Hilton AmEx Surpass Review: Decent Value, Lounge Perks

This $95-annual-fee card features robust ongoing rewards on eligible Hilton purchases, automatic Gold Status and Priority Pass Select lounge visit passes.

Claire TsosieNovember 12, 2020
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Our Take

4.7

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: This card doesn't come with a free anniversary night, like other hotel cards at the same price point do. But its lounge benefits and automatic Gold Status still make it a good deal for some.

Hilton Honors Ascend

on American Express's website

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$95

Regular APR

15.74% - 24.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Quick FactsView rates and fees

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • High rewards rate

  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Has annual fee

Alternate Pick: Flexibility

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

2X points on travel and dining

This card earns 2 points per dollar on travel and dining and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Points are worth 1.25 cents apiece when redeemed for travel booked through Chase, or you can transfer them to more than a dozen hotel and airline programs. There's a fantastic sign-up bonus, too.

Read our review

Compare to Other Cards

NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Annual Fee

$95

Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$450

Regular APR

15.74% - 24.74% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Regular APR

15.74% - 24.74% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Regular APR

15.74% - 24.74% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

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Full Review

As far as $95-annual-fee hotel credit cards go, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® 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 comes 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.

Nerd tip: Prior to July 2019, this card was known as the "Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card." Further, before January 2018, it was called the "Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express." So the "Surpass" and "Ascend" names refer to the same card.

Benefits of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

Card type: Hotel.

Welcome offer: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® 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.

NerdWallet values Hilton points at 0.4 cent each. This is a baseline value, drawn from real-world data, not a maximized value. In other words, you should aim for award redemptions that offer 0.4 cent or more in value from your Hilton points.

Points can also be transferred to Hilton's airline partner programs or redeemed for car rentals and credit at Amazon.com, among other options.

Transferring points to airlines is generally a low-value option because of Hilton's unfavorable transfer ratios. Using points on Amazon.com is also a poor redemption option, yielding only 0.2 cent a point. For more information about Hilton point redemption options, read NerdWallet's review of the Hilton Honors loyalty program.

Foreign transaction fee: None.

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.

  • Potential to earn a weekend night reward with spending. Earn a weekend night reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year.

  • Lounge passes. Get 10 free visits to Priority Pass Select airport lounges each calendar year once enrolled.

Why you might want the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

robust welcome offer and ongoing rewards

This card comes with a sizable welcome bonus: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

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 purchases 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. Potentially, that could add up to 30 points per dollar spent on eligible Hilton stays.

Automatic elite status

This card comes with Gold Status, Hilton's middle elite status that's a step above Silver status, and a step below Diamond. This 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 select hotels.

  • Room upgrades, subject to availability, at select 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 at select properties, late checkout, two complimentary bottles of water per stay at select properties and more. Terms apply.

The 80% bonus, in particular, makes it easy to rack up rewards on Hilton stays. Suppose you book an eligible Hilton stay for $200, and earn 2,400 points from the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and 2,000 points from Hilton through the loyalty program. Because of your Gold Status, you would get an 80% bonus on those 2,000 points earned through Hilton — an additional 1,600 points. All told, that $200 purchase would earn you 6,000 Hilton points.

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.

How it compares to other Hilton cards

In the Hilton card family, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card is the mass-market option. Unlike the $0-annual-fee Hilton Honors American Express Card, it offers Priority Pass Select passes and automatic Gold Status. But it lacks many of the premium benefits that the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card offers. For more analysis, read NerdWallet's full comparison of Hilton cards. Here's how the cards stack up.

Why you might want a different card

Annual fee

If the annual fee on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card is a buzzkill for you, consider the Discover it® Miles

This $0-annual-fee travel card earns 1.5 miles per dollar spent on all purchases. Points are worth 1 cent each when redeemed for travel statement credit, and can be used to cover a broad range of such purchases, including hotel stays. It also comes with a good bonus offer: UNLIMITED BONUS: Only Discover will automatically match all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. There’s no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match..

No free anniversary award night

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card offers strong rewards, but it doesn’t offer an automatic free award night every year. To earn a free weekend award night, you have to spend more than $15,000 in a calendar year. If you want a card that gets you a free award night with no spending requirement, 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, phrased this way: "Earn 75,000 Bonus Points after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card!" The card also comes with automatic Silver Elite status, which gets you extra benefits. The annual fee is $95.

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

Is the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card right for you?

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card isn’t the best $95-annual-fee hotel card available. But if you 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 Surpass® Card, please visit this page.

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

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