Editorial Review

Hilton AmEx Ascend Review: Decent Value, Lounge Perks

This card doesn't offer an automatic annual free night, but it comes with incentives for big spenders, plus lounge perks and robust rewards.

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Our Take

The Bottom Line: This card doesn't offer the most generous hotel-specific perks. But its lounge benefits and incentives for big spenders can still make it a good deal for some.

Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card

Hilton Honors Ascend

on American Express's secure website

Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card

Annual Fee
$95
Regular APR
17.99% - 26.99% Variable APR
Intro APR
N/A

Annual Fee
$95
Regular APR
17.99% - 26.99% Variable APR
Intro APR
N/A

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • High rewards rate
  • No foreign transaction fee
Cons
  • Has annual fee

recommended credit score

Alternate Pick: Flat-rate travel rewards

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Travel rewards for everyday spending

This card offers 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases. Miles are worth 1 cent apiece when redeemed for travel. For a limited time, you can also earn 10 miles per dollar spent on hotels booked through hotels.com/venture.

Read our review

Full Review

As far as $95-annual-fee hotel credit cards go, the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card is solid — but not spectacular.

In part, that’s because it lacks an important benefit that other hotel cards offer at the same price point: an automatic annual free night after every cardmember anniversary.

However, the card does come with strong ongoing rewards, a robust welcome offer, incentives for big spenders, automatic elite status and 10 free visits to airport lounges in the Priority Pass Select network every year. For Hilton enthusiasts who can take advantage of these perks, it could be a worthwhile card.

Key benefits

Card type: Hotel.

Welcome offer: Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

Annual fee: $95

Ongoing rewards:

  • 12 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio. Terms apply.

  • 6 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations. Terms apply.

  • 3 points per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases. Terms apply.

  • Points are worth 0.4 cents each on average, according to NerdWallet valuations.

Other benefits:

  • Automatic Gold Status and a path to Diamond Status. You’ll get Gold Status automatically with the card, which comes with several perks. And if you spend $40,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year, you can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.

  • Weekend night reward after meeting a spending threshold. You'll earn a weekend night reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year.

  • 10 free visits to Priority Pass Select airport lounges each calendar year once enrolled. Additional passes are $27 per person, as of this writing; prices are due to go up on Oct. 1, 2018. Terms apply.

Why you should get the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card

It comes with a robust welcome offer and ongoing rewards. This card comes with a sizable welcome bonus: Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply. At 0.4 cents per point, that’s worth $500 based on NerdWallet’s valuations.

The ongoing rewards — especially at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations — are practical for folks who plan to use this card for everyday purchases and often spend in those categories.

In addition to the 12 points per dollar spent you'll earn on eligible Hilton stays with this card, you'll also earn 10 Hilton Honors base points for every eligible dollar spent on Hilton rooms (with some exceptions), and an 80% bonus through the Gold Status your card automatically comes with (more on that later). Terms apply.

You want automatic elite status. This card comes with Gold Status, which gives you access to plenty of goodies usually reserved for loyal customers. These perks include:

  • An 80% bonus on all Hilton Honors base points earned.

  • Complimentary breakfast at all hotels.

  • Fifth night free when you book a stay of five or more nights using only points.

  • All benefits available to lower-tier elite members, such as free internet access, late checkout, two complimentary bottles of water per stay and more. Terms apply.

Combined, these perks can boost your earning power and make your stays more comfortable.

You’re going to use all those Priority Pass Select passes. If you really want access to airport lounges but don’t want to shell out a three-digit annual fee for the privilege, this card’s lounge benefits are right in the Goldilocks zone for you. It offers 10 free visits to Priority Pass Select lounges each calendar year, giving you a taste of luxury for a reasonable cost. Terms apply. And if you use all those visits each year, it might be more cost-effective than actually springing for a pricier card with unlimited Priority Pass Select visits. Keep in mind that you’ll forfeit these passes at the end of the year if they go unused, though.

You’re a big spender. With this card, more spending adds up to more perks. Spending more than $15,000 in a calendar year gets you a complimentary weekend night reward. And spending more than $40,000 a year gets you Diamond status, the highest elite status in the Hilton program. Tems apply. To be sure, other cards also offer rich incentives for big spenders. But if you spend a lot and want these particular benefits, it could be a solid deal.

Why you should get another card

You want to skip the fee. If the annual fee on the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card is a buzzkill for you, consider the $0-annual-fee Hilton Honors American Express Card instead. Even without an annual fee, it delivers excellent Hilton benefits — including automatic Silver Status and robust ongoing rewards. It also offers a solid bonus: 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. If you’re a Hilton devotee, this card might offer more ongoing value for you than its more-expensive counterpart — especially if you don’t plan to visit airport lounges much.

You want a higher-end card. For folks who want to turn up their Hilton benefits to 11 — and don’t mind paying a much higher annual fee — the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card could be a better fit than the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card.

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card comes with automatic Diamond Status, the highest elite status Hilton offers, and 14 points per dollar spent on Hilton purchases. Among other benefits, it has a big welcome offer: Earn 100,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. The annual fee is $450. Terms apply.

You want a free automatic award night. The Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card offers strong rewards, but it doesn’t offer an automatic free award night every year. If you want a card that does, consider the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card instead.

This card offers a free award night every anniversary year, alongside solid ongoing rewards and a generous sign-up bonus: Limited Time Offer! Earn 100,000 Bonus Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Points are worth 1 cent each when redeemed for hotel stays, based on NerdWallet valuations. The card also comes with automatic Silver Elite status, which gets you extra loyalty benefits. The annual fee is $95.

To explore other options, visit NerdWallet's best credit card roundup.

Is the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card right for you?

The Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card isn’t the best $95-annual-fee hotel card available. But if you spend a lot or plan to use the Priority Pass Select passes, it could be a solid deal.

To view rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card, please visit this page.

To view rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Card, please visit this page.