Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card Review

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Hilton’s first ultra-premium rewards card, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is the star of Hilton’s co-brand lineup of credit cards from American Express.

In addition to the highest points earning rate ever offered by Hilton, the Hilton Aspire scores top-tier Hilton Diamond elite status, Priority Pass Lounge access, up to $500 in airline and resort credits, an anniversary weekend free night certificate each year, and a second weekend free night certificate after you spend $60K on the card in a calendar year.

The Hilton Aspire carries a $450 annual fee, right on par with premium co-brand cards from the likes of Delta and United, but provides ample benefits to justify the high yearly premium.

Use the Hilton Aspire's $250 resort credit at Hilton's extensive list of resorts like the Hilton Waikoloa Village

The Hilton Aspire is one of four new or refreshed Hilton co-brand credit cards, including:

Hilton Aspire Welcome Bonus

New Hilton Aspire cardmembers earn 150,000 Hilton points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Enough for one night at the top end of Hilton's award redemption options with plenty of points left for a rainy day (standard redemptions are capped at 95,000 points per night), 2/3 nights at a mid-range property which cost 40,000-60,000 points per night, or a whole bunch of nights in one of Hilton's budget redemptions, which go for between 5,000 and 10,000 points per night.

Points Earning Potential and Category Bonuses

The Hilton Aspire offers the highest points per dollar spent of any co-brand Hilton card in history, earning 14x Honors points on Hilton purchases worldwide, an additional 2 points per dollar over the 12X points offered on the Hilton Surpass and Hilton Business Card.

You'll need to spend a lot at Hilton properties for the extra two points to make a tangible difference. But when you factor in the 100% Diamond elite bonus on base points, and the potential to stack Hilton’s regular points promos, the Hilton Aspire can help you accumulate a large balance of points in a short space of time.

Outside of purchases from Hilton, you’ll earn 7X points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at restaurants within the U.S. Purchases in all other categories earn 3X Hilton Points.

Hilton Aspire Feature Benefits

The Hilton Aspire is the first publicly accessible travel rewards card offering top-tier elite status, just for holding the card. Prior to the release of Hilton’s new card lineup, the only way to achieve top-tier hotel elite status, outside of stays, was via spending thresholds on select co-brand cards.

Moving beyond elite status, cardholders can earn multiple free nights, access Priority Pass lounges, and receive up to $500 in travel credits. It’s a massive list of perks, more than justifying the card's $450 annual fee.

Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond Status

The number-one feature benefit of the Hilton Aspire is complimentary Hilton Diamond Status. Typically, you need to rack up 30 stays, 60 nights, or 120,000 base points in a calendar year to achieve Hilton Diamond status. Diamond benefits include:

  • Diamond status extension
  • Complimentary breakfast
  • Room upgrades
  • 5th night free
  • 48-hour room guarantee
  • 50% point bonus
  • Late check-out
  • Complimentary access to fitness centers and health clubs
  • Complimentary premium internet
  • Two complimentary bottles of water

Combined with the $250 Hilton resort credit, these two benefits alone could eclipse the $450 annual fee in value if you stay at Hilton properties just six nights per year.

Free Anniversary Weekend Night Reward Each Year

Cardholders receive a weekend free night certificate upon acquiring the card, and each year on your account anniversary. The free night is potentially worth 95,000 Hilton Honors points if redeemed at Hilton’s highest redemption level (what would have been category 10 before Hilton did away with its award chart). There is an excluded list of hotels which you can find on Hilton’s website, but it’s a small list when you consider how many hotels and resorts fall under the Hilton umbrella.

Second Weekend Night Reward After Spending $60,000

For Hilton Aspire cardholders with the resources to put significant spend on the card, you’ll receive a second weekend free night certificate after spending $60K on the card each year. Both free night certificates adhere to the same rules and restrictions, so use the link above for a list of property exclusions.

