Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card review

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card review

Published: October 10, 2019
Published: October 10, 2019
Ratings Policy
Luxury Rating:
4.6 rating
4.6 rating
4.6 / 5
Rewards Value: 5.0
Annual Percentage Rate: 1.9
Rewards Flexibility: 4.3
Features: 5.0
Customer Experience 4.5

In a Nutshell:

For high-rollers who frequently visit Hilton hotels and put luxurious amounts of spend on their credit cards, the rewards and perks on the Hilton Aspire card are on par with the best elite cards.

Information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Rewards Rate

  • 14 points per dollar on Hilton stays
  • 7 points per dollar on airfare, car rentals and restaurants
  • 3 points per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply

Introductory Bonus
150,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months

Annual Fee
$450

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($6,250 monthly spend)
$2,772

APR
17.49-26.49% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Points don’t expire as long as card is active every 12 months
  • No blackout dates or capacity controls
  • No limits on how many points you can earn
  • Can pay for rewards with points plus cash
  • Can transfer points to a variety of hotel and airline partners

Cons

  • Hilton points are inflated – worth only 25% of the value of most loyalty program points
  • Can only redeem points for travel through the loyalty program website
  • Points transfer to most partners at 10:1 ratio
  • Redemption options other than hotel stays have very poor value

Customer Experience

Other Notable Features: Automatic Diamond status, free weekend night each year, free additional weekend night each year you spend $60,000, 100% bonus on Hilton Honors base points, 5th night free for every hotel stay, unlimited Priority Pass Lounge passes, 1,000-point bonus when you reserve and pay for room with your card, $250 airline fee credit, $250 Hilton Resorts credit, $100 luxury on-property credit, early check-in/late checkout, free room upgrades, free roadside assistance, baggage insurance, car rental insurance, extended warranty, return protection, purchase protection, no foreign transaction fee

Rewards Rating:
4.5 rating
4.5 rating
4.5 / 5
Rewards Value: 5.0
Annual Percentage Rate: 1.2
Rewards Flexibility: 4.3
Features: 4.0
Customer Experience 4.6

In a Nutshell:

The Hilton Honors Aspire card — though laden with great hotel perks — is probably too pricey for the average rewards cardholder.

Information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Rewards Rate

  • 14 points per dollar on Hilton stays
  • 7 points per dollar on airfare, car rentals and restaurants
  • 3 points per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply

Introductory Bonus
150,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months

Annual Bonus

  • One free weekend night
  • Additional free weekend night if you spend $60,000 in a year
  • Priority Pass lounge access
  • $250 airline fee credit
  • $250 Hilton Resorts credit
  • $100 luxury on-property credit

Annual Fee
$450

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$1,219

APR
17.49-26.49% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Points don’t expire as long as card is active every 12 months
  • No blackout dates or capacity controls
  • No limits on how many points you can earn
  • Can pay for rewards with points plus cash
  • Can transfer points to a variety of hotel and airline partners

Cons

  • Hilton points are inflated – worth only 25% of the value of most loyalty program points
  • Can only redeem points for travel through the loyalty program website
  • Points transfer to most partners at 10:1 ratio
  • Redemption options other than hotel stays have very poor value

Customer Experience

Other Notable Features: Automatic Diamond status, free weekend night each year, free additional weekend night each year you spend $60,000, 50% bonus on Hilton Honors base points, 5th night free for every hotel stay, unlimited Priority Pass Lounge passes, 1,000-point bonus when you reserve and pay for room with your card, $250 airline fee credit, $250 Hilton Resorts credit, $100 luxury on-property credit, early check-in/late checkout, free room upgrades, free roadside assistance, baggage insurance, car rental insurance, extended warranty, return protection, purchase protection, no foreign transaction fee

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card offers premium perks to seasoned travelers for whom Hilton is their hotel chain of choice, but the price of admission is pretty steep. In addition to a $450 annual fee, you’ll have to meet fairly high spending requirements to qualify for the card’s considerable introductory bonus. That said, regular Hilton customers will find a lot to love here, including bonus rewards for travel and other purchases, complimentary Diamond status in the Hilton Honors loyalty program, and an impressive list of additional benefits.

Introductory bonus

The Hilton Honors Aspire card is currently offering an eye-popping introductory bonus of 150,000 Honors points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months of card ownership. Although Hilton points are, admittedly, a bit inflated compared to some other travel rewards cards, the bonus alone can snag you up to 30 free nights when redeemed for standard room rewards or Points & Money rewards. Of course, that number depends on which level of hotel you choose when booking.

American Express became Hilton’s exclusive co-branded credit card issuer in 2018, and the Aspire bonus has basically remained the same since September of that year. Keep in mind, however, that Amex doesn’t allow cardholders to earn the bonus on any particular card more than once.

