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Hilton Credit Cards: Which One Should You Get?

June 8, 2020
Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
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For Hilton enthusiasts, co-branded credit card options are plentiful. After the hotel giant went exclusive with American Express in 2018, the issuer revamped its co-branded card offers, debuting several Hilton cards with different annual fees and welcome offers:

  • The Hilton Honors American Express Card (annual fee of $0): Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Card after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
  • The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (annual fee of $95). Terms apply.
  • The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (annual fee of $450): 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.

The more expensive cards come packed with rich benefits, while the no-annual-fee card comes with fewer side perks. In addition, in light of COVID-19, the annual-fee cards are offering expanded rewards, including bonuses in certain categories and increased flexibility with Free Night Certificates. That raises the question: Should you pay more to get more? The answer depends on your spending.

The Hilton cards, compared

The Hilton cards share the same loyalty program, issuer and blue-purple color, but offer different levels of rewards and perks. Here’s how they stack up.

Hilton Honors American Express CardHilton Honors American Express Surpass® CardThe Hilton Honors American Express Business CardHilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Annual fee
$0$95$95$450
Hilton Honors bonus points earned on eligible purchases

  • 7X at Hilton hotels or resorts.

  • 5X at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations.

  • 3X on all other purchases.

  • Terms apply.


  • From May 1, 2020 through July 31, 2020, 12X at U.S. supermarkets (6x after that).

  • 12X at Hilton hotels or resorts.

  • 6X at U.S. restaurants and gas stations.

  • 3X on all other purchases.

  • Terms apply.


  • 12X at Hilton hotels or resorts.

  • 6X at U.S. gas stations, restaurants, wireless telephone service providers and purchases for shipping.

  • 6X on flights booked directly with airlines or with Amex Travel and on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies.

  • 3X on all other purchases.

  • Terms apply.


  • From May 1, 2020 through July 31, 2020, 12X at U.S. supermarkets (3X after that).

  • 14X at Hilton hotels and resorts.

  • 7X on qualifying flights booked directly with airlines or AmExTravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and U.S. restaurants.

  • 3X on all other purchases.

  • Terms apply.

Other benefits (all cards come with no foreign transaction fees)


  • Automatic Silver Status.

  • Terms apply.


  • Automatic Gold Status.

  • 10 complimentary visits to participating Priority Pass Select airport lounges every calendar year.

  • Weekend night reward after spending $15,000 on card purchases in a calendar year.

  • Terms apply.


  • Automatic Gold Status.

  • 10 complimentary visits to participating Priority Pass Select airport lounges every calendar year.

  • Weekend night reward after spending $15,000 on card purchases in a calendar year (second reward night after spending an additional $45,000).

  • Upgrade to Diamond status after spending $40,000 in a calendar year (good through the end of the following year).

  • Terms apply.


  • Automatic Diamond Status.

  • One weekend night reward with your card every year after renewal (additional weekend night reward after spending $60,000 in a calendar year).

  • $250 Hilton resort statement credit.

  • $250 airline fee credit.

  • $100 Hilton on-property credit. (Terms apply.)

  • Priority Pass Select membership.

  • Terms apply.

Terms apply.

Expanded benefits related to COVID-19

While the pandemic has drastically altered travel for the moment, Hilton is offering many positive perks for those who hold its credit cards:

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

  • May 1, 2020, through July 31, 2020, these cards are offering 12 points per $1 at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Free weekend night certificates are now “free night certificates” and are accepted on any night of the week (previously they were only usable on weekends).
  • Free night certificates are valid until either Aug. 30, 2021, or 24 months after they are awarded (depending on when they were issued).
  • From May 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2020, bonus points earned on purchases are considered base points, which count toward elite qualifying spend in 2020 and lifetime Diamond status.

Terms apply.

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

  • From June 1, 2020, through Aug. 31, 2020, purchases made at U.S. restaurants count toward the $250 annual Hilton resort credit. Terms apply.

