I’ve had the Amex Hilton Honors card for a little while now, since it was good enough for me at the time of application. But, recently I decided to get another Amex Hilton card. So here’s why I got the Amex Hilton Honors Surpass card.
At the time that I got the Amex Hilton Honors Surpass card, it was still known as the Amex Hilton Ascend card. Not that it makes a difference, as the card benefits didn’t change. It just makes me wonder why Amex went through changing the name from Surpass to Ascend and back again in the first place?
Why I Got the Amex Hilton Honors Surpass
As you may recall, I recently canceled my Amex Platinum card. That card comes with Hilton Honors Gold status, which is a reasonably good status! After all, Gold status gets you:
- 80% bonus on points earned via stays
- 5th night free on rewards stays
- 2 bottles of water
- Space-available upgrades (up to Executive level only)
- Complimentary breakfast at all Hilton hotels
That’s not an insignificant set of benefits, especially for a mid-tier hotel status. So, it’s a status I was keen on retaining after I axed my Platinum card. And that, my friends, is the primary reason why I got the Amex Hilton Honors Surpass card.
Why Not the Aspire?
Look, I know the Aspire is a fantastic card that comes with Hilton Honors Diamond status, an annual weekend night award, annual $250 Hilton resort credit, $250 annual airline fee credit, $100 on-property credit, and Priority Pass select. But, you know what? I don’t want to pay the $450 annual fee. I got rid of the Amex Platinum to get rid of a fee, albeit one I saw as unjustified. And while I can certainly justify the Hilton Aspire’s annual fee, it would require a change in behavior.
You see, I don’t stay much with Hilton these days, so I’d have to make it a point to use the resort fee credit. Granted, that’s easier to use than the Bonvoy card’s near-useless annual Cat 5 certificate. But, I also don’t like Amex’s airline fee credit scheme. It’s too damn restrictive, especially since you still have to select one airline to use it with.
That said, I haven’t ruled out obtaining the card at a later date. I just can’t justify it right now.
Amex Hilton Honors Surpass Benefits
The Amex Hilton Honors Surpass may not have the rich benefits the Aspire has, but for a much lower annual fee of $95, you still enjoy:
- 12x points per dollar on Hilton spend
- 6x points per dollar on U.S. supermarkets, gas station, and supermarket spend
- 3x points per dollar on all other spend
- Complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status
- Weekend Night Rewards upon spending $15,000
- Priority Pass Select 10 free visit passes
- No foreign transaction fee
- Shoprunner 2-day free shipping membership ($99 value)
How I Plan to Use It
After fulfilling my intro bonus, the card remains in my wallet but seldom sees any use. I plan on using it on Hilton stays, of course, while it may also see use for purchases on which I choose to use Amex’s Plan It feature. However, given the poor value of Hilton points (though Marriott isn’t much better), I don’t plan on putting much regular spend on this card. After all, it’s more productive and more rewarding to earn Ultimate Rewards points instead.
Why I Got the Amex Hilton Honors Surpass, Final Thoughts
Honestly, it doesn’t make a ton of sense for me to keep this card given my current travel habits. But, in that regard, it doesn’t make much sense for me to keep my World of Hyatt Visa either, as I stay with them even less. Especially since that card’s certificate became virtually useless to me too now. However, unless things change, I do believe my time with Marriott is running thin, and Hilton will likely be the chain that gets my business next. So, in a sense, it does make sense for me to keep this card, at least for now.
If you can use the resort credit annually you easily recover $250 of the $450 annual fee. In southern CA, there are four Hilton resorts within easy driving distance which make a nice weekend getaway without getting on a plane. I upgraded the Surpass card to the Aspire card primarily for the free weekend night every year which can recover $150 to $250 of the $450 annual fee. I have other cash back credit cards which provide a greater return on the $15,000 for a free room from the Surpass card. The upgrade was the same as the current public offer.
Thus, this card can pay for itself or yield a small return based only on the resort credit and annual free night. Any use of the irritating airline incidental fee credit is frosting on the cake as is the Diamond status (not that much better than Gold but the room upgrades can be nice) and the Priority Pass lounge access. The AMEX Aspire and Chase Sapphire Reserve make an effective travel credit card pairing. The AMEX Aspire creates its own bonus category in Hilton Hotel spending with an occasional restaurant expense to ensure points are active.
The best rationale for the Surpass card is to convert gas and supermarket spending into Hilton points if one has no more lucrative options.
Island Miler says
Jim, you are absolutely correct. I came to that conclusion at the end of my post (and really, knew that going in). Right now, however, I simply don’t want to pay the annual fee. This could change in the not too distant future, but right now, the Surpass works for me. And, as you mentioned, I will be using it for gas once the Freedom categories change in January.