Amex Hilton Honors Surpass Card Review (2019)

Filed Under: American Express, Credit Card Reviews
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Hotel credit cards are among the most underrated credit cards out there, in my opinion, given the perks that they potentially offer. While I’m primarily loyal to Hyatt and Marriott, Hilton has grown on me a lot lately, thanks to the number of new luxury hotels they’ve opened, and also how easy it is to earn points with their credit cards.

In this post, I wanted to take a close look at one of Hilton’s most popular personal credit cards, which was just recently rebranded.

Hilton Honors Surpass Card Basics

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card is one of Hilton’s most popular consumer credit cards. The card has a fantastic bonus for new customers, offers valuable status for as long as you have the card, and offers some bonuses on spending that might make the card worth using for your everyday purchases.

Is the Hilton Surpass Card right for you? Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know about this card.

125,000 Bonus Points

The card is offering a new member bonus of 125,000 Hilton Honors points, after spending $2,000 within the first three months.

I value Hilton Honors points at ~0.5 cents each, meaning that I value the 125,000 points at ~$625.

Redeem your points at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives

Eligibility For Bonus

The welcome offer on this card is not available to those who currently have or who have had the Hilton Honors Surpass Card or the Hilton Honors Amex Ascend Card.

You are eligible for the bonus if you have had any other Hilton card, though, including the no annual fee card, the business card, or the premium $450 annual fee card.

Amex Application Restrictions

I find that Amex cards are fairly easy to be approved for, for those with excellent credit. Just make sure you know that:

  • You can be approved for at most two Amex cards in a 90 day period
  • You can have at most five American Express credit cards at any point (this doesn’t include charge cards)

See this post for all major credit card application restrictions to be aware of.

Annual Fee

The Hilton Honors Surpass Card has a $95 annual fee (Rates & Fees). The annual fee isn’t waived for the first year, and you can add authorized users to the card at no extra cost.

Earning Points With The Surpass Card

The Hilton Honors Surpass Card offers some bonuses on spending that could make it worth using for your everyday spending. The card offers 3-12x points per dollar, depending on what categories you’re spending money in.

In addition to the actual points, you earn with the card, you can also Hilton Honors Diamond status and/or a free weekend night reward with spending.

12x Points At Hilton Hotels

The card offers 12x Hilton Honors points for spending at Hilton properties globally. This includes all Hilton brands, from Hampton Inn to Waldorf Astoria.

I value Hilton points at ~0.5 cents each, so to me, that’s like a 6% return on hotel spending, which is excellent.

6x Points Bonus Categories

The Hilton Surpass offers 6x points per eligible dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.

That’s the equivalent of a 3% return on spending in those categories, which is pretty good.

Earn 6x points on supermarket purchases

3x Points On Other Purchases

The card offers 3x points on all other eligible purchases, which I value at a return of ~1.5%. On the surface, there are better cards for everyday spending, but as I’ll explain below, there are some tricks to do even better.

No Foreign Transaction Fees

The Hilton Surpass Card has no foreign transaction fees, so it’s an excellent card for purchases abroad, especially for stays at Hilton abroad.

Hilton Surpass Card Benefits

The Hilton Honors Surpass Card is a well-rounded credit card, though the area where it really shines is with its benefits. This card can be worth having even if you don’t want to spend that much on the card.

Why is this card so worthwhile?

Hilton Honors Gold Status

Just for having the Surpass Card you get complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status. This is the lowest annual fee card that offers Gold status with Hilton without any sort of spending requirement.

For someone who occasionally stays at Hiltons, Gold status is excellent, as it offers the following benefits:

  • Free breakfast and/or executive lounge access
  • Late check-out, subject to availability
  • Preferred rooms
  • 80% points bonus
  • Fifth night free on award stays

Hilton Honors Gold members receive executive lounge access

Hilton Honors Diamond Status With Spending

You can earn Hilton’s top tier Diamond status for spending on this card. If you spend $40,000 on the card in a calendar year you’ll earn top tier Hilton Honors Diamond status, which comes with the following perks:

  • Guaranteed executive lounge access for properties with lounges
  • Free breakfast at properties without lounges
  • Room upgrades, including up to suites, at the hotel’s discretion
  • Late check-out, subject to availability
  • 100% points bonus

Hilton Honors Diamond members may receive suite upgrades

Free Weekend Night Reward With Spending

You can earn a free weekend night reward after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases in a calendar year. This is an ongoing benefit, and could make it well worthwhile to put spending on the card.

