I recently wrote a comparison of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (review) and the 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 these Hilton 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 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 will be credited to your account 8-12 weeks after you complete eligible spending, rather than at the end of the 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 ordinarily 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.
Note that at the moment these certificates are even more flexible than ever before:
- Unexpired and new free night rewards issued through December 31, 2021, can be used for stays any night of the week, and not just weekends
- New free night rewards issued between January 1 and December 31, 2021, will be valid until December 31, 2022
Factors to consider with spending $15,000
To decide if it’s worth spending $15,000 on the Hilton Surpass 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:
- 12x points per dollar spent with Hilton
- 6x points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations
- 3x points per dollar spent on everything else
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 Hilton 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 an 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 has an expiration, 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 typically 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
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:
- Many people have the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (review), which offers a Priority Pass membership with guesting privileges, so you may not value the 10 Priority Pass visits
- Many people are eligible for Hilton Honors Gold status through The Platinum Card® from American Express (review), which also offers Hilton Honors Gold status
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:
- The best personal card offers a return of up to ~3.4% by my valuation; that’s the Citi® Double Cash Card (review), which potentially offers rewards up to the equivalent of 2x ThankYou points per dollar
- The best business card offers a return of ~3.4%; that’s The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (review)
In both 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 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:
- What your valuation of Hilton Honors points is
- How much you value the weekend night reward, taking into account the 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).