AmEx Hilton cards debut with 100,000-point sign-up bonus
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Now formally the exclusive issuer of Hilton cards, American Express has officially launched its long-awaited Hilton Honors card updates. In addition to refreshing the Hilton Honors card and the Hilton Honors Surpass card with changes that include an increased sign-up bonus and new card name, American Express has launched two new Hilton products – a business card and a luxury card.
Designed for small business owners, the new Hilton Honors American Express Business card offers up to 100,000 bonus points, 12 points per dollar at Hilton properties and charges $95 annually. The new luxury card – known as the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card – offers a 100,000-point sign-up bonus, 14 points per dollar at Hilton properties and charges $450 per year.
See the changes to the existing Hilton Honors cards at a glance:
|Hilton Honors card||
|Hilton Honors Surpass card||
If you have an existing Citi Hilton Honors card, your account will automatically be transferred to American Express, and you will receive a new card in the mail. You can begin using your Hilton Honors American Express card on Jan. 30, 2018. Until that time, you can continue to use your Citi Hilton card.
If you currently have an American Express Hilton Honors or Surpass card, the updated version will automatically be mailed to you.
Comparing Hilton Honors cards
The four American Express Hilton cards share many similarities – each offers 3 points per dollar on general purchases, exclusive Hilton benefits and no foreign transaction fees. Where they differ is in sign-up bonuses, annual fees, rewards rates and perks. Check out the table below to see how the cards compare:
|COMPARING HILTON HONORS CARDS|
Hilton Honors American Express
Hilton Honors American Express Ascend
Hilton Honors American Express Business
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire
|Estimated earnings in first year ($15,900 spend)
Which Hilton Honors card is better in the first year?
We value Hilton Honors points at approximately 0.44 cent per point – a fairly modest amount compared to many other travel rewards cards. However, once you factor in the large number of points you can earn from each card in the first year – thanks to generous sign-up bonuses – you have the potential to get a lot of value out of the Hilton cards.
For example, the average consumer who spends $15,900 annually can earn approximately $257 worth of rewards each year from the Hilton Honors American Express card. Once you factor in the 50,000-point sign-up bonus, that equals out to approximately $477 in the first year – not bad for a card that doesn’t charge an annual fee!
The Aspire card, by contrast, offers a whopping 100,000-point sign-up bonus – bringing the value of the first year spend to approximately $650. However, once you subtract the card’s hefty $450 annual fee, you’ll only earn around $200 worth of rewards during the first year.
That being said, the Aspire card offers a plethora of premium travel benefits that easily take the card’s value to another level for frequent travelers. See how the cards’ benefits compare:
Hilton Honors card benefits
|Hilton Honors||Hilton Honors Ascend||Hilton Honors Business||Hilton Honors Aspire|
While a few extra bonus points on travel and Hilton hotel purchases may seem nominal compared to the Aspire card’s $450 price tag, the card’s perks are worth a closer look. Frequent travelers and loyal Hilton customers can benefit from the 14 points per dollar earned at Hilton properties and the 7 points per dollar earned on travel. Combined with the airline and hotel credits, a cardholder will easily earn more than enough to cover the $450 fee – and then some. 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.
Still, if you won’t be able to take advantage of all the perks the Aspire card has to offer, 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. For business owners, the Business card offers nearly identical rewards as the Aspire card. With the same $95 fee, the business version offers bonus points for travel and business purchases in lieu of grocery spending, making it a better choice for business owners who focus most of their spending in these two categories.
Recent changes to the Hilton cards’ sign-up bonuses
Historically, sign-up bonuses for the American Express Hilton Honors Surpass card and the Hilton Honors card have ranged from 75,000 to 100,000 points and 50,000 to 80,000 points, respectively.
As you can see from the table below, the current bonus from the Ascend card (formerly the Surpass card) is arguably one of the best ever offered by the card. Not only can you earn 100,000 points after spending a total of $3,000, but you have a total of 6 months to reach the spend threshold, instead of 3 months.
On the other hand, while the Hilton Honors card only requires a spend threshold of $1,000 to earn 50,000 points, the card has a history of offering higher sign-up bonuses. See the recent sign-up bonus changes below.
