Why You Should Apply For The Hilton Aspire Card Now

Filed Under: American Express, Hilton
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The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (review) is my favorite hotel credit card. The card has a steep $450 annual fee (Rates & Fees), but has perks that more than offset it, in my opinion.

Let me lay out the simple case for why you should pick up this card right now if you don’t have it already. Yes, that suggestion even factors in that I most people aren’t traveling right now.

Get $250 in dining this month with the Hilton Aspire

When you’re paying a big annual fee on a credit card upfront, chances are that you want to offset it as quickly as possible. That’s why applying for this card right now makes so much sense.

One of the perks of the Hilton Aspire Card is that it offers a $250 annual Hilton resort credit. While many people may eventually get around to using that, the $250 Hilton resort credit can be used towards US restaurant purchases through August 31, 2020. This is one of the limited time credit card perks that Amex added.

In other words, if you get the card now, you’ll be able to get statement credits for $250 worth of purchases at eligible US restaurants, including takeout and delivery. This is an awesome opportunity to get value before even traveling.

Worried you’re not going to be able to spend $250 on restaurants before the end of the month? You can always buy restaurant gift cards, which not only helps support restaurants, but also helps you use this credit.

Personally I value the $250 restaurant credit more or less at face value. To me that lowers the real “out of pocket” on this card to around $200 for the first year, before factoring in any of the other perks.

The Hilton resort credit can temporarily be used at US restaurants

The other major Hilton Aspire perks you’re getting

Like I said, while there’s a $450 annual fee, the $250 Hilton resort credit can instead be used towards any US restaurant purchase through the end of August. To me that lowers the real first year out of pocket cost on the card to $200.

For that you’re getting some exceptional benefits, including:

  • Hilton Honors’ top tier Diamond status for as long as you have the card
  • A Hilton weekend night certificate, valid at properties costing up to 120,000 points per night; but it gets better than that, because these certificates issued right will be valid for 24 months, and can be used for stays any night of the week
  • A $250 annual airline fee credit, which can be used towards all kinds of airline purchases
  • A Priority Pass membership, though admittedly that’s of limited use right now

On top of all that, the card is offering a phenomenal welcome bonus of 150,000 Honors points upon completing minimum spending.

Use your free night certificate at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills

Summing it all up

The Hilton Aspire Card is my favorite hotel credit card. While signing up for a high annual fee hotel credit card might seem counterintuitive, the limited time perks being offered really make this an ideal time to get the card.

Get the card now, and then you can use the $250 Hilton resort credit towards US dining through August 31. Hopefully that gets you $250 worth of value, lowering your real out of pocket cost to $200.

Then you’ll get a Hilton free night certificate that will be valid for 24 months and any day of the week. That gives you huge flexibility, and should get most people at least the additional $200 in value.

And then there are all the other perks, from Hilton Diamond status, to a $250 airline fee credit, to a Priority Pass membership.

If you’re in a position where you can get this card, I’d absolutely recommend doing so.

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

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Comments
  1. Another referral? Seems very light on the details re: airline credit.
    Please list/enumerate all the things that it covers, since the actual Amex language itself only lists what it DOESN’T cover.

  2. It’s August 12th. Is it realistic to apply, get approved, receive card in mail and then spend $250 before 8/31? Serious question. How long does in normally take to get the card?

  3. The math used in this blog has always bothered me. I highly recommend readers to look past the obvious shilling and crunch the numbers for themselves. Many of you won’t have enough hotel stays in the next 12 months to reap the benefits touted on this card. Even if you do, the benefits will be on a very diminished basis as hotel chains are scaling back their amenities right now.

  4. @ Kara — I’ve usually found Amex is pretty good about instant approvals, and in my experience cards arrive in less than a week. That should put you well before August 20, and that leaves 11 days. Like I said, if you wouldn’t naturally spend that much on meals before the end of the month, you can always buy restaurant gift cards for the difference.

  5. @ david — I’m happy to welcome other opinions here regarding math. I try to crunch numbers to give people a general sense of the value I perceive cards to have, though I acknowledge everyone’s travel patterns and valuation of things is different.

    I’m curious, what do you value a Hilton free night certificate at that can be redeemed at a vast majority of Hilton hotels over the next 24 months on any day of the week?

  6. @ Kara I’ll echo what Lucky said, and in my experience Amex is even quicker getting these premium cards out. Regardless, they should give you the option of a temporary card number on approval, so you can start using that credit on take out/delivery immediately.