For example, this could easily be redeemed at properties costing 95,000+ points per night. So if you put $15,000 of spending on the card in non-bonused categories you’d earn 45,000 Honors points plus a free weekend night, and I’d say that could be well worth it.

How The Weekend Night Reward Works

The free weekend night reward earned either with the welcome bonus or for ongoing spending works in a similar way:

  • It’s issued within 8-12 weeks of when the spending requirement is met
  • It’s valid for stays up to a year from when it’s issued
  • It can be redeemed for one weekend night in standard accommodation
  • There’s a small list of excluded properties
  • A weekend night is defined as Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night
  • To redeem you have to call 1-800-446-6677 and mention your award code

Redeem your weekend night reward at the Conrad Bora Bora

10 Complimentary Priority Pass Visits

While there are some cards offering full Priority Pass memberships, they typically have $450+ annual fees. The great thing about this card is that it has a reasonable annual fee and offers 10 Priority Pass visits per year at no cost. That’s a useful perk for someone who travels occasionally.

Visit Priority Pass lounges 10 times annually with this card

Purchase, Return, And Warranty Protection

The Amex Hilton Surpass Card offers some potentially valuable purchase protection, return protection, and extended warranty. While you’ll want to check your cardmember agreement for all the details, you can potentially expect:

  • Purchase protection, offering protection on eligible purchases that are accidentally damaged, stolen, or lost; valid for up to 120 days, and $1,000 per occurrence, and $50,000 per calendar year
  • Return protection, where Amex may refund a purchase in full when you try to return an item within 90 days and the merchant won’t take it back; valid for up to $300 per item, up to a maximum of $1,000 per calendar year
  • Extended warranty, where you can get up to two extra years added to the original manufacturer’s warranty, for warranties of five years or less

Amex Offers

One of my favorite features of Amex cards is access to Amex Offers, which offers savings on purchases with all kinds of retailers. There’s huge value to be had in getting as many Amex cards as possible, so that you can get these offers on multiple cards.

Amex Offers could save you hundreds of dollars per year. You can access these offers by logging into your account and scrolling down to the bottom of your account summary page.

Is The Hilton Surpass Card Worth It?

Hilton is one of the largest hotel groups in the world, and the Hilton Honors Surpass Card is a great option for anyone who is looking to get started with Hilton Honors.

At a minimum, the card is worth having for Gold status, which could pay for itself after just one or two stays thanks to free breakfast and more.

The card could also be worth putting spending on, in order to earn a free weekend reward and Diamond status.

Let’s take a quick look at a few other aspects of the card that are worth considering.

Card Showdown: $95 Annual Fee Vs. No Annual Fee

Hilton also has the no annual fee (Rates & FeesHilton Honors™ Card from American Express, so how does that stack up compared to the $95 annual fee Surpass Card?

The no annual fee card doesn’t offer complimentary Gold status, doesn’t give you the opportunity to earn Diamond status or a free weekend night reward with spending, and doesn’t have a welcome bonus that’s nearly as good.

So personally I think the Surpass Card is well worth the annual fee.

What About The Aspire Card?

I should also mention that Hilton has the excellent $450 annual fee Aspire Card. I think the card is excellent, though many people will be put off by the annual fee. However, the card does offer:

  • Diamond status for as long as you have the card
  • A $250 annual airline fee credit
  • A $200 annual Hilton resort credit
  • A free weekend night reward annually

Hilton Surpass Card Summary

The Hilton Honors Surpass Card is an excellent mid-range card that offers a great bonus for new members, as well as valuable ongoing perks. The card can be worth having for the Gold status alone, and it could also be worth putting $15,000 or $40,000 of spending on the card for the threshold bonuses that the card offers.

