Extract Maximum Value from the Amex Hilton Surpass Card

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The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card is one of the few co-brand cards we think provides truly outstanding value—even if you only spend a couple of nights a year with Hilton.

Most hotel cards are designed for brand loyalists, and it only makes sense to have the card if you stay a lot of nights (and spend a lot of money) with the hotel. The Hilton Surpass is a refreshing exception. In fact, we’d go so far as to say the Hilton Surpass is the best co-brand hotel card for the vast majority of travelers, particularly those that don’t already hold elite status with any of the major brands.

In addition to an extensive list of perks and the ability to earn a boatload of Hilton Honors points. It also tops our list of co-brand cards as one of the last cards with a welcome offer of 100,000+ points, delivering 125,000 bonus points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership (Terms Apply).

Unlike recent offers for Marriott, IHG, and Hyatt co-branded cards, the Hilton Surpass doesn’t come with harsh restrictions that prevent you from getting approved if you’ve opened too many cards in the past two years. Holding a different Hilton co-brand card also won't affect your eligibility, making this one of the most accessible rewards cards on the market.

In today’s post, we’ll break down why the Hilton Surpass may be one of the most valuable cards you can hold without paying a huge annual fee.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
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Rates & Fees
(Terms Apply)
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Annual Fee$95
Welcome Bonus Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn a Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your Card in a calendar year.
  • Earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Spend $40,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • Rates & Fees
  • 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio
  • 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations
  • 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card

Free Breakfast and Upgrades Thanks to Hilton Gold Status

The most noteworthy benefit of the Hilton Surpass is complimentary Hilton Honors Gold Elite status for as long as you hold the card. Hilton Gold is far and away the best mid-tier hotel status to maintain, especially if you are not a frequent traveler. It takes just one or two stays with complimentary breakfast, and potentially Executive Lounge access if you get upgraded, for the value of Hilton Gold to eclipse the out-of-pocket expense of holding the card.

Hilton Gold status perks include:

  • an 80% bonus on points earned from paid stays (18 points per dollar spent)
  • a 5th night free on award stays
  • Complimentary breakfast at most Hilton Hotels for you and a companion
  • Access to the hotel's executive lounge at select properties
  • Space-available upgrades at Waldorf-Astoria, Conrad, Curio, Hilton, and DoubleTree

You can also earn Hilton Diamond status with the Hilton Surpass when you spend $40,000 on the card in a calendar year, but we wouldn't recommend it. If you want top-tier status, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card provides complimentary Diamond Status as one of its flagship perks. For most cardholders, the ideal annual spending on Hilton Surpass card will be around $15,000.

If you want automatic Hilton Gold status, but you decide this card isn't a good fit, the The Platinum Card® from American Express includes mid-tier status with both Hilton and Marriott along with an extensive list of other benefits for a $550 annual fee. (Terms Apply - Rates & Fees)

How to Leverage the Hilton Surpass Welcome Offer

There aren't many cards currently offering over 100,000 bonus points, and the Hilton Surpass is one of the only options that doesn't require a huge amount of spending to earn the full bonus. Since you can only get a welcome offer once per lifetime on each card from Amex, it's especially important to time your application to maximize your points.

  • 125,000 bonus points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership is a solid offer, but we have seen higher as recently as August 2019.

So what kind of value can you pull from 125,000 Hilton points?

At the low-end of Hilton's award chart, budget-savvy travelers can snag affordable hotels in highly-sought-after destinations like Bali or Hanoi for as little as 5,000 or 10,000 Hilton points per night—leaving you plenty of points in your account for future redemptions. For extended stays, the fifth night free on award bookings will lower your cost even more.

If you want to experience Hilton's high-end brands, 130K will likely get you just one or two nights maximum, with the majority of Hilton's mid- and top-tier properties fetching between 70K and 100K points per night.