  7. @Ben

    I don’t currently need to book any hotel stays so the only value I can ascribe to that is zero. That’s how I perceive all certificates, credits, and other “cash equivalents” in the CC world. In all probability my travel patterns will go back to normal in <12 months and I'll find a use for it, but if and when that happens I can always sign up for the card then.

    The reality is that the hospitality/travel industry is in the pooper right now, and I think it's incredibly risky to convert your cash into funny money unless you plan to use them in the very near-term. As much as I like points/miles, these currencies are far from stable and nowhere near as fungible as cash.

  8. I can’t understand why people complaining about math here lol. Stop acting like you can’t find any value in the deal here.
    Great deal Lucky and thank you for all the information you provide on this platform!!

  9. @ david — I mean, sure, if you’re going to value everything at zero for now then that’s fine, I guess. But then I’m also not sure why you’re reading a blog right now about maximizing points. 😉

    I absolutely agree with you that some discount should be applied to the value here. But that’s also why I’m arguing that this is a good time *for many* to get this card, since the $250 dining credit is a much more tangible short-term benefit than a resort credit you can use in the future.

    Furthermore, to me the incredible flexibility Hilton is offering with free night certificates is a solid perk. In the past you could only redeem them for a year and on weekends, while now you can redeem them any day of the week and for 24 months. I know I’ll be able to use one for a $500+ hotel.

    But hey, different folks, different strokes, and I respect your take.

  10. @david The Aspire is the one card I have that I would need to actively try to not return my $450 annually. If you’re interested in spending 1 long weekend at a Hilton property over the next year, it pays for itself.

    Consider a resort property that runs $300 per night. You can fly out Friday morning and the odds of early check in with Diamond status are very high right now. Get one night free with the free night certificate and $250 off your paid second night with the resort credit (assuming you don’t use it on restaurants as outlined above). In addition, you can use that $250 airline credit for a checked bag and E+ upgrade. Even if you value that airline credit at half of the $250 benefit amount, you’re still getting $675 in benefits from a single annual trip. And that’s before accounting for the value of any Diamond benefits like room upgrades, club access, breakfasts, bonus points, etc. My wife and I each have an Aspire and they have returned more than $1000 in value on a single trip on more than one occasion.

  11. @ mjonis @ Matt — Admittedly the credit is of fairly limited use to most at the moment. That’s also largely a function of airlines waiving a lot of change fees, which these were previously good for. Personally I purchased some American Airlines 500 mile stickers, and they were automatically reimbursed. Upgrades in general aren’t covered, but since the crediting is automatic, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

  12. @ MattR — Thanks for sharing your experience. This is a card that I honestly believe is too good to be true and that I get *so* much value out of. Not every credit card is for every person, but I can’t wrap my head around how some people pretend they can’t even see how this card makes sense…

    On my most recent Hilton stay I got a great suite upgrade thanks to my Diamond status. I used my last free night certificate at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, where the rate was $600+ per night. And that’s only the beginning…

  13. @Ben

    Hey Ben no disrespect here but I don’t read this blog to learn how to maximize points, for that I usually find Drew at Travel Is Free or the veterans at FT to be far more helpful. They spend more time dealing with the nitty gritty and I prefer that.

    I read your blog for the sensationalist, reality-tv style reporting in aviation news (same for VFTW lol). And I mean that in the kindest way.

  14. @MattR – I dont think you can use the airline credit for seat upgrade though… only seat selection is what i know… same as the credit on the gold and platinum, which annoys me so much

    @david – Ben’s calculation makes sense but certainly wouldnt apply for everybody. We all have our sense of how much things are value to us. You may or may not share the same belief. I personally find his calculation to be most reasonable among the bloggers out there. To me, the free night and diamond status make the card so much more valuable than the $450 fee, compared to something like Bonvey Brilliant or even Citi Prestige. Of course, if you dont like Hilton then there is nothing else to discuss lol.

  15. @ david — Fair enough, Drew is great, but he also hasn’t published anything since November 2019, so…

    And if you’re looking for the sensationalist, reality-tv style reporting in aviation news (which I’m all for), then I think hopefully the post title gave you a good hint that this post *wasn’t* that. Go figure in my post earlier today about the AA mask issue, someone commented that I don’t have enough credit card content, so…

  16. Assuming you travel (or will again) and are not a hater of Hilton properties, the Aspire is a nice premium Amex card to have. As mentioned above, the benefits are quite good and can easily exceed the annual fee. That said, I share concerns about the restricted usage/value of the airline travel credit now that gift card redemptions are as extinct as the dodo bird. If an E+ upgrade works (as MattR mentioned above), then more power to ya.

