Changes to Hilton American Express Cards Coming This Summer

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Two Hilton American Express cards will each see one change this summer. There’s a name change, and a new restriction on a statement credit benefit to know about.

I consider the Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card to be among the 5 best American Express cards and I consider the Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express to be one of the 6 best value rewards cards out there.

The Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express offers an initial bonus of 125,000 Hilton Honors points after $2,000 in eligible purchases with the product in your first 3 months of card membership.

Each year you spend $15,000 on the card you’ll earn a weekend night reward, and $40,000 in a calendar year earns Hilton Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year. It also comes with 10 Priority Pass lounge visits per year (starting August 1 access excludes restaurants).

American Express tells me that effective July 18 “the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card will once again be known as the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card” however there are no other changes to this card besides the name.

Surpass was the name of Hilton’s premium co-brand American Express card since it went live in February 2009. With the re-upped Hilton deal that went exclusive with American Express (and ended Hilton’s co-brand relationship with Citi), a new more premium card was introduced and Surpass was renamed with improved benefits. They’ve decided to resurrect the Surpass name.


Conrad New York

Meanwhile the new premium Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card comes with Diamond status and also a free weekend night each cardmember year. $60,000 in purchases in a calendar year earns another weekend night. The card is providing a lot of value but bear in mind that Diamond status doesn’t promise much beyond what Gold offers (no commitment of suites or late check-out).

You get a $250 airline incidental fee credit per calendar year and a $250 Hilton resort statement credit per cardmember year, and of course Priority Pass.

The card is actually worth using at Hilton properties where it earns 14 points per dollar which I value as being worth 5.6 cents (or a 5.6% rebate, edging out the 5.4% rebate on hotel spend from Chase’s Sapphire Reserve).

Effective August 1, the $250 annual Hilton resort credit benefit will no longer be able to be used on Hilton’s Advance Purchase rate.


Conrad Koh Samui

I don’t love advance purchase rates because I do not like being locked in, even if you can actually change Hilton non-refundable rates for a fee. However for those that normally book these rates they are going to have to spend more to use their statement credit, and over a long resort enough stay that could mean negating the entire value of the credit.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. How many people are actually booking Advanced Rates to get the credit to make this even worth wasting resources on “fixing”? Makes no sense to me why this is such a concern.

    I guess in theory someone could book these and spend less at a resort if they already got the 250 credit, but this just seems typical Modern Amex to nickel-and-dime every little benefit they offer to customers and scrutinize the hell out of every transaction.

    Sad how Amex use to have the best customer service ever, but now they are just as bad as any card issuer (while expecting some of the heaviest annual fees).

  2. You book one night at semi-flex rate or whatever is the minimum to qualify and you book the rest as to advanced purchase. Going to be hard to lose $250 of credit “over a long stay” this way. Most single nights will absorb the credit just fine.

  3. Another negative change. How about an “advance purchase” booking that was made in May, for an October stay at a Hilton resort, that hasn’t yet been charged to my card? Since it’s an “advance purchase” booking, I could be charged for the booking at any time, but haven’t yet. I don’t want them to wait until after August 1 to actually charge me for the booking, and then deny me the $250 resort credit because it was an “advance purchase.”

  4. Any idea why AMEX wouldn’t want you to book an advance purchase rate at a resort? Seems extremely stingy — and pretty much pointless. A trap for the unwary.

  5. so as with “Bonvoy” does this mean to expect yet another new card in the mail thanks to rebranding?

  6. What’s the reason for this change other than being petty? It seems odd for them to make a negative announcement for such a small change chiseling away at the card benefits. Maybe it’s an accounting thing where the charge has to be made at the resort.

  7. @chopsticks

    I think the main purpose is to prevent last minute use for a future resort stay for the many who forgot about or 11th hour discovered the benefit. Before August you could “use” your credit immediately by booking an advanced resort stay then when the card renewed book another $250 at the same resort..

  8. Thanks for the info.
    The only place the status is useful is overseas, and with the $250 airline credit not being usable for gift certs on AA I will reconsider this.

    Amex cannibalized several of their own cards with changes to the Gold, and the airline fee credit thingy change is likely to get me to cancel the business platinum as it’s only value is to pay with points at 1.5 cts if you have the personal card. I can do without the Dell credit and I use maybe 3 of the gogo passes per year.
    I guess it can make sense for some people.
    Now I will reconsider the Aspire as I don’t aspire to have fewer benefits.

  9. @ Marriott Marty — You’re theory might be correct. But isn’t this card kind of aimed at the savvy traveller, who’s probably keeping track of the rewards? If you aren’t such a traveller, I’m not sure why you’d pick this card — much less why you’d realize your foolishness at the “last minute.” More likely, you’re going to make a few hundred people unhappy because they didn’t read the fine print on what counts for resort redemption.

  10. Mjs,
    What you say is so true: “Sad how Amex use to have the best customer service ever, but now they are just as bad as any card issuer (while expecting some of the heaviest annual fees).”

    Are they nuts? Or am I? Maybe Amex is attending the American Airlines school of corporate self-destruction?

    Anyway, they’ve pretty well lost me. I will be canceling as each one comes up for renewal. I am sick of scrutinizing every little detail so they don’t catch me out on their technicalities. At $550. a year I am doing their clerical work so they can nickel and dime me?

    And, at a certain point, my complexity tolerance is all used up. Screw’em.

    Based on this interaction would you refer a friend or colleague to American Express?

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