Expiration date of certificates

CertificateUnexpired as of March 11, 2020Earned from March 11, 2020 through April 30, 2020Earned May 1, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2020
Valid until8/31/20218/31/202124 months from issue date

Before these changes, free night certificates expired one year from the day they were issued and were only valid on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. The extended expiration dates and added flexibility has greatly increased the value of these certificates.

Analysis: Benefit changes

It’s a smart move for Hilton to reorient its bonus categories to provide additional points for U.S. supermarkets in response to spending habit changes of customers. Hilton is also making it much easier to earn status with bonus points by counting them toward Elite status, especially given the decrease in travel. The $250 Hilton resort credit that can now be used at restaurants is an excellent way that cardholders of its most expensive credit card, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, can continue getting value out of the card. Overall, these initiatives are very positive for Hilton loyalists. Terms apply.

» Learn More: Hilton Honors elite status: Your complete guide

Hilton credit card calculator

Hilton points are worth 0.5 cent each on average, according to NerdWallet valuations. To find out which Hilton card is ideal for you, run the numbers:

» Learn More: How much are my Hilton Honors points worth?

Your cheat sheet for choosing a Hilton card

Before making your final decision, take a top-floor balcony view of your options and make sure you’re choosing a card that’s right for you.

The Hilton Honors American Express Card: If you’re looking for a no-annual-fee sidekick card

With hotel cards, you might want a card that plays a supporting role, rather than one you use every day. In that case, the Hilton Honors American Express Card is your card. The $0-annual-fee card features a solid welcome offer, a robust ongoing rewards rate and automatic Silver Elite status. Terms apply. And because the card doesn’t charge an annual fee, you’ll come out ahead on rewards no matter how often you use it.

» Learn More: Why I love my Hilton Honors American Express

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: If you wanT lounge benefits and other perks, but not a huge annual fee

With the $95-annual-fee Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, you’ll earn a complimentary weekend night reward when you spend more than $15,000 on your card each calendar year. You’ll also get 10 complimentary visits to Priority Pass Select airport lounges each calendar year, automatic Gold Elite Status, strong rewards on common everyday spending categories, and a large welcome offer. Terms apply. For folks who want luxurious perks like these — but don’t want to pay a three-digit annual fee — it’s a good fit.

» Learn More: Top benefits of the Hilton Honors AmEx Surpass Card

The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: If you want more travel and business-related perks than the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card but for the same annual fee

Although it may look similar to the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card packs a bigger punch. In addition to all the perks of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, you can earn a second free night certificate if you spend an extra $45,000 in a calendar year. While this can seem like a lot of money, many businesses have high chargeable expenses. You also earn bonus points in more categories, specifically those related to business and travel such as wireless telephone services, shipping, car rentals and flights booked directly with airlines or AmEx Travel. This card truly is an asset for business owners who maintain loyalty to Hilton. Terms Apply.

» Learn More: How do I know if the Hilton AmEx Business card is right for me?

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: If you’re Willing to pay more to travel in style

Even with an annual fee of $450 a year, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card could be a great deal for frequent travelers who stay at Hilton properties regularly. That’s because it comes with a complimentary night reward included each year (regardless of how much you spend), a $250 airline fee credit, a $250 Hilton resort credit (that is currently valid at restaurants), Priority Pass Select membership, automatic Diamond status and a bevy of other top-flight benefits. For travelers who can take advantage of all those perks, the card’s benefits far outweigh its annual fee. Terms apply.

» Learn More: How the Hilton Honors Aspire Card saved me thousands on a Maldives vacation

The bottom line

Hilton offers four credit cards to pick from; if you’re a Hilton loyalist and think that you could apply the annual credits to your spending, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is a solid choice. The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card are great options for those who want some Hilton perks but for a lower annual fee. And finally, the Hilton Honors American Express Card is a good alternative for those who are looking for a no-fee card but want some Hilton perks, particularly Silver status and no foreign transaction fees. Regardless of your vacation goals, Hilton has a card that matches the needs of any traveler looking to establish loyalty to Hilton.

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