  17. I do think the way things are going Amex might have to extend the Hilton credit for restaurants policy until the end of the year. I’d be shocked if they sunset it with the pandemic at its peak.

  18. “I don’t mean to throw shade but (throws shade in the kindest way)”

    Ooookay then. But let’s move to the math part of the program.

    Here’s my math: worst case my 150k Hilton points are $300 on Amazon (any Hilton points from spend also converts at 500 points to $1). +$250 dining credit. -$450 annual fee. Oh hey, my card’s net positive (+$100 plus any points I got in initial spend) for first year’s annual fee with no other possible usage , if it’s August 2021 and we’re still all huddled in our houses and not leaving them ever, I can downgrade it to a no annual fee card and keep the credit line open (and possibly snag a future upgrade offer). Oh, and my free night at Hilton is still good until sometime in fall 2022 (it will take 6-8 weeks to show up), since you get to keep it if you downgrade the card after year 1.

    Now, let’s say I ran that 4k spend on the plain ol’ 2% cashback card I have in my wallet… oh, goodness it’s $80.

    Seems to me that this is pretty low risk, because even at the “hey, Hilton will turn your 150k points into NOTHING and RUIN YOUR LIFE, THE SKY IS FALLING! CASH IS KING! POINTS ARE WORTHLESS!” scenario it is a little better than just putting your spend in a boring 2% cashback card with no signup bonus + you still have a free Hilton hotel night sometime before fall 2022.

    Yes, Ben is shilling for credit card signups, it’s what happens here. But the math is fine.

    If, however, you think that at some point travel WILL spring back, there’s going to be a period where hotels and airlines are still priming the pump for demand that isn’t back yet, so there will be some excess capacity before the inevitable devaluations and program changes from the increased demand hits. It’ll sure be nice to have a brace of Hilton points and airline miles for that.

    I’m willing to chance it over because if you’re in the miles and points game… you probably have at least a little bit of discretionary income for travel and know that you should spend the points over time, and to be frank a 20% market downturn and long bear market/extended recession with income loss would be WAY worse on my net worth than literally every AMEX/Hilton/airline/hotel program instantly devaluing my points value in their program to $0.

    Disclaimer: I already got my Hilton AMEX Aspire card in May because up until the end of May, you could get 6 months to do that $4000 spend instead of 3. (I actually doubled up and snagged an AMEX Gold too.) Right now I don’t mind going long points and miles on some new cards because the downside risk of “well, everything is ruined FOREVER” isn’t mitigated very much by me having a fairly small amount 3 or 4 digit amount of cash in exchange (most cashback card sign up bonuses are fairly “meh”).

  19. @paul @Quo Vadis? The Amex credit does apply to seat selection fees, rather than upgrades, but in most cases E+ is still considered an economy seat, so you can trigger the credit. Delta is the exception, since Comfort+ is marketed as a separate fare class, thus making it an “upgrade” that won’t trigger the credit, similar to a First Class upgrade. I’ve personally used the credits for MCE on AA, Hawaiian Extra Comfort and United E+ within the last year and all were reimbursed without issue. In fact, that Extra Comfort on an A330 in the mini-cabin may be one of the best uses of the credit out there, as a poor man’s first class to/from the islands.

  20. To add to the above, the credits still aren’t as useful as they once were, and I value them at about half of their face value. Fortunately, the math works out on the Aspire without any airline credits, so a couple of E+ upgrades per year for my wife and I is a nice little bonus since neither of us chase airline status.

  21. Is the airline credit annual? Meaning you’d get it this year and again in January? And I assume the same tricks would work for that as the other Amex airline credits (i.e. buy a cheap SWA fare)?

    I was actually already pondering getting this as my next card. Just hard to pull the trigger when I’m not traveling, no matter the math.

  22. @Ben I completely agree, as there is huge potential for outsized value. Unfortunately, the leisure travelers with no status who could benefit most from the card tend to think it’s for serious Hilton loyalists only and ignore it due to the AF.

  23. @DENDAVE Yes, it’s annual, same as the Gold and Plat, and the same rules/tricks apply. The $250 Resort Credit renews at each card year anniversary, which can be confusing.