Annual bonus

The Aspire card’s annual bonus comes in the form of a free weekend night reward when you open your account and every year after renewal. You can earn one additional weekend night after spending $60,000 on the card in a calendar year, although most cardholders probably won’t spend enough to qualify.

The free weekend night reward is issued as a redeemable code sent via email within eight-14 weeks of your initial approval date and every card member anniversary thereafter. You’ll need to make your reservation via phone at 1-800-446-6677, and you’ll want to have your code on hand when you do. The reward expires after one year and can be used on standard accommodations with a maximum double occupancy. There are no exclusions associated with this benefit, so you can use it at most Hilton properties with the exception of those listed here.

Depending on your destination, the annual bonus could be worth as much as $475.

Earning points

Frequent guests of Hilton properties will love the card’s impressive rewards rate across all spending categories. You’ll earn 14 points per dollar on Hilton hotel stays (including incidental charges like room service and spa purchases); 7 points per dollar on U.S. restaurants, flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, and car rentals booked directly from select providers; and 3 points per dollar on all other purchases. Eligible car rental companies include recognizable names like Avis, Budget, Enterprise and more.

You’ll have to book a substantial amount of travel with the card if you want to see a good return on your spending, which could make it hard for the average cardholder to earn significant rewards with this card — another reason why it’s better suited to those who regularly stay at Hilton properties. 

What are points worth?

We estimate the value of Hilton Honors points at around 0.5 cents apiece when redeemed for a free night, one of the lowest-valued rewards program currencies. (The number is calculated based on the number of points required for a standard room at Hilton properties across a variety of locations and travel dates.) Although Hilton Honors isn’t the only hotel loyalty program with inflated points, this rate still falls behind many competitor programs, including Marriott Rewards and the World of Hyatt.

The Aspire card becomes a bit more lucrative when you consider the value of rewards earned per dollar of spending. Here’s how that number compares to other major hotel cards:

Hilton Honors Aspire card comparison

With all of its generous bonus categories, we estimate that the Aspire card can earn you a solid 2 cents in rewards value for every dollar that you spend.

Hilton hotel network

As one of the world’s largest (and oldest) hotel chains, the Hilton hotel network boasts more than 5,000 locations in more than 100 countries. Hotel brands include luxury resorts like the Waldorf Astoria and Conrad Hotels & Resorts, as well as more affordable hotels like DoubleTree and Embassy Suites. This expansive hotel network means travelers are sure to find convenient options at various price points when redeeming Hilton Honors points for free night rewards across the globe.

Redeeming points

Aspire cardmembers can redeem their rewards in several ways, including hotel stays (both standard and premium rooms), car rentals, cruise certificates, Amazon merchandise and more. Like most hotel loyalty programs, however, the value of points earned with the card depends on how you use them. As you can see in the chart below, you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck when redeeming points for standard Hilton rooms:

Hilton Honors redemption options

Point Value (cents)
Average standard room reward 0.5
Average premium room reward 0.3
Points & Money 0.5
Car rentals 0.2
Cruise certificate 0.2
On-property rewards 0.2
Redemption Experiences Varies
Amazon merchandise 0.2
Donations (PointWorthy.com) 0.25

Unlike some other hotel loyalty programs, Hilton reward nights don’t work on a fixed redemption chart, although each hotel in the Hilton network has a minimum and maximum number of points it’s allowed to charge for a standard room night. One way to squeeze more value out of your points is by taking advantage of Hilton’s free fifth night benefit. If you book your stay in increments of five nights, you can add another night without having to dip into your rewards balance.

The next-best way to redeem Honors points would be the Points & Money option, which lets you use points and cash to pay for stays at certain properties. All other redemption choices — including transferring points to one of more than 40 travel partners — will cut the value of your points by half or more, so we wouldn’t recommend spending your points in those categories unless they’re on the brink of expiring.

See related: Best ways to use Hilton Honors points

How many Hilton points do you need for a free night?

The number of points required to redeem standard room rewards starts as low as 5,000 points per night at Hilton’s lower-priced hotels. Meanwhile, staying at a luxury Hilton property will cost you as much as 95,000 points per night — or even more. Eligible rooms in the 5,000- to 10,000-point range are pretty limited, so you might have to opt for a higher-tier hotel depending on when you’re traveling and how far in advance you make your reservation.

Hilton standard room rewards

Minimum Points Required  Average Point Value (cents) 
5,000 1.22
10,000 0.99
20,000 0.57
30,000 0.39
40,000 0.36
50,000 0.35
60,000 0.30
70,000 0.35
80,000 0.36
95,000 0.44

You can find out exactly how many points you need for your desired stay by searching on Hilton’s website. The more flexible you can be with your travel plans, the further you can stretch your rewards balance.

Elite status

Aspire cardholders automatically receive Diamond status in the Hilton Honors program, which comes with even more perks. Normally, Diamond status requires a minimum of 30 stays, 60 nights, or 120,000 base points.

