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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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7 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

  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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