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INSIDER SECRET: The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express is the only credit card that gives you top-tier hotel status.
The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express is one of the best travel cards on the market. It’s so good that I don’t understand how Amex makes money from the card.
It comes with a welcome offer of 150,000 Hilton points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. It’s quite easy to receive a value of ~0.5 cents per Hilton point, so you should have no problem achieving at least $750 in free hotel stays from that bonus.
The card also comes with hundreds of dollars in hotel and airline credits, an impossibly valuable annual weekend night, and so much more.
Who Is This Card For?
If you find Hilton resorts fit your travels (and there are hundreds of them), the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express is for you. Even if you’re not a loyal Hilton customer, this card can single-handedly revolutionize your travel — even outside the hotel.
Yes, you’ll receive free upgrades to suites, free breakfast and hundreds of dollars in resort credits each year. But you’ll also get unlimited access to 1,200+ fancy airport lounges worldwide and various kinds of travel insurance.
Few cards are more obviously worth the annual fee than this card. If you can use even a fraction of its benefits (which we’ll closely examine in a minute), it is unquestionably worth than its $450 annual fee (See Rates & Fees).
Just note that Amex only allows you to receive each of their cards’ welcome bonuses once per lifetime. If you’ve opened the Amex Hilton Aspire in the past, you won’t be eligible for its bonus again.
Also, this is considered a premium travel card. You’ll need a credit score over 700 if you plan to apply.
Welcome Bonus: An Estimated $750 in Value
The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express comes with 150,000 Hilton points after spending $4,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening. You can learn more about how to meet the credit card’s minimum spend here.
We generally consider the median value of a Hilton point to be 0.5 cents. So a 150,000-point bonus should net you at least $750 in Hilton hotel stays. However, you can receive a lot more value if you know where to use them.
For example, 150,000 Hilton points is more than enough for two nights at a fancy hotel like the Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, which consistently sells rooms for ~$440 per night. Or stay closer to home at a gorgeous property like The Reach Key West, A Waldorf Astoria Resort.
You can get more for your points by staying at less fancy hotels. This is the way I prefer to use my points. I find that I save way more by using my points for average hotels. Then I can spend the money I’ve saved on a five-star hotel during my vacation. And Hilton has lots of cheap hotels all around the world.
For example, you can reserve a free night at the Hilton Garden Inn Vienna South in Austria for 10,000 Hilton points. Rooms sell for ~$110 per night. So with 150,000 points, you could receive $1,650 in free nights at this hotel!
Further Reading: Hilton Points Value
Main Benefits and Perks
Now, let’s dig into those sweet Amex Hilton Aspire ongoing benefits.
Annual Weekend Night Awards
When you open the Amex Hilton Aspire, you’ll get an award of a free annual weekend night, valid at nearly every Hilton hotel in the world (excluding these listed here). And you’ll get another weekend night every year after you renew your card.
You should receive the weekend night within 14 weeks of opening your card and within the same time period after you renew your card. Hilton’s best resorts can cost $800+ per night. So if you use this weekend night in a five-star hotel, you could instantly make up for the annual fee.
Additionally, you’ll get another weekend night if you spend $60,000+ in eligible purchases on the card in a calendar year.
Hilton Diamond Status
The Amex Hilton Aspire gives you automatic Diamond elite status (Hilton’s top status tier), which comes with benefits like:
- 100% bonus points on paid stays
- Upgrades to a suite when available (that can be worth a lot of money)
- Executive hotel lounge access (where you can usually find lots of free food and drinks)
- Complimentary breakfast at all Hilton hotels
- Fifth award night free when you book with points
Further Reading: Hilton Status
Priority Pass Select Membership
With a Priority Pass Select membership, you’ll have access to 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide. That’s one of my favorite card benefits, and super-expensive if you were to buy it.
With the Amex Hilton Aspire you can also bring two guests into the lounge with you for free. That’s actually better than any lounge membership you can buy. The most expensive Priority Pass plan costs $429 per year, and still charges $32 per guest.
$250 Annual Hilton Resort Credit
You’ll receive a $250 Hilton resort credit when you open your card and each year you renew your card. This means if you stay at any of Hilton’s participating resorts, you can use this credit toward eligible purchases, including room rate, resort restaurants, spas, etc.
$250 Annual Airline Fee Credit
The Amex Hilton Aspire comes with a $250 annual airline-fee credit (you’ll have to choose the airline you want) to cover incidental air-travel fees. You’ll receive this credit each calendar year. That means for your first year as a cardmember, you’ll get it twice before you pay the annual fee a second time (one credit in 2019 and another in January 2020). You can change your selected airline each new calendar year.
Incidental fees are things like baggage fees, food, drinks, etc. It’s not the easiest credit to use, but if it will reimburse you for money you’d spend anyway, it’s a heck of a deal. The fine print from Hilton: Airline tickets, upgrades, mileage-points purchases, mileage-points-transfer fees, gift cards, duty-free purchases and award tickets are not deemed to be incidental fees.
Up to $100 Property Credit
This credit can only be used at two Hilton hotel brands:
- Waldorf Astoria
When you book one of these hotels for 2+ days through this link, you’re eligible for up to a $100 credit. You can also call 855-292-5757 and reference the code ZZAAP1.
