Here’s why the Hilton Aspire is worth the annual fee — and $2,000+ the first year

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I’ve realized two important things about travel with credit cards over the years.

The first is that although it might seem scary to commit to a credit card with a high annual fee, the rewards usually pay for themselves many times over, year after year.

The second came after talking to a friend, who spent three nights at the Waldorf Astoria in Park City in Utah last winter. After I ungracefully asked how much her room cost, she admitted she didn’t know. Maybe $600 a night? But it didn’t really matter because she had paid for the whole thing with points that she’d earned on her Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express. It was then that I seriously wondered why I didn’t carry a hotel credit card in my wallet. Searching for discounted rooms at the Motel 6 seemed especially foolish when I could stay at an upscale resort just as easily and for less money by using points.

We wrote about the Amex Hilton Aspire recently and talked about how it’s one of our favorite cards at MMS. I’ll show you why the Amex Hilton Aspire is worth the annual fee.

Is the Amex Hilton Aspire worth the annual fee? If you want to stay at Hilton hotels (particularly nice ones), this is the card for you. (Photo by Gordon Bell/Shutterstock)

Is the Hilton Aspire worth the annual fee?

For a long time, I was focused on getting there — that is, on airline credit cards that offered a large number of miles as an initial welcome bonus.

Once I got there, it was all about experiencing the destination, being out in the world. If the stranger with whom I shared a hostel room was a horrible snorer, that was a story worth telling. If the hotel room my husband and I booked for $35 a night smelled like mildew, well, that was to be expected. I could always take a nap in the park if I didn’t get enough sleep the night before.

With age comes wisdom (and a lower tolerance for pain). Getting smart means getting the right hotel card, which is why the Amex Hilton Aspire is so appealing. Yes, there is a $450 annual fee with this card (See Rates & Fees), which might initially be a bit intimidating. But cards with higher annual fees is this offer such amazing benefits (whose value greatly exceeds the annual fee). My two questions about credit cards are always:

  • How quickly will I recoup that annual fee?
  • Is it worth keeping the card (and paying that $450) year after year?

The quick answer on the Amex Hilton Aspire card is YES. Here’s why:

Ongoing perks that will keep you renewing each year

The Amex Hilton Aspire comes with 150,000 Hilton points after you spend at least $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. This adds significant value for your first cardmember year. The points are easy to use, though there is no Hilton award chart. And the ongoing Hilton Aspire benefits are worth way more than the annual fee. Here’s what you’ll get every single year you keep the card:

Diamond elite status: There are so many different benefits that come with this top tier of Hilton status, including (terms apply):
  • 100% bonus points on paid stays
  • Upgrades to suites when available
  • Executive lounge access at hotels that have them (lots of free food and drinks)
  • Complimentary breakfast
  • Fifth consecutive award night free
Up to $250 annual airline credit: You’ll have up to $250 in credits to put towards incidentals on the airline of your choice. The credit will cover items like inflight food and drinks, as well as baggage fees (the credit doesn’t cover seat upgrades or booking a flight). Annual weekend award night: You’ll receive a weekend award night the first year that you open your card and every year you renew. Just note these ineligible hotels. Bonus: If you spend $60,000+ on your card in one calendar year, you’ll earn an extra free weekend night at any participating Hilton hotel. Priority Pass airport lounge access: I love having a Priority Pass membership. It’s a true lifesaver on longer connections and I can’t imagine traveling without it at this point. A comparable paid membership costs $429 per year. Up to $250 Hilton Resort credit: This credit is good at any of the Hilton restaurants and spas where you’re staying as a guest, as long as the hotel is classified as a resort. Girls’ trip with a $250 spa credit? That could become an annual tradition. Oh, and you can even use it toward the cost of your room. Up to $100 Hilton property credit: When you book a stay for two or more nights at Waldorf Astoria or Conrad hotels by using this link, you’ll be eligible for up to $100 credit. This will be applied to your bill at checkout.

Are these benefits worth more than the annual fee?

Let’s tally up the value you’ll get when you open the Amex Hilton Aspire. (I’m just talking about the big-ticket items here; we’re not counting the points you’ll accumulate with daily spending.)

150,000 Hilton points = approximately $750 in free Hilton stays (we estimate Hilton points value to be around 0.5 cents each (though they can be worth far, far more if you’re familiar with the best use of Hilton points). For the first year, you’re already $300 ahead of the $450 annual fee. But every year you’ll get:

  • $250 annual airline credit
  • Annual weekend award night = An average of $300, depending on where you stay (it can be worth much more)
  • Airport lounge access = $429.  The best Priority Pass membership you can buy costs $429 and this membership is even better because it comes with guest privileges
  • $250 Hilton Resort credit
  • Up to $100 Hilton property credit (reusable)

My estimated total value of this card:

  • $2,079+ in the first year
  • $1,329+ every year after

That means after subtracting the $450 annual fee, you’re receiving a net value of $879 every year. This doesn’t take into account the scads of bonus points and free upgrades (possibly to suites) you’ll get with Diamond status, which could potentially add hundreds more in value.

Bottom line

If you’re looking for a hotel card where you can earn points quickly and use them at the long list of participating Hilton hotels, this card is an excellent choice. The total value of this card is worth so much more than the $450 annual fee. Read our Hilton Aspire review for more details.

Let me know what you think of this card. And subscribe to our newsletter for more credit card reviews!

For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, please click here.

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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