Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Credit Card Review

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The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is a great hotel credit card for someone who regularly visits Hilton Hotels and wants to maximize the benefits of elite status within the Hilton Honors program. The card comes with a higher annual fee than the other Hilton co-branded cards, but if you take advantage of the many benefits and credits offered, the annual fee can easily be worth it.

While you have the card, and use it for your expenses, you will earn Hilton Honors points. These points can be used for free nights at any Hilton property in the world. Along with earning rewards, you will receive a long list of travel benefits, including airport lounge access, complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status and more.

The card has a steep annual fee of $450 (see rates and fees), but is a hotel credit card worth that large investment? Select reviews the Hilton Aspire card, analyzing its welcome bonus, points-earning structure and perks to help you decide if the card fits in your wallet.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card review

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

  • Rewards

    14X points per dollar for eligible purchases on your card made directly with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio; 7X points for eligible purchases on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies, and at U.S. restaurants; 3X points for all other eligible purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within your first 3 months of card membership

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    15.74% to 24.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Pros

  • $250 Hilton resort credit for expenses at restaurants, spas and other establishments within the hotel property
  • $250 airline fee credit for incidentals, such as checked baggage, in-flight refreshments and flight change fees
  • $100 property credit on a two-night minimum stay at Waldorf Astoria® Hotels & Resorts and Conrad® Hotels & Resorts
  • Two weekend night awards: one every account anniversary and one after you spend $60,000 on eligible purchases in a calendar year
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status

Cons

  • High $450 annual fee
  • You have to spend $60,000 on eligible purchases in a calendar year in order to qualify for one of the weekend night awards
  • No introductory 0% APR
  • Estimated points earned after 1 year: 240,088
  • Estimated points earned after 5 years: 600,438

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

Welcome bonus

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is currently offering an excellent welcome offer to get your points earning journey off to a great start. You will earn:

  • 150,000 points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card in the first 3 months of card membership.

Keep in mind that you will also earn Hilton Honors points as you make purchases with the card to reach these spending thresholds.

Even if you were to spend exactly $4,000 in the first 3 months, at a minimum of 3 Hilton Honors points per $1 spent, that is an additional 12,000 points — giving you a total of 162,000 Hilton Honors points.

Hilton Honors points are valued by many at a modest 0.5 cents per point, and at that valuation, the points from the welcome offer along with the associated spending will earn you $810 in value towards stays at Hilton properties. However, keep in mind the actual value you earn will be based on what you redeem those points for.

Now, roughly $800 in points isn’t an excellent return on a $450 annual fee in the first year of card membership. But the true value of this card is in the benefits.

Benefits and perks

First, the Hilton Aspire card offers solid spending categories to continue earning Hilton Honors points. As you spend, you will earn:

  • 14X Hilton Honors points for every $1 spent on Hilton hotel rooms and at Hilton properties
  • 7X Hilton Honors points for every $1 spent at U.S. restaurants (incl. takeout and delivery), and select travel expenses such as flights booked directly with airlines and rental cars booked directly with their agencies
  • 3X Hilton Honors points for every $1 spent on all other eligible purchases

The Hilton Aspire Card is loaded with benefits that will help you enhance your hotel experience, as well as your travel experience:

Select calculated how many points the average American can earn in a year when using their Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card. We worked with the location intelligence firm Esri, who provided us with a sample annual spending budget of $22,126.

The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). Here’s what the average consumer would earn using this card:

  • Groceries: 15,522 Hilton Honors points
  • Gas: 6,654 Hilton Honors points
  • Dining out: 25,725 Hilton Honors points
  • Travel: 15,708 Hilton Honors points (with the Aspire, the 7X for every dollar spent category is for flights booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel, and car rentals booked directly with car rental agencies)
  • Utilities: 14,586 Hilton Honors points
  • General purchases: 11,859 Hilton Honors points

With all spending considered, this would give a cardholder 90,054 Hilton Honors points in the first year, and if you include the 150,000 point welcome bonus, 240,054 points. Over a five year period, cardholders could earn 600,270 Hilton Honors points. Cardholders could earn more (or less) hotel points depending on their annual spending habits.

