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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 $550). 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.
» Learn more: Hilton credit cards: Which one should you get?
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 $550 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 180,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $6,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership. Offer Ends 1/17/2024. 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 several annual credits geared toward travelers:
$200 for airfare purchases.
$400 Hilton resort statement credit.
$100 Hilton on-property credit at select Conrad and Waldorf Astoria properties.
$189 statement credit covering Clear membership.
If more than one of these credits apply to your usual travel habits, applying for this card is practically a no-brainer. You receive up to $400 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. Those two credits alone cover the annual fee and then some.
The $200 airfare credit
Receive up to $50 in statement credits each quarter on eligible airfare purchased directly with an airline or through the AmEx Travel portal for a total of $200 annually when you use your Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.
The $400 Hilton Resort credit
The $400 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.
The $189 Clear membership credit
Use your Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card to pay for Clear Plus membership every year and get the airport security program's $189 fee covered in its entirety. Clear allows you to skip the line at security and go straight to the suitcase and body scanners.
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. You can get an additional free night award when you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year.
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 $550 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).
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.
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 $550 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 $550 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 $400 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 $200 airfare credit and 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 $550 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.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card