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Hilton Honors Ascend card from American Express review

Published: February 23, 2018
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Ratings Policy
Hotel Rating:
4.3 rating
4.3 rating
4.3 / 5
Rewards Value: 4.3
Annual Percentage Rate: 0.3
Rewards Flexibility: 4.2
Hotel Options: 4.5
Features: 5.0

In a nutshell:

With a large sign-up bonus and excellent earning potential, this card is a good choice for a Hilton Honors loyalty program member.

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Rewards Rate

  • 12:1 select Hilton properties
  • 6:1 U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations
  • 3:1 general
  • Terms apply

Introductory Bonus

  • 75,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
  • 25,000 points if you spend additional $1,000 in first 6 months

Annual Bonus
Free weekend night each year you spend $15,000

Annual Fee
$95 (See rates and fees)

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$603

APR
16.99-25.99% (variable) (See rates and fees)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Points don’t expire as long as card is active every 12 months
  • Redeem for hotel stays, experiences, on-property rewards, airfare, car rentals, cruises, shopping and dining, charity
  • Use points plus cash to book rewards
  • Use points to upgrade a reservation
  • No blackout dates or capacity controls except for points plus cash rewards

Cons

  • No good uses outside of hotel redemptions
  • Expensive and confusing seasonal chart
  • While there is no official capacity control, hotels often “rebrand” a regular room into a premium room and charge an outrageous amount of points

Hotel Options

  • Properties: 5,100
  • Countries served: 103

Other Notable Features: Automatic gold status, Diamond status each year you spend $40,000, 25% bonus on Honors base points, free weekend night each year you spend $15,000, 5th night free, free room upgrades, 10 free Priority Pass lounge passes, no foreign transaction fee, baggage insurance, return protection, purchase protection, entertainment access

Rewards Rating:
4.5 rating
4.5 rating
4.5 / 5
Rewards Value: 4.8
Annual Percentage Rate: 0.4
Rewards Flexibility: 4.3
Features: 5.0

In a nutshell:

A good value for Hilton hotel fans, the Honors Ascend card makes it easy to quickly earn free night’s stays by offering a substantial sign-up bonus and an ample point bonus on gas, restaurant, airfare and hotel purchases. (Terms apply)

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate

  • 12:1 select Hilton properties
  • 6:1 U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations
  • 3:1 general
  • Terms apply

Introductory Bonus

  • 75,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
  • 25,000 points if you spend additional $1,000 in first 6 months

Annual Fee
$95 (See rates and fees)

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$603

APR
16.99-25.99% (variable) (See rates and fees)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Points don’t expire as long as card is active every 12 months
  • Redeem for hotel stays, experiences, on-property rewards, airfare, car rentals, cruises, shopping and dining, charity
  • Use points plus cash to book rewards
  • Use points to upgrade a reservation
  • No blackout dates or capacity controls except for points plus cash rewards

Cons

  • No good uses outside of hotel redemptions
  • Expensive and confusing seasonal chart
  • While there is no official capacity control, hotels often “rebrand” a regular room into a premium room and charge an outrageous amount of points

Other Notable Features: Automatic gold status, Diamond status each year you spend $40,000, 25% bonus on Honors base points, free weekend night each year you spend $15,000, 5th night free, free room upgrades, 10 free Priority Pass lounge passes, no foreign transaction fee, baggage insurance, return protection, purchase protection, entertainment access

Travel Rating:
4.2 rating
4.2 rating
4.2 / 5
Rewards Value: 4.7
Annual Percentage Rate: 0.2
Rewards Flexibility: 3.8
Features: 5.0

In a nutshell:

With points that are worth less than half the value of the average card rewards point, the Hilton Honors Ascend card isn’t nearly a good deal as it seems; however, devoted Hilton hotel fans should still be able to squeeze a significant amount of value out of this hotel card.

