Hilton Aspire Card Review (2020)

Filed Under: American Express, Hilton
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14x Points
at Hilton Properties
7x Points
on Airlines
$250 Annual Credit
at Hilton Properties
Annual Fee: $450
| Terms Apply.

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 in the past few years. Many new luxury hotels have joined the Hilton portfolio, and it’s also easy to earn top tier status with the Honors program, thanks to the credit card that I’m about to talk about in more detail.

While Hilton has several co-branded Amex cards, in this post I wanted to share a detailed review of the most premium card, which is disproportionately rewarding. In particular, I wanted to make sure I cover the limited time benefits that this card offers, which in my opinion make this card worth applying for even at a time when many people aren’t traveling.

Amex Hilton Aspire Card Basics For October 2020

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is one of the highest annual fee hotel credit cards, but it’s also one of the most generous. Regardless of whether you’re a Hilton loyalist or not, this card almost certainly should be in your wallet if you know how to extract value from it.

Let’s talk about why the card is worth it, and what specifically you should be using it for.

150,000 Bonus Points

The Aspire Card offers a welcome bonus of 150,000 Hilton Honors points, after spending $4,000 within the first three months.

I value Hilton Honors points at ~0.5 cents each, meaning that I value the 150,000 points at ~$750. That’s a solid bonus.

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 Aspire Card. However, you are eligible for the bonus if you’ve had any of the other Hilton Amex cards, including the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card.

Amex Credit Card 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 credit cards in a 90 day period
  • You can have at most five Amex credit cards at any point

Both of those limitations are specific to credit cards, and don’t include Amex charge cards.

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

$450 Annual Fee

The Hilton Aspire Card has a $450 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 (though authorized users don’t get most of the great perks offered by the card, other than earning points at the same rate as the primary cardmember).

Earning Points With The Hilton Aspire Card

The Hilton Aspire Card offers bonuses on spending in some useful categories. The card offers 3-14x points per dollar, depending on what categories you’re spending money in.

That sounds like a lot of points, though not all points currencies are created equal. So in which of those categories should you be spending money on the card?

14x Points At Hilton Hotels

The card offers 14x 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 7% return on hotel spending, which is excellent. The Hilton Aspire Card is the best credit card for Hilton hotel spending.

7x Points Bonus Categories

The Hilton Aspire offers 7x points per eligible dollar spent in the following categories, with no caps:

  • Flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  • Car rentals booked directly with select car rental companies
  • US restaurants

I value 7x Hilton Honors points at the equivalent of a ~3.5% return. Personally I don’t think those are especially compelling categories, as there are better credit cards to use for flights and more rewarding credit cards to use at restaurants.

Earn 7x points on flight 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%. I’d argue there are better cards for everyday spending.

No Foreign Transaction Fees

The Hilton Aspire Card has no foreign transaction fees (Rates & Fees), so it’s an excellent card for purchases abroad, especially for stays at Hilton abroad.

Hilton Aspire Card Benefits

The real reason to get the Hilton Aspire Card is because of the incredible long-term perks it offers, which should more than offset the annual fee year after year. I’m currently on my second year of card membership, and I’ve gotten such outsized value from the card.

You might think that this would not be an ideal time to get the card, given the lack of travel opportunities, but quite the opposite is true, thanks to some limited time perks.

Why is the Hilton Aspire Card worth it? Let’s take a closer look at the benefits (see this post for a rundown of the benefits I consider to be most valuable, and see this post for an in-depth look of how these benefits work):

Hilton Honors Diamond Status

Just for having the Aspire Card, you receive complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status. This is Hilton’s top tier status, so it’s pretty incredible to get that just for having a credit card.

Hilton Honors Diamond comes with the following perks, among other things:

  • Free breakfast and/or executive lounge access
  • Room upgrades, which may include standard suites, subject to availability
  • Late check-out, subject to availability
  • 100% points bonus
  • Fifth night free on award stays

As is the case with all hotel programs, the treatment you’ll receive will vary depending on where in the world you are. I’ve found Diamond recognition to be excellent in Asia, for example, while it’s generally hit or miss in the US.

