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Although the $550 annual fee isn’t cheap, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is the gem of Hilton’s line of credit cards, as long as you stay at Hilton properties at least a couple of times per year.
This is the kind of card that when you whip it out at a Hilton property, you’re treated like a VIP. If you take advantage of only the annual $400 in statement credits for expenses at Hilton Resorts (doled out as up to $200 in statement credits semi-annually) and the additional $200 airline incidentals credit toward extras like baggage and Wi-Fi fees (broken out as up to $50 in statement credits each quarter, you’ve already exceeded the annual fee. And that doesn’t even account for the myriad other perks you gain access to, most notably automatic Hilton elite status at the highest tier there is, Diamond. Terms apply.
That said, for people looking to earn rewards, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card will likely end up being only a supplemental card in your wallet. The card's value lies less in accruing points for non-Hilton spending, and more in offering you elite perks whenever you stay at Hilton hotels. And for most people who stay at Hilton hotels at least twice a year (and who travel by air once a quarter), the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is easily worth the annual fee, and here’s why.
New in 2024: An annual fee increase, statement credit changes
In October 2023, AmEx announced that the card’s former $450 annual fee would increase to $550.
With the fee hike came some new perks, the removal of some old ones and some significant changes to existing perks. Here are all those differences as of October 2023:
Changes to existing perks
The $250 Hilton resort statement credit increases to $400 — with a catch: Previously, cardholders received $250 in annual statement credits for purchases made at participating Hilton hotels and resorts.
While it could have been used in multiple, small increments throughout the year, say on meals at the hotel restaurant, the fact that it even covered the cost of the room itself made it pretty easy to use that entire $250 credit in one go upon staying at an eligible Hilton resort. You’d simply have to charge the room to your card, and you’d see a credit back on your cardholder account. Terms apply.
Now, the credit’s value increases to $400, but it might be more annoying for less frequent travelers to use, as it’s broken up into two $200 in statement credits doled out semi-annually. That means you’ll have to stay at a Hilton resort two separate times per year, once in the first half and again in the second half of the year, to take advantage of it. Terms apply.
The $250 airline statement credit decreases to $200 — but it’ll be more flexible: Effective Jan. 1, 2024, a former perk on the card, a $250 Airline Fee Credit, goes away (though card members who enrolled in the benefit before Dec. 31, 2023 can continue to receive their statement credits through the end of the year). That credit covered up to $250 per calendar year toward incidental air travel fees on a qualifying airline selected by the cardholder.
For many travelers, the credit was annoying to use. For starters, it only covered incidentals such as checked bags — but it didn’t cover airfare. Furthermore, because you had to select one airline, you couldn’t use it to pay for your checked bags on a United flight one time and an Alaska flight another time.
With the change, the total value of the airline credit drops down to just $200, but now it covers more than just incidentals. It’ll cover up to $200 annually for eligible purchases of airfare made directly with an airline or through amextravel.com.
Just note that you don’t just get a credit for $200 in one go. You’ll only be eligible for up to $50 in statement credits each quarter, so you’ll lose some value if you don’t book travel every quarter. Terms apply.
New perks added to the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Clear Plus membership: Cardholders are eligible for $189 in statement credits per calendar year after you sign up and pay for a Clear Plus membership (subject to auto-renewal) with your card. Terms apply.
Ability to earn an additional free night: Cardholders automatically receive a reward for a free night at a Hilton hotel when they are approved and every year upon renewal. They also had the ability to earn an additional free night after spending $60,000 on their card in a calendar year. Hilton has now added the ability to earn an additional free night after you spend $30,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year. Terms apply.
Automatic elite status with National Car Rental: Cardholders can now enroll to get automatic Executive tier status in National's Emerald Club program. With Executive tier status, you can choose your preferred car from the Executive Selection area (a complimentary upgrade) while only paying the rate for a mid-size car.
Plus, as an Emerald Club Executive, you'll earn a complimentary rental day after earning just six rental credits instead of the typical seven rental credits. Terms apply.
Cell phone protection: Many other top tier travel credit cards offer AmEx cell phone protection already, so with this change, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card joins the club.
