How to Make the Most of the Hilton Aspire American Express Card

Using the annual credits for airline incidentals and resort stays can make this credit card well worth the cost.
Sally French
By Sally French 
Edited by Mary M. Flory

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The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is ideal for travelers who stay at Hilton hotels at least a couple of nights per year and who appreciate the finer things in life. Sure, you’ll need to pony up a pretty penny to get the card (the annual fee is $450). But as long as you can make the most of it (which is easy, considering this card is jam-packed with perks), then you’ll find that the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card annual fee is worth it.

While the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card shares some similarities with the other American Express-issued Hilton credit cards (like earning Hilton points), those other cards pale in comparison to the luxury benefits you’ll find on this one.

In fact, it’s almost better to view the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card as a competitor to other ultra-premium cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Citi Prestige® Card. Even though it comes with a hefty $450 annual fee, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card also packs some pretty serious benefits and perks. Terms apply.

Here's how to make the most of this card, taking into account its benefits and how to optimize the rewards you can get from it.

Earn the welcome offer

Here’s current welcome offer on this card: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card after you use your new Card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply. Set a reminder in your calendar a month out from the deadline to ensure you’ve spent enough to reach the threshold (or at least to know you’re on track to reach it). That’s a lot of points you don’t want to miss out on.

Use it for travel and dining

Assuming you don’t have an even better travel or dining credit card, this one is pretty tough to beat. The card offers 14 points per dollar spent directly at participating Hilton hotels or resorts, 7 points per dollar on flights, car rentals and restaurants in the United States, and 3 points per dollar on all other purchases. Terms apply.

Use all of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card annual credits

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has three annual credits geared toward travelers:

  • $250 for airline incidentals on one specific airline.

  • $250 Hilton resort statement credit.

  • $100 Hilton on-property credit at select Conrad and Waldorf Astoria properties.

Terms apply.

If you were planning on spending $250 at Hilton and $250 in airline-incidental charges anyway, applying for this card is practically a no-brainer. You receive up to $250 in statement credits each year for eligible purchases at Hilton resorts, including room rates. You also receive a $250 airline-fee credit for incidental charges on an eligible airline of your choosing.

The $250 airline incidental credit

For the $250 airline credit, you select your airline when you get the card and can change your selection each year in January. This $250 covers fees and other incidental charges such as checked bags, in-flight food and flight-change fees. Just be sure to pay for travel from your selected airline with your Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. Terms apply.

The $250 Hilton Resort credit

The $250 Hilton Resort credit works for purchases made directly with a participating Hilton resort. This credit can include your room rate, as long as it is not a nonrefundable or advance purchase rate. It can also cover incidental charges such as meals in the hotel restaurant and spa or other services — just be sure they are charged to your room and paid for at the hotel with your Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card to max out your credit. Terms apply.

The $100 Conrad or Waldorf Astoria property credit

The third credit — the $100 Conrad or Waldorf Astoria property credit — is a little harder to use. You must book a two-night minimum stay at a Conrad or Waldorf Astoria hotel via a dedicated webpage. That means you need to front what will inevitably be a hefty sum of money for those two nights — and $100 will likely end up being just a minor dent in the bill at these high end properties.

And annoyingly, only certain rates are eligible. Compare the rate at that site to other publicly available rates to make sure you are not overpaying — even with the $100 credit, you could find a better rate elsewhere. Terms apply.

Luxuriate in the Priority Pass lounges

Holding this card entails not just VIP treatment at Hilton hotels, but at airports too. You’ll receive complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which can get you access to over 1,300 airport lounges throughout the world. Terms apply. Understand that Priority Pass lounge quality is quite variable. We’ve seen some lounges offering not much more beyond a free bottle of water or soda and a bag of chips. Then again, other lounges are ridiculously fancy with freshly made food, unlimited alcohol, and showers to freshen up — especially helpful during long layovers.

You’ll have to activate your Priority Pass Membership through your American Express Membership Rewards portal and look in the “Benefits” section. You can search the Priority Pass website for lounges in the airports you travel through.

Use your free night certificate at a fancy hotel

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card also comes with a complimentary night certificate when you first apply for the card and every year on your card anniversary. Of the roughly 6,000 Hilton properties worldwide, only a few dozen do not accept free night certificates.

And sure, you could use it at the $100-per-night Hampton Inn. But you could also use it to book a King Beach Villa at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives, which normally goes for around $1,800 per night. That $1,800 saved makes the card’s $450 annual fee feel like peanuts.

You can earn a second free night certificate if you spend $60,000 on the card each calendar year, though this might not actually be the smartest move — if you were even going to spend $60,000 annually on your credit card in the first place.

Consider the opportunity cost of spending $60,000. Putting that same $60,000 on a card that earns 2% cash back, like the Citi® Double Cash Card card (which rewards you with 1% cash back on all your purchases and an additional 1% when you pay them off), nets you $1,200. That’s more than enough for a night at almost any hotel (and then some).

Terms apply.

Flash your Hilton Diamond status

Card ownership entails Diamond status, which is Hilton’s highest status. It’s automatic — no need to stay a minimum number of nights or do any spending with the card. Diamond status comes with perks like room upgrades, executive lounge access and continental breakfast; it's one of the most valuable hotel statuses out there. Terms apply.

Don’t overlook the other benefits

There are a few other minor perks on the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, including:

  • No foreign transaction fees: Take this card with you abroad to save on fees.

  • 90-day return protection: Charge purchases to your card and get up to $300 per item ($1,000 max per year) in refunds if the merchant won’t accept your returned item. Make the most of this by ensuring you put expensive purchases on this card.

  • Access to the AmEx concierge: Let AmEx do the legwork for you if you need reservations, tickets or a gift purchased. What’s more valuable than getting your time back?

  • Complimentary ShopRunner membership: Sign up for your account to get free two-day shipping from over 100 online stores. You’ll save money on shipping costs and get your purchases fast. Be sure you look at eligible ShopRunner merchants while browsing online.

Terms apply.

Is the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card worth its annual fee?

If you’re wondering whether the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is worth the annual fee, calculate how the perks and benefits stack up and whether that offsets the hefty $450 annual fee. Terms apply.

In your first year of card membership you should earn the welcome bonus; those points alone are worth more than the fee. Then you have the annual credits, the Diamond status and the weekend night. It’s clear why these could make the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card worthwhile for certain travelers.

Who should get the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card?

Will you get at least $450 in value each year with the card? With the welcome offer you’ll likely get at least that much value the first year. Terms apply.

With even one stay at a Hilton resort, you may be able to combine the benefits of the card's Diamond status, the $250 Hilton resort credit and Hilton’s fifth-night free on award stays. That could justify the entire annual fee in a single trip. At that point, the $250 annual credit toward airline incidentals like baggage fees would just be icing on the (already well-iced) cake.

Another way to look at it: If you’re an occasional traveler or going for only one ultra-premium travel card, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is a solid choice. If you have other premium cards with Priority Pass memberships or you travel enough to earn hotel status organically, then you may not be able to take advantage of all of the benefits of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. Otherwise, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card may be a keeper, even with a $450 annual fee. Terms apply.

The information related to Citi Prestige® Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.

All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.

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