I’ve received suite upgrades as a Hilton Diamond member

Annual Free Weekend Night Reward

Just for having the Aspire Card you receive a free weekend night reward every year that correlates to your account anniversary. You even receive this in the year that you get your card.

This could get you a stay at a property costing up to 120,000 points per night.

I used my weekend night certificate at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills

How The Weekend Night Reward Works

Here are some basic things to know about the weekend night reward offered by the Hilton Aspire Card, under normal circumstances:

  • It’s issued within 8-12 weeks of when you open the card and the account anniversary
  • 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

Limited Time: Get More Value With Free Night Rewards

In light of current circumstances, the Hilton Aspire weekend night reward is more flexible than ever before:

  • Unexpired and new free night rewards issued through December 31, 2020, can be used for stays any night of the week, and not just weekends
  • New free night rewards issued between May 1 and December 31, 2020, will be valid for 24 months from the date of issuance, rather than for 12 months

$250 Annual Hilton Resort Credit

For having the Hilton Aspire Card you receive a $250 statement credit for eligible purchases made directly with Hilton resorts using your card. This is based on your cardmember year (which is calculated as the 12 month period following when you open the card, and so on). See this link to find all participating resorts.

There’s no registration required to activate this perk, and virtually any spending at a participating resort will be eligible. This includes the room rate, incidentals, dining, spa services, etc. So as long as you spend just $250 per year on the card at Hilton resorts, you should be able to make full use of this benefit.

I used my resort credit for a spa treatment at the Conrad Bora Bora

$250 Annual Airline Fee Credit

For having the Aspire Card you receive a $250 airline fee credit every calendar year. This follows a strict calendar year definition, meaning you get one credit through December 31, and then another credit as of January 1 of the following year.

You have to specifically designate an airline on which you want this credit to apply (if you’re an existing cardmember you need to do this in January of each year), with the choice between Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United.

Per the terms, the annual airline credit can be used for purchases made directly with airlines, excluding the following:

Airline tickets, upgrades, mileage points purchases, mileage points transfer fees, gift cards, duty free purchases, and award tickets are not deemed to be incidental fees.

A $250 airline fee credit can go a long way

Complimentary Priority Pass Membership

Just for having the Aspire Card you receive a Priority Pass membership, getting you access to 1,300+ lounges around the world.

You can even bring two guests with you into lounges. Note that Priority Pass restaurants are excluded from this benefit.

Visit Priority Pass lounges with this card

$100 Hilton On-Property Credit

The card also offers a $100 on-property credit at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad when you book stays of at least two nights with an eligible rate through this page.

Personally I don’t consider that to be so valuable. Why?

  • You have to book a specific rate, so points stays, discounted member rates, etc., don’t qualify
  • Most of these hotels also belong to Virtuoso, which offers a similar credit and more

ShopRunner Membership

For having the Hilton Aspire Card you get a ShopRunner membership, which gets you free two-day shipping on eligible items at a network of 100+ online stores. You just have to enroll in your complimentary membership and can then start taking advantage of it.

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 Aspire Card Worth It?

Hilton is one of the largest hotel groups in the world, and the Hilton Aspire Card is an incredible card that comes in handy for those instances where I want to stay at a Hilton property.

For example, I’ve consistently redeemed the weekend free night certificate at properties retailing for well over $450 per night, so in and of itself that covers the annual fee. Add in the $250 resort credit, $250 airline fee credit, and Hilton Honors Diamond status (among other perks), and this card really is too good to be true.

That being said, personally, this is a card that I would get for the perks, rather than a card I would actually spend a lot of money on, as there are better cards for that.

Card Showdown: Hilton Aspire Vs. Hilton Surpass

I know some people try to decide between the $450 annual fee Aspire card and the $95 annual fee (Rates & Fees) Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card. How do the two cards compare?

Personally I think the $450 annual fee card is worthwhile, though, for many people only occasionally staying at Hiltons, the $95 annual fee Surpass Card might be worthwhile as well.

