Hilton Surpass Weekend Night Reward: Worth It?

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I recently wrote a comparison of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (review) and Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (review), which are Amex’s mid-range Hilton Honors credit cards.

In this post, I wanted to look at a specific aspect of these cards, which could make it worth putting spending on them. Specifically, does it make sense to spend $15,000 on the cards annually in order to earn a weekend night reward? I’ll focus on the Surpass Card so that I can compare it to other personal credit cards, though you can crunch the numbers similarly for the business version of the card.

Hilton Honors Surpass & Business Card bonus

Both cards are offering similar welcome bonuses of Hilton Honors points:

  • The Hilton Surpass Card is offering a welcome bonus of 130,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $2,000 within three months
  • The Hilton Business Card is offering a welcome bonus of 130,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $3,000 within three months

Redeem your Hilton Honors points at the Conrad Bora Bora

On top of that, the cards offer lots of great ongoing benefits, like Hilton Honors Gold status.

Hilton Surpass Weekend Night Reward basics

The Hilton Surpass Card offers a weekend night reward when you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year. This certificate can be redeemed at a vast majority of Hilton properties, and there’s only a very small list of excluded hotels.

The certificate is valid for a year from when it’s issued, and as long as a standard room is available on a weekend night (that includes Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights), you should be able to redeem it. Hilton standard rooms cost as much as 120,000 points per night, so that’s potentially the maximum value you could get from this.

Factors to consider with spending $15,000

To decide if it’s worth spending $15,000 on the card, you have to decide how much you value the certificate, and also what the opportunity cost of that spending is.

In the case of the Hilton Surpass Card, you earn the following return on spending:

Let’s assume you’d be spending this money in non-bonused categories, because if you’re maximizing your credit card strategy, that’s where the opportunity cost is the lowest.

If you spent $15,000 on either of these cards in non-bonused categories you’d receive:

  • 45,000 Honors points
  • A weekend night reward, valid at a hotel retailing for up to 120,000 points per night

That’s potentially a return worth up to the equivalent of 165,000 Honors points, or 11 Honors points per dollar spent.

But that’s a completely unfair valuation. You shouldn’t be valuing the reward at 120,000 points because:

  • There are only two Hilton properties that costs 120,000 points per night (the Waldorf Astoria Maldives and Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal), while other properties top out at 95,000 points per night
  • The reward expires after a year, so you have a limited window in which you can use it
  • In order to maximize this certificate you’d have to redeem at the most expensive hotels, which greatly reduces the flexibility in terms of where you can redeem
  • You can only redeem for weekend stays

Redeem your weekend night reward at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives

At most you’re earning the equivalent of 165,000 Honors points worth of value for that $15,000 of spending. That’s not a fair objective valuation, though it is possible you’ll get that much value.

Perhaps more realistic would be to apply some sort of discount to that certificate, due to the restrictions. To keep things simple, maybe we should instead say that certificate is worth 75,000 points, which I think is a fair valuation for an “average” traveler. If your math is different, you can plug in those numbers.

This would mean your total return on that spending is the equivalent of 120,000 points, which is about eight Honors points per dollar spent. I value Honors points at ~0.5 cents each, so that’s the equivalent of a ~4% return. That’s excellent.

Allocating the Surpass Card annual fee

The Hilton Surpass Card has a $95 annual fee (Rates & Fees), and you have to decide how you want to allocate that.

In other words, are you keeping this card solely to be able to earn the weekend night reward, or are you getting value out of the Hilton Honors Gold status, 10 Priority Pass visits per year, and more. For example:

Do you value the Priority Pass benefit offered by the Surpass Card?

In your situation, you have to decide how much of that fee you’re allocating towards that benefit.

Opportunity cost of spending

Looking at my post about the best credit cards for everyday spending:

In all cases, there are some restrictions on that return on spending, so it won’t necessarily be that high for everyone.

Crunching the numbers

While I’d love to provide a direct answer of whether or not it’s worth spending money on one of the Hilton Surpass Card to earn a weekend night reward, there’s no one size fits all answer.

I’d encourage everyone to do the math based on the following:

  • How much you value Hilton Honors points at
  • How much you value the weekend night reward at, taking into account the expiration date and day of week restrictions
  • Whether you’d otherwise have the card or not; if you’d have the card even without this, then you don’t have to factor in the $95 annual fee with the math, while otherwise, you’d have to subtract the annual fee from what you perceive the value to be

To provide some generalized advice:

  • If you are just applying for this card and have to spend some amount on the card anyway to earn the bonus, then it’s definitely worth trying to spend $15,000
  • If you have this card anyway then I do think it’s most definitely worth spending $15,000 on the card per year
  • If you have the card just to be able to earn the free weekend night reward, and don’t value any of the other benefits, then I think it’s fairly close to breakeven, depending on your valuation of various things

Redeem your weekend night reward at the Waldorf Astoria Park City

I’m curious how you guys feel — is it worth spending $15,000 on the Hilton Honors Surpass Card to earn a free weekend night reward every year?

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).

