It’s not often we see a MAJOR shakeup in the credit card world. And I’m not talking about a new welcome bonus or some new card art, but a totally new, completely different card.
And that’s exactly what just happened with not one, but TWO very popular credit cards.
I’m talking about the American Express Hilton Honors Surpass® Card (Rates & Fees) and the American Express Hilton Honors Aspire® credit card.
As you’ll see, the first change is the way the cards look. I personally liked the old designs, but they’re definitely nice, sleek-looking cards (which is obviously VERY important).
I’ll tell you my opinion on the rest of the changes in a bit, but here is a breakdown of exactly what’s changing:
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire® Card
The annual fee is increasing to $550 (a $100 increase from the previous annual fee)
There is no more Priority Pass membership (😭)
$400 Hilton Resort credits ($200 every six months), an increase from the previous $250 credit
$200 of general airline credits ($50 per quarter), which was previously a $250 airline FEE credit
Free Night Award with both $30,000 and $60,000 of spending (previously was only the $60k threshold)
$189 annual Clear credit
New cell phone protection
National car rental Executive status
Annual Free Night Award remains the same
Complementary Hilton Diamond Status remains the same
Here’s my take on this one:
The most important perks of the card are remaining intact, which is great. The annual Free Night and Hilton Diamond status are most important to me personally.
The new Hilton Resort credits are interesting. Obviously, an increase of $150 is definitely nice, though you cannot use them together.
These credits will be broken up into six-month chunks, meaning you can only use up to $200 at a time.
Earlier this year, I used my $250 Hilton credit for a two-night stay at the Hilton in Giza, Egypt, which came out to around $254 after tax, for a net cost of just $4.
If you can get a deal like this once or twice a year, those credits definitely come in handy.
Remember that these credits are ONLY for resort properties, NOT any property in the world.
Now, let’s talk about those airline credits…
In the past, there was a $250 airline incidental fee credit. This credit could only be used on things like seat selection, checked bags, etc., and not on airfare (unless you know one of the other secret ways to use it… but I’ve said too much).
NOW, however, you can use these $200 credits toward straight-up FLIGHTS. As long as you’re booking directly with any airline, this credit will be triggered.
In fact, you can already start using this credit if you currently hold this card. In my own account, the credit is already advertised:
The downside, of course, is that they are dispersed in quarterly increments of $50…
So like the resort credit, you can’t use these all at once.
But as long as you spend $50 on flights every three months (which I know most of you do, and I CERTAINLY do), you can treat this as cash in the bank.
I love this change, personally.
Instead of the incredibly restricted incidental fees (which could only be used for a single airline, by the way), you can use this toward airfare on any airline in the world.
Whether you want to shave $50 off of an expensive ticket or you want to use it to book a couple of cheap Spirit Airlines flights, it’s just super flexible.
And I’m all about that.
Finally, let’s talk about the Free Night Awards…
You can now earn up to THREE free night awards every year with this card:
One annual award for renewing the card (same as the old card)
Another award when you spend $30,000 on the card in a year (this is new)
ANOTHER when you spend $60,000 on the card in a year (same as the old card)
The middle one is the exciting part…
$30,000 is not an unreasonable threshold for someone who is okay with dedicating spend to the card in a 12-month period.
Given the fact that Hilton Free Night Awards are uncapped and you can now earn three of them, this is a welcome update to the card.
Now let’s talk about the VERY BAD parts…
The Priority Pass membership is dead. ☠️
This is obviously a huge chunk of the previous card's value that has disappeared. However, I don’t know many people who rely on this benefit from the Hilton card… most people have some other way to access Priority Pass lounges, so I don’t expect this to be a game changer for most.
Personally, I have at least three other cards with unlimited Priority Pass visits included, so I've never relied on my Hilton card for this specific perk.
In terms of the increased annual fee, it’s honestly not as bad as I thought it would be...
These days, it’s not uncommon to see $600, $700, and $800 annual fees on premium cards. I think a $100 increase to $550 is reasonable for the benefits added.
All in all, the card now has a Free Night Award (and possibly two more), Hilton Diamond status, and $789 of potential annual credits against a $550 annual fee.
Alrighty. Next up:
New welcome offer of 130,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $3,000 in the first six months of opening the card
$150 annual fee (previously only $95) *Rates & Fees
Up to $200 Hilton credit (on eligible purchases with properties within the Hilton Portfolio—broken down as up to $50 per quarter)
National car rental Executive status
No more Priority Pass visits (previously included 10 annual visits)
Hilton Gold status remains the same
Overall, these changes are not nearly as drastic as the Aspire card, though I am a fan of the new credits and elevated welcome offer.
Unlike the Aspire card, the $200 of hotel credits can be used on eligible purchases at Hilton Properties. The only downside to this credit is that it's dispersed in quarterly increments of $50 (are you sensing a trend here?).
But again, as long as you spend $50 every three months or so at Hilton hotels, this is easy cash in the bank. If you want this card in the first place, you're likely someone who stays at Hilton a few times a year.
I personally place a lot of value on credits that are flexible and easy to use, in addition to the actual dollar value.
The annual fee has increased by $55, but the addition of $200 of easy-to-use credits definitely makes up for it (and then some).
The biggest downside with this card is the Priority Pass visits disappearing.
Unlike the Aspire card, this is not a premium-tier card and used to be a cheap way for infrequent travelers to get ten Priority Pass visits every year without needing a costly high-fee card.
This will definitely be a make-or-break factor for people who previously relied on this benefit.
However, for many travelers like myself, we have other cards that offer this benefit. So for me, this doesn’t move the needle at all.
Welp. That was a lot.
Overall, the verdict is that these are, for the most part, positive improvements to the cards.
I think the credits are more flexible (and there are more of them), the Priority Pass losses are not generally the reasons people get these cards, the most important old benefits are still intact, and the annual fee increases are… dare I say… actually kind of reasonable.
With the new intro offer on the Hilton Surpass, I’d say any Hilton fans should absolutely be signing up for one of these cards.