Priority Pass™ Select Lounge Membership

While its mid-tier counterpart, the Hilton Surpass, receives 10 free Priority Pass Lounge passes each year, the Hilton Aspire scores a full Priority Pass Select membership, providing lounge access around the world no matter which airline or class you fly. Priority Pass Lounges don’t always meet the lofty expectations of award travelers, but they do offer a welcome respite from busy airport environments, somewhere to have a quiet drink and recharge your batteries.

$250 Airline Incidental Fee Statement Credit

The airline incidentals credit works in a similar fashion to the airline credit on The Platinum Card® from American Express (Terms Apply), but crediting $250 rather than $200. Cardholders need to pre-select one airline to apply the credit to, which you can only change once per year in January. As far as Amex is concerned, incidentals exclude airline tickets, upgrades, mileage points purchases, mileage points transfer fees, gift cards, and duty-free purchases, although historically some of these purchases have credited on Amex cards in the past. The Hilton Aspire $250 airline credit is based on calendar year, not cardmember year, so you could potentially receive this perk twice in the first year of holding the card.

$250 Hilton Resort Statement Credit

Hilton’s $250 resort credit is based on cardmember year, renewing each year on your account anniversary. The credit includes almost any charge at a Hilton resort, including purchases at restaurants, spas, and other establishments within the hotel property if charged to your room. Just swipe your Hilton Aspire on departure to cover the costs, and the credit will be applied automatically to your account. Full a full list of participating resorts, visit hilton.com/resorts.

$100 Credit at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad Properties

Without firsthand knowledge of the $100 credit on Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties, it’s hard to get a handle on its actual value. The T&C’s stipulate you must purchase an exclusive Aspire Card package, but as we’ve yet to see the rates applied to the package or the credit in practice, we'll update the post when we have more concrete information.

Access to 24/7 American Express Concierge

An often overlooked benefit, the Amex Concierge can help secure a table at a busy restaurant, organize flowers or gifts for a loved one, procure hard to find tickets for concert or theatre production, among a host of more unusual requests. There is no charge to use the Amex Concierge service, and any purchases organized by the concierge will be charged to the Amex card attached to your account, in this case, the Hilton Aspire.

No Foreign Transaction Fees

The Hilton Aspire is intended for folks who spend plenty of time traveling. Paying no foreign transaction fees ensures that all the points you collect on overseas purchases aren’t wiped out by the 2-3% charge for using your card while abroad. For every $1,000 spent overseas, you’re also saving between $20/$30 compared to a card that charges a foreign transaction fee.

Application Restrictions

American Express limits welcome bonuses to once per lifetime per product. As the Hilton Aspire is a brand new credit card, this won’t affect folks applying for this card anytime soon. Amex also has some more complicated application limits for holders of many Amex credit and charge cards, which we detail in a separate post.

Final Thoughts

The Hilton Aspire is an excellent release for American Express and a top card for Hilton fans featuring an impressive list of benefits which we're sure will be a hit with points and miles fans. For regular Hilton guests that won’t clock up the stays/nights required for top-tier status, the card essentially lets you buy Diamond Elite status for $450. And that's before taking any other benefits into account.

When you add in the $250 airline credit, $250 resort credit, Priority Pass Lounge membership, up to two free nights each year, and the highest ever points earning rate at Hilton hotels and resorts, the $450 annual fee on the Hilton Aspire looks an attractive proposition.

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  • Really wish Hilton had a card in Canada. for some reason they keep advertising them on there app and site yet its a US card and doesn’t work for me.

  • Of course YMMV, but you can pair the Ascend or Business versions of the card with the Aspire and spend $15k on those versions to get a 2nd free weekend night instead of $60k.

  • I love it. the diamond status among other perks is worth getting this card for

  • Excellent!!! Thank you for the tip.

  • Get it before 12/31 and make money in year one just off the airfare credits!

  • Very interesting. Thank you for breaking this down so clearly. I used to stay at Hilton a lot years ago and have the original Hilton Amex and citi(now changed to Amex) credit cards for years now. It seems this card is a great value and worth applying for. I hate to miss the great bonus offered by upgrading one of my cards but also hate adding yet another Hilton Amex to my wallet. I’ll have some thinking to do

  • It’s a good offer considering its multiple rewards based on various conditions. Seems comparable to offers from SPG, need to check it in details.

  • Too pricey and the bonus provides very little value – for comparison, the original Hyatt card offered two free nights at any property, including top-tier, and the new card gives you at least that.

  • It is the black private AMEX version of HHonors card.

  • I’d be very interested to know whether the Aspire package price (the one you can get a $100 credit for) is the same as the regular rate.
    (I don’t have this card myself so unfortunately can’t check myself.)
    Looking forward to an updated post regarding this.

  • This is a compelling card, although I wish the airline credit wasn’t limited to incidentals and/or the resort credit was expanded to any Hilton property.

  • I am planning to go for this one within the next month or two as the benefits look great.

  • If I didn’t already have hotel credit cards, I would definitely consider this one

  • Here’s the thing: once I’ve had Diamond status, I just don’t want to go back.

  • Not sure why Hilton changes the category bonuses from Ascend to Aspire card. I like the thought of earning bonus points on gas and groceries instead of on travel (which I do a lot less than buy groceries and pay for gas). With a $450 annual fee you would think the bonus categories would be an improvement over the Ascend card.

  • Does the Priority Pass Select membership allow 2 guests like most credit cards (or immediately family, or unlimited guests)?

  • I just had my wife sign up for this card. Haven’t used any benefits yet but will receive the signup bonus of 150k shortly (or rather at least have met the requirements). Any feedback on what the $250 Hilton Resort credit is? The website that it said to go to still pulled up any regular property that I searched. So this is available at any property that pulls up? Or only a specific subset of properties? We got this to get her Priority Pass access (we’re a family of four) and the airline and HIlton credits (and free weekend night) guarantee positive return but I’ll be thinking long and hard if the Resort credit isn’t what I thought it was going to be.

  • The diamond status is indeed the most eye-catching perk.

  • How funny! I just got a mailing for this card! I looked over all the benefits on this card. Wow is all I can say. I would love to get this card but not now. I hope these benefits keep for awhile.

  • I’m going to have to try this card.

  • I just got approved. I am just wondering for the Airline incidental fee credit, if the airport lounge fee is limited to AA Admired Club or any airport lounges?

    • It’s hard to say. The fee credit will only cover a purchase that codes as an incidental air travel fee from the merchant, so you are at the mercy of how the transaction codes on the merchant side. Unless you find someone that has tried it before you, you may need to make a single transaction to see how it codes and if the fee is credited. The terms don’t specifically exclude lounge fees in the exclusions but lounge fees aren’t traditionally considered an incidental. Let us know how you go.

  • I got the fine print regarding the Airline incidental fee credit. The eligible incidental fees are:

    Checked baggage fees (including overweight/oversize baggage)
    Itinerary change fees
    Phone reservation fees
    Pet flight fees
    Seat assignment fees
    In-flight amenity fees (beverages, food, pillows/blankets, headphones)
    In-flight entertainment fees (excluding wireless internet fees, because these fees are not charged by the airline)
    Airport lounge day passes & annual memberships

    Hope this helps!

  • AE gives generous sign in Bonus: “Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.”
    No wonder. With Hilton expensive redemption scale it’s enough for 1-2 “free” nights.
    The real issue – you won’t be able to book with points a desirable Hilton Resort at vacation destination place. I tried. The rate was 80,000 points for 1 night, but no availability. The only available option was to use all my points + $490 for one night and not on the dates I needed.
    HHonors is almost useless unless you plan to spend accumulated points on low key Hilton hotel.

  • Thank you for the thorough write-up. I didn’t realize the resort credit could only be used while staying at the property. It was an expensive but yummy lunch that we had at the Waldorf Astoria while visiting Orlando 😉

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