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.

Dan MillerJuly 3, 2020

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The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is a relatively new entry to the credit card market, having been introduced in November 2017. This card is a complement to some of the other American Express Hilton cards, like the no-fee Hilton Honors American Express Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.

And while the Aspire card shares some similarities with the other AmEx/Hilton co-branded cards, like earning Hilton points, it’s positioned as more of a luxury card.

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is 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.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card overview

Welcome bonus: 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.

Rewards earned: 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. You'll also earn 12x points on U.S. supermarket purchases through July 31. Terms apply.

Optimizing your annual credits with the Hilton Aspire

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.

For the $250 airline credit, you select your airline when you sign up for the card and can change your selection each year in January. This $250 will cover 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 other two Hilton Aspire credits apply to stays at Hilton hotels.

The $250 Hilton Resort credit works for purchases made directly with a participating Hilton resort. The best part about this credit is that it 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.

Note: For a limited time, restaurant dine-in and takeout purchases made during the months of June, July and August count toward the $250 credit.

The other hotel credit is a $100 annual credit that's a little harder to use. You must book a two-night minimum stay at a Conrad or Waldorf Astoria hotel via HiltonHonors.com/aspirecard. Only certain rates are eligible, so you’ll want to compare the rate at that site to other publicly available rates to make sure you are not overpaying. The $100 credit will be applied to your room and does not include property fees, taxes, gratuities or the cost of the room itself. Terms apply.

Optimizing other perks on the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Besides the annual credits that come with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, there are quite a few other perks for travelers.

It comes with a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which can get you access to over 1,300 airport lounges throughout the world. Terms apply. Don’t let this perk go to waste; make sure you 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.

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card also comes with a complimentary weekend night certificate when you first sign up for the card and every year on your card anniversary. Not all free nights are created equal, so if you want to get the most out of your certificate, combine it with the Fifth Night Free Benefit on a points reservation. Terms apply. Get an in-depth look at maximizing this benefit here.

Note: Currently, Hilton is allowing these certificates to be used on any night of the week, not just weekends. Additionally, all new certificates issued through Dec. 31, 2020, will be valid for 24 months (as opposed to the standard 12 months).

You can earn a second weekend night certificate if you spend $60,000 on the card each calendar year, though you should consider the opportunity cost of spending $60,000 on this card. Putting that same $60,000 on a card that earns 2% cash back, like the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer card (The card rewards you with 1% cash back on all your purchases and an additional 1% when you pay them off.), would net you $1,200. That’s more than enough for a weekend night at almost any hotel (and then some).

Probably the biggest perk of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is the complimentary Hilton Diamond status. If you’re going to get the most out of your Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, it makes sense to switch your hotel loyalty to Hilton as long as you have the card.

Diamond is Hilton’s highest status, and with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card you just get it — 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 best hotel statuses out there. Don’t feel bad ditching your old hotel chain for Hilton to enjoy these Diamond status perks. Terms apply.

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 special 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.

These benefits are likely fairly niche for most people, and in the majority of cases won’t change the value proposition of whether the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is worth the cost.

Is the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card worth it?

If you’re wondering whether the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is worth it, you’ll have to take a look at 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.

Whether or not the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is worth the fee depends on your unique situation, so you’ll want to run the numbers for yourself. If you’re still not sure about whether the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is right for you, check out our complete guide to whether the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is worth its annual fee.

Who should get the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card?

The short answer depends on whether you’ll get at least $450 in value each year with the card. With the welcome bonus of 150,000 Hilton Honors points, there’s little doubt that you’ll get at least $450 in value the first year. In succeeding years, it’s likely that many travelers will continue seeing a good value. 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.

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