Perks going away
Priority Pass Select membership: Priority Pass Select is membership program that gets you access to semi-exclusive airport lounges. Travelers generally enjoy the complimentary food and drinks (even alcoholic beverages) and amenities that come with lounges.
Alas, the perk is going away for cardholders anyway. For existing cardholders who enrolled on or before Jan. 31, 2023, the membership perk is valid through Jan. 31, 2024. Cardholders who enrolled between Feb. 1, 2023, and Jan. 31, 2024, will have membership through Oct. 31, 2024.
The most valuable perks of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
The card also provides numerous benefits, including automatic elite status, annual credits and complimentary nights at your favorite Hilton hotels.
The welcome bonus offer
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is currently offering this welcome bonus offer: Earn 180,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card after you spend $6,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 6 months of Card Membership. Offer ends 1/17/2024. Terms apply.
Based on NerdWallet's research, Hilton Honors points are valued at 0.5 cent per point. Of course, your redemption value could be better or worse based on the hotel you choose and the dates of your stay.
Hilton used to publish an award chart, making it easier to determine the full value of these points. However, the hotel loyalty program has removed the chart and moved to a variable points system that makes it more difficult.
The earning power
In addition to the welcome bonus offer, you can earn unlimited Hilton Honors points by using the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card for your daily purchases.
14x points on Hilton purchases.
7x points on flights booked with airlines or through AmEx Travel.
7x points on rental cars booked with select rental car companies.
7x points on dining at U.S. restaurants.
3x points on all other purchases.
Automatic Hilton Honors Diamond elite status
Diamond status is the highest level within the Hilton Honors loyalty program, and it’s automatically bestowed to all Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card cardholders. Otherwise, you'd need to stay 60 nights per year at Hilton properties to earn this elite status (only 30 nights in 2021). Terms apply.
Hilton Diamond status becomes increasingly more valuable the more you travel. Benefits include a welcome gift at check-in, daily complimentary breakfast, executive lounge access and upgrades to suites when available.
Plus, you earn and save more for every stay. You'll earn 100% bonus points on paid stays, and if you’re booking on points, you’re rewarded for longer award stays with your fifth night free.
NerdWallet calculated the value of the benefits offered by the major hotel elite status tiers and found that, if optimized, Hilton Diamond status is worth more than $4,000.
A complimentary night at almost any Hilton property
You'll receive one complimentary night upon approval of your Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, plus an additional one each year when you renew. Additionally, when you spend $60,000 on your card in a calendar year, you'll receive a second complimentary weekend night. Terms apply.
Sure, you can redeem it at the Hampton by Hilton near grandma’s house, but you’ll likely get way more value when you apply it to something like an idyllic paradise vacation. Consider the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort in Southern California, where room rates often exceed $500 per night, and sometimes teeter close to $1,000 depending on the weekend.
Note that of Hilton’s roughly 7,000 properties worldwide, a few are excluded from this perk. View a list of the excluded properties here.
$400 Hilton resort statement credit
During your card year, you'll receive $400 in statement credits for purchases made at participating Hilton hotels and resorts. Not only does this cover incidental charges posted to your room, but it covers the cost of the room itself. Simply charge the room to your card, and you’ll see a credit back on your cardholder account. Terms apply.
Annoyingly though, you won’t receive the $400 in one go. It’s broken out into two, $200 statement credits doled out semi-annually, which means you’d need to visit a Hilton resort two separate times each year (and once each half of the year) to fully take advantage of the credit. Terms apply.
$200 airline fee credit
Every year, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card customers also receive up to $200 back on eligible flight purchases . Each quarter, cardholders are eligible to receive up to $50 in statement credits each quarter for airfare made directly with an airline or through amextravel.com. Terms apply.
To be eligible for this benefit, an airfare purchase must be for a scheduled flight on a passenger carrier and purchased directly from the airline or through amextravel.com, which means charter flights, private jet flights, as well as flights that are part of tours, cruises, or travel packages are not covered. It also won’t cover service fees, ticket cancellation or change fees, interest charges or purchases of cash equivalents. Terms apply.
Clear is a program used at certain airports and stadiums that lets paying members bypass part of the security line. That’s because Clear uses biometric data (fingerprints and eye scans) instead of traditional ID documents, like driver’s licenses or passports, to verify traveler identification, allowing you to skip part of the line at the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint in airports that offer the benefit.