  24. @MattR: Oh that is good to know because I have always flown Delta so obviously couldnt use that for Comfort+

  25. I do have Aspire because of the Free Night and other benefits and I usually stay 40-60 nights with Hilton every year. By traveling just through March 15 this year I did log in 21 nights. While the card is good, what is the reason to apply now? Business travel is non-existing and leisure travel is down. Also, Hilton closed many lounges in USA even back in March and the current breakfast options are pathetic at best. I used to apply airline credit to my AA Admirals Club membership but now the membership is extended – no need to pay. You cannot spend the airline credit by buying anything on board right now. It would be a much better deal in “normal” times.

  26. @ DENDAVE — The airline fee credit is based on the calendar year, while the resort credit is based on the cardmember year. The airline fee credit works the same way as the credit on the Amex Plat and Amex Gold.

  27. If I want to use the airline credit for airport lounge membership, would I be able to split the annual charge between 2 cards such as Amex Plat and Aspire? My guess is…I should be, but probably have to do that in person or call instead of online…?

  28. @Kara: My wife and I (separately) applied for this card. She received hers next day, and I received mine in two days. In both cases, we could load it into our phones immediately, and use it within minutes.

  29. All – I am starting to evaluate Amex premium cards by ascribing $0 to the airline credit, just to give the cards some extra scrutiny – newsflash, all of the cards still pencil. The Aspire is actually the hardest to pencil as their resort credit can only be used at resorts, which may not be in your travel plans in any given year. If you don’t stay at a resort, don’t use the airline credit, and don’t care about stuff like Priority Pass or Hilton Diamond (Hilton Gold, which is basically given away for free, is good), then the Aspire is a $450 card for a free night a year. That is tough to justify in the second or third year. Of course it is easy to justify applying new this year because there is a restaurant credit (not a resort credit) and you get 140,000 points.

    A more flexible premium hotel card from Amex is Bonvoy Brilliant – mainly because you get a $300 Marriott credit (valid for all hotels, not just resort), which basically nets to $150 for a free night a year, which is good

    Over the long run I think the Surpass or even the no fee Hilton card are better holds for most people unless you can commit to staying at a Hilton resort every year

  30. Thank you. Ugh, have so many cards with new limited offer I didn’t realize the resort credit extended to restaurants and delivery. Got 2 weeks to spend that $250 but I’ll do it easily.

    I just have to figure out how to use the airline credit without flying. I do have an idea but don’t want to over use it. In any case, with the free night and just the restaurant credit I’ll probably break even anyway. So no loss.

  31. @Lucky So, we will receive a $250 credit on any restaurant gift cards in the US? Can we do two separate gift card transactions at two different restaurants? Thanks, Ben.

  32. For a year it is solid, after that not so hot, especially with the airline credits.
    And like Anthony said, there are a ton of ways to get Hilton gold which is often all you need (just from having AmexPlat you can get gold).

    My traveling days were never that heavy and going forward I’m only hoping to get in an occasional trip to Europe once things improve. I used to use the resort credit in Scottsdale but that is unlikely going forward (currently living there and once I move again I don’t imagine needing to stay there any longer).

  33. @Matt – there are PLENTY of ways to make use of the $250 travel credit, even if you won’t be traveling for another few years – and you can have it used up by the weekend. You need to be creative and read this blog along with Gary’s to figure out how to do it

  34. Holy smokes. No idea why all this time later, I never thought to get my wife her own Hilton Aspire card so she can get the freeze night, $250 resort credit, etc.

    Doh!!! Definitely doing this once this pandemic craziness starts to abate.

  35. “A $250 annual airline fee credit, which can be used towards all kinds of airline purchases”

    Hi Ben, I think mentioning that the annual airline fee credit works towards ALL KINDS of airline purchases is not correct. SOME KINDS will be more accurate.

  36. Is the free night certificate issued instantly or is it issued after holding the card for 1 calendar year?

  37. @Kara AmEx is pretty quick, even with overseas people like me on new sign ups.
    I’ve gotten new Amex Cards within 10 days (shipped overseas, Germany by FedEx) or got approved instantly online as an existing AmEx Member and got the card number right online, seconds after applying for it.
    All without SocSec#, but 28years of good standing with AmEx.
    So you might have your approved Card within a week.
    Enough time to make GREAT use of it.
    Best thing is (maybe not right now for US Citizen?) NO foreign transaction fees!

