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 card 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 $60,000 on the card in a calendar year.

The Hilton Aspire card carries a $450 annual fee (Rates & Fees), right on par with premium co-brand cards from the likes of Delta and United. But, the card provides ample benefits to justify the high annual fee.

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

The Hilton Aspire card is one of four Hilton co-brand credit cards, including:

Hilton Aspire Welcome Bonus

New Hilton Aspire cardmembers will earn 150,000 Hilton points after you make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months.

Where can the 150,000-point welcome bonus take you? Well, it's enough to cover the 120,000-point nightly rate at either of the two most opulent and luxurious properties in the Hilton portfolio of hotels: the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi and Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal. Coupling these welcome bonus points with the Free Weekend Night benefit available to first-year cardmembers makes for a fantastic weekend stay.

Image courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi.

Besides these two properties, standard redemptions at other Hilton portfolio brand hotels are otherwise capped at 95,000 points. That means you'll have enough points for one night with plenty of points left toward your next stay.

If you're looking to stretch your points further, this welcome bonus provides enough points for two or three nights at a mid-range property—which typically cost 40,000-60,000 points per night. Or, you can score a whole bunch of nights in one of Hilton's budget redemptions—which go for as few as 5,000 points per night.

Points Earning Potential and Category Bonuses

The Hilton Aspire card 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.

However, the earnings get even better when you factor in the 100% point bonus that Diamond elites receive. General Hilton members earn 10X points per dollar spent. That's doubled to 20X points per dollar spent for Diamond elites. So, cardholders who pay for qualifying Hilton purchases with their Hilton Aspire card wind up earning 34x points per dollar. And that's before any applicable promotions.

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 U.S. restaurants. Purchases in all other categories earn 3X Hilton Points.

Temporary COVID-19 Card Enhancements

As a temporary boost resulting from COVID-19, Cardmembers now earn uncapped 12X Hilton Points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets between May 1 and July 31, 2020. This is an additional 9X points per dollar on top of the typical earn rate.

Additionally, all bonus points credited from eligible purchases that post between May 1 and December 31, 2020 will count as ‘base points' toward elite status. That means your credit card spending will qualify towards earning Hilton Honors elite status in 2020, as well as Lifetime Diamond Status. Hilton Aspire cardholders don't need to worry about earning elite status as long as they remain cardholders since the card comes with complimentary top tier Diamond status. However, the ability to spend toward Lifetime Diamond Status is tempting.

As another COVID-19 offset, the free Weekend Night Reward earned by cardmembers in their initial cardmember year and every year thereafter has become more flexible. Unexpired free Weekend Night Rewards—including new rewards issued between May 1 and December 31, 2020—can now be redeemed any night of the week. Additionally, all free Weekend Night Rewards issued during that same time frame will be valid for 24 months instead of the typical 12 months.

Furthermore, between June 1 and August 31, 2020, purchases at U.S. restaurants qualify for the annual $250 statement credit normally reserved for purchases at Hilton Resorts.

All of these card enhancements make the Hilton Aspire card a keeper during a time when travel restrictions severely limit the typical benefits of the card. When travel returns to full swing, the full benefits of the Hilton Aspire card can truly shine.

Hilton Aspire Feature Benefits

The Hilton Aspire is the first travel rewards card offering top-tier elite status just for holding the card. Before the release of the Hilton Aspire, the only way to achieve top-tier hotel elite status—besides staying in hotels—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 $500 or more in travel credits. The extensive list of perks more than justifies the card's $450 annual fee.

Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond Status

The signature benefit of the Hilton Aspire is complimentary Hilton Diamond status. Typically, Diamond status requires 30 stays, 60 nights, or 120,000 base points in a calendar year. Diamond benefits include:

  • Diamond status extension
  • Complimentary breakfast
  • Room upgrades
  • Executive lounge access
  • 5th night free on reward stays of at least 5 nights
  • 48-hour room guarantee
  • 100% point bonus
  • Late check-out
  • Complimentary premium Wi-Fi
  • Two complimentary bottles of water

It can be difficult to put an exact dollar value on this benefit as the more you stay with Hilton, the more value you will get. An upscale Sunday brunch for two at one of Hilton's higher-end properties might run $50+. After just a few stays, the value from this Diamond benefit alone can add up quickly.

Free Anniversary Weekend Night Reward Each Year

Cardholders receive a Weekend Night Reward certificate upon acquiring the card, and each year roughly 10-12 weeks following each account anniversary date. The free night is potentially worth 120,000 Hilton Honors points if redeemed at Hilton’s most opulent and luxurious properties. Even staying within the United States, you can easily save $500+ on a cash rate. A list of excluded properties can be found on Hilton’s website, but it’s a small list when considering how many hotels and resorts fall under the Hilton umbrella.

Typically free Weekend Night Rewards must be used for stays within one year of issue. As a result of COVID-19, all free Weekend Night Rewards issued between May 1 and December 31, 2020, will be valid for 24 months instead of the typical 12 months. That means new cardmembers will have the chance to stack their first two years of free Weekend Night Rewards together, provided the first one remains unused during the first cardmember year.