And while the standard price for an annual Clear membership is $189, you won’t have to pay for it with this card.
Cardholders are eligible for $189 in statement credits per calendar year after you sign up and pay for a CLEAR Plus membership (subject to auto-renewal) with your card. Terms apply.
» Learn more: Is Clear worth the cost?
Up to $100 Hilton on-property credit
When you stay at Waldorf Astoria or Conrad hotels, you'll receive up to $100 in credits for charges made to your room. This benefit is limited to the qualifying charges billed to your room, with a cap of $100 per booking.
To qualify, you must book a two-night minimum stay through hiltonhonors.com/aspirecard or by calling Hilton Honors. Terms apply.
Other notable benefits
Car rental loss and damage waiver: When you pay for your rental car with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, you'll be covered in case the car is damaged or stolen. This coverage is secondary to your own auto insurance and does not include liability coverage for damage to other property or injury to individuals. Terms apply.
Cell phone protection: Cardholders can be reimbursed for either the repair or replacement costs (whichever is cheaper) if their phone is damaged or stolen, and it’s listed on a wireless bill and the prior month's wireless bill was paid by the card. The benefit is worth up to a maximum of $800 per claim.
Note that a $50 deductible will apply to each approved claim, and there’s a limit of two approved claims per 12-month period. Terms apply.
Automatic elite status with National Car Rental: Cardholders can enroll to receive automatic Executive tier status in National's Emerald Club program. With Executive tier status, you can choose your preferred car from the Executive Selection area and receive a guaranteed upgrade when renting at least a mid-size car. Plus, as an Emerald Club Executive, you'll earn a complimentary rental day after earning just six rental credits instead of the typical seven rental credits. Terms apply.
No foreign transaction fees: You can use the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card anywhere around the world without fear of extra charges. American Express will not charge you any fees to convert your international purchase into U.S. dollars. Terms apply.
Checked baggage protection: Your luggage is covered for loss, damage or theft when traveling by plane, train, ship or bus. Coverage is up to $3,000 per person per trip, which includes up to $2,000 in checked baggage and $1,000 for high-risk items like jewelry and electronics. Terms apply.
AmEx Offers: American Express cardholders can participate in AmEx Offers to save money and earn additional points. These offers vary based on your profile, spending habits and the type of card that you have. Offers require activation and change on a regular basis, so make it a habit to check out your personalized offers regularly. Terms apply.
» Learn more: Hilton Honors: The complete guide
Is the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card worth it?
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card offers a lot of benefits, but you may still find the $550 annual fee tough to stomach.
While many benefits are impossible to assign an exact value to, we estimate that the average cardholder could realistically receive over $1,200 in annual benefits from it.
That figure doesn’t even factor in the opportunity to earn a second or third complimentary weekend night for spending on the card, the $100 credit for Waldorf Astoria or Conrad hotels, cell phone protection and the other benefits that you may or may not use, like the rental car elite status. Plus, don’t forget to account for the welcome bonus offer. Terms apply.
Here's how we came up with these numbers:
Hilton Diamond breakfast
Four days of $15 per person for a family of four.
Complimentary weekend night
Typical hotel night including taxes and fees.
Stated benefit of card.
Stated benefit of card.
Standard Plus membership including 10 visits.
Rental car protection
Five-day rental with average $10-per-day loss damage waiver.
Who is the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card right for?
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card delivers handsomely for travelers who stay at middle-tier to luxury Hilton hotels.
You'll receive automatic Hilton Honors Diamond status, a complimentary weekend night each year and up to $600 in credits for airfare and at Hilton resorts. Plus, you can enjoy additional benefits like Clear membership, cell phone protection and rental car protection.
Big spenders will also benefit from the second complimentary weekend night after spending $30,000 each year, and a third after spending $60,000 each year. Terms apply.
The card combines enough statement credits with luxe extras to please aspirational travelers. The combined statement credits make it incredibly easy to justify the $550 annual fee. Throw in the room upgrades, Hilton lounge access and other perks generally reserved for the well-to-do, and this card can take your travels to the next level.
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