The Surpass Card offers:

  • Gold status for as long as you have the card
  • Diamond status when you spend $40,000 on the card in a calendar year
  • A weekend night reward when you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year

Many people are put off by a $450 annual fee card, so for those people, this is perhaps a more manageable option.

You can read a detailed comparison of the two cards here.

Hilton Aspire Card Summary

The Hilton Aspire Card is one of the most rewarding hotel credit cards out there.

While the card has a $450 annual fee, it offers some truly incredible perks, including top tier Hilton Honors Diamond status, a weekend night reward annually, and up to $500 in credits annually ($250 for airline fees, and $250 for Hilton resorts).

To say that I’ve gotten outsized value from this card would be an understatement.

Not only that, but I’d argue there has never been a better time to get this card, given that the free night rewards are more flexible than ever before.

If you want to learn more about the Hilton Aspire 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 Surpass® Card (Rates & Fees), and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (Rates & Fees).

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Comments
  1. Amex offered me an upgrade from the free Hilton card to Surpass/Ascend. I took it and then just a few months later I was offered an upgrade to Aspire. Working on meeting spend now. Both offers appeared on Amex website. Each had bonus of 150K, so same as getting a new card.

  2. Technically the 5th night free Honors award perk is available to any Honors Silver member (4 stays or 10 nights) and not only correlated to Diamond status as the post implies.

  3. I never received the weekend night reward when I opened my card. I received an email saying another would be forthcoming with the code but that never happened. I’m a bit unclear if I call the cc or Hilton Honors to sort this out? Thanks!

  4. Along with the resort credit, you’re forgetting the annual $100 property credit on Hilton resorts and Waldorf.

  5. @Joe, that’s not accurate/complete. The credit is for any Conrad/Waldorf properties (not resorts which are different brands). It requires a 2 night stay, and you need to book ZZAAP1 rate directly with Hilton. It is not annual, but for any eligible booking.

  6. Talk about a no brainer choice for a credit card. Anyone which stays at Hilton’s and doesn’t have this card is crazy.

  7. @shawn umm not really. Airline credit isn’t the easiest to use up. Resort credits only work at select properties. Lot of people have PP access from other cards. If someone already has gold then diamond isn’t that huge of a jump up. You don’t need to be a heavy hilton user to benefit from this card but you need to be more than a casual tourist or have a specific redemption in mind to really derive value.

  8. It’s a great card though the benefit offering extra perks at Conrad/Waldorf Astoria properties can be booked by any luxury travel agent with Impresario access, most times with just a one-night minimum. Great card overall though.

  9. @Bill claims: ” If someone already has gold then diamond isn’t that huge of a jump up.”

    Spoken like someone who has never been a HH Diamond and is simply regurgitating a bogus and outdated claim hatched and perpetuated by self-anointed travel “gurus”, who favored two small, one-elite level programs that are now no more.

    For those of us who have been HH Diamonds for years and know how to take advantage of the status, the difference between HH Diamond and HH Gold is like night and day, unless free breakfast is the only perk that matters to you.

  10. For someone staying at Hilton, , DT, Conrad, WA in Asia, Europe, Au/NZ, being a Diamond member is worth 450 bucks.
    I just used free night for a Hilton than was more than 350, and got resort credit from stays at resort properties in Europe, , Pacific and USA.
    Card is not for people staying in Hampton in USA.

  11. Great write up and summary of the Aspire card. I bookmarked it so I can come back to review.
    BTW, does the airline WiFi fee count as an incidental expense?

  12. Re. the limitation of not using it for an advance purchase (at an eligible hotel) since AP rates are not charged directly by the hotel, there’s been a lot of talk that that doesn’t affect international properties. For an upcoming stay, I didn’t want to take a chance of not getting the credit (since I don’t have an opportunity to use it down the road) so I booked the lowest available that wasn’t an AP, which was slightly more. On a separate international rez (non-resort) that I made with an non-refundable AP, when I told the hotel I wanted to cancel and reschedule my stay for a different time, they said that nothing was paid for yet and that it wasn’t a problem. In fact I wasn’t charged on my credit card after the rez was made. So do international based hotels have a different system as far as when the charges of an AP rez goes through? Is it after the day of the scheduled arrival? Just curious based on the feedback I received from that hotel that I could cancel w/o penalty.

