Around the middle of last year it was announced that Hilton is entering into an exclusive credit card agreement with American Express (while previously they also had credit cards issued by Citi), and then in November it was announced that Hilton is rebranding their American Express cards.
Personally the card I’m most excited about is the Hilton Aspire Card, which will have a $450 annual fee and will offer Honors Diamond status for as long as you have the card, a $250 annual airline incidental fee credit, a $250 Hilton annual resort credit, and an annual free weekend night certificate. In many ways this card seems too good to be true, and I can’t wait to apply for it.
That card will be a new product, and it’s expected to be introduced around January 18, 2018, which is two weeks from today. However, that’s not the only thing to be aware of, in anticipation of the Hilton card changes.
Hilton Surpass Card will be converted into Hilton Ascend Card
I know many of you have picked up the Hilton Honors™ Surpass Card from American Express over the past year thanks to the huge sign-up bonuses they’ve been offering on the cards.
On/around January 18, 2018, the Hilton Surpass Card will automatically be converted into the Hilton Ascend Card. There’s not just a name change here, but a few other implications:
- The card’s annual fee will be increasing from $75 to $95 (Rates & Fees), including for existing cardmembers with an annual fee due on/after February 2, 2018
- The card will offer no foreign transaction fees, while the previous version of the card had fees for these transactions
- The card will offer an annual free weekend night certificate when you spend $15,000 on purchases on the card in a calendar year (previously there was no option to earn an annual free weekend night certificate)
- The card will offer 10 free Priority Pass lounge passes each year
This should continue to be a pretty compelling card. Whether the changes to this card are a positive or negative depends entirely on your situation. While Hilton Honors Gold status is worth $95, in my opinion, keep in mind you can also get Gold status just by having The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, which I know is one way that many people earn that status.
We don’t know if the Ascend Card will be considered a new product
There’s one interesting nuance here to be aware of. Keep in mind that American Express typically has a “once in a lifetime” policy when it comes to receiving the welcome bonus on cards. The question is whether the Ascend Card is considered a new product for those purposes or not.
In other words, if you have a Surpass Card and you let it be converted into an Ascend Card in a couple of weeks, then you most definitely won’t be eligible for the sign-up bonus on the Ascend Card in the future. That’s because you’ll already be an existing cardmember for their purposes.
Meanwhile if you cancel a Surpass Card before it’s automatically converted into an Ascend Card, then you’d only be eligible for a bonus on the Ascend Card in the future if American Express considers this to be a new product.
Unfortunately we don’t know whether or not they’ll consider this to be a new product, and we may not know until the card is out. At that point we’ll only know based on what the terms state.
The added wrinkle
A couple of times in the past year the Hilton Surpass Card has offered a sign-up bonus that comes with a free night certificate on the card’s first anniversary without any spend requirement. That’s potentially worth up to 95,000 Honors points. I applied for the card around the middle of last year when there was such an offer, meaning if I canceled the card then I wouldn’t receive the free night certificate on the card’s first anniversary.
So there’s a cost to canceling the card for many of us.
My guess on the new product question
If I had to guess I’d say that the Ascend Card probably isn’t going to be considered a new product, though I most definitely could be wrong. For example, the press release stated that those with the Surpass Card will “automatically be upgraded to the new benefits launching January 2018.” I can’t say for sure that this is deliberate, but to me that phrasing is different than suggesting that people will be converted to a new card.
In many ways the changes being made to the card remind me of the changes that were made to the SPG Amex in 2015, where they slightly increased the annual fee, added some benefits, and eliminated foreign transaction fees, though the card wasn’t officially rebranded. When that change was made, the card wasn’t considered a new product.
In light of that — or at least since it’s not a sure bet that it will be considered a new product — I think it’s worth holding onto the card to get the free night certificate after the first anniversary, rather than gambling, assuming you’re in that position.
What do you guys think? Will the Hilton Ascend Card be considered a new product, and what approach are you taking in light of the card switchover in a couple of weeks?
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card (Rates & Fees).