Is the Hilton AmEx Surpass Card Worth Its Annual Fee?

June Casagrande
By June Casagrande 
Edited by Mary M. Flory

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card made a splash last year with a set of perks designed to get the attention of anyone looking for a new rewards credit card. The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card offers an impressive welcome offer: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership. Offer ends 04/05/2023. Terms Apply.

But the card also carries a $95 annual fee. Like all out-of-pocket credit card costs, this raises the question: Is it worth it? That is, are the perks you get with this card enough to offset the fee?

A little math shows that for people who value a little bit of travel, the answer is a clear “yes.”

How to make the math work for you

Use your bonus points for stays

Let’s start off by talking about what you could get with those points from the welcome offer. You could stay four nights for free at many lower-cost Hilton properties, or a couple nights at some pretty stunning resorts. For example, at the Hampton Inn and Suites Los Angeles/Anaheim/Garden Grove, which is near Disneyland, rooms are available starting at 30,000 Honors points per night. You could stay for four nights with just your welcome offer bonus.

Compare that to the cash rate for that Hampton Inn, where rooms are often around $147 per night, and you’re getting about $588 worth of Hilton stays — well above the $95 annual fee.

Thinking of something swankier and more exotic? At the stunning Waldorf Astoria Bangkok, you can find rooms for 76,000 Hilton points a night. In the sunny southern Caribbean, rooms at the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort and Casino often start around 80,000 points per night.

The points leftover in your Hilton account have immediate value, too. With Hilton’s “Points & Money” payment option, you can redeem all your points at once and pay cash for the difference. Or you can save them up until you have enough points to cover a stay entirely with points.

Take advantage of other card perks

The welcome offer bonus isn’t the only attribute making the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card worth it. It has a $95 annual fee. An array of other perks tip the balance sheet even more in favor of this card.

For example, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card comes with no foreign transaction fees. Terms apply. For anyone who plans to make credit card charges outside the country, that’s money in the bank, saving you around 3% over the fees some other cards charge. (Keep in mind that American Express cards are not accepted as widely abroad as Visa and Mastercard, so you’ll want to make sure you travel with a backup.)

This card also comes with airport lounge access that could prove extremely valuable to certain cardholders. Every year, you’ll get up to 10 complimentary admissions to lounges in the Priority Pass Select network (enrollment required). With more than 1,200 lounges worldwide, you’re likely to travel through an airport that has one if you’re a regular flyer. For travelers who don’t value lounge access and for those who will use airport terminals where lounges aren’t available, this perk doesn’t go far. But for anyone who can use the passes, this benefit alone could make the annual fee worthwhile. Terms apply.

If you're considering the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card ...

For travelers who plan to stay at Hilton portfolio hotels in the future, the accelerated points earning that come with this card makes it well worth it. For every $1 you charge on the card at a Hilton property, you’ll earn 12 Hilton Honors points. That’s on top of the points you earn just for being a member — and with the card, you’re also upgraded to Gold status (which will accelerate your points earning at Hilton hotels even further). NerdWallet values Hilton Honors points at about 0.6 cent each, so at 12 points per $1, you’re getting back about 7.2 cents for every dollar you spend using the card at Hilton hotels. Terms apply.

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card comes with automatic Gold status in the Hilton Honors program, and if you spend $40,000 a year, you’ll get upgraded to Diamond status. NerdWallet calculated the value of the benefits offered by the major hotel elite status tiers and found that Hilton Gold status is worth $960, while the benefits offered by Hilton Diamond are worth $4,296.

At $15,000 in qualifying purchases on the card in a year you’ll get a great reward: a free night at a wide range of properties. Terms apply. Depending on what you’re spending money on, there might be cards out there that could offer more of a return, but a free night, especially when used at a high-end property, could be worth quite a bit.

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:

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.