got spared the AA purge). I’ve tried to post to any group this discussion is on-going so I can see if anyone has better news. Several people I know with minimal spend said points posted in the usual 2 days after statement close so unfortunetly its not a systemwide issue.

  10. Andy

    I didn’t get my 106,000 Hilton Points on June’s statement either… so I am currently waiting on 471,000 points. My wife’s account should have roughly 100k coming on July 1st so we will see. I was really hoping I’d know sooner than this. I’d like to go wild with it in July before the promo ends.

    Im discouraged. I’m also fearful this could spill over to my Blue cash preferred reward cards… Those are my actual money makers.

    1. Traveltheworld

      We had no issues with points posting to our Gold. How long have you been waiting on the first batch that didn’t post? I’m over a month now.

      1. Andy

        I also had no issue with my blue preferred. But that pays out the previous months. I didn’t see points in this month’s statement for next month. So it was a little concerning.

        My first missed batch of missed Hilton points were from a May 25th statement.

        1. Mike

          Assume you are still waiting on that 470k points. Or have seen some bad news in your Hilton account.

          How’s everyone doing with this? I feel like I’ve been delayed as well. Statement closed Monday, it’s Sunday and no points. Didn’t even do very much, and have put ALL spend of all kinds on this.

  11. Andy

    I had a strange amount of Hilton points added omni my Hilton account and withdrawn from my Hilton account on July 4th. Thy amount was completely random.

    I’m still waiting on the 470,000 points and my wife’s 108,000 points. I dont feel great about it. My blue cash have me my rewards from the previous month, but like yours did not have any listed on my statement.

    I’m anxiously waiting for my next statement on the 22nd and hoping i get all my cash back from the previous month. If i do, I’ll resume full MS on my blue cash.

    1. Traveltheworld

      Almost 2 months later. Amex transferred what I would have earned at the 3x general spend level (spend was at grocery stores so should have been 12x) to my Hilton account. Then reversed all but a few hundred of what was transferred.

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