Hilton Honors Ascend card (formerly Hilton Honors Surpass)
|Change date||Sign-up bonus|
|Jan. 18, 2018||
|Oct. 5, 2017||75,000 points if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months|
|Aug. 31, 2017||100,000 points if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months|
|June 1, 2017||75,000 points if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months|
|March 23, 2017||100,000 points if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months|
|Feb. 10, 2017||75,000 points if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months|
Hilton Honors card
|Change date||Sign-up bonus|
|Jan. 18, 2018||50,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months|
|Aug. 31, 2017||
|June 1, 2017||50,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months|
|March 23, 2017||80,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months|
Who is eligible to apply for a sign-up bonus
American Express has one of the strictest sign-up bonus policies in the industry, restricting cardholders to earning the bonus on a particular card only once in a lifetime. Applicants who currently own or who have previously owned the American Express Hilton or Hilton Ascend cards are not eligible for the bonuses on those cards. Also, if you have a Citi Hilton card that is being automatically transferred to American Express, you will not be eligible to receive the sign-up bonus for that card.
Best ways to use Hilton Honors bonus points
Hilton gives you a few different options for redeeming Hilton Honors points, but – as you can see from the chart below – you’re best off redeeming your points for either standard room rewards or Points & Money rewards and foregoing the other options. While Hilton Honors points are worth about 0.44 cents on average when redeemed for a standard room night, the remaining options return about half that value:
Hilton Honors redemption options
|Point value (cents)||Value of 100,000-point sign-up bonus|
|Average standard room rewards||0.44||$440|
|Average premium room rewards||0.3||$300|
|Points & Money||0.44||$440|
Here are a few additional tips for stretching a 100,000-point bonus even further:
Look for standard rooms in the 5,000- to 20,000-point range
Unlike most hotel loyalty programs, Hilton doesn’t use a redemption chart with hotel tiers and required points for each tier. Instead, point values are dynamic, and can vary by hotel and by the day. However, each hotel is assigned a maximum number that points can range to. If you search for hotels by their point maximum, you will discover that some of the best values are to be found in the lower ranges (between 5,000 and 20,000 points). Not only can you really stretch your 100,000 bonus points and score anywhere from 5 to 20 free hotel nights, but the value of your points is much higher than average for this level of redemption – more than 1 cent per point for hotels in the 5,000-point range.
Average point value of a standard Hilton room by number of points required
|Point value (cents)||Value of 100,000-point sign-up bonus|
Use the Points & Money option
Though Points & Money rewards are limited to participating hotels, the value on your points is good with the Points & Money option – around 0.44 cents per point on average and possibly more, depending on the hotel and time of year. Not only can you shave money off the cost of the room, but you can reduce taxes and resort fees when you use this option.
Book a five-night rewards stay and get the fifth night free
All the Hilton cards include a fifth night free benefit, which grants you a free night any time you book a standard rewards stay of five nights or longer. In other words, you can stretch your bonus even further if you book a stay of at least five nights.
Should you apply now?
Given American Express’s once-in-a-lifetime limit on sign-up bonuses, you should carefully consider the history of the sign-up bonuses on these cards if you want to maximize your bonus earnings. As you can see from our tables in the previous section, American Express updates the bonuses on its Hilton cards frequently, so if a bonus is on the low side, you can likely wait a few months for a better offer.
That said, it’s currently a great time to sign up for the Hilton Ascend card, since the bonus is at a historic high with a very long period to meet the spending threshold. Though the Hilton Aspire and Hilton Business cards are new products without any history, we think that it’s also a good time to sign up for either of these cards, since 100,000 points is a high mark for Hilton cards in general.
However, you may want to hold off on signing up for the regular Hilton card. The bonus on this card reached 80,000 points in the past year, and will likely go above 50,000 points in the year ahead.
One additional consideration: Earning as many rewards as possible in the beginning of the year is important if you want to take advantage of certain perks for the longest time possible. For example, the Hilton Honors, Ascend and Business cards let you upgrade your status after spending a certain amount within a calendar year. Similarly, the Ascend, Business and Aspire cards let you earn free weekend nights after reaching a certain spend threshold during a calendar year. A calendar year is from January 1 to December 31, regardless of when you open your Card Account.
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