Maximize Your Value with $15,000 in Annual Spending

The earning potential of the Hilton Surpass is where things get interesting. Thanks to the free weekend night certificate earned after $15,000 in purchases, the return on that first $15K is much higher than many cards touted as top cards for non-bonus spending.

With many hotel cards, free-night certificates can't be used at properties that cost more than a certain number of points. These “caps” on free nights often eliminate half of your options (i.e. all the expensive and nice properties). With Hilton, the free night earned after 15K in annual spending can be used at almost any hotel or resort worldwide, provided it's not on the list of around 50 excluded properties.

If you give a conservative value of 0.5¢ per Hilton point, the Hilton Surpass earns:

  • 12X points on Hilton purchases (6% return)
  • 6X points on purchases at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations (3% return)
  • 3X points on all other purchases (1.5% return)

If you can manage $1,250 per month to reach the $15K annual threshold, the earning rates for this card look even better. There are plenty of Hilton properties fetching north of $400 per night where you could use your certificate, but for this calculation, we'll give it a conservative value of $300, or 2% of $15K. If you add that to the points you already receive on bonus category spending, on the first $15K, you now earn:

  • 8% return on Hilton purchases
  • 5% return on purchases at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations
  • 3.5% return on all other purchases

That is a huge boost in value on the first $15,000 spent on the card each year—more than enough to prioritize the Hilton Surpass over a basic 2% cash back card for non-bonus spending.

Priority Pass Lounge Access Without the Premium Card Fee

Another game-changer when Hilton announced the new Amex cards was the addition of ten Priority Pass lounge visits. The Hilton Surpass is the only consumer rewards card charging a sub-$100 annual fee that comes with Priority Pass access (Rates & Fees). If you already hold a premium rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (which provides unlimited Priority Pass visits), this perk will not hold any value.

But for those who only need Priority Pass a few times per year, this is a fantastic perk that can land you airport lounge access without the huge fee of a premium travel rewards card.

No Complex Application Rules

Unlike the overly complicated rules introduced for the new Marriott cards, or Chase's 5/24 policy which restricts approvals to applicants with less than five new credit cards opened in the previous 24 months, Amex's application rules are relatively basic. If you've had this card previously or the Hilton Surpass, you won't qualify for the welcome offer on this card, and you can only hold a maximum 4-5 Amex credit cards at the same time. This last rule doesn't apply to charge cards like the Amex Platinum, only Amex credit cards.

“Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card or the Hilton Honors Surpass Card. We may also consider the number of American Express Cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility.”

However, there is no rule preventing you from acquiring this card if you currently hold another Hilton Amex card. Many folks struggle to get back under 5/24, even committing to a conservative rewards strategy, which makes cards like the Hilton Surpass so much more valuable for long term award travelers.

Important Note: If you already have a different Hilton card, Amex will likely offer you an upgrade (which won't earn the 125,000 point welcome bonus) if you log in to your Amex account to autofill the application details. If you want to apply for a new card, you'll want to choose to “Apply without logging in.”

Final Thoughts

Featuring a great welcome bonus, high earning potential, complimentary Gold Elite status, and a host of other top perks for a card at this price point, the Hilton Surpass has cemented its place as one of our top hotel rewards cards. Whether you're over 5/24 and no longer qualify for Chase cards, or you want to round out your rewards card portfolio with a high-quality hotel card, you would be hard-pressed to find a better co-brand card than the Hilton Surpass, particularly if you don't travel enough to reach elite status the hard way.

For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (Rates & Fees), and The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees)

Extract Maximum Value from the Amex Hilton Surpass Card
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Comments

  • I can’t recall if I have the Ascend or the Aspire. Clearly I’m not maximizing anything 😀

    • The naming is probably confusing to a lot of people, that’s why the “Surpass” moniker is making a come-back this summer.

    • What is your annual fee? $95 is going to be the Ascend/Surpass and $450 is the Aspire.