  13. Since you didn’t really go into the negatives on this card:
    1 – Airline fee credit is extremely difficult to use. It’s a joke. Amex doesn’t budge and it really is a pain to use. You have to pick one airline in January, can’t change it, and only on very limited fees. Not even Delta WiFi counts

    2- Diamond status. Yes, Diamond status is nice but it continues to be downgraded. Many hotels charge significant surcharges for a hot breakfast; lounge breakfast is often mediocre; and upgrades are few and far between.

    3 -3x on regular spend is terrible. Most times, points are worth 0.4 cents each and its rare to get much more value than that; plus you don’t earn points on that stay. You’re are better off using a 2% cash back card

    4 – Resort credits are very restricted. Out of 5000+ hilton hotels, only a few hundred count. They often have mandatory resort fees, are most likely to not offer the Diamond breakfast, and are in very limited locations

  14. @Jason — The funny thing is that while those are negatives for YOU, they may not be for others. [1]

    1. Airline fee credit is extremely difficult to use — I use mine quite easily for wifi on UA. I have airline credit on two AMEX cards, the other being the AMEX Plat, and I used most of it last year. If I had just the Aspire card’s credit, I would likely have needed to dip into my own pocket to pay for wifi at some point. Glad I did not have to.

    2. Diamond status. Talks of Diamond status being “downgraded” have been going on since the dawn of loyalty. If your travels are US-bound, then breakfast is a crap shoot. For those of us who travel mostly internationally, breakfast is almost invariably free full restaurant breakfast [often a real royal feast in Asia] or, *optionally*, in the exec lounge. The notion that lounges are often mediocre is highly subjective. I have rarely. if eve, been in a “mediocre” lounge, but that may be because I do not use lounges in the US very much.

    3. 3x on regular spend is terrible. Definitely, but no one in their right mind would use a hotel co-brand card on regular spend, especially to earn Hilton points which are easier to earn than any other. The Aspire’s 14X on revenue stays towers over every other loyalty card — 20% more than the WoH Case visa — and that is what it should be used for, unless there is a deal of some kind that significantly beefs up earning in other categories.

    4. Resort credits are very restricted. I am not sure what that means exactly because places where hotels are likely to charge a resort fee are also those where I tend to redeem award stays, for which resort fees are waived. In fact, I earned a resort fee credit on *incidentals* on an award stay at Hilton Pattaya, indicating another plus side of the Aspire’s “very restricted” resort credit.

    I think that @Lucky can be “forgiven” for not “really going into the negatives on this card” because he’s made his position abundantly and emphatically clear on complaints such as yours [1]:
    ______________

    [1] Dear Frequent Flyers: Please Stop Whining
    April 15, 2020 by Ben

    “…we’ve seen airlines and hotel loyalty programs extend status by 12 months and introduce other initiatives to take care of members. In most cases I’d say the solutions from airlines and hotels are about the “best case scenario” in terms of what we can expect.

    Nonetheless, with every single one of these announcements I’ve written about, I’ve seen some people complaining about how it’s “not fair,” ***because it doesn’t exactly bring them the most personal benefit.***

    It doesn’t matter what program it is, that has been the case across the board.”
    ______________

    ‘Nuff said.

  15. @DCS. Dead on, including the part about the mediocre US lounges. Although, the one at Hilton CDG is pretty dismal.

  16. Will other hotels have the Hilton credit version as the Hilton Aspire card?

    @DCS is this your favorite card?