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate

  • 12:1 select Hilton properties
  • 6:1 U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations
  • 3:1 general
  • Terms apply

Introductory Bonus

  • 75,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
  • 25,000 points if you spend additional $1,000 in first 6 months

Annual Fee
$95 (See rates and fees)

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$603

APR
16.99-25.99% (variable) (See rates and fees)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Points don’t expire as long as card is active every 12 months
  • Redeem for hotel stays, experiences, on-property rewards, airfare, car rentals, cruises, shopping and dining, charity
  • Use points plus cash to book rewards
  • Use points to upgrade a reservation
  • No blackout dates or capacity controls except for points plus cash rewards

Cons

  • No good uses outside of hotel redemptions
  • Expensive and confusing seasonal chart
  • While there is no official capacity control, hotels often “rebrand” a regular room into a premium room and charge an outrageous amount of points

Other Notable Features: Automatic gold status, Diamond status each year you spend $40,000, 25% bonus on Honors base points, free weekend night each year you spend $15,000, 5th night free, free room upgrades, 10 free Priority Pass lounge passes, no foreign transaction fee, baggage insurance, return protection, purchase protection, entertainment access

There are several Hilton credit cards that can help you collect coveted Honors points, but the Ascend card is one of the best. With a record-high sign-up bonus, outstanding earning scheme, and benefits that enhance your experience and help you save money at the same time, there is no better card for collecting Honors points – whether you’re using the card at a Hilton property or not.

Elevated introductory bonus

The card recently changed its name from “Surpass” to “Ascend” and along with that change comes a new 100,000-point introductory bonus. You get 75,000 points for spending $2,000 in the first three months of card membership and an additional 25,000 points if you spend an additional $1,000 in the first six months. This is one of the largest bonuses among hotel cards and  seems like a pretty large number for a rewards card in general, though you’ll need to keep in mind that Hilton Honors points are inflated and worth less than half the value of the average rewards point. The card’s bonus is more on par with a 45,000-point bonus, which is still nothing to scoff at. The sign-up bonus alone can get you up to 20 nights at a Category 1 hotel (if you include the “fifth night free” elite benefit).

Excellent earning scheme

The earning scheme is where the Hilton Honors Ascend card from American Express really shines. You get 12 points for each dollar spent at a participating Hilton property; six points for each dollar at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations; and three points for all other purchases. This is one of the higher rewards rates among the hotel cards that we’ve reviewed.

Free weekend night each year

As an annual bonus, the Ascend card offers a free weekend night to cardholders who spend at least $15,000 with the card. This is a very manageable spending requirement and – along with the free fifth night benefit – should help you well along the way toward earning a free stay at a Hilton hotel each year.

Large network of hotels

Hilton is among the behemoths of hotel loyalty programs. With a portfolio that contains 5,100 properties across 103 countries, you can find a rewards room in most places that you want to travel, including some very nice properties. The program also offers a wide range of brands and levels of hotels, giving you many options for spending points.

Flexible redemption options

The card offers fairly flexible terms for rewards redemption. Hilton Honors is one of the few rewards programs to guarantee no capacity controls on its rooms in addition to no blackout dates. Also, the program includes the option for “points plus cash” at any Hilton property. That means you can pay for a room with a low number of points and cover the rest of the cost with cash. This may come in handy if you don’t have sufficient points for a rewards night.

You also have a large number of alternate redemption options, including redeeming for airfare or using points to upgrade a reservation.

Automatic elite status

The card grants you automatic gold status in the Hilton Honors program. Elite perks differ greatly among hotel loyalty programs. Gold elite status in the Honors program is excellent because it makes you eligible for the biggest elite hotel perks: free upgrades, free breakfast and lounge access where available. Other benefits include an additional 25 percent bonus points, free internet, late checkout, elite-only rates, a free fifth night on every rewards stay and more. The best part is that you get to keep gold status for as long as you carry the card.

If you spend $40,000 a year on the card, you can earn the top diamond status, which affords you additional perks. This is a rare benefit for a hotel co-branded credit card, since most programs won’t grant the top elite status without stay requirements.

Why get the Hilton Honors Ascend card?

  • You are a Hilton Honors member and want to earn a high number of Honors points on everyday credit card spending.
  • You want a card with a very generous sign-up bonus.
  • You seek a hotel rewards program with a large number of options.
  • You value the gold elite status that comes with the card.

How to use the Hilton Honors Ascend card:

  • Spend $3,000 in the first six months to earn the full 100,000 bonus points.
  • Always book your Hilton stays with the Hilton Honors Ascend card for 12 bonus points and use it for other purchases too, unless you have a higher-earning cash back card.
  • For rewards stays of 10 days or more, make two or more five-day bookings in order to apply the “fifth night free” benefit. This way, you can have 10 days for the price of eight, or 15 days for the price of 12.
  • Since you have gold status, choose a property with a lounge for free drinks and snacks throughout the day.

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