AmEx announces big changes for Hilton cards in 2018

Updates include a business card, a premium card and up to 14 points per dollar at Hilton properties

Hilton cards from American Express

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American Express, now the exclusive issuer of Hilton cards, has announced several upcoming product changes. Along with refreshing its two existing Hilton products, American Express will introduce two new Hilton cards in January 2018.

Here’s what we can expect from the updated suite of products so far:

  • Updated Hilton Honors card – Along with updated card art, the Hilton Honors card will no longer charge foreign transaction fees.
  • Updated Hilton Honors Surpass card – Surpass card changes will include a new card name – the “Hilton Honors American Express Ascend” card – new card art, a higher annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
  • New business card – Designed for small business owners, the new Hilton Honors American Express Business card will offer 12 points per dollar at Hilton properties and charge $95 per year.
  • New premium card – The new Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card will offer luxury travel benefits and 14 points per dollar at Hilton properties – at a cost of $450 per year.

With the introduction of these products, “Hilton Honors members will now have more choice with their selection of cards,” stated Audrey Hendley, head of OPEN products innovation at American Express.  When asked why American Express chose to launch four new Hilton-branded products, Hendley explained, “No two customers are alike, and no two businesses are alike. It’s really about what product works best for which customer.”

American Express plans to launch the updated Hilton Honors portfolio on Jan. 18, 2018. If you currently have an American Express Hilton Honors or Surpass card, the updated version will automatically be mailed to you. Existing Citi Hilton cardholder accounts will automatically be transferred to American Express in January 2018 as well. 

Taking a closer look

The four Hilton cards have many similarities – each offers 3 points per dollar on general purchases, exclusive Hilton benefits and no foreign transaction fees. Where they differ is in annual fees, rewards rates and perks. Check out the table below to see how the cards compare:

COMPARING UPCOMING HILTON HONORS OFFERS
  Hilton Honors American Express card
Hilton Honors American Express
Hilton Honors American Express Ascend card
Hilton Honors American Express Ascend
Hilton Honors American Express Business card
Hilton Honors American Express Business
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire
Rewards rate
  • 7 points per dollar at Hilton properties
  • 5 points per dollar on everyday spend (groceries, restaurants and gas)
  • 3 points per dollar on all other purchases
  • 12 points per dollar at Hilton properties
  • 6 points per dollar on everyday spend (groceries, restaurants and gas)
  • 3 points per dollar on all other purchases
  • 12 points per dollar at Hilton properties
  • 6 points per dollar on travel (air, car rental and restaurants)
  • 6 points per dollar on business spend (gas, shipping and wireless)
  • 3 points per dollar on all other purchases
  • 14 points per dollar at Hilton properties
  • 7 points per dollar on travel (air, car rental and restaurants)
  • 3 points per dollar on all other purchases
Annual fee
$0 $95 $95 $450
Foreign transaction fees
None None None None
Card benefits
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status
  • Gold status after $20,000 spend in a calendar year
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status
  • Diamond status after $40,000 spend in a calendar year
  • 1 weekend night reward at Hilton property after $15,000 spend in calendar year
  • 10 free Priority Pass Lounge passes
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status
  • Diamond status after $40,000 spend in a calendar year
  • 1 weekend night reward at Hilton property after $15,000 spend in calendar year
  • 2nd weekend night reward at Hilton property after $60,000 spend in calendar year
  • 10 free Priority Pass Lounge passes
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status
  • 1 weekend night reward at Hilton property each year of card membership
  • 2nd weekend night reward at Hilton property after $60,000 spend in calendar year
  • Unlimited free Priority Pass Lounge passes
  • $250 airline fee credit
  • $250 Hilton Resorts credit
  • $100 luxury on-property credit
  • 24/7 concierge

New bonus categories for business owners

While the Ascend and Business cards offer nearly identical rewards for the same $95 fee, there is a key difference in the cards’ bonus categories – in lieu of a bonus on grocery spending, the business version of the card offers bonus points for travel and business purchases, making it a better choice for business owners who focus most of their spending in these two categories.

The business version of the card also bestows an additional free weekend night to cardholders who spend $60,000 in a year (though we suspect this threshold may be difficult to reach for many cardholders).

Premium perks with a high price tag

The Aspire card comes with a high $450 fee and premium perks, including unlimited Priority Pass lounge passes, up to $600 in travel credits, Hilton Honors Diamond status and 14 points per dollar on Hilton purchases. According to Mark Weinstein, Hilton’s senior vice president and global head of customer engagement, loyalty and partnerships, “The Aspire card offers the most Hilton Honors points we have ever offered for spending in our hotels.”

In light of the Aspire card’s $450 price tag, a few extra bonus points on travel and Hilton hotel purchases may seem nominal, but the card’s perks are worth a close look. Frequent travelers and loyal Hilton customers can easily eke out more than $450 of value in airline and hotel credits. Not to mention, the card qualifies you for top-tier status in Hilton’s loyalty program, which comes with a host of additional benefits, including a 50 percent bonus on Hilton Honors base points.

Something for everyone

If paying $450 per year is not worth it to you, the Ascend card is a great alternative. At $95 per year, it offers complimentary Gold status, 10 complimentary Priority Pass lounge passes and 12 points per dollar at Hilton properties. Or, if you are averse to paying an annual fee, the regular Hilton Honors card is a great value. In addition to a good earning rate on Hilton hotel stays and everyday spending, the card grants automatic Hilton Honors Silver status, which qualifies you for a free fifth night with every five-night reward stay.

If you’re already eyeing which card may suit you best, keep in mind that the sign-up bonuses – which can make a big difference in the value of each card – have not yet been announced. We will keep you posted as soon as this information becomes available.

See related: Bank of America’s new premium travel rewards card offers up to 75 percent rewards bonus, U.S. Bank launches rewards card with 50,000-point sign-up bonus

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we do receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy


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Updated: 11-19-2017