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Hilton Honors Aspire card from American Express review

Hilton Honors Aspire card from American Express review

Published: February 22, 2018
Ratings Policy
Hotel Rating:
2.6 rating
2.6 rating
2.6 / 5
Rewards Value: 0.4
Annual Percentage Rate: 4.3
Rewards Flexibility: 4.2
Hotel Options: 4.5
Features: 5.0

In a nutshell:

This is the go-to hotel card for elite status and Hilton hotel benefits; however, the card is pricey and — if you are merely interested in earning free hotel nights — you’re probably better off with a lower-priced card.

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

Sign-up Bonus
100,000 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

Annual Fee
$450

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$198

APR
16.24-20.24% (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

Hotel Options

  • Properties: 5,100
  • Countries served: 103

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

Luxury Rating:
4.5 rating
4.5 rating
4.5 / 5
Rewards Value: 4.6
Annual Percentage Rate: 1.4
Rewards Flexibility: 4.3
Features: 5.0

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.

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

Sign-up Bonus
100,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months

Annual Fee
$450

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($6,250 monthly spend)
$1,803

APR
16.99-25.99% (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

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

Rewards Rating:
2.7 rating
2.7 rating
2.7 / 5
Rewards Value: 0.8
Annual Percentage Rate: 3.2
Rewards Flexibility: 4.3
Features: 5.0

In a nutshell:

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

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

Sign-up Bonus
100,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months

Annual Fee
$450

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$198

APR
16.99-25.99% (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

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

Travel Rating:
2.8 rating
2.8 rating
2.8 / 5
Rewards Value: 0.9
Annual Percentage Rate: 3.0
Rewards Flexibility: 4.3
Features: 5.0

In a nutshell:

The Hilton Honors Aspire card is teeming with valuable travel perks and credits, though the average traveler is unlikely to have the funds to get the value out of the card.

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

Sign-up Bonus
100,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months

Annual Fee
$450

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$198

APR
16.99-25.99% (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

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

Since American Express became the solitary issuer of Hilton cards it has made some major updates to its credit card portfolio. One of its greatest developments comes in the form of a brand-new luxury card: the Hilton Honors Aspire card.

The Aspire card is jam-packed with luxury benefits and perks, including unlimited airport lounge access and some very valuable travel and hotel credits. However, those perks come at a high cost – besides the $450 annual fee, you need to spend a significant amount on the card to unlock some of its best features, and you must travel frequently and indulge in luxury services at Hilton hotels to take advantage of many of the card’s benefits.

In other words, the Aspire card is not for the average cardholder. If you are simply looking for a card that lets you earn free Hilton hotel stays, you are probably better off with the Ascend card, which offers generous perks and a similar sign-up bonus for a much lower fee.

High rewards rate for frequent travelers

The Aspire card offers a very high rewards rate on all your spending – you get 14 points per dollar on Hilton hotel stays, seven points per dollar on airfare, car rentals and restaurant purchases, and three points per dollar on other purchases. Since the bonuses are focused on travel spending, you must spend a significant amount – much higher than the average cardholder – on Hilton stays and on travel purchases in general to see a good return on your spending.

Those who spend more moderately on travel are probably better off with the lower-price Ascend card, which offers a high rewards rate on everyday purchases, such as gas and groceries.

Large sign-up bonus

The Aspire card offers a 100,000-point bonus to new cardholders who spend $4,000 in the first three months of card ownership. While that’s a large number, don’t get too dazzled by it – Hilton points are vastly inflated and the bonus is worth about a third of what it seems. Also, the $4,000 spend requirement is fairly steep and the card’s $450 annual fee mostly cancels out the value of the bonus.

If you are primarily interested in the card for its 100,000-point bonus, take note: The Hilton Ascend card offers the same 100,000-points with a mere $3,000 threshold stretched over six months, and charges a much lower annual fee.

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 & Money” at all Hilton locations. 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 other redemption options, including redeeming for airfare or using points to upgrade a reservation (though most of the alternate options return a poor value on your points).

$600 worth of travel credits

The Aspire card includes some potentially valuable travel credits, including a $250 annual credit for airline incidentals, a $250 credit toward purchases made with your card at participating Hilton resorts and a $100 on-property credit for stays at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties. Note, the airline credit doesn’t cover major expenses, such as airfare or flight upgrades, and it only applies to one airline, which you may designate once a year to receive the credit.

Up to two free nights each year

The Hilton Aspire card offers a very generous free hotel night benefit each year, which adds significantly to the value of the card. You receive a free weekend night at a Hilton resort each year on your card member anniversary plus an additional weekend night each year that you spend $60,000 on the card. That’s two free nights to add to your other rewards nights, but the second free night requires a very steep level of spend – approximately $5,000 per month – that is probably out of reach for most cardholders.

Fifth night free benefit

Card members also receive a free night each time they stay at least five nights (including on rewards stays). This is a very valuable benefit that comes with all Hilton credit cards. Since it stacks with your other rewards nights, it can help you earn multiple free nights at a high-end Hilton property.

Perks, perks and more perks

As is typical of the American express brand, the Aspire card is teeming with luxury benefits. You get unlimited access to Priority Pass lounges for you and two guests. The card also grants you Diamond status in the Hilton Honors program – this is the highest level of status and comes with a bevy of benefits, including a 50 percent bonus on Hilton Honors base points, 1,000 additional bonus points for each hotel stay, a guaranteed room each time you book at least 48 hours in advance, premium internet access, free room upgrades, free breakfast and free access to Hilton hotel lounges.

Why get the Hilton Honors Aspire card?

  • You’re looking for a luxury card with lounge access.
  • You want Diamond elite status in the Hilton Honors loyalty program.
  • You stay frequently at Hilton resorts and can take advantage of the card’s top-of-the-line hotel perks and hotel credits.
  • You travel frequently enough to take advantage of the card’s perks.
  • You allocate a high percentage of your budget to travel and dining.

How to use the Hilton Honors Aspire card:

  • Spend at least $4,000 in the first three months to earn the 100,000-point bonus.
  • Look for rewards bookings that fall within the 5,000- to 20,000-point range – you’ll find the best value for your points there.
  • Consider booking rewards with Hilton’s “Points & Money” option – it can help you stretch your points at a good value.
  • Stay away from redemption options that aren’t hotel stays, since they offer a very poor value.
  • Register with an airline and charge all your incidentals, including baggage fees, to the card to take advantage of the card’s $250 travel credit.
  • Use your card to pay for your Hilton hotel stays, in order to earn the 14-point bonus rate plus 1,000 additional bonus points, and to apply the $250 resort credit to your room bill.

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