Even if you don’t stay at Hiltons that often, the value of free breakfast and upgrades will add up quickly.

If you want to learn more about the Hilton Surpass Card or apply, follow this link.

Apply Now

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: Hilton Honors American Express Card (Rates & Fees), and Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (Rates & Fees).

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Comments
  1. IMO this card is better than the Aspire for most people

    1) Diamond isn’t functionally that much better than gold (a lot of Hilton properties don’t have lounges, and at those that do, Golds are usually “upgraded” to lounge eligible rooms)

    2) Ascend spend bonuses are nearly as good and offer the grocery category

    3) Aspire “resort credit” is only eligible at resorts – not useful if you stay at city hotels. If you can use this credit a lot, then the math changes

    4) Free weekend night at $15,000 is attainable and a good return on ongoing spend. Aspire’s extra weekend night requires too much spending

    This is a keeper card for me – great to pair with the Bonvoy card

  2. I have this card and seen it through its Surpass/Ascend/Surpass rebrandings. That silliness aside, this is a good card, and the current welcome bonus(es) is/are at a historical high (wish the free weekend night certificate bonus existed when I signed up).

  3. @Anthony — I’ve got both the Aspire and Surpass/Ascend. While the Surpass lacks the free night certificate that Marriott and Hyatt and IHG offer on their ~$95 cards, it’s saving grace is the free weekend night certificate after $15K spend. The Surpass’ spend bonus on groceries is nice, but doesn’t (by itself) sufficiently cover the $95 annual fee. Agree with you the value of the Aspire’s resort credit is dependent on one’s ability to actually use it. For those in the D.C. region, there are at least 3 nearby “resort” properties to use it at; although we used the credit recently at (the Canadian side of) Niagara Falls.

  4. @Anthony sez: “IMO this card is better than the Aspire for most people .”

    What is you just did there is called ‘rationalization’, i.e., to use arguments to support your own pre-established view (bias) without regard to actual empirical evidence of facts. There is no comparison between HH Gold and HH Diamond, unless free breakfast is one’s idea of the ultimate perk. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of HH Diamond perks that a HH Gold does not get to enjoy:

    — guaranteed premium wifi [***]
    — guaranteed upgrade to the executive floor; available at most top non-resort Hilton properties [***]
    — guaranteed executive lounge access; available at most top non-resort Hilton properties.
    — unlimited complimentary *suite* upgrades based on availability [***].
    — put Diamond status on hold [***]
    — a $250 resort credit; no hard time using mine up, even with one resort stay [***]
    — a $250 airline credit [***]; use mine by simply paying for wifi during flights, especially on long-haul flights.
    — “Diamond Force” when the chips are down [***]
    — 30K additional bonus points when one reaches 60 nights, i.e., makes Diamond the hard way [***]
    — ability to gift **Gold** status, the lower status, at 60 nights and to gift Diamond at 100 nights [***]
    — industry-leading 14X for on-property spend paid with the Aspire [***]
    — 100% elite bonus points on base points [***]
    — importantly, all around better elite recognition (agents’ smile is wider and tone more polite) [***]

    In fact, what the Surpass card is comparable to are the top-earning cards in other programs. The Aspire — a true premium card — is a notch above all others cards, including the surpass, which I consider mid-level co-brand cards. Here’s why:

    The earn rates for such mid-level co-brand cards with a comparable annual fee, which consider the ‘base’ card for each program, give us some idea about how the CC companies and hotel programs value their points, relatively speaking:

    — AMEX HH Surpass, Hilton’s ‘base’ co-brand card awards 12x for in-hotel spend.
    — AMEX BONVoY Boundless, Marriott’s ‘base’ co-brand card awards 6x for in-hotel spend.
    — Chase WoH Visa, Hyatt’s ‘base’ co-brand card awards 4x for in-hotel spend.