    A Card, that pays for itself if used wisely and properly.
    Might end up at the end, getting money for it by making good use of promos like this and at certain Resort Properties too, CONRAD Algarve, PT gave extra credit of 10% if used on site at the restaurant. Hilton Tanger Resort, Morocco offered free Cocktail at there Bar for Cardmembers when they just opened last year.
    I personally LOVE this card!

  38. @Stanley: It doesn’t matter how many transactions you make, as long as it’s made AT a Restaurant and not buying those gift cards at a WalMart or elsewhere.
    The charge has to be made at Restaurants and trigger that with AmEx, that’s it.
    I called to place an oder at a Brooklyn Restaurant for NY friends as i can’t go to the US right now and had it delivered, it was a Restaurant purchase and the credit was issued (of my spent amount at that Restaurant over the phone) within two days after i made the charge.
    I still could make more Restaurant purchases or as Ben said, just use the rest of the still left amount to purchase Restaurant gift cards at a Restaurant, there’s no limit, you might even go for dinner 5 times, same thing.
    Glad i’m still able to get to use the Resort credit on top on my travel, advantage now of being in Germany and CAN travel sort of freely right now, while you guys in the US have ability to use up the amount at US Restaurants.

  39. $0 for the airline fee is not a fair value. At a bare minimum you can buy points from American or United when you check in for your flight. It’s not a very good deal but it counts as the credit and you can get a decent amount of miles for $250. I’ve always had this count as an airline fee credit.

  40. Im an existing base Hilton Honors no fee cardholder. The upgrade offer doesn’t seem to offer points. Also FYI: United travel bank is working for AX cards again.

  41. I will be happy to use the $250 airline to credit to buy some cheap SW tickets and refund to travel fund, then convert to points. You could do worse than 20000 SW points.

  42. What’s the latest I can get this card in order to still get the 24-month weekend certificate? Can I do it late Dec and still get it?

  43. @Steffl thank you for the clarification. Would this work if I purchase gift cards on the restaurant website? Would that trigger the $250 credit? Thanks again.

  44. “A $250 annual airline fee credit, which can be used towards all kinds of airline purchases” I’m going to call BS on this. Its is very restricted what you can use the airline credit for. Its not like you can simply buy a giftcard. Best to read up on how Amex limits the airline credit use to see if you would be able to properly utilize the credit. I have difficulty utilizing these airline credits because I typically already have baggage covered via my ticket class etc. Also, don’t expect much from diamond status at many properties and keep in mind that travel options will likely continued to be quite limited for the next year. I’ve had this card for a few years and it can make sense if you travel enough and in the right way but given current events you really need to be realistic.

  45. @ Dror — Free night certificates issued through the end of the year have the increased validity. However, you typically only get the certificate several months after signing up for the card. So I would do it by October if you definitely want the certificate with increased expiration.

  46. @ Chas — Keep in mind you can get this card in addition to the no annual fee Hilton Card, and if you did that you’d be eligible for the bonus.

  47. @ Stanley — It all depends how the restaurant processes the gift card purchase. If they process the purchase directly then that should work, while if they don’t, it could be a problem. Personally I’d make a purchase at a restaurant (if you can) just to be on the safe side).

  48. @ Andrew — You get one every cardmember year, so you’d get another on your next cardmember anniversary.

  49. @ JayB — It’s a smart strategy. Everyone in my household has one for a reason, despite the annual fee. 😉

  50. I actually downgraded mine to the Ascend/Surpass rather than pay the annual fee. I’d rather keep the cash than try to remember to use all the credits. I’ll consider upgrading back to the Aspire next June when the long-term travel outlook will hopefully be a bit clearer.

  51. @ Ben, so with the initial certificate good for 24 months it could be stacked with the one issued after the first 12 months – correct? For some I can see the possible issue with getting maximization, but I can go to the Waldorf in West Palm or Key West and really maximize the benefits. Conrad also in West Palm Beach also I believe. So for those it’s $250 AND $100 onsite credits – right? Looking to pull the trigger on it.

  52. Hey Ben! How were you able to get restaurant certificates so that you would not lose out on the $250 credit that is due to expire in a couple of days? I called the Aspire card desk and they told me that would be seen as money and it would not trigger the $250 credit back. I thought also about using the money at the hotel that I will be staying in and again, I was told that the 5-star hotel that I book is not a resort so it does not qualify. What am I doing wrong?

  53. @ charles — I used my Aspire card at a local restaurant in June, and the “resort credits” were applied automatically.

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