Know the rules before you apply for your next Hilton card

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Even though the value of Hilton points is lower than some other hotel points, it’s incredibly easy to earn Hilton points. There are four Hilton cobranded American Express cards and a handful of travel credit cards that earn points you can transfer to Hilton, so you’ve got options.

Navigating the Amex application rules is fairly straightforward now that Amex shows you during the application if you’re eligible to earn the welcome bonus. But you need to know a few qualifiers before you apply for a Hilton credit card.

It’s easy to earn and use Hilton points all over the world. (Photo by josefkubes/Shutterstock.)

Amex Hilton application rules

If you like Hilton points, you can do well with any of the Hilton hotel credit cards:

Here are tips on how to complete the minimum spending requirements. Before you submit an application, consider these factors.

Each card is considered a different product

You can only earn the welcome bonus on any given Amex card once per lifetime. But there are four Amex Hilton cards, and they’re all separate products as far as Amex is concerned. That means you are eligible to earn the bonus once for each card.

Amex limits you to five credit cards

All the Amex Hilton cards are credit cards, as opposed to charge cards. That means they offer revolving credit lines and you aren’t required to pay the full balance every month (although you should). Amex will typically only issue each person four or, at most, five of its credit card products. Amex has lots of excellent credit cards, so keep in mind opening these cards will count as a credit card slot and pick and choose wisely.

You can only open two cards per 90 days

Amex typically only approves two new card applications per 90-day period. However, most of the reports of people being approved for two cards within 90 days involve a combination of charge cards and credit cards. So you’ll mostly likely only be approved for a single Hilton card within that time period as they are all credit cards.

The Amex Surpass card has history

Before you fire up your application for the Hilton Surpass card, think carefully about other Amex Hilton cards you’ve had.

This card used to be called the Amex Hilton Ascend card and before that it was the Surpass. If you ever opened any Amex version of it, you aren’t eligible to earn the welcome bonus on the current Hilton Surpass card. That’s because Amex kept this card mostly the same, but updated the name. In Amex’s eyes it’s still the same product.

Beware of the Chase 5/24 rule

Amex personal cards count against your Chase 5/24 status. Luckily, the Hilton Business credit card doesn’t count against you. So if that’s a concern, be sure to stick to these business credit cards from any major bank except Capital One and Discover.

Bottom line

With 5,000+ locations under 15 Hilton brands, it’s not hard to make good use of your Hilton points. And thankfully, Hilton points are easy to earn with any of the four cobranded Hilton rewards credit cards.

But before you apply, keep in mind:

  • Each card is considered a different product
  • You can only have four (or five) Amex credit cards at once
  • Amex will only approve, at most, two cards per 90 days
  • The Hilton Surpass card use to be called the Hilton Ascend card and if you had it, you can’t get the Surpass product
  • All Amex personal cards count against your Chase 5/24 status, but Amex small business cards don’t

Hopefully this clarifies exactly which Amex Hilton cards you’re eligible to open.

Will you earn bonus Hilton points with these offers while they’re still around?

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Jason Stauffer is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, he covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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6 months ago

I only have 1 amex card which is the Delta Amex I applied almost a year ago. Amex wouldn’t give me a sign up bonus for the Hilton card and that’s annoying. I tried spending, waiting for months before reapplying and it’s the same. Any ideas?

7 months ago

The issue with Hilton cards is that the value just isn’t there, and I’m a Hilton loyalist, but the cards are terrible compared to Mariott or Hyatt, etc. For example, to get a free night, you either need the ridiculously expensive Aspire. The Surpass requires you spend a TON to get a free night. By contrast, Mariott and others offer a free night on their cards with a $95 annual fee, making the fee more palatable. And the Amex Airline reimbursement structure is cumbersome, to say the least. So it’s another reason the Aspire (that I currently have, but will not soon) isn’t worth it.

7 months ago

I, too, have tried twice in the past three months to get the Aspire card and was told I was ineligible for the bonus. I suspect the reason for the bonus denial is I had not used my AMEX green card much, but I just upgraded to gold after being offered a 40,000 MR point bonus. Hoping that putting several thousand a month on that card will help my eligibility for the Aspire bonus

1 year ago

My wife just tried applying for the Ascend card today and was told that she was not eligible for the bonus. She only has two Amex cards – the basic Hilton Amex (since 99)and the Delta Gold Amex (since 2015) and has never had the Surpass. Also has never closed any other Amex cards.
Why would she not be eligible for the ascend bonus??

1 year ago

Does Amex match current offers? I just received the Aspire card a few months ago when the bonus was for 100,000 points. Im wodering if they will match to 150,000 points?

1 year ago

I had the Citibank Hilton (and received the signup bonus with Hilton Honors. When they switched over to AX I called to see about any bonus points. Both Hilton and AX said a no go. I am curious to see if I can obtain another sign up on an AX with Hilton. Those points got me 3 free nights in York, UK in July. I have the Delta Gold AX and the old AX SPG card (which I am thinking of letting go as the points just “ain’t what they used to be” ) What strategies do you suggest for these cards and optimum points? Italian Riviera here I come!

1 year ago

I have 2 Hilton card. One came from Hilton citibank now is AMX. Can I closed 1 to apply for another AMX card ?

Greg H Too
1 year ago

I was informed (shortly after the release of either the Ascend or Aspire Card) by the application form that since I had previously held the Surpass card I was not eligible for the bonus. I did successfully get the business card and received the bonus. Do you know which one of these cards was formerly the Surpass card?

Reply to  Greg H Too
1 year ago

Hi Greg – the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card used to be called the AMEX Hilton Surpass card.

Greg H
1 year ago

After spending several hours on the phone with customer service after multiple calls and having a case number established. I was informed that I could only get a sign-up bonus for one of the 4 cards despite them being separate products. I got the Hilton Honors Business Card in May and tried to apply for the Hilton Honors basic card in Sept and the system said I was not eligible for the signup bonus. I only have 2 AMEX cards total. Any advice?

Reply to  Greg H
1 year ago

Hi Greg – sorry to hear it hasn’t been a smooth application process. Did you ever have the old AMEX Hilton Surpass card?

Greg H
Reply to  Keith
1 year ago

No, I have only ever had the one Hilton card. I did cancel a Delta Gold card this past spring. I first applied for the Delta Platinum Business card, was approved then waited for the AF to hit on the Gold and called to cancel. I told them I upgraded to the Platinum and didn’t need two AF cards. Seemed ok at the time. (This was before I learned that you can potentially product change to the no AF card instead of cancelling.)

Raj M
1 year ago

Thanks for this informative article. I just want to say that I had a targeted upgrade offer of 150k points for the Ascend card. I had the basic Honors card before which I upgraded to the Ascend card with just a click.