    HH:WoH = 12x:4x = 3:1
    HH: BONVoY: = 12x:6x = 2:1
    BONVoY: WoH = 6x:4x = 1.5:1

    Those co-brand CC earn ratios are similar to the points currency ‘conversion factors’ that I use all the time, like 3x for Hyatt to Hilton points. The implication is that if one values a Hilton point at 0.4cpp, then, for consistency, one must value a WoH point at 0.4cpp * 3 = 1.2cpp, and a BONVoY point at 0.4cpp x 2 = 0.8cpp (may be on the high side).

    The Aspire, on the other hand, towers over the rest at 14x:

    vs. the Chase WoH visa: 14x:4x = 3.5:1 (Surpass = 3:1)
    vs. the AMEX BONVoY card: 14x:6x= 2.33: 1 ( Surpass = 2:1)

    The goal was to debunk the claim that “IMO this card is better than the Aspire for most people.”

    Aspire is better on all fronts, so…

    Q.E.D

  5. BTW, better estimates of points currency **conversion factors** must be based on the TOTAL base earnings (i.e., program base + CC spend), which are as follows for top elites in these 3 programs:

    Hyatt: 10.5x
    Hilton: 32x (must compare to a HH Diamond with the Surpass rather than the Aspire, as the towers above the rest)
    Marriott: 23.5x

    Conversion factors:
    Hilton:Hyatt = 32x:10.5x = 3:1
    Hilton: Marriott = 32x:23.5x = 1.36:1 ~=1.4:1
    Marriott: Hyatt = 23.5x:10.5x = 2.2:1

    So, if one values a Hilton point at 0.5cpp, for consistency one would have to value a

    — Hyatt point at 0.5*3 == 1.5cpp
    — Marriott point at 0.5*1.4 = 0.7cpp

    which are exactly the same as @Lucky’s!… at least for now.

  6. The only Annual Fee hotel credit card that does not give free night certificate. They try to compensate for that by throwing in “status” and priority pass. As for the “status” – I almost never got an upgraded (or “preffered”) room as a Gold. Most of Priority Pass lounges are a joke, in a sense just “better then nothing”. I will pass

  7. @Isaac — I am now one of the ‘diamond AMEX members’ and nothing has changed. For my most recent stay at the all-suites Embassy Suites Montreal, I was upgraded to a Presidential suite!

    My stay prior to that was at the Hilton London Tower Bridge, which has no suites, but I was upgraded to a corner room, one of the best on the property or so I was told.

    Prior to that it was my 2018 Year-end Asian Escapade during which I had the following record:
    — Hilton Singapore: paid stay because award stay value would have been too low – just ~0.3cpp) — upgraded to an Executive suite (only kind on property) at check-in.
    — Conrad Manila: award stay — no suites available at check-in; transferred to suite for 2 of nights.
    — Waldorf Astoria Shanghai: award stay — upgraded to a Junior suite at check-in
    — Waldorf Astoria Chendgu (brand new hotel): award stay — upgraded to a premium suite before I even got to hotel (as seen in taxi from airport on the HH ap)
    — Hilton Pattaya: award stay — no suites available at check-in; transferred to a suite for 3 of 5 nights.

  8. — Conrad Manila: award stay — no suites available at check-in; transferred to suite for 2 of *3* nights.

  9. @Lucky, a minor correction (above): the annual Hilton resort credit for the Aspire is $250 (not $200).

  10. Ben, very solid review of a very solid card. Despite that Priority Pass will be removing the dining credit in the coming days this card has given excellent ROI this year and I’ve still got a few Priority Pass credits remaining. Having Gold status is obviously great and also the 6x points on groceries, gas and restaurants makes it quick to accumulate points. Compared to the diminished Marriott card status this has been a better card in 2019.

    Some people tend to forget that you can also get additional dining points at various restaurants when you are registered with Rewards Network.

  11. @Isaac Jones — I do not understand the question. Per T&C, Embassy Suites does not offer suite upgrades for the obvious reason that every room is a suite. Therefore, my upgrade was not automatic and, I believe by design, suite upgrades are seldom automatic in North America, even at properties that offer suite upgrades as a Diamond perk.