And this benefit is reusable, once per stay, on an unlimited amount of stays. Even authorized users get the benefit. This should operate like the annual resort credit, but ask the front desk at your particular hotel for more details on what will qualify for the reimbursement. It may vary by hotel.
Note: Reader Anon says that the rates associated with the promo code are not the lowest when compared to other rates, like the Hilton member rate, AAA rate, etc. So if you’re not careful, you may end up paying more than this $100 credit is worth. Thanks for the tip, Anon!
NO Foreign Transaction Fees
Amex Offers are special discounts that are targeted to Amex cards. Discounts are for purchases like restaurants, hotels, airfare, event tickets, etc.
Further Reading: Everything You Need to Know About Amex Offers
This is an emergency number you can call to receive emergency medical transportation assistance. You won’t be charged if the transportation is approved and coordinated by the Premium Global Assist Hotline. That’s pretty great, because you could pay thousands and thousands of dollars otherwise.
They can also help with lost passport replacement, translation services, missing luggage assistance and emergency legal and medical referrals, but you’ll be responsible for the costs.
Travel Accident Insurance
When you pay for your entire fare with the Amex Hilton Aspire, you can receive up to $500,000 of Travel Accident Insurance. Insurance kicks in for things like:
- Loss of a hand or foot
- Loss of sight in one or both eyes
- Loss of a combination of any of the above
You’re covered so long as any of these things happen with 100 days of the initial accident date.
There are also exclusions. You won’t be covered if your accident was caused (even in part) by:
- Acts of war
- Sickness, physical or mental infirmity
- And more
You can check out the terms for the full list.
How to Earn Points
With the Amex Hilton Aspire, you’ll earn:
- 14 Hilton points per dollar spent at participating Hilton hotels
- 7 Hilton points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel, on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies, and at US restaurants
- 3 Hilton points per dollar spent on all other purchases
- Terms apply
Plus, you’ll earn a second free-weekend-night award at participating Hilton hotels each calendar year that you spend $60,000+ in eligible purchases on your card. This can more than make up for the $450 annual fee. So this is a good card to keep year after year if you can make the most of the free weekend nights.
Further Reading: How to Earn Hilton Honors Points
How to Redeem Points
There are currently 14 Hilton hotel brands (with a couple more coming soon):
- Embassy Suites
- Hampton Inn
- Hilton Garden Inn
- Hilton Grand Vacations
- Home2 Suites
- Homewood Suites
- Tapestry Collection
- Waldorf Astoria
You can cash in your Hilton points for free nights at any of these hotels. Team member Darren is using his Hilton points for free nights at the stunning Conrad Maldives later this year.
Check out this post for a full guide about these different Hilton brands .
Searching for Hilton hotel nights is easy. Just navigate to the Hilton website and type in your destination. When you’ve found your desired hotel, click “Pay with Points” to see available award nights and points rates for your stay.
You can even choose to split your payment between cash and points. Hilton will offer you a slide bar so you can choose the percentage of money you want to use.
Hilton doesn’t have a proper award chart, so you’ll have to check your specific hotel and date to see how many points you’ll need to pay.
You can also redeem your Hilton points for flights, experiences and other things (though they’re not a good deal). Check out this post for a full guide on how to use Hilton Honors points.
Further Reading: How to Use Hilton Honors Points
Credit Cards Similar to the Hilton Aspire
If you’re freaking out at the prospect of a $450 annual fee, there are other Hilton cards that can serve you.
Through August 28, 2019, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card comes with 130,000 Hilton points and a weekend-night award after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first four months of account opening. It also comes with complimentary Gold elite status. You can earn Diamond elite status after you spend $40,000 on eligible purchases with your card in a calendar year (valid through the end of the next calendar year after it’s earned).
The card also gives you 10 free Priority Pass airport lounge visits each year but each guest counts as one of your visits. You can even earn one free weekend night after you spend $15,000 on purchases in a calendar year.
This card has a $95 annual fee (see rates & fees), but you can achieve many of the same benefits as the Amex Hilton Aspire if you’re a big spender.
Further Reading: Amex Hilton Surpass Review
With the Amex Hilton Aspire, you’ll earn 150,000 Hilton points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. There’s a $450 annual fee, not waived for the first year.
You could effortlessly receive $750+ in free travel at terrific hotels — even pricey resorts — with that bonus. Or stretch your points for more nights at less fancy hotels (that’s my favorite way to use hotel points).
The Amex Hilton Aspire has a load of ongoing benefits that can save you a ton:
- Annual weekend-night award (at participating Hilton hotels)
- Automatic Diamond elite status (100% bonus points on paid stays, upgrades to a suite when available, executive hotel lounge access, etc.)
- Priority Pass Select airport lounge access (bring two guests for free)
- Up to $250 annual airline-fee credit
- Up to $250 annual Hilton resort credit
- Up to $100 property credit at Conrad and Waldorf Astoria hotels per stay of 2+ nights
- Terms Apply
Between these benefits and the welcome bonus, you could easily receive $2,500 in travel from this card the first year. And $1,000+ every following year.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass, please click here.