Posted by William Charles on November 2, 2017
Credit Cards

Published on November 2nd, 2017 | by William Charles

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American Express Hilton Honors Aspire Full Card Review – $450 Annual Fee

As mentioned earlier American Express is launching a new premium co-branded card with Hilton officially called ‘Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card’. In this post we will take a look at the card in more detail including some of the card benefits such as a $250 resort credit. This card will officially launch on January 18th, 2018.

Quick Overview

  • Annual fee of $450
  • Sign up bonus of 100,000 points after $4,000 in spend within the first four months
  • Card earns at the following rates:
    • 14X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
    • 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants
    • 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on other purchases
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status for as long as you hold the card
  • One weekend night at any hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio (on account opening and on every account anniversary)
  • A second weekend night at any hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio after spending $60,000 on the card within a calendar year
  • Priority Pass membership (unlimited access for you and up to two guests)
  • $250 airline incidental fee statement credit (to work the same as the credits provided on Platinum & Gold cards)
  • $250 Hilton resort statement credit
  • $100 on property credit at Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts when booking the exclusive Aspire Card package
  • Authorized users can be added for no additional charge but don’t receive any of the benefits the primary cardholder does (they can use the $250 credits, but it’s a total of $250 in credits across all cards. They can also get access to the Waldorf Astoria/Conrad $100 benefit).

Card Benefits

As with any card with an annual fee of $450, you’d expect significant benefits to justify that fee. Let’s take a look at each of the benefits in more detail.

$250 Hilton Resort Credit

Every card member year you can receive up to $250 in statement credits for eligible purchases made directly at participating Hilton Resorts. Purchases made by both the primary cardholder and authorized users count towards this $250 total. Eligible purchases must be made directly with participating Hilton Resorts and charged to your Aspire card. Incidental charges (including charges made at restaurants, spas, and other establishments within the hotel property) must be charged to your room and paid for with your Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card at checkout in order for them to be recognized as Hilton Resort purchases. This can be used on the room rate.

Only resorts listed at hilton.com/resorts are eligible.

Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond Status

Diamond status is currently Hilton’s highest loyalty tier (although we’ve speculated this might not be the case for long). The primary cardholder will receive diamond status for as long as the card is open, if the card is closed for any reason you will lose your Diamond status. Diamond status normally requires 30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 Hilton base points in a calendar year. This diamond status also counts towards lifetime Diamond status. It provides the following benefits:

  • 50% Elite Status Bonus
  • 48-hour Room Guarantee
  • 5th Night Free (also available for Silver & Gold members)
  • Guaranteed Discount: A discounted, changeable & refundable rate is exclusively available for Hilton HHonors members.
  • Digital Check-In: choose your room, and customize your stay from your mobile device up to 24 hours in advance.
  • Complimentary in-room and lobby Premium Internet access, during stays at Waldorf Astoria™ Hotels & Resorts, Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton™, Canopy™ by Hilton, Embassy Suites Hotels™, Hilton Garden Inn®, Hampton Inn & Suites®, Homewood Suites by Hilton®, Home2 Suites by Hilton®, and Hilton Grand Vacations™. Premium speed Internet may