  • lorem ipsum says:

    I’m very happy the Ascend is changing its name back to Surpass. It caused much confusion for Mrs. Lorem Ipsum, and therefore, much agita for me. Did the person who thought Ascend and Aspire were good names (either one is bad enough alone, but using both names is terrible–especially when the card designs are so similar and don’t even include the name of the card) move to Marriott and come up with Bonvoy?

    • Worse than the similar-sounding names, IMHO, is that the design of the cards is nearly identical, as well.

  • Maryjane says:

    This card has value but it’s minimal if you already have an Amex Platinum. I’ll stick with the no annual fee Hilton card for now.

    • Totally agree! If you have the Amex Platinum, the combo of Hilton Gold and Priority Pass takes away a big chunk of the value for the Ascend card. Staying with the no-fee Hilton seems like the smart strategy for your situation.

  • Honestly, I enjoy this card. It’s a really good card for my parents to utilize at places like the grocery store. It’s not my everyday spend, but putting our grocery on there and a few minimal other things makes it relatively easy to hit the $15K and cash in the bonus night.

  • Travelfreek says:

    I do see good value in this card. One thing I found recently was that I could gift the free night to my son and his soon to be wife for their honeymoon. I’m finding other hotel loyalty programs do not allow gifting of the yearly free night unless the cardholder is also present. Also, the free Priority Pass lounge access came in handy recently in HNL while doing a layover.

    • Hey thanks for sharing. I did not realize you could gift the free night. Awesome tip!

    • Nor did I; thanks for the heads up. I have also found that gifting free nights is usually restricted, unfortunately. Having the flexibility to gift it, as I see fit – as if it is indeed mine! 🙂 – adds some real, additional value for me.

    • I didn’t realise Hilton free nights were transferable either; is this policy written up anywhere, or is at the discretion of the phone agent?

  • Bill n DC says:

    Oops. Just renamed former name Surpass. Apparently Ascend sounds too like Aspire – Card I have.

    • Actually, I think it does. I got my parents the Aspire for their travels, and I have the Ascend. We make sure to use the Ascend for groceries with them, but with no branding on the cards, and similar looks, I could see many being confused.

  • I second the points raised in this article. I love the card benefits and this is definitely a keeper for year-over-year benefits.

  • I have the Aspire and I like the Platinum status, but I’ll have to consider the Ascend for some extra points.

  • I’m waiting for the 100K points + free night offer to return, IMHO that was the best sign up bonus on this card so far.

  • In the past I used to prefer Visa cards, but it seems Amex is more widely accepted than in the past. I think the higher processing fees Amex often imposes on merchants can allow them to pay better rewards to the cardholder too.

  • Michaelj1 says:

    $15,000 annual spend is the sweet spot on the Ascend card. And you receive Hilton points on the spend as well as the “Free Night.”

    • Fully agree. And when you consider that if you live near a grocery store that sells vgcs, that’s an easy 6x on that $15k, which makes earning the cert that much sweeter.

  • I think I will get this card after I get rid of my old SPG, it seems a much better value….

  • Jolene Meunier says:

    If I already have Diamond Status with Hilton and use the Chase Sapphire Reserve card for most of my purchases is it worth getting this card just for the 125K points?

    • Hey Jolene, it depends on what other cards you already have. If you have Diamond status, this card loses a lot of the value. Without knowing more, I’d probably hold off on applying. There are probably better offers out there for you.

  • I like the name recognition of Hilton. Maybe this card will become more popular.

  • Oh I already have a Hilton card so I don’t think I qualify otherwise it looks like a great deal .

  • Steven William Van Meter says:

    I wonder if taxes qualify for the $2,000 in eligible purchases with Card Membership. I live in a high tax state. 🙁

  • Can these award points be used for airline travel?

    • Hey Steve, unfortunately not. If you’re looking for rewards you can use for airline travel, this Hilton card isn’t the card for you. You might consider the Barclay Arrival card if you act fast. They just announced it was being discontinued for new applicants.

      • What if you converted your Hilton points to AA miles? Would that work?

