Which Hilton Credit Card Should You Keep?

Filed Under: American Express, Credit Cards
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Hilton has four co-branded American Express cards, and at times it can be tough to decide which makes the most sense. Reader Dave K posed the following question in the Ask Lucky forum:

I have both the Amex Hilton Business and Hilton Surpass cards. I need to close one to make room for another Amex credit card (I am now at 5). Trying to recall the difference in benefits so I can decide which card to keep and which to close.

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card ($95 annual fee (Rates & Fees)) and Hilton Honors American Express Business Card ($95 annual fee (Rates & Fees)) have a lot of overlapping features, so for many people it may not make sense to hold onto both of them, especially if there are other American Express Cards that make more sense.. The obvious difference between the two cards is that the former is a personal card while the latter is a business card.

Aside from that, is there a big advantage to one card over the other?

Overlapping benefits between the two cards

Both cards:

  • Offer Hilton Honors Gold status for as long as you have the card
  • Offer Hilton Honors Diamond status when you spend $40,000 on the card in a calendar year
  • Offer an anniversary weekend night reward when you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year
  • Offer 12x points for purchases made directly with Hilton, 6x points for purchases made at US gas stations and US restaurants, and a minimum of 3x points on other purchases
  • Give you access to Amex Offers, which offers savings for purchases with select retailers
  • Come with 10 free Priority Pass visits per year
  • Have no foreign transaction fees

Hilton Honors Gold status gets you free breakfast

Given that those are the overlapping benefits, what differentiates the cards?

Benefits of the Hilton Honors Surpass Card

The one “tangible” benefit of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card over the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card is that it offers 6x points at US grocery stores. There aren’t many cards that offer uncapped bonus points at grocery stores, so this is a nice benefit.

One other potential benefit is that personal cards count towards your credit score, so having the card and making payments on-time could help your credit score, build your average age of accounts, etc.

Benefits of the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

There are a few additional benefits to having the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card over the Hilton Surpass Card. Specifically, the card offers:

  • A second anniversary weekend night reward when you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year (the personal card only offers a maximum of one of these rewards per year)
  • 6x points on wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service providers, and on US shipping, on flights booked directly with airlines or with Amex Travel, and on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies
  • Access to Amex’s “Do More Business” program, offering significant savings with select retailers

Redeem your weekend night reward at lots of great properties, like the Waldorf Astoria Park City

Bottom line

Both the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card and Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card are solid mid-range cards. The cards do have a lot of overlapping benefits, so some might not find it to be worthwhile to hold onto both cards.

While the differences between the cards aren’t huge, generally I think the business version of the card has some reasonably valuable incremental benefits, including access to the “Do More Business” program, the opportunity to earn a second weekend night reward every year, and more bonus categories.

The only real advantage to the personal version of the card is that it offers 6x points on US grocery store purchases.

So generally I’d elect to keep the business version of the personal version, though it depends what you value most.

Does anyone have a different take on this than I do?

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (Rates & Fees), and Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (Rates & Fees).

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  1. Ascend has become my grocery card – allows me to maximize earnings as I go for the $15,000 annual spend. I wish Aspire had 7x grocery.

  2. I just don’t value Hilton that much as a chain to place a high value on their points via their card usage. I believe Gold status is part of the AMEX Platinum. Having elite status for the 5th night free reward perk is the best thing about Hilton.

  3. As a reminder, the HH points return one can get by using the AMEX EDP is higher for grocery purchases than using the Ascend card! HH Card is 6 HH points per $1 and with EDP it is 3 x 1.5 = 4.5 which transfers to HH from AMEX MR at a 1:2 ratio thus netting 9 HH points per $1 spend. I actually use the HH card to get me to the $15k annual spend but it is NOT the best way to accrue HH points for grocery store spend.

  4. @David L.: “I just don’t value Hilton that much as a chain to place a high value on their points via their card usage.”

