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American Express is already known as one of the strictest card issuers around. With plenty of warnings about earning bonuses once per lifetime, a phenomenon known as the pop-up jail, and the tendency to claw back points the issuer thinks weren't earned correctly, things can get a little hairy when opening a new Amex card. That's too bad, because Amex has some of the best cards out there, including co-branded options from Hilton, Delta, and Marriott.
However, new restrictions on some of Amex's credit cards are making us wonder: Should you get a Hilton credit card now? When is the best time to act: Waiting for a time when welcome offers are at their all-time high, or applying before cards get hit with another devaluation — or, even worse, new rules that make you ineligible?
Let's take a look at the changes that have been happening and what that means for your credit card strategy going forward.
Amex's Limiting Language on Credit Cards
If you're not deep into credit cards, it's likely that you have no idea what “lifetime language” is, or why it matters that Amex's Delta credit cards now include “family language.” Here's what those mean in layman's terms:
- Lifetime language: You can only receive a welcome offer from this card once per lifetime.
- Family language: Your eligibility for a bonus on this card is impacted by your previous activity on cards earning the same type of points. This means that if you get one Delta credit card, you might become ineligible for the welcome offer on other Delta credit cards.
When Delta announced some big changes last week, Amex took the opportunity to update the language on several of its cards. Now, Delta joins Marriott in having “you can't get this bonus if you got that bonus” language. This limits your ability to earn sign-up bonuses on multiple credit cards.
Now, there are times when offers pop up that don't have any limiting language on them. You'll hear about them as the points and miles world starts buzzing about the offers. However, this isn't common, so it's not something you should plan your credit card strategy around.
Is Hilton Headed the Same Way?
Language limiting Marriott Bonvoy cards to once per family appeared in 2018. Now, the same has happened with Delta cards in 2023. That's a pretty big span of time between co-branded cards. However, in August, Amex also added family language to its varying Platinum cards. This points to a pretty rapid trend toward limiting bonuses.
So far, co-branded Hilton Honors cards remain unaffected. This includes the high-end Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, the mid-tier Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, the introductory-level Hilton Honors American Express Card, and even The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card. To date, you can still apply for and receive a welcome offer from each of these cards — assuming you meet Amex's other application rules.
But how long will that be the case? It doesn't look like Amex is going to start reversing its decision to limit bonuses (and why would it?), so is Hilton next on the chopping block? While we obviously don't know if that's the case, it certainly begs the question: Is now the time to get your Hilton cards?
Should You Get a Hilton Card Now?
Generally speaking, we aim to acquire new credit cards when they have elevated bonuses. This means you plan your applications strategically and only open new cards when it makes sense. You also want to take into account all the restrictions card issuers have.
Hilton's current welcome offers
None of the co-branded Hilton credit cards have an elevated bonus right now. In fact, the bonus for its top-tier Hilton Aspire card (which charges a $550 annual fee) isn't much better than the offer on the Hilton Surpass card (which rings in at $150 in annual fees).
Here are the current welcome offers for new applicants on each of Hilton's cards:
- Hilton Amex: Earn 100,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership.
- Hilton Surpass: Earn 170,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership.
- Hilton Aspire: Earn 180,000 Bonus Points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in eligible purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
- Hilton Business Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors Business Card within the first three months of Card Membership.
As you can see, none of these are stellar. This is especially true when you consider the fact that Hilton's most expensive hotels — such as the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi — can cost 150,000 points per night. So it may seem silly to apply for a card, meet the minimum spending requirement, and then only have enough points for a single night at a hotel.
Obviously, it would be much better to wait for an elevated offer. However, at the rate Amex is going, how much longer do we have to actually apply for and receive welcome offers from multiple Hilton credit cards? Wouldn't it be better to get a middling offer than none at all?
Is it better to wait?
Were you to get all four of the Hilton credit cards (not that we're recommending you do, and you'll have to negotiate the rules mentioned above) and earn their welcome offers, you'd find yourself with around 500,000 Hilton points in your pocket (depending on the earning categories from your spending to earn the bonuses). That's nearly enough for a five-night stay at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi (thanks to Hilton's fifth night free on points stays).
It's also enough points for more than 100 nights at bargain Hilton hotels, which can cost just 5,000 points per night.
All of this is to say that, while the current welcome offers for the Hilton cards aren't at their all-time best, you're still able to get more than one of them without negotiating complex rules or being ineligible due to something you did three years ago. That's more than we can say for Delta and Marriott at this point.
Points, miles, and credit cards are constantly evolving. More often than not, it's a race to the bottom. Such is the case with Delta's “updated” SkyMiles program. Increasingly, it's also the case with rules on Amex-issued credit cards.
Thus far, Hilton's card family remains unscathed. But how long is that going to last? Is it better to wait for an increased welcome offer? Or do we bite the bullet and grab as many cards as we can, while we can? Getting a decent bonus now is better than waiting for a great bonus and becoming ineligible in the interim. We can't guarantee that's happening, but it's something to think about.
What's your take on all of this? Are you hedging your bets with Hilton cards and applying now? Or are you going to wait? Let us know in the comments below.
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