Hilton, Amex Revamp Hilton Honors Surpass and Aspire Cards
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Hilton and American Express have announced some major updates to two of their co-branded cards: the Hilton Honors Surpass and Hilton Honors Aspire cards.
About the Hilton Honors Surpass changes:
In addition to retaining all of its previous rewards categories, the card will now earn 4x Hilton Honors points on U.S. online retail purchases. Meanwhile, the Surpass card will be adding a new benefit that will earn cardholders up to $200 per year in statement credits when they use their card to make eligible purchases at participating Hilton properties. This credit is divided into calendar quarters, allowing customers to earn up to $50 in statement credits per quarter. Lastly, cardmembers will now earn complimentary National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive status.
Previously, Surpass cardholders also enjoyed up to 10 complimentary airport lounge visits via Priority Pass. However, this perk has been removed from the revamped version of the card.
To account for these updates, the card’s annual fee will be increased from the current $95 to $150.
About the Hilton Honors Aspire changes:
As with the Surpass card, the Hilton Honors Aspire card will also be retaining its rewards categories and other perks, such as complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status. But, also akin to the Surpass, it will be losing its Priority Pass privileges (which were unlimited with the Aspire). In that perk’s place, Hilton and Amex have added or adjusted several credits to the card.
Now, Aspire customers can earn up to $400 in statement credits per year on purchases made using their card at participating Hilton Resorts. This is up from the previous $250 annual credit. However, in contrast to the former credit, this one is divided semiannually (up to $200 during each half of the year).
Another newly updated credit is one for up to $200 for eligible flight purchases — which replaces the $250 airline fee credit the previous version of the card offered. This credit is split up into $50 increments per quarter. Notably, unlike the prior credit and some other American Express credits of this nature, this new one can be redeemed for a wide range of flight purchases, including airfare itself.
The Hilton Aspire card will also be adding a $189 annual statement credit for CLEAR Plus. This credit will cover the full annual fee for the service for one person, while additional family members can be added to a membership for $70 per year. With CLEAR Plus, customers will be able to save time in line at select airport security checkpoints. Plus, the service can be used in tandem with TSA Precheck to save travelers even more time.
Continuing the new benefits, cardholders will now earn One Free Night Reward after spending $30,000 in purchases on their card in a calendar year. Lastly, customers will earn complimentary National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive status with their Aspire card.
With these new perks, the Aspire card’s annual fee will be climbing to $550 — up from the previous $450.
Enhanced welcome bonus offers:
With the launch of these revamped cards, enhanced welcome offers have also been unveiled.
Currently, new Hilton Honors Surpass card members can earn 170,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on their card within their first six months. As for the Hilton Honors Aspire card, new cardholders can earn 180,000 bonus points after spending $6,000 in purchases on their card within their first six months. According to Hilton, this number of points means that cardholders can redeem for four nights at participating Hilton properties. Incidentally, if those four nights are stung together, customers can actually enjoy five nights since Hilton offers a fifth night free promotion on all standard room reward stays.
When it comes to these updates to the Hilton Honors Surpass and Aspire cards, there are definitely trade offs. The most obvious example of this is the increased annual fee for both cards. Additionally, the removal of Priority Pass privileges may be a blow to some. On that note, while I suspect that many Aspire cardholders will have lounge access via other cards, the Surpass card was one of the more affordable ways to gain a Priority Pass (even if it was limited to 10 annual visits).
Personally, I think the updates do make the Aspire card more intriguing for a few reasons. First, the $400 credit for Hilton purchases ($200 semiannually) still seems easy enough to use, making the $150 boost worth the annoyance of splitting the credit across at least two stays. Meanwhile, the $200 flight purchases credit ($50 per quarter) is far stronger than the Platinum card’s famously particular “airline incidental fees” credit. Then again, making this credit quarterly definitely hurts its appeal — especially since customers may need to sacrifice perks from other cards in order to take advantage of it.
As always, when it comes to these cards and updates, your mileage may vary. Therefore, before deciding to apply and claim one of these enhanced bonuses, be sure to run the math and make sure that you can realistically expect to earn positive value from the card.
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