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  1. Great post, especially as my annual fee just billed this week. “In other words, are you keeping this card solely to be able to earn the weekend night reward, or are you getting value out of the Hilton Honors Gold status, 10 Priority Pass visits per year, and more.”

    I got great value out of Gold status and the 10 Priority Pass visits, so paying the $95 was a no-brainer. I never intended to spend $15k on this card because I spread out spending on other cards.

  2. I like the free weekend night but wouldn’t put $15K on the card *solely* for the purposes of earning another free weekend night unless I had a very specific use for it. I’d rather put that $15K on another card, such as the Chase Hyatt Visa where the points are worth more to me and I’ll get a Hyatt free night certificate that isn’t limited to a weekend night.

  3. The other issue is it’s not much fun to stay at a super expensive hotel for just one night (essentially 20 hours)

  4. This was a question I argued on with myself as well. Without a somewhat aspirational property in mind, its probably not worth the opportunity cost of putting the spend on this card.

    I had an Aspire free night certificate, so the ability to earn another certificate at $15k in spend as opposed to $60k for a second certificate made a lot of sense. We stayed last weekend at the Conrad in Fort Lauderdale Beach in a room that would’ve cost 95k or $800+ per night, so I got my value out of it this year.

  5. A couple of years ago, Hilton Ascend/Surpass was my main grocery/dining card because I valued the ability to spend to get to the $15,000 and the free night.

    Now, Amex Gold has eclipsed this card for regular grocery/dining spend. I don’t have a lot of Hilton spend that I can charge to a personal card (I may have one or two leisure Hilton stays a year). So the card basically goes unused (Priority Pass and Hilton Gold are available through Amex Platinum).

    I am cancelling the card soon and moving either to Hilton Aspire or the no fee card.

  6. I think there are two situations where this makes sense, (1) for a single person who has the Aspire and wants a second weekend night certificate to get a full weekend for free, or (2) for a couple who each have an Aspire, but can use more than 2 weekend night certificates.

    The difference in annual fee between the Aspire and Surpass is $355. For that difference, you get a $250 airline incidental credit and a $250 Hilton resort credit (the other incremental benefits, like Diamond $100 on-property credit for paid stays at Conrad Waldorf, shouldn’t play into this analysis but potentially add more value). If you’re not using the certificate at a resort where you can utilize the $250 credit, you probably aren’t in a position where it makes sense to spend $15,000 on the Surpass to get it. And it shouldn’t be difficult for anyone who takes 4-5 flights a year to use the airline fee credit (even with the change in utilization re purchasing gift cards, if you know what you are doing). In my mind the value of the Surpass is not a free night certificate, it is an additional free night certificate.

    My wife and I each have an Aspire, and use the weekend nights for a staycation at Hotel Del, about a 90 minute drive. We get free breakfast from the card, and the combined $500 credit covers other meals, parking, activities, and drinks. We view it as paying $900 for a weekend at the Del and $500 worth of free airfare.

  7. One other reason I think some people hold on to this card is for upgrade opportunities. Amex has had offers in the past for up to 150K points to upgrade from Surpass to Aspire. Its a good option if you have already received the Aspire sign-up bonus.

  8. The Surpass is a good way to diversify hotel points earning for leisure travelers if you’re overweighted to Chase/Hyatt. Restaurants and groceries are good P2 bonus categories. I think of the Surpass as generating two room nights a year at a proper resort hotel in Hawaii or other vacation destination. Worth the fee for us.

  9. By making the $15K spend, you don’t just get a free weekend night; you also get the points from the spend. If you make that spend in grocery stores/restaurants/gas stations, at 6X per $, you are getting another 90K points from the spend, plus the free night. And if your SO also has the card, now you have two weekend nights at high end HH properties, 180K points, and Gold status. Which gets you a free full breakfast at European Hiltons, which otherwise sells for an (otherwise overpriced) @ $50 per night for two. For anyone who can easily make the spend, and stays in European big city Hiltons, it’s well worth the cost. 😉

  10. Personally I value this card for the Hilton relationship even though I also have the Amex Platinum card which would give me Gold. I stay at Hilton properties a good bit and get the extra points charges for those stays. Also I use this card for groceries and gas since it is the best payback for those categories of cards I have (use CSR for restaurants which is other main bonus category since 3x Ultimate Points is better than 6x Hilton points).

    One thing you didn’t mention is qualifying for Diamond is you spend $40,000 a year which is my goal on this card in 2020. I run all I can through on cards (paying them off every month) and my annual card spend is $125,000-$150,000 so I should be able to easily hit $40,000 on this one and then focus more on Hilton stays with Diamond status (I was previously Diamond for 15 years) in 2021.

  11. Agree with others above, the main reason I keep the Surpass is for the free weekend night certificate (after $15K spend) to pair with the free night certificate from the Aspire. Being able to stay two consecutive nights at a Conrad or Walforf Astoria is the biggest benefit of having both (the Aspire and Surpass) Amex cards. Otherwise, no reason for Aspire card holders to retain the Surpass.

