CREDIT CARDSCREDIT CARDSHILTON AMEX SURPASS REVIEW: CREDITS CAN OFFSET THE HIGH FEE

Hilton AmEx Surpass Review: Credits Can Offset the High Fee

It features a robust annual credit on eligible Hilton spending, plus high ongoing rewards and automatic Gold Status. What you won't get, however, is a complimentary anniversary night.
Claire Tsosie Author Avatar
Feb 1, 2024 9:20 a.m. PST
Edited by
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5.0

NerdWallet rating
The bottom line:

This card doesn't come with a free anniversary night, like other hotel cards at cheaper price points do. But its credits and perks can still make it a good deal for Hilton loyalists.

Pros
  • High rewards rate
  • Automatic elite status
  • Luxury perks
Cons
  • Has annual fee
  • No free anniversary night
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card Image
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Annual Fee

$150

Regular APR

20.99%-29.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Rec. credit score


Annual Fee

$150

Regular APR

20.99%-29.99% Variable APR

  • Annual fee

    $150

  • Rewards rate

    3x-12x

  • Bonus offer

    Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

  • Intro APR

    N/A

  • Ongoing APR

    APR: 20.99%-29.99% Variable APR

    Cash Advance APR: 29.99%, Variable

    Penalty APR: 29.99%, Variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

More details from American Express
View Rates and Fees
  • Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Get up to $200 back each year on eligible Hilton purchases after you use your Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.
  • Earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Earn 6X Points for each dollar of purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 4X Points for each dollar on U.S. Online Retail Purchases.
  • Earn 3X Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Earn a Free Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year.
  • Enjoy complimentary Hilton Honors ™ Gold Status with your Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.
  • Spend $40,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn Hilton Honors™ Diamond Status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • Enjoy complimentary National Car Rental® Emerald Club Executive® status. Enrollment in the complimentary Emerald Club® program is required. Terms apply.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees. Enjoy international travel without additional fees on purchases made abroad.
  • $150 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Compare to Other Cards

ANNUAL FEE
$150
REGULAR APR
20.99%-29.99% Variable APR
Rates & Fees
INTRO APR
N/A
RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE
ANNUAL FEE
$0
REGULAR APR
20.99%-29.99% Variable APR
Rates & Fees
INTRO APR
N/A
RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE
ANNUAL FEE
$95
REGULAR APR
20.99%-29.99% Variable APR
Rates & Fees
INTRO APR
N/A
RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE
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Detailed review: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

As far as 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 (and less-expensive) hotel cards offer: an automatic annual free night after every cardmember anniversary.

However, the card does come with credits that can more than make up for its $150 annual fee, as long as you can use them. On top of that, it offers strong ongoing rewards, a robust welcome offer, incentives for big spenders, and automatic elite status. For Hilton enthusiasts who can take advantage of these perks, it could be a worthwhile card.

🤓Nerdy 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.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Benefits

To view rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, see this page.

Card type: Hotel.

Welcome offer: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

Annual fee: $150.

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.

  • 4 points per dollar on U.S. online retail purchases. Terms apply.

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

NerdWallet values Hilton points at 0.5 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 0.5 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. However, you'll generally get the most value out of your rewards be redeeming them for hotel stays. For more information about Hilton point redemption options, read NerdWallet's review of the Hilton Honors loyalty program.

Foreign transaction fee: None.

Other benefits:

  • $200 annual statement credit for eligible Hilton purchases on your card (doled out in $50 statement credits per quarter). Terms apply.

  • Automatic Gold Status and a path to Diamond Status. Terms apply.

  • 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. Terms apply.

  • Complimentary National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive status. Terms apply.

  • Lounge passes. 10 free visits to Priority Pass Select lounges each calendar year. Terms apply. (NOTE: This benefit is being phased out. If you enrolled in Priority Pass Select by Jan. 31, 2023, your membership will end on Feb. 1, 2024. If you enrolled between Feb. 1, 2023, and Jan. 31, 2024, your membership will end on Nov. 1, 2024. If you have the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card already but haven’t yet enrolled in Priority Pass Select, you can still do so by Jan. 31, 2024.)

Benefits and perks

Annual statement credit

Yes, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card has a higher annual fee ($150) than many of its competitors. Typically, a hotel card in this class charges less than $100 per year.

But if you know you'll be spending money on Hilton stays, then the card's $200 annual statement credit on qualifying Hilton purchases means it will more than pay for itself. Just be aware that those credits are awarded in $50 increments per quarter. Terms apply.

