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Hilton Aspire Review: How to Get up to $2,500 in Travel Benefits the First Year (and $1,000+ Every Following Year)

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Hilton Aspire Review: How to Get up to $2,500 in Travel Benefits the First Year (and $1,000+ Every Following Year)

Joseph HostetlerHilton Aspire Review: How to Get up to $2,500 in Travel Benefits the First Year (and $1,000+ Every Following Year)Million Mile Secrets Team

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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.

You can apply for the Amex Hilton Aspire here.

Check out our Amex Hilton Aspire review and learn how to make tropical memories with this card. (Photo by Budilnikov Yuriy/Shutterstock)

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.

One of my favorite airport destinations is an Al Dhabi lounge in the Abu Dhabi airport. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

$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:

  • Conrad
  • 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

Some credit cards charge up to 3% in fees just for using your card outside the US. The Amex Hilton Aspire won’t charge these silly fees, so it’s a good card to take abroad (See Rates & Fees).

Amex Offers

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

Baggage Insurance Plan

The Amex Hilton Aspire provides baggage insurance when you do one of the following:

  • Pay for the entire fare with your card
  • Pay for the fare with a combination of your card and Amex Membership Rewards points
  • Pay for the fare with a combination of your card and American Express Pay with Points

You won’t be covered, however, for award flights (if you use airline miles for your flight).

This is secondary coverage, which means it will only kick in for anything that’s not covered by any primary insurance you have. For checked baggage, you must fill out a written report of your losses.

The maximum reimbursement you’ll receive is:

  • $3,000 for carry-on baggage
  • $2,000 for checked baggage
  • $1,000 for high-risk items like jewelry, sporting equipment, furs, computers, etc.

Car-Rental Loss and Damage Insurance

If you’re renting a car for 30 days or less, you’ll receive secondary coverage. In other words, it will cover things that your primary insurance won’t cover. You’ll receive collision damage insurance, but you won’t be covered for damage to other vehicles, property or people.

Also, you’re not covered if you rent things like off-road vehicles, limos, antique cars, etc.

Extended Warranty

If you make a purchase with your Amex Hilton Aspire, you can receive an extended warranty on some items with manufacturer warranties of five years or less.

Amex will match the length of the original warranty if it’s less than two years. And you’ll get an additional two years of coverage if the original manufacturer’s warranty is between two and five years.

Just understand that certain purchases aren’t covered, such as:

  • Items with physical damage
  • Damage as a result of natural disaster
  • Software
  • Motorized devices

You will only be covered up to the amount charged on your Amex Hilton Aspire, with a maximum of $10,000 per occurrence and $50,000 per cardmember account per calendar year.

Return Protection

When you buy something with your Amex Hilton Aspire, your purchase will be covered for 90 days, up to $300 per item (and no more than $1,000 per calendar year based on the date you made your purchase). You won’t be reimbursed for any shipping.

This kicks in if the item is in original condition. You cannot return it to the store at which it was purchased.

Purchase Protection

Your purchases with the Amex Hilton Aspire are protected up to $10,000 per occurrence (up to $50,000 per calendar year). Certain things, like perishable items, motorized vehicles, etc. aren’t covered.

This benefit gives you secondary coverage, which means that it will only pay for items above and beyond what your other insurance will cover.

ShopRunner

ShopRunner is barely a credit card benefit.

With ShopRunner, you can get two-day shipping with select stores. In my experience, two-day shipping still isn’t a guarantee and they didn’t participate with the stores where I shop. Perhaps you’ll have better luck.

To get a free membership, click this link and enter your Amex credit card account number. You’ll then be prompted to open a ShopRunner account.

Premium Global Assistance Hotline

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.

Premium Roadside Assistance

Up to four times per year, you can receive:

  • Towing up to 10 miles
  • Winching
  • Jump starts
  • Flat-tire changes (if you have a spare tire)
  • Lockout service if you lock your keys in your car
  • Delivery of two gallons of fuel

You’ll have to pay for any service that exceeds these parameters. Also, rental cars, motorcycles tractors, and trucks over 10,000 points are not covered. Check out the full terms to see other random exclusions.

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:

  • Self-destruction
  • Acts of war
  • Sickness, physical or mental infirmity
  • Pregnancy
  • 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):

  • Conrad
  • Canopy
  • Curio
  • DoubleTree
  • Embassy Suites
  • Hampton Inn
  • Hilton
  • Hilton Garden Inn
  • Hilton Grand Vacations
  • Home2 Suites
  • Homewood Suites
  • Tapestry Collection
  • Tru
  • 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.

It’s easy to see how many Hilton points you’ll need for a free award night.

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

Bottom Line

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.

You can apply for the Amex Hilton Aspire here.

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.

Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express

Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express

  • Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express after you use your new Card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, enjoy a free Weekend Night Reward within your first year and every year after renewal.
  • Earn 14X Hilton Bonus Points when you make eligible purchases on your Card at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 7X Bonus Points for eligible purchases: on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies & at U.S. restaurants.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Enjoy up to $250 in Hilton Resort Credits on your Card each anniversary year, when you stay at participating resorts within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Enjoy complimentary Diamond status with your Hilton Honors Aspire Card.
  • $450 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

More Info

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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Does the Diamond status only last for one year? Or, do you get it every year when you pay your annual $450 fee? Are there some kind of minimum stays required? Thx!

every year

I did have an AMEX Hilton about 4-5 years ago and got a bonus. Does this preclude me getting a bonus now? Or co they do back “forever” to check this.
Also if denied the bonus, does it count as a hit on my credit check against the Chase 5/24 policy?

Great review. I already have the Aspire but still learned something new (e.g. Premium Roadside Assistance). Ironically, I put almost all of my Amex spend on the Surpass (instead of the Aspire) card since the Surpass only requires $15K (versus $60K) in annual spend to earn another free weekend night certificate.

This is so tempting, but we rarely stay in hotels any longer. We have become avid home exchangers and when we need to fit in a night or two, we use AirBnB or VRBO, so we have all the privacy of home.

Hi,

I upgrade to Aspire from Ascend this year. My anniversary day will be in April 2020. Can I use $250 resort credit this year or do I have to wait until April 2020 to use it? Called Amex but they don’t have the answer for me. Thanks

I too upgraded from Ascend to Aspire earlier this year. We stayed at the Curio Resort in Key Largo Fla. in June and received a $170 credit back for expenditures at the resort. Expect to use the balance next week in Sedona at the Hilton resort at Bell Tower.

When you upgrade do you get the welcome points?
Thanks.

Typically, when you upgrade a card, you won’t be eligible for the welcome bonus offer. Those are usually for brand new card members. But sometimes you’ll see upgrade offers as well.

I think it is a little bit of a stretch to base the value on the max credit of each item.

You’d have to travel a LOT to use up the airline credit. Or buy a lot of food every time you fly. We will not max ours out. Although I suppose if we take a flight late in the year, we could always buy drinks for those around us 🙂

The $250 resort credit is pretty easy to hit. The Diamond status is valuable (we got a $125 credit ($25/day) on a recent trip to Aruba). Also have had a decent reduction in price for a full buffet breakfast. And some great room upgrades. Last year, Diamond alone gave us more then the $450 fee in value.

And the priorty pass is a great value as well.

I’d say it is EASY to recoup the annual fee in credits and other benefits. And it is possible to hit the numbers you reference, but not easy.

This is our first full year having the card though and we’ve got 1 trip completed with 3 more so we’ll see what we get out of it.

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