How to earn and redeem Hilton Honors points

Earning Hilton Honors points

The two best ways to earn Hilton Honors points is by either staying at Hilton hotels or by spending on Hilton co-branded credit cards.

To earn Hilton Honors points during your stays, all you need to do is attach your Hilton Honors number to your Hilton reservation and book directly with the hotel. Remember that hotel stays booked through third-parties like Expedia don’t earn Hilton Honors points, and your Hilton Honors status will likely not be honored.

But for most Americans, especially with the slow down of both business and leisure travel during the pandemic, hotel stays have been less frequent.

The more realistic way to earn hoards of Hilton Honors points is by earning a credit card welcome bonus and spending on a Hilton co-branded credit card, like the Aspire card. However, you are not restricted to just one Hilton credit card. By having multiple Hilton credit cards, you can take advantage of your Diamond status, along with a long list of benefits from the other three cards.

If you are considering this strategy, here are the other Hilton cobranded credit cards:

  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership.
  • The Hilton Honors American Express Card: Earn 80,000 Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Card in the first 3 months of card membership.
    Plus, you can earn 50,000 more Points after you spend an additional $4,000 on the Card (for a total of $5,000 in combined purchases) in the first 6 months of card membership.
  • The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Earn 130,000 Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors Business Card in the first 3 months of card membership.
    Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend a total of $10,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months.

You can also earn Hilton points through the hotel’s partnership with Lyft and can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio. This is a great strategy as Amex credit cards offer cardholders flexibility to transfer Membership Rewards points to Hilton, or their many other airline and hotel transfer partners.

Redeeming Hilton Honors points

Once you’ve earned the points, redeeming them is the fun part.

Hilton has over 6,500 properties in 119 countries, at all different price tags and levels of luxury. Some of the most recognizable brands include: Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, DoubleTree, Hampton, Hilton Garden Inn and Hilton Grand Vacations.

Hilton Honors operates on ‘dynamic pricing’, which means that prices for award nights will fluctuate as demand goes up. This means that one Saturday night could be 40,000 points per night, while the next Saturday night could be 70,000 points for the same room. The amount of points you pay is often associate with the cash price of the room. With that, it is advantageous to try to book your hotel stays farther in advance.

Additionally, there are a few things to keep in mind before you redeem your points:

  • Estimated value: While there is no confirmed value from Hilton, many travel rewards enthusiasts have estimated the value of Hilton Honors points at 0.5 cents per point. It isn’t ‘bad’ per se to redeem them for less, but it is a good benchmark to keep in mind when redeeming your points. To calculate this, simply take the full cash price of your stay, and divide it by the number of points it would cost. If the value is above 0.5 cents per point, it is a great redemption.
  • Fifth night free: If you have at least Silver status within Hilton Honors, you are able to enjoy a fifth night free when you book four consecutive nights on one reservation using points. The fifth night will automatically be added on. This is a great way to stretch the value of your points even farther, since you’re essentially getting a 20% discount on a five night stay.
  • Points + money option: When you’re booking a room using points, you may find yourself without enough points to cover the cost of the entire room. Hilton will give you an option to cover the remaining balance with cash. This is a great option if you are just short of enough points for a room.

Need a few more points to get that free night? Here’s a tip

If you are short a small amount of points for a stay, try sending a tweet to Hilton Honors. If you ask kindly that you need a few extra points, they may add the remaining amount to your account as a courtesy to complete the booking. However, your results may vary.

  • Transfer your points to airline or train loyalty programs: You can transfer your Hilton points to a list of different airline and train loyalty programs. However, the value you will realize is pretty low. For example, for every 10,000 Hilton Honors points you will earn a modest 1,000 Delta SkyMiles. In nearly all cases, it is best to use your Hilton Honors points for Hilton nights.

Rates and fees

Card comparison

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is an excellent choice for someone who enjoys staying at Hilton properties at least a few times per year. But, is it the best credit card for you?

Select analyzed two other travel credit cards to see how they match up with one another.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card vs. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card card is similar to the Hilton Aspire card, but targeted towards Marriott properties.