    I like how that was phrased. Not on the basis of the bogus comparisons of the universally misunderstood relative magnitudes of loyalty currencies in cents/point, but because he does not value the chain enough “to place a high value on their points…”

    I do not use Hilton cards for any spend that is not associated with a Hilton stay, except for using the Aspire to pay for wifi connections on long-haul UA flights to try to draw down the $250 airline credit that the card offers.

    Between the AMEX Biz Plat’s $200 airline credit and HH AMEX Aspire card’s, I now have $450/year in airline credit that I need to draw down, but it is tough as there are not that many incidental charges that I incur as a United 1K/1MM/*G. I alternate charging for wifi between the two cards, but it’s a nice ‘problem’ to have 😉

  5. As a Hilton loyalist, and as a Canadian, I’ve always been disappointed that Hilton doesn’t have a Canadian credit card (at least not that I’ve been able to find…). Hopefully someone at Hilton will see this and realize they’re missing out on a business opportunity with folks like me who only have Aeroplan credit cards. I saved so many Hilton points that I just spent 5 nights in central London and 5 in Edinburgh all free. I saved over $3000.00. I could do more with a Hilton credit card.

  6. @Christian – The title of the article is “Which Hilton Credit Card Should You Keep” not “Which Credit Card Is Best For Grocery Spend”.

  7. @John…I get that BUT I felt it was important to point out in case anyone was keeping the card just for the grocery spend since several have mentioned that category spend in this post.

  8. We find the Ascend to be a nice compliment to my CSR (and no longer pay to add a CSR auth user). My spouse uses the Ascend for groceries, gas, Hilton stays and some misc. So we earn points and the free night cert. Also access to Amex offers (savings covered first annual fee for us), and seems like you receive better targeted Hilton offers b/c of gold status.

  9. @Charlie McMillan, you can use the AMEX cobalt card in Canada and have your choice of Hilton or Marriott points. It effectively provides 5 Hilton or 6 Marriott points per dollar for groceries or restaurants. 6 Marriott points can then be transferred into 2.5 airline miles, so lots of flexibility. First year offers an extra 2500 points a month when you spend $500, so for the first year, you can get 10 Hilton or 12 Marriott or 5 airline miles per dollar of grocery or restaurant spend.

  10. Personal card would be good to hold on to if you’re trying to maintain or improve a credit score. I’d cancel the business card since it would not affect the credit report.

  11. @ DCS. Fair point on my phrasing. Right now I’ve steered away from Hilton to Marriott and will be staying at Hyatts more which is why I’m not drawn to Hilton credit cards. Eventually when I start traveling more I will get their Aspire card. Even if one just uses for their hotel stays the Diamond status, $250 airline credit, free night and $100 resort credit will pay for the annual fee. The bonus points for groceries is great, but I would try for other points on other cards rather than Hilton Honors points.

  12. So are you saying that you ONLY get the free anniversary night if you spend $15,000.00 or is that an additional night?

  13. @David L. – I have been having fun with the ASPIRE, after it freed my from having to plan my revenue stays strategically to earn enough base points in order to requalify for Hilton Diamond. Actually, the Aspire’s resort credit is $250, which is huge. Also, one gets a $100 ‘Aspire credit’ for stays of at least 2 nights at Conrad and Waldorf Astoria, which I just took advantage of for a stay at Conrad Hong Kong in January. The card is like a gift that keeps on giving, but only if one patronizes Hilton – very smart 🙂

    While I preferentially stay at Hilton properties, I’ve tried not steer away from any chain, as there can be great value elsewhere on specific cases. The only exception in the past was Starwood, because it required spending more than I considered reasonable to afford free nights, and as a UA elite I had no interest in earning startpoints for transferring to UA miles, as both the earn rate and the conversion rate were lousy. And the opportunity cost: I earned a lot more miles with UA cards than I could ever earn starpoints with the SPG AMEX (2x on airline tickets with the UA Explorer and 1.5x on everything else with UA Club Biz card — before the CSR and CFU made both UA cards obsolete). On the other hand, I just booked January 2019 award stays for Park Hyatt Bangkok and Park Hyatt Siem reap, both hotels where I stayed before on points.


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