The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (review) is arguably the single the most lucrative hotel credit card. For quite some time, I’d say that this card has been in the “too good to be true” category. There’s an update, as the card has just undergone a full refresh, and now has a higher annual fee, plus changes to benefits.
For many, the card won’t be as lucrative as it used to be, but I think the value still checks out. Let’s go over all the details (there are also changes coming to the Hilton Surpass Card, which I’ll cover in a separate post).
In this post:
Hilton Aspire Card annual fee increasing to $550
The annual fee on the Hilton Aspire Card has been increased to $550 per year, which is a $100 increase over the previous $450 annual fee. That of course stings, but isn’t surprising, as this is a similar trend we’ve seen with other Amex cards in recent years.
What’s not changing about the Hilton Aspire Card
What’s not changing about the Hilton Aspire Card? As before:
- The card offers Hilton Honors Diamond status for as long as you have the card, with no spending requirement
- The card continues to offer an annual free night award on your account anniversary every year, plus an additional one if you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year
- The card is maintaining the same rewards structure, earning 14x points on Hilton purchases, 7x points on flights, rental cars, and restaurants, and 3x points on all other purchases
Just about everything else about the card is changing, so let me emphasize that the following benefits are being taken away (but new perks are being added, as I’ll cover below):
- As of February 1, 2024, the card no longer offers a Priority Pass membership
- The card no longer offers a $250 annual Hilton resort credit; those who had the card prior to October 19, 2023, will still receive this benefit through December 31, 2023
- The card no longer offers a $250 annual airline fee credit; those who had the card prior to October 19, 2023, will still receive this benefit through December 31, 2023
The good news is that some really valuable perks are being added to the card, so let’s go over those…
Hilton Aspire Card adds $400 Hilton resort credit
The Hilton Aspire Card now offers up to $400 in statement credits annually toward spending at Hilton resorts. This is awarded semi-annually, meaning you get $200 in statement credits every six months for purchases made directly with Hilton resorts on your card.
This replaces the previous $250 annual Hilton resort credit. So if you spend at least $200 at a Hilton resort at least once every six months, you’ll come out significantly ahead here. Keep in mind that any spending counts — so you could redeem points for your stay, and then use that credit for dining, spa services, etc.
Hilton Aspire Card adds $200 flight credit
The Hilton Aspire Card now offers up to $200 in annual statement credits toward flights. This is awarded quarterly, so you get a $50 credit toward flight purchases made either directly with an airline or through amextravel.com, when using your card. There’s no need to designate a specific airline, but rather any eligible airline purchase would qualify.
For practical purposes, I’d consider this to replace the airline fee credit that the card previously offered.
Hilton Aspire Card offers up to three free night awards
Historically the Hilton Aspire Card offered one free night award on your account anniversary per year, plus an additional free night award if you spent $60,000 on the card in a calendar year. The card now offers yet another free night award if you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year.
So if you spent $60,000 on the card in a calendar year, you’d earn a total of three free night awards, each of which can be redeemed at a property costing up to 150,000 points.
Hilton Aspire Card $189 CLEAR Plus credit
The Hilton Aspire Card now offers a CLEAR Plus credit of up to $189 per calendar year, when you pay for your CLEAR Plus membership with your Hilton Aspire Card. This is a perk we see on several premium Amex cards, so it’s not surprising to see it added here as well.
Hilton Aspire Card National Emerald Club Executive status
The Hilton Aspire Card now offers complimentary National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive status, including perks like Executive Area Access (for full-size reservations and above), in the United States and Canada. Card members must enroll through their online account using their card.
Hilton Aspire Card cell phone protection benefit
The Hilton Aspire Card is the latest premium card to get cell phone protection. With this, you can be reimbursed the cost to repair or replace your damaged phone, for a maximum of $800. You can file two claims per 12-month period, with a $50 deductible per approved claim.
My take on these Hilton Aspire Card changes
As I said above, I’ve considered the Hilton Aspire Card to be too good to be true for quite some time. I was expecting there would eventually be changes to the card, especially with Amex having recently modified much of its card portfolio, so I’m not surprised to see this.
While I’d consider these changes to be negative on balance, dare I say that I think they could have been worse? Here’s how I’m now approaching the card, and how I justify the $550 annual fee:
- The Hilton Diamond status and anniversary free night award are more or less worth the annual fee to me, as I consistently redeem the free night awards at really expensive properties
- The increase in the Hilton resort credit to $400 is awesome, though I’m not someone who has historically stayed at Hilton resorts twice per year, so I guess I need to work on that
- The $200 annual flight credit is pretty straightforward; at a minimum, I can book a flight of just over $50 each quarter with American, and then I can always cancel the flight and use the value as a flight credit
- The CLEAR credit, National Emerald Club status, and cell phone protection, are all things that are nice to have, but aren’t things I necessarily value, given that they’re offered with quite a few other cards as well
- For those who spend a lot on credit cards, I think an argument could be made for spending $60,000 per year on this card now; you’ll earn a minimum of 180,000 Hilton Honors points, plus two incremental free night awards, worth up to 300,000 Hilton Honors points, so that’s a solid return for everyday spending
The Hilton Aspire Card has undergone a major refresh. The card’s annual fee has been increased by $100, to $550, and we’ve also seen the card’s benefits overhauled. The card now offers up to $400 in annual Hilton resort credits, up to $200 in annual flights credits, a CLEAR Plus membership, National Emerald Club status, cell phone protection, and the ability to earn more free night awards with spending.
At the same time, we’re seeing the elimination of the Priority Pass membership, the $250 annual airline fee credit, and the $250 annual Hilton resort credit.
For most people, these changes will be negative. However, they could have been much worse, and personally I think the value proposition of the card still checks out. And to those who stay at Hilton resorts at least twice per year, I think the value of the card may just have improved.
What do you make of these Hilton Aspire Card changes?