  12. My husband and I both have Aspire cards and don’t plan to renew them this year. I already have the Surpass. Hubby will convert his Aspire to a Surpass soon. We used our free weekend nights at the Conrad in NYC (2 x 90K pts/night) and Aruba (2 x 80K pts/night).

    *We are fine with Gold status instead of Diamond, because we still get free breakfast, and almost never get room upgrades during Hilton stays. We really don’t care about upgrades, so no worries.

    *The 10 Priority Pass visits X 2 are perfect for us. If we fly overseas, we usually book business or first so that comes with lounge access. The times we fly domestically and want a lounge, we’re covered.

    *We see the Aspire airline incidental and resort credits as restrictive. We have to use them to get money back that we already spent. So, don’t spend the $ in the first place.

    Since we are focused on Hyatt and Hilton, it makes sense for us to do the $15K spend for the weekend night on each of our Surpass cards and our Hyatt cards. My Hyatt spend is done, Surpass is well underway. Hubby’s cards are next. (We are self-employed and pay our own taxes – both income and property. That helps. For Hyatt, we live near 2 Simon malls.)

  13. To me its not worth it unless I have a lot of hilton spend that would be going on the card anyway. Since the certificates expire, can only be used on weekends and many times there are not award slots available at high end hotels I don’t think its worth the opportunity cost, unless I was near the 15k required spend organically in which case it may be worth throwing extra spend on the card to get the cert. I like the certificates and have used them to get great value but the flexibility required to use them makes it something that is not worth going out of your way to get.

  14. Interesting timing, since a few hours ago I just used three certificates from Aspire and Surplus plus 80K points for four nights at a Hilton resort going for $746 per night. So I am all in with these Hilton certificates!

  15. @Dee, I’ve had similar thoughts, but really, if you stay at Hilton resorts a couple times a year, the Aspire is free while the Surpass costs $95. I say that because the $250 resort credit can be used for anything at a Hilton resort (including the room charge) plus you get the weekend free night certificate, which is going to pay for another night of $250 (on average). So, even if you get no value out of the airline incidental credit, you covered your annual fee with the first two perks (and you don’t have to put any spend on the card if you don’t want to). So, although counter-intuitive, the Aspire is cheaper (easier, and a little better) than the Surpass if you regularly visit Hilton resorts.

  16. @SEAguy – that’s the thing. We only travel to a resort once a year, mostly take city vacations and have paid cash for a hotel only a couple of times in the last 20 years. I’d rather not be committed to Hilton for my one resort vacay every year.

    I’d prefer to use the Hilton weekend certs in an expensive city like NYC. Even if I pay 1.87% in fees for the whole $15K spend by paying taxes… $280.50 fee + $95 AF = 1 Weekend Night Cert + 45,840 points (at $.5/pt worth $229.20) is the worst I’m going to do. The Conrad NYC is $700 or 95K pts/night for a one bedroom suite.

  17. @Dee. Yeah, that makes sense. In addition to the traditional resorts, we like what the Aspire does for us in Las Vegas. The Waldorf is technically a resort property, and we get food and entertainment benefits with Caesars status match.

  18. Great post. I would like to add one thing though. The weekend night certificate does NOT cover resort fees. I was of the opinion that ALL fees are included. However, that was not the case when I recently booked two nights at Hotel del Coronado, San Diego and I had to pay $35 daily resort fee per night. Add the $40 nightly parking charge and we were paying $150 for our 2-night stay. Again, not a huge amount considering the rooms were going for ~$400-$500 per night (95k standard reward points), but definitely something to keep in mind.

  19. @SEAguy – If I never go to Vegas again in my life, it will be too soon. 🙂 In my former life, the industry I worked in LOVED to have conferences in casinos. I am not a casino person.

    I’m glad you find the Aspire to work for your travel. It just doesn’t make sense for us any more. That’s why they offer more than one card.

  20. @Tim – I point this out not to be critical, but to hopefully be helpful. While you do have to pay parking fees on a Hilton reward stay, Resort Fees ARE NOT CHARGED on Hilton free weekend night certificates (and I’ve never seen them show up on my bill when using certificates/points at Hilton properties with resort fees). Check out the last sentence of the portion of the Hilton Terms and Conditions below. The HDC ripped you off–suggest you call Hilton and get the resort fee payment back.

    Reward Redemption
    #18 Hotel Reward Stays apply to full Point redemptions or Point redemptions combined with money. Redemption stays can be used for Standard Rooms or Premium Rooms; both Reward types are for double occupancy room rate. Additional occupants, age 19 and above, are subject to the standard extra person charges. Any tax liability incurred (if any) in connection with the receipt and/or use of Hilton Honors Rewards, including, but not limited to, local or city occupancy taxes, international departure tax, customs fees, airport surcharges, non-resident tourism fees or individual income tax is the sole responsibility of the user. Incidental charges are the responsibility of the user. At hotels with resort fees, members on reward stays booked using all Points, or using a Promotional free night reward (e.g., issued by credit card partners, etc.) will not pay resort fees.

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