Robust welcome offer and ongoing rewards

This card comes with a sizable welcome bonus: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card in your first 6 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, 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 (for now)

The card 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. Also, as noted above, this benefit is being phased out.

How it compares to other Hilton cards

In the Hilton card family, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card is the middle-of-the-road option. Unlike the $0-annual-fee Hilton Honors American Express Card, it offers automatic Gold Status and several other perks. 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.

  • 7 points per $1 spent on eligible purchases at Hilton hotels or resorts.

  • 5 points per $1 spent on eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.

  • 3 points per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases.

  • Automatic Silver status.

  • Terms apply.

  • 12 points per $1 spent on eligible purchases at Hilton hotels or resorts.

  • 6 points per $1 spent on eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.

  • 4 points per $1 spent on U.S. online retail purchases.

  • 3 points per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases.

  • Automatic Gold status.

  • Up to $200 back each year on eligible Hilton purchases.

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

  • Terms apply.

  • 14 points per $1 spent on eligible purchases at Hilton hotels and resorts.

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

  • 3 points per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases.

  • Automatic Diamond status.

  • Get one free night reward with your card every year after renewal. Also, get an additional free night reward after spending $30,000 on card purchases in a calendar year and another after spending $60,000 in a calendar year.

  • $400 Hilton resort statement credit.

  • $200 flight credit.

  • $100 Hilton on-property credit when you book a 2-night minimum stay at HiltonHonors.com/aspirecard with participating hotels.

  • Terms apply.

Drawbacks and considerations

Annual fee

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card has a $150 annual fee. And while it offers more than that back in hotel credits, that's still a more expensive price point than other cards in its class. It's also worth noting that those credits are awarded in $50 per-quarter increments, meaning you can't offset an eligible $200 Hilton expense all at once.

If that annual fee is a buzzkill but you still want to earn rewards for Hilton stays, consider the card's $0-annual-fee sibling, the Hilton Honors American Express Card. With this card, you'll earn elevated rewards on Hilton stays, plus restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations. The Hilton Honors American Express Card doesn't have the perks you'll find on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, but it also doesn't cost anything to carry.

Lack of flexibility

You can use Hilton points on more than just Hilton stays, but points will generally lose a lot of value if you use them for anything other than hotel stays with the brand. So if you're not a Hilton loyalist (or don't plan on becoming one), a general travel card with more flexible rewards might be a better option.

For example, the rewards you earn with the $95-annual-fee Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can be redeemed for any travel booked through Chase. Or you can transfer points to one of Chase's travel partners to potentially get even more value. The card also earns rewards on a number of useful categories:

  • 5 points per $1 spent on travel purchased through Chase.

  • 3 points per $1 spent on dining, select streaming services and online grocery purchases.

  • 2 points per $1 spent on travel not purchased through Chase.

  • 1 point per $1 spent on other purchases.

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 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 and solid ongoing rewards. The card also comes with automatic Silver Elite status, which gets you extra benefits like late checkout and free Wi-Fi. The annual fee is $95.

To explore other options, visit NerdWallet's top credit cards that offer free anniversary nights.

Alternate Pick: Flexibility
2X points on travel and dining

Earn bonus rewards in a variety of popular spending categories, including dining and travel. 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.

How to decide if it's right for you

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card is relatively expensive among its competitors, but the credits and perks it offers can offset the card's annual fee and make it worthwhile for Hilton loyalists. Just don't expect an automatic free anniversary night — you'll have to spend your way to that benefit.

If you'd like to see how this card stacks up to others, see our roundup of the best credit cards NerdWallet has to offer.

To view rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Card, see this page. To view rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, see this page. All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.

Methodology

NerdWallet reviews credit cards with an eye toward both the quantitative and qualitative features of a card. Quantitative features are those that boil down to dollars and cents, such as fees, interest rates, rewards (including earning rates and redemption values) and the cash value of benefits and perks. Qualitative factors are those that affect how easy or difficult it is for a typical cardholder to get good value from the card. They include such things as the ease of application, simplicity of the rewards structure, the likelihood of using certain features, and whether a card is well-suited to everyday use or is best reserved for specific purchases. Our star ratings serve as a general gauge of how each card compares with others in its class, but star ratings are intended to be just one consideration when a consumer is choosing a credit card. Learn how NerdWallet rates credit cards.

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