    What happened is that I was attending a meeting at the Palais des Congress de Montreal (Montreal’s large convention center) for 5 nights and staying right next door at the Embassy Suites. So, I reasoned (correctly) that because the property was likely full of meeting delegates for being so close to the convention center, I could get them to upgrade me, a Diamond, to a more expensive “premium” suite because that would free my regular and more affordable suite for booking by another meeting delegate. I made the pitch, the manager was consulted, and the word that came back was that not only was I upgraded to a better suite, it was a Presidential suite! Kool.

    One will miss 100% of the shots that one does not take…I always take mine 🙂

  12. Dcs
    Correction I meant a better suite . In your stays in the US has that been the most successful method or has the your working and your partner sleeping that’s why you need a bigger room or showing them their own upgrade policy method which method have you had the most success in USA?

  13. A free Hyatt night @ $15k spend is capped at Cat 4. A free Marriott night is capped at 35k or 50k point props, depending on the card.

    Hilton’s free nights, even when requiring $15k spend, are uncapped (though relegated to the weekends). Their Waldorf & Conrad props are routinely $750-$950/night. The best value in free hotel nights IMO & can make AFs negligible along with all the other perks.

  14. To me personally Ascend(Now surpass again) works better for me with family than Aspire. PP from Aspire only allows one adult and one guest but PP from Ascend would allow family of 5 into a PP lounge twice a year. I user 7 PP visits this year for family and that alone pays more than the $95 fee. I already have Diamond status from regular stays. With the milestone rewards it is totally worth it to earn Diamond via stays.

  15. @Isaac Jones — Each situation needs to be read and assessed individually to determine what kind of pitch to make. When attending a large meeting in which the hotel where I am staying is also the meeting venue or is very close to the conference center, the pitch I made at Embassy Suites has been the most successful…in North America. Elsewhere, I simply have to ask if a suite is available and the person checking me would invariably make a good-faith effort to find out, which would often involved contacting the manager on duty.

    There’s no magical formula about clearing complimentary suite upgrades. One almost always must ask, and one needs to be good-natured about it all.

    G’day.

  16. And yet again, the comments exploded because DCS cannot allow anyone to have an opinion that differs from his.

    It gets really old after a while.

  17. @Pam sez: “Hilton’s free nights, even when requiring $15k spend, are uncapped (though relegated to the weekends)”

    Shhhhhh…Do not tell anyone, but Hilton’s so-called “free **weekend** night certificates” can be used to book a free middle-of-the-week night stay as well.

    When planning my 2019 Year-end Asian Escapade, I wanted to redeem my Aspire free “weekend night” anniversary certificate at the new Waldorf Astoria Bangkok. However, I would not arrive in BKK on a weekend night, I decided to call Diamond Desk anyway to find out whether I could use the cert for free week night instead. The agent looked at the cert in my account and then told me that as far as she could tell, the certificate could be used to book a free night, **ANY** night of the week because it was not restricted in any way. So, she used it to book me one free night, a Monday, and then she used points to book me the second night of the 2-night stay I wanted to book.

    It is one data point, but the agent was pretty clear that the cert had no day-of-the-week restrictions of any kind.

  18. Can you add authorized users to this card?
    In this case, can they use priority pass lounges on their own?

    No more restaurant acces since August 1 at priority pass lounges, right?

  19. “Eligibility For Bonus: The welcome offer on this card is not available to those who currently have or who have had the Hilton Honors Surpass Card or the Hilton Honors Amex Ascend Card. You are eligible for the bonus if you have had any other Hilton card, though, including the no annual fee card, the business card, or the premium $450 annual fee card.”

    As a data point to the contrary, both my spouse and I have had the no annual fee Hilton Honors card for many years, but have never had any of the other Hilton cards. Our credit scores are 800-ish. We have 4 Amex cards each. We both received messages from Amex that we would not qualify for the Surpass card bonus offer (through the preliminary app process; we cancelled the applications to prevent hard credit pulls). We called and were taken through the same process by a rep, who got the same result and transferred us to an application specialist. She told us that because we have had a bonus from ANY of the family of Amex Hilton cards, we are simply not eligible.

    Any others have this experience? Any advice for a workaround?

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