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Over the summer we learned that American Express scored an exclusive relationship with Hilton pushing aside the dual-issuer scenario where both Amex and Citbank had been issuing Hilton cards for years.
With that exclusivity set to go into effect at the beginning of 2018 Hilton is rebranding their cards, adds a suite of benefits and introducing two new cards with effect on January 18th. This is all about new benefits and nothing is being taken away, which isn’t something we see very often.
American Express will go from offering two Hilton cards to four.
Hilton Honors American Express Card
The no annual fee Hilton Honors American Express Card stays the same but eliminates foreign transaction fees.
It used to be quite rare to find a no annual fee rewards card that didn’t impose foreign transaction fees. And American Express was fairly late to waiving them generally, at least beyond their Platinum card, with these fees eliminated from Starwood cards only two years ago when that co-brand was last re-upped.
Hilton is the only hotel chain that offers a no fee card that also comes with some modicum of status, though Silver doesn’t get you much and if you’re going to spend enough in a year on the card — $20,000 — to earn Gold status you should probably be putting that spend on a different product.
Earning on the card isn’t bad at 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide; 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at U.S. grocery stores, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations; 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on all other eligible purchases.
Hilton Bora Bora Nui
Hilton Surpass Card Becomes Ascend — With Some Cool New Perks
The Hilton HonorsTM Surpass® Card from American Express is going to become the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card. So that’s a rebranding.
It is still a $75 annual fee card but transitions to $95 with the change, still earn 12 Honors points per dollar on eligible Hilton purchases, 6 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, US supermarkets, and US gas stations, and 3 points per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
And cardmembers will still get complimentary Gold status in the Honors program, and $40,000 on eligible purchases each calendar year earns Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
This card was the very first in the US that I can recall to offer a Priority Pass Select card for lounge access. However it did not provide any free visits. That will change. The new card will come with 10 free visits per year.
Like the no annual fee card, foreign transaction fees are waived. And they’ve taken inspiration from the Citi Hilton Reserve Card and will award a free weekend night each year after spending $15,000 in purchases on the card in a calendar year.
Those are significant upgrades — an additional free night based on modest spend, and free Priority Pass lounge visits — at the same price point and without taking away benefits.
Conrad New York
New Small Business Card
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card will be introduced in January. It’s the small business equivalent of the $75 annual fee card, tailoring bonus spend categories more towards businesses and offering the possibility of an additional free night.
Earning will be:
- 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
- 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service producers and U.S. purchases for shipping
- 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on U.S. restaurants, flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, and car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies
The card comes with Hilton Honors Gold status and lets you earn Diamond after spending $40,000 in purchases on the card in a calendar year.
Like the person card as well, cardmembers earn one free weekend night after $15,000 in purchases on the card in a calendar year. However it also offers a second weekend night after spending $60,000 in purchases on the card in a calendar year. That for many people will make the small business card somewhat more appealing.
The card will come with Priority Pass with 10 annual visits, and has no foreign transaction fees as well.
This card remains great for Hilton Gold status, and the addition of free Priority Pass visits is a nice bonus. The price of status – so breakfast at many full service properties and avoiding the bad rooms at the hotel — is $75.
View from the Conrad Miami
New Card With Complimentary Diamond Status, No Spend Required
The new Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card debuting in January is a co-brand entry into the premium rewards credit card game. It’s a $450 annual fee card.
The card comes with complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status. It comes with a free weekend night each cardmember year. But of those are available with no spend. A second weekend night is awarded after $60,000 in purchases in a calendar year.
Offsetting the fee are:
- $250 airline incidental fee credit per calendar year. This runs on the same rails as American Express’ current fee credit system. You’ll choose one airline, and presumably certain electronic gift cards will continue to work for reimbursement even though they aren’t supposed to.
- $250 Hilton resort statement credit per cardmember year. So be sure to stay at one resort per year and pay with the card to maximize value from the product.
- $100 on-property credit at Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts but to receive this you have to book “the exclusive Aspire Card package” which I expect to be a competitive rate but higher than paying a corporate or AAA rate.
Conrad Koh Samui
The card comes with Priority Pass with unlimited visits and no foreign transaction fees.
Points earning is greater, but you’d expect that:
- 14X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
- 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants
- 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on other purchases
Hilton Honors points are pretty clearly worth 4/10ths of a cent apiece making actual spend on the card not super compelling outside of paying for actual Hilton stays where I see this as roughly equivalent to paying with a Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.
This strikes me as a great card to have for Diamond status if you value that, and then to use at Hiltons. It’s not a great ongoing spend value product.
Now That Diamond is a Key Credit Card Perk It’s Time to Step Up the Value of Status
Hilton has been talking for some years about revamping their elite benefits. Today they do not promise standard suites to Diamond members if available. They do not offer breakfast across their luxury properties. They do not guarantee late check-out.
It was a clear priority for them to focus on making small amounts of points relevant, Hilton Honors points need to matter to guests if their ‘book direct’ campaign is going to be successful.
But with that now launched it seems time to revisit the benefits of Diamond. The key to acquiring premium cardmembers – when the fundamental selling proposition is Diamond status for signing up for a card – is for that status to have value.
American Express Acquires Existing Citi Hilton Accounts, January 30th Transition
American Express acquired Citi’s back book of Hilton cards and so Citi Hilton cardmembers will receive new American Express cards.
Existing Citi cardmembers may want to sign up for Amex versions of the card before they get sent American Express cards automatically, since presumably when you’re transitioned you won’t receive a signup bonus.