Hilton credit cards: Why now is the best-ever time to get them

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It seems counterintuitive to open a hotel credit card during the worst year for travel since the Genesis flood. But in actual fact, this is a time of opportunities. Card issuers are going mental with bonus spending incentives, extending valuable travel certificates, even offering hundreds of dollars in additional statement credits.

Hilton credit cards in particular have me salivating onto my keyboard. These cards were already some of the absolute best in the game, but with their new enhancements, the card perks are comically good.

Now’s the time to prepare for free stays at five-star hotels like the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)

Hilton credit cards currently better than ever

Despite its best efforts, the novel coronavirus can’t stop you from getting thousands of dollars in value from Hilton credit cards this year. I plan to open at least two (perhaps three) Hilton cards in 2020 — before Hilton realizes the offers are too generous.

Here are the current welcome bonuses of each card:

  • Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express – 150,000 Hilton points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card – 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of account opening.
  • The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card – Earn up to 180,000 bonus points. Earn 130,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend a total of $10,000 in purchases on the card in the first six months.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Card – Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend a total of $5,000 in purchases on the card in the first six months. Terms Apply.

The information for the Hilton Aspire card and the Hilton Surpass Card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

But bonuses aren’t what I’m referring to. It’s the ongoing benefits that have sharply improved over the past few weeks.

Hilton Aspire, Hilton Surpass, Hilton Business: Vastly improved weekend night certificates

Hilton’s top credit cards come with the opportunity to earn “weekend nights” which you can redeem at nearly every Hilton hotel in the world (excluding these). Each weekend night is normally valid for a free night on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Here’s how you earn them with each card:

The Amex Hilton Surpass has an annual fee of $95 (see rates and fees), The Amex Hilton Business has an annual fee of $95 (see rates and fees) and the Amex Hilton Aspire has an annual fee of $450 (see rates and fees).

Now here’s the “enhancement” — any weekend night you earn on or before December 31, 2020, you can use for any day of the week! Plus, the certificates won’t expire for 24 months, instead of their normal 12-month lifespan. That gives you significantly more flexibility to plan an upcoming stay.

These weekend nights are no joke. Depending on where you use them, they could be worth 95,000+ points. For example, you could use your weekend night at top of the line resorts like the Conrad Koh Samui, which otherwise costs 95,000 points per night (with a cash price of $600+).

The Conrad Koh Samui costs 95,000 points per night — or one weekend night certificate! (Photo courtesy of Hilton)

Hilton Aspire and Hilton Surpass: Improved earning rate on groceries

Temporarily, Hilton has dramatically increased the number of Hilton points you’ll earn per dollar at U.S. supermarkets with both the Amex Hilton Aspire and Amex Hilton Surpass. You’ll earn 12 points per dollar between May and July 2020. And because Hilton points are worth at least 0.5 cents on average (according to our estimation), that’s an effective return of 6 cents per dollar at U.S. supermarkets.

Of course, you can receive drastically more value than that per point, depending on how you use them. For example, the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi costs 120,000 points per night, with a cash price often breaching $2,000. Redeeming points at this island resort, you should have no problem achieving 1.6 cents per point in value.

If you use your points in this way, you’re actually receiving an effective return of 19.2% for your grocery shopping (12 points per dollar x 1.6 cent value per point).

Read our post on the best way to use Hilton points for more ideas of how to get hugely outsized value for your Hilton points at fairy tale hotels around the world.

You can book into an overwater bungalow with 120,000 Hilton points. (Photo by Tom Grahsler)

Hilton Aspire: More useful $250 resort credit

The Amex Hilton Aspire comes with a yearly Hilton resort credit worth up to $250. You can redeem this credit at tons of Hilton resorts for things like room rate, resort restaurants, spas and more. Great if you’re visiting a participating resort — awful if you’re still cornered by COVID-19.

If you can’t make it to a Hilton resort this year, your statement credit will not go to waste! Because of the unique circumstances, Hilton is allowing its cardholders to use any or all of this credit for purchases at U.S. restaurants (takeout and delivery included) from June to August 2020.

If you spend at least $85 per month at restaurants, this is free money. Yes, the Hilton Aspire has a $450 annual fee (see rates and fees), but this credit effectively brings your 2020 annual fee down to $200, with no hoops to jump through.

Hilton Aspire: More useful up to $250 airline credit

The Amex Hilton Aspire comes with yet another up to $250 credit, but this one is more restrictive. To redeem it, you’ll have to select a particular airline with which you want to use it. The credit will then offset incidentals, such as change/cancellation fees, lounge passes, premium seat selection, checked bag fees, etc.

However, this benefit complements the airline industry’s current generous change and cancellation policies. Everyone’s travel plans are still changing rapidly as the government evaluates reopening the country. If you book your upcoming trip and redeem the credit for incidentals, you can cancel your trip without penalty. You can simply ask the airline to refund your incidentals in the form of airfare credit, which you can redeem in the future.

All Hilton cards: Easier to qualify for Hilton elite status

Hilton elite status quite possibly the easiest status to achieve — and it comes with some amazing perks.

All Hilton credit cards come with some form of elite status:

The common way to climb the elite status ladder is by staying at Hilton hotels. Each night you stay gets you closer to the next prestigious tier. But with travel at a standstill, you likely won’t be able to achieve as high of a status level as you thought. To combat this, any bonus points you earn with Amex Hilton cards will count towards elite tier qualification and lifetime Diamond Hilton status. Bonus points must post to your account between May 1 and December 31, 2020.

For example, Hilton Diamond status normally costs 120,000 base Hilton points (points you get from staying at Hilton hotels). But an Amex Hilton Surpass cardholder can earn it from their couch in 2020. Spending $10,000 at grocery stores would net you the points you need to achieve Diamond status.

Bottom line

There have been dynamic changes to Amex Hilton credit cards in the past few weeks — changes that are almost impossible to pass up. Hilton is giving you hundreds of dollars just to give their cards a try. With even a little bit of strategy, you’re guaranteed to receive many times the cards’ annual fees.

Let us know if these card changes have inspired you to open a Hilton card! And subscribe to our newsletter for more posts like this delivered to your inbox.

For rates and fees of the Amex Hilton Surpass, click here

For rates and fees of the Amex Hilton Business, click here

For rates and fees of the Amex Hilton Aspire, click here

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

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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