Some of the notable benefits of Diamond status include:

  • 100-percent point bonus on hotel stays – In addition to the points you earn as an Aspire card member, your card membership doubles your base-point earning rate – basically you earn 24 points per dollar that you spend at Hilton properties (10 base points plus 14 Aspire card points).
  • No resort fees – You can save yourself from the extra fees that Hilton tacks on to its resort stays for non-Hilton members.
  • Late checkout – Diamond members can extend the checkout time on any stay for free.
  • Best price guarantee – If you find a lower price on another website, Hilton will match it.
  • Fifth night free on award stays – You get a free fifth night any time you book your award stays in five-night increments.
  • Space-available room upgrades – Hilton will give you a free upgrade on your booking when space is available.
  • 48-hour room guarantee – Hilton guarantees room availability up to 48 hours in advance for Diamond members.
  • Executive Lounge access at participating properties – For properties that include an executive lounge, you get free access, including breakfast, snacks and drinks.

Free continental breakfast at all Hilton hotels is a particularly popular perk for Diamond members.

See related: The benefits of elite status with Hilton Honors

Lounge access

Another notable feature of the Hilton Honors Aspire card is complimentary access to the Priority Pass network of airport lounges, comprised of more than 1,200 locations around the world. There are dozens of Priority Pass locations in the U.S. alone:

Lounge benefits vary by location, but usually include complimentary drinks and snacks, free Wi-Fi, flight assistance and access to conference rooms and business areas. Aspire cardholders can bring two guests per lounge visit at no additional cost, though this might not be allowed during peak times.

You’ll have to enroll separately to receive your Priority Pass membership card and bring it with you every time you travel — not all participating lounges allow access with the Priority Pass app alone.

Airline fee credit

Aspire cardholders enjoy an annual $250 statement credit for incidental airline charges such as checked baggage, in-flight food and drink, and flight change fees. Upgrades and airfare aren’t eligible for this credit, and it only applies to one airline of your choice, which you may designate once a year.

Hotel fee credit

The Hilton Honors Aspire card comes with an annual $250 credit toward purchases made at participating Hilton properties. Qualifying purchases include those made at restaurants and spas, but they must be charged directly to your room and paid for with the Aspire card.

When you stay two nights or more at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties, you’ll receive an additional $100 credit, which is automatically applied to your bill at checkout.

See related: Make the most of your card’s travel credits

Other benefits

In addition to a stellar introductory bonus, free weekend night reward and automatic Diamond status, the Hilton Honors Aspire card comes with a long list of perks for frequent travelers:

  • No foreign transaction fees — Although Amex isn’t as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard, you can save on foreign transaction fees when you use the Aspire card for purchases made outside the United States.
  • Baggage insurance — This coverage provides you with protection if your baggage is lost, damaged, or stolen during covered trips charged to your card, capped at $3,000 for checked and carry-on baggage per trip.
  • Travel accident insurance — This insurance provides coverage of up to $500,000 in the event you experience accidental death or dismemberment on a covered trip. Other injuries, such as the loss of a limb or sight, also qualify for benefits.
  • Car rental loss and damage insurance — When you book and pay for your car rental with your Aspire card and decline the collision damage waiver at the counter, you’re covered if the car is lost or stolen. Coverage is secondary to your personal insurance and does not include liability.
  • Roadside assistance — Cardholders who find themselves in need of emergency car services can call the number on the back of their card to arrange services like towing, changing a flat, or jumpstarting a battery (even if your car is parked at home). What’s more, Amex will pay for those eligible services up to four times a year — with most other cards, you’d be responsible for the cost of any goods or services obtained.
  • Purchase protection — This benefit covers eligible items purchased with your card for 120 days in the event of theft, damage, or loss, up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per calendar year.
  • Extended warranty — Aspire cardmembers can extend the original manufacturer’s warranty by up to two additional years on qualifying purchases made with the card (applies to warranties of five years or less).
  • Free ShopRunner subscription — The Aspire card offers a free ShopRunner subscription, which comes with free two-day shipping on eligible items from dozens of online retailers (as well as free returns).

Customer experience

As the exclusive issuer for all Hilton-branded credit cards, Amex has a reputation for great customer service. For example, the company scored 838 in J.D. Power’s 2019 customer satisfaction survey, ranking second out of 12 major credit card issuers. In addition, its mobile app is highly rated for both iPhone and Android.

Approval odds

As a high-end travel card with premium perks, the Hilton Honors Aspire card isn’t meant for consumers with poor credit or a limited credit history. The card is generally designed for users with good or excellent credit. In other words, your score should be at least 670 (preferably above 700) for you to have the best chance of approval. There is no official limit to the number of Amex credit cards or charge cards you can have at the same time, but many cardmembers report a maximum of five.