  17. It is unquestionably my favorite *hotel* card. I have a card for every occasion, don’t you and everybody else?

  18. Any info on retention offers? My $450 AF just posted, but I don’t see me/us traveling until vaccine since Buddy is especially high risk and worries a lot 😉

    So I’m not going to get any benefits for months 🙁

  19. Of all the cards I have, the Aspire is probably the most generous and value-for-fee. While I agree that some of the benefits are less valuable than others (e.g. airline fee), many are highly useful and valuable. Yes, Diamond in the U.S. is a bit less valuable than Asia. Recent visits to Conrad Tokyo and Conrad Osaka were outstanding in every way, from room upgrades to luxurious lounges and meals. But, even in the U.S. many hotels offer Diamond benefits, if a bit more spotty. Free room certificates are almost always easily worth the yearly fee alone. Lastly, the temporary $250 restaurant benefit is one of the most useful benefit expansions of all cards I have.

    My Amex Platinum continues to de-value and may be dropped after many years. The Aspire, however, is a true keeper until they finally realize they may be giving away the store.

  20. @DCS
    Yes I do otherwise I would be a hundred millionaire in Hilton points

    I wonder if anyone has 1 billion Hilton points

  21. I had the Aspire card for about 3 years until this year I decided to cancel it due to partly the Covid19 and also the $250 resort credit that isn’t really honored at the 2 resorts in Bali. I was in Conrad Bali as well as Hilton Bali in January 2020 and all room services of meals charged to the room wasn’t covered by the $250 resort credit advertised. Also in Hilton Bali where I stayed 2 nights at their Royal Suite and 1 night at the 2 bedroom Villa, I was only awarded points for just the Villa and not the Royal Suite. Despite bringing up the case of missing points, Hilton helpdesk didn’t bother to explain why despite having a bill of over thousand US dollars, the points awarded was less than the 14x that they also advertised, they insisted that the points their system awarded took care of all my 3 nights stay at Hilton Bali. Subsequent emails and requests for answers, were totally ignored. This bad experience shows how the resort credit as well as points awarded for stays, are not consistent throughout the Hilton resorts. For now I have the surpass card, the American Express Delta card of $99 annual fees (which is better than the $250 airline incidentals), as well as Marriott and IHG cards. If Hilton is consistent with their international resorts to honor what they truly advertise with this Aspire card, then I’ll reconsider, but for now I’ll explore what their competitors are offering. Other than the benefit of Diamond Status, the $250 resort and airline credit could hard to claim. I only managed to make use the resort credit at Hilton resorts locally within the US during my last year travels.

    Anyway I hope a vaccine for Covid19 would be available soon, to then be back at travelling around the world. Stay safe.

  22. @JH — The resort credit and Aspire/Surpass points are awarded by AMEX and *not* Hilton. So, you were barking up the wrong tree.

    Anyone in this situation should not bother contacting Hilton customer support, which may not be helpful because they would likely be just as confused as you might be. If you suspect that you did not get the co-brand CC points or resort or airline credit that you expected to get, check your *AMEX* monthly bill to see the breakdown of related points/credit that AMEX awarded. If you believe that there was an error, contact AMEX and not Hilton!!! If AMEX made an error, they may even give extra points for mea culpa (I they once gave 10K HH points for their error).

  23. I’ve always been curious. If you have any mid or high end hotel status e.g. Hilton Aspire card for diamond status, does the people working at the front desk of the hotel know if you have this status level because you have a certain credit card (compared to status based on spend/paid nights)?? Was wondering if some people don’t get upgrades even with status because hotel knows that you have it because of a CC and not because you necessarily stay at the hotel brand often. Does anyone know? Thanks.

  24. @jeffk99 Usually hotel knows (Since they can see your S/N counts, and even your point balance and last few stays)
    That being said, I can’t imagine you’re treated worse in a Gold member. And the first night I stayed at Hilton properties, right after I got Aspire I was upgraded to a premium suite. So it’s still mostly reflecting how generally the hotel is treating members.

  25. JH’s experience matched mine too – Although all hotel groups have abysmal IT department (Maybe not Hyatt?) At least Marriott will work out after calls and calls. And Hilton is just “I don’t give a ****” face.
    I love my Aspire card, but I’m getting done with Hilton. Hotel breakfast doesn’t worth that much when you mostly stay in city hotels with reasonable local food.

  26. @ Ben — This card has definitely lost some of its luster due to COVID-19. We will drop to one in our household rather than two.

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