        • With the exception of transferrable points like Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, Capital One, and Marriott, you generally can’t convert points into another type of rewards without losing most of the value. I don’t know of any way to convert Hilton to AA miles that is a good value.

  • RoseMarie says:

    I’m glad they are returning to the old name for this card-Surpass. I could never keep the Aspire and Ascend differentiated in my mind. If you stay at Hilton hotels the card has some value.

  • The “No Complex Application Rules” is BS. When I submitted my application, I was shown a message saying “Due to my Amex history, I’m not eligible for the bonus offer – do you still want to apply?” (to which of course I said no). I have two Amex accounts open at the time, and while I have gotten bonuses from other cards, it was never a Hilton card.

    I even tried to get the business version of this card and was shown the same message. Looks like the good old days of travel hacking are over.

  • Guess this might need to wait

  • Has some value but not sure I want to jump as SO already has the silver version. Not sure we utilize Hilton enough to make it a necessity to have another.

  • I’ve been trying to use mine for little charges here and there in the categories to max my amount of points to Hilton. I’ve been staying elsewhere but hope to use my points soon. I have found where ever I’m going it always takes so many points!

  • I you have a planned trip at a Hilton property especially a high end one then the Aspire card is a no brainer….. For anything else the ascend card would be a consideration

  • I had been looking at this card, guess its time to pull the trigger.

  • Steven William Van Meter says:

    I like that it won’t affect my eligibility, making this one of the most accessible rewards cards I like that…

  • I’m considering switching to Hilton hotels. If I do, I’d consider getting this card.

  • I’m sticking with the no annual fee Hilton Amex for now. But for someone new to Hilton cards, this offer would make sense… can always downgrade to the no annual fee card later.

  • Free breakfast!

  • this is interesting that there have been so many offers on these cards. I got thee Aspire at the beginning of last year when the offer was 100K 🙁

    Wondering if i should ask AmEx if they can give me some retention offers.

  • The only thing holding me back from this card is the $15K spend for the free night certificate. I like to diversify my spend across cards which makes this threshold a bit high, especially when other hotel cards offer free night certificates (albeit category limited) just for holding the card. But this is a great article and I appreciate the breakdown of the benefits. I would love to see this for other hotel cards as well.

  • Ashlee Bernard says:

    Is it worth paying the annual fee for this card?

    • Hey Ashlee, if you can comfortably reach the 15K spend for the free night, this card can easily get you a $300-400 free night. However, if you won’t go for the free night, the value proposition comes down to whether you will get enough value out of the Hilton Gold status benefits like free breakfast, room upgrades, exec lounge access etc. If you don’t already have Priority Pass airport lounge access, that can be another factor that adds value to holding the card.

  • Pedro Tavares says:

    based on your history with credit card balance transfers, American Express welcome offers, introductory APR offers, or the number of Cards you have opened and closed, you are not eligible to receive the welcome offer. 🙁

  • this looks like a great card!! I don’ t have one yet!!

  • Is there any point to me holding onto this card and paying another annual fee if I only stay 4-6 nights a year in a Hilton? I find that I use the Chase UR portal to book the same hotels for around 12,000 points that Hilton wants 30 or 40 thousand for. And it’s much easier to earn Chase points. Yes, I might not get free breakfast or status, but as I mentioned, I’m not a very frequent guest. Was changed over from the original Surpass, which kind of sucks, because now I won’t ever be able to get the Ascend bonus. Thanks!

    • Hi Liana, if you often book through a 3rd party portal like Chase (and forego elite benefits you’d get with elite status) it probably doesn’t make sense to hang on to the card. You might consider downgrading to the no-fee version of the card if you aren’t getting enough benefit to justify the annual fee. Keeping the account open can have a positive impact on your overall credit utilization and age of accounts, which helps your credit score. More info on that here.

  • $15,000 annual spend seems realistic!

  • Articles like this are very beneficial to me. I would have no idea what promotions or bonuses I’d miss otherwise.