How does the Hilton Honors Aspire card compare to other Hilton cards?

Hilton Honors American Express Card
Hilton Honors American Express Card
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
Rewards rate

  • 7 points per dollar on Hilton hotel stays
  • 5 points per dollar on U.S. restaurant, U.S. supermarket and U.S. gas station purchases
  • 3 points per dollar on other purchases
Rewards rate

  • 12 points per dollar on Hilton hotel stays
  • 6 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations
  • 3 points per dollar on general purchases
Rewards rate

  • 12 points per dollar on Hilton hotel purchases
  • 6 points per dollar on select business and travel purchases
  • 3 points per dollar on other purchases
Welcome bonus

75,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months

Welcome bonus

125,000 points if you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months

Welcome bonus

125,000 points if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months

Annual fee

$0

Annual fee

$95

Annual fee

$95

Other things to know

  • Automatic silver elite status
  • Fifth night free on rewards stays
Other things to know

  • Automatic Gold status
  • Fifth night free on rewards stays
  • Free weekend night each year you spend $15,000
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 10 free Priority Pass visits
Other things to know

  • Automatic Gold status
  • Fifth night free on rewards stays
  • Free weekend night each year you spend $15,000
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 10 free Priority Pass visits
  • Free employee cards with ability to set spend limits
  • Year-end summaries and QuickBooks downloads

Hilton Honors card

As Hilton’s no-annual-fee card, the Hilton Honors card is designed for less-frequent travelers who don’t stay exclusively at Hilton properties. Like other Hilton cards, it comes with a good introductory bonus, but with a much lower spending threshold than what the Aspire requires. Combined with bonus rewards on everyday purchases — including five points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, gas stations, and supermarkets — most cardholders should be able to rack up an impressive rewards balance pretty easily.

Hilton Honors Surpass

Formerly known as the Hilton Honors Ascend, the Hilton Honors Surpass card is considered Hilton’s mid-level card offering. With its modest $95 annual fee comes better rewards than what’s offered by the Hilton Honors card, as well as the opportunity to earn a free weekend night any year in which you spend at least $15,000. Surpass cardholders also get 10 free Priority Pass lounge passes each year, although guest access is not included unless you use one of the 10 (or unless you pay the applicable entrance fee). 

Hilton Honors Amex Business card

The Hilton Honors Amex Business card provides many of the same benefits as the Hilton Surpass, but with some extra perks aimed at small-business owners: free employee cards with the ability to set spending limits; year-end summaries; and bonus rewards for certain business expenses, including wireless phone plans and shipping services. Plus, Amex offers business cardholders access to the American Express® Business App, a mobile app that lets you upload receipts, label transactions and add them to QuickBooks on the go.

Who should apply for the Hilton Honors Aspire card?

  • Frequent guests of Hilton hotels.
  • Frequent travelers looking for a hotel rewards card with a large hotel network.
  • Frequent fliers who want free Priority Pass lounge access while traveling.
  • Current Hilton Honors members who want Diamond status.
  • Hilton customers who will use the card’s travel credits and other premium perks.

How to use the Hilton Honors Aspire card

  • Spend at least $4,000 within the first three months to earn the introductory bonus.
  • Book your rewards stays in five-night increments to get the fifth night free.
  • Use rewards for hotel stays over other available redemption options. (Better yet, stick to eligible rooms in the 5,000- to 20,000-point range to further stretch your earnings.)
  • Redeem your free weekend night reward before it expires (after one year).
  • Register with the airline of your choice and charge all your incidentals, including baggage fees, to the card to take advantage of its $250 airline fee credit.
  • Sign up for your complimentary Priority Pass membership and carry the card with you while traveling.
  • Use the card to pay for all your Hilton hotel stays.
  • Choose restaurants and bars included in the Hilton Honors Dining program whenever possible to earn up to 8 points per dollar spent, depending on your program status, the day of week and other promotions for which you may qualify.
  • Shop through the hotel chain’s Hilton Honors Shop-to-Earn Mall to earn rewards with your online purchases.
  • Ride with Lyft to earn 3 points per dollar on eligible rides.

Is the Hilton Honors Aspire card worth it?

The Hilton Honors Aspire card boasts some of the most attractive benefits available in the hotel-card space, but the $450 annual fee is nothing to scoff at. But if Hilton is your designated hotel chain, you spend a lot on travel, you have no problem spending enough to earn the introductory bonus, and you don’t mind a bit of digging to find the best deals for reward stays, the Aspire card is definitely worth considering.

That said, travelers who aren’t particularly devoted to Hilton properties or who won’t take advantage of the card’s luxury travel perks should probably look to the Hilton Honors card, which offers some of the same benefits and a large introductory bonus without the annual fee.

See related: 5 tips for choosing the right hotel credit card

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