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.
Amex Hilton Aspire Card Basics For January 2022
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 Hilton Honors Points
The Hilton Aspire Card offers a welcome bonus of 150,000 Hilton Honors points, after spending $4,000 within the first three months. For context, I value Hilton Honors points at ~0.5 cents each, meaning that I value the 150,000 points at ~$750. That’s an excellent bonus, especially when you consider how much value this card can offer in the long run.
Eligibility For Welcome Bonus & Amex Application Restrictions
The welcome offer on the Hilton Aspire 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. I find that Amex cards are fairly easy to be approved for, for those with excellent credit.
Just keep in mind Amex’s general card application rules:
- 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 or hybrid cards.
Hilton Aspire $450 Annual Fee
The Hilton Aspire Card has a $450 annual fee. 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 spent, 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 Hilton Aspire 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 Hilton Honors 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
3x Points On Other Purchases
The Hilton Aspire 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, so it’s an excellent card for purchases abroad, especially for stays at Hilton properties 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 in my fourth year of card membership, and I’ve gotten such outsized value from the card.
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 (in the United States you currently receive a food & beverage credit)
- 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 United States.
Annual Free Weekend Night Reward
Just for having the Hilton 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 150,000 points per night. Personally I value this certificate alone at more than $450, and I’ve used my last several certificates at the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal, Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, and Conrad Bora Bora Nui.
How The Hilton Weekend Night Reward Works
Here are some basic things to know about the weekend night reward offered by the Hilton Aspire Card:
- 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
- While you can view your free night certificate online, you have to call 1-800-446-6677 to actually make your booking
$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. 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.
$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.
Complimentary Priority Pass Membership
Just for having the Hilton 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.
$100 Hilton On-Property Credit
The Hilton Aspire 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 through Hilton Impresario or Virtuoso, which offers a similar credit and more
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.
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. In 2021 I used my certificate at the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal, which would have retailed for over $1,400 per night. 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 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.
- Hilton Honors Gold status for as long as you have the card
- Hilton Honors 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.
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. This continues to be my single favorite hotel credit card, and I think that those who don’t have it are missing out.