  • The Ascend is a great card. I actually have both the Ascend (soon-to-be-Surpass again), and the Aspire. For me, the Ascend is worth the $95 AF just to use for supermarket spend to reach the $15k threshold for a free night. Then the Aspire for Diamond Status, the annual free night, annual resort credit, and annual airline credit, is a no-brainer as well. Bottom line, I get 2 free nights, I’m Diamond, have $250 to spend on the airline of my choice, and $200 toward a resort stay. Granted it’s $545 out of pocket in AFs, but I’m always going to get at least that much value out the 2 free nights alone; the rest is just gravy.

    • I have both too. I use the Ascend for gas and groceries. Extra cards for family memeber are free so my wife and kids fill the gas tanks too.
      Add a couple utility bills and some misc spending and I hit 15K easily.

      Just took a trip to Marco Island Hilton Resort. Two nights paid with my annual certificates. Diamond status earnied a room upograde. Free Breakfasts at awesome buffet (would have been $59 each morning for two) Used the $250 resort fee to snack and drink for free all weekend at the pool bar. Used the airline credit to pay for a plane ticket via gift cards.

      Sweet deal!

  • I should apply new Ascend card first then wait for my no-annual fee Hilton card renew offer, right?

  • I was just able to upgrade from the no-fee card. 150,000 bonus for $3000 in spending. Sweet!

  • ron_vaughn@hotmail.com says:

    Nice summary. The PP benefit seems like it is worth the fee all by it self

  • Aspire is the best card for Hilton ever but yes the name is confusing.

  • I love Hilton points – thanks for the tips.

  • Got the card and it showed a 130K bonus for a 2K spend.

  • Great news – in a perfect world it would have no fee though.

  • Shloime Zionce says:

    Thanks!

  • For me Weekend Night Reward is the most significant benefit as you can book luxury hotels if stand award is available and that is most the case with weekends and you do not have to pay tax on top.

  • I agree, even as someone who earns Diamond Honors status the old-fashioned way (by stays), I find the card a very easy way to stack Honors points, especially with the Hilton promotions.

  • You can recoup like almost all of the annual card fee with breakfast for 2 for 7 mornings in a premium London Hilton property.

  • Great mid-tier card for the Gold status, grocery/gas/dining bonus, $15K free weekend night, and ability to manufacture Diamond status if you so choose. Main reason I haven’t upgraded is losing those 6x categories (all would be 3x on the Aspire).

  • maximising value has got to be the goal

  • Great card to use

  • I really like the 125,000 point signing bonus but someone above mentioned them also at some time having also offered a free night stay. When was that and when may it possibly be offered again?

  • I love this article, it is always useful to know exactly the benefits you are getting and how to utilize the points. I can’t wait to have this card!

  • Kevin Chang says:

    I wish these Hilton affiliated credit cards are available in other countries eg Australia rather than just in the US. Recently Hilton ended its relationship with Macquarie Bank in Australia which gave Hilton Gold status automatically which was upgraded to Diamond status if you spent A$40K per year on the card.

  • Just got upgraded, easily can get $600-$1000 value in benefits and perks

  • Does it make sense to get a Hilton AMEX if you already have other AMEX cards? Would it make sense to a both Hilton Amex and a Marriott Amex card?

    • It always depends on your travel habits, but many folks have both a Hilton and Marriott Amex. I have both cards, and I keep them because I get more out of each than the annual fee. (Marriott Boundless card because of the free night > $95 fee) My Hilton is a no-fee card that is one of my oldest acts—which helps my FICO.

  • I found when I started this card that my annual fee was not charged right away. I am a few months in and still have not been charged. Does it charge at the end of the first annual?

  • Great offer!! Thank you!!

  • Hoping they also change the look of the Ascend while also returning to Surpass name. All 3 flavors look very similar.

  • We got great value from Ascend and then moved on to Aspire. Getting great value from Aspire, but finding very limited opportunities for value with the $100 resort credit. Cost of resorts is so expensive!!

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