The Marriott Brilliant card has an identical $450 annual fee (see rates and fees), and a long list of benefits including: $300 Marriott hotel credit, a free night award up to 50,000 Bonvoy points and a $100 property credit for over a two-night stay at either a Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis property.

These benefits are very similar to what the Hilton Aspire card offers. However, a few benefits the Marriott card has that the Aspire doesn’t are: $100 credit towards TSA PreCheck/Global Entry and travel insurance.

Lastly, the welcome offer is a bit difference than the Aspire card. You will earn:

  • 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
  • Up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases made on your new card at U.S. restaurants within the first 6 months

While the 75,000 points is exactly half of what the Aspire offers, each of these loyalty programs are measured differently.

Marriott Bonvoy works on an award chart, which gives specific prices to what a hotel will cost when using points. However, Hilton Honors is completely dynamic, which means prices fluctuate with demand.

One is not automatically better than the other, but with Marriott, it is a bit more predictable to know how many points you will need for a stay.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred®

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is known as one of the best travel credit cards available because of its transferable and easy-to-redeem rewards. It has a $95 annual fee, with a long list of benefits including travel insurance and broad spending categories.

As you spend on the card, you will earn:

  • 5X points for every dollar spent on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3X points for every dollar spent on dining, online grocery purchases and select streaming services
  • 2X points for every dollar spent on other travel purchases
  • 1X points on other purchases

The card is currently offering an incredible lucrative welcome offer: 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after new cardholders spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. Ultimate Rewards points are transferable to 14 airlines and three hotel loyalty programs. Those 100,000 points are worth $1,250 towards travel booked through the Chase Travel portal.

The hotel partners includes IHG, Marriott and Hyatt, but not Hilton. So if you aren’t extremely loyal to Hilton, consider the Sapphire Preferred for further flexibility with your travel rewards.

Who the Hilton Honors Aspire card is best for

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is a great addition to someone’s wallet who visits Hilton Hotels often, and travels regularly.

By using the free weekend night certificate, along with the airline and resort credits, you are coming out way ahead of the $450 annual fee. If you use it right, even the weekend night certificate alone could be worth more than the annual fee.

The points you earn from spending on the card, automatic Diamond elite status benefits and airport lounge access is all added value at that point. But if you can can’t use at least a few of these benefits, the $450 annual fee may not be justifiable.

Additionally, if you stay in Hilton Hotels regularly and want to fast-track your journey to Diamond status, the Aspire card will give you the status benefits immediately and you won’t have to stay 60 nights in a Hilton hotel.

Because Hilton has several cobranded credit cards with varying annual fees and benefits, it is important to select one that mirrors how often you travel.

Bottom line

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is an excellent hotel credit card for someone who visits Hilton hotels regularly, or is simply looking to earn more Hilton Honors points.

Between the airport lounge access, complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status, airline fee credits, hotel credits and travel insurance, the Aspire card delivers great value for its cardholders.

However, considering having multiple credit cards, including the ones mentioned above if you really want to maximize your travel rewards earnings.

FAQs

How much is 150k Hilton points worth?

If you value Hilton Honors points at 0.5 cents per point, 150,000 points would be worth $750.

What can the Hilton Aspire airline credit be used for?

The Hilton Aspire airline credit can be used for things like: checked bags fee, in-flight drinks/snacks or change fees.

How many Hilton credit cards can you have?

You can theoretically have all four Hilton credit cards. However, keep in mind American Express’s 2/90 rule, which means you cannot have be approved for more than two American Express cards in a 90 day span.

Our Methodology

To determine which credit cards offer the best value, Select analyzed 234 of the most popular credit cards available in the U.S. We compared each card on a range of features, including rewards, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available. We also considered additional perks, the application process and how easy it is for the consumer to redeem points.

CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company’s data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.

Esri’s data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.

Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.

While the five-year estimates we’ve included are derived from a budget similar to the average American’s spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your shopping habits.

For rates and fees for Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, click here

For rates and fees for the Hilton Honors Aspire card, click here

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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