Weekend Night Rewards are typically restricted to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. But as another temporary benefit, unexpired free Weekend Night Rewards can now be redeemed any night of the week. This includes new rewards issued between now and December 31, 2020. Expanding this benefit to all days of the week adds even more potential value for putting these free nights to good use!

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 free Weekend Night Reward night certificate after spending $60,000 on the card each year. The second free night certificate adheres to the same rules and restrictions. Any big spenders might consider this route to earn another free Weekend Night Reward, which—if done before December 31, 2020—can be used on any day of the week for the following 24 months from issuance.

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. This means you can get lounge access around the world no matter which airline or class of cabin you fly.

Not all Priority Pass Lounges meet the lofty expectations of award travelers, but they do offer a welcome respite from busy airport environments as somewhere to have a quiet drink and recharge your batteries. Cardmembers can bring two guests with them into Priority Pass Lounges each time they visit at no extra charge. However, this benefit no longer extends to associated Priority Pass restaurants.

$250 Airline Incidental Fee Statement Credit

The airline incidentals credit works similarly to the Airline Fee Credit on The Platinum Card® from American Express, but Hilton Aspire cardmembers receive a $250 credit instead of $200. Before using the benefit, cardholders need to select one airline to apply the credit to. And you can only change your airline selection once per year in January.

Qualifying 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 successfully triggered the credit on Amex cards. The Hilton Aspire $250 airline credit is based on a calendar year instead of a cardmember year. So, new cardholders that sign up for the card could potentially use this $250 credit twice before paying another annual fee—once before December 31 and again after January 1.

$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. If you stay at Hilton properties with any regularity, it should be very easy to enjoy the full $250 benefit.

$100 Credit at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad Properties

Paid stays of two or more nights at Waldorf Astoria or Conrad properties booked via a special Aspire platform are eligible for this perk. Bookings made by phone are eligible for this benefit as well using code ZZAAP1. Note that property fees, taxes, gratuities, and the cost of the room do not qualify as eligible charges.

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. So, no foreign transaction fees is a must. Avoiding these fees helps ensure that 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 save $20-30 compared with a card that charges a foreign transaction fee (Rates & Fees).

Application Restrictions

American Express limits welcome bonuses to once per lifetime per product. That means if you have held this card in the past (or currently hold it), you are not eligible for the current welcome bonus. 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 co-brand option from American Express and a top card for Hilton loyalists and casual fans alike. For regular Hilton guests that won’t clock up the stays/nights required for top-tier status, the card essentially buys you Hilton Diamond elite status for $450. That alone could be reason enough to get the card, even before considering all of the other amazing benefits.

Add up the $250 airline credit, the $250 resort credit, the free hotel night (which could be worth $500+ alone), Priority Pass Lounge access, and top tier Hilton Diamond status, and the value of the Hilton Aspire becomes too big for any traveler to ignore. These are just the ongoing annual benefits, too. The 150,000 Hilton Honors points welcome bonus sets travelers well on their way to enjoy all of the perks the card has to offer!

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

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Comments

  • 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.
    Thanks!

  • 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 😉

  • Thanks for updating your previous post with the CoronaVirus benefit enhancements. I do see from comments to the previous version of this article the complaint(s) about not being able to use points at high end Hilton properties. While I rarely use points (hence the substantial balance), I have never found it to be a problem to use points at those types of properties. It may depend on the time of year or whatever else might be going on when someone tries to book on points. If, I did not have the AmEx Platinum, this would be a card worth considering, though it has been years, since I did not qualify for Diamond the old fashioned way and hopefully in the next couple years will have life-time secured.

  • I applied for this card a few days ago and I was denied. I think I have too many Amex cards. I guess I will have to get another Chase card since I think I am finally under 5/24

  • Do you know if can i change or convert my American Express card to Hilton Aspire Card? Thanks

  • Great partnership, both best in class. Worth having it.

  • It is more likely that they bury the foreign transaction fees instead of itemizing them.

  • Thanks for all the info. Stil rather use a non-branded card to earn points. Not a fan of having all my spending accrue in hotel points since I tend to find cheaper options on booking. Will say the signup bonus plus the other perks are enticing. I already have priority pass with Saphirre Reserve and seldom use Incidental Fees with Airlines since I travel light with a carryon only. Why won’t these cards just do a blanket airline credit- Answer: they know people don’t really use the incidental fee.

  • This is a great card. As it is difficult to use the airline incidental fee for this year, I really hope Amex will start to offer alternative and easier ways (e.g., restaurant, grocery, etc.) to use it during this pandemic like it did for the resort credit.

  • This is really one of the best travel credit card out there. The travel credits and free night certificate were awesome. I was upgraded to a nice suite due to the diamond status from this card.

  • Any word on if Amex is providing more alternatives to the resort credit? We’re overseas so the US restricted categories do us nothing. :/

  • It was a definitely great card and one of my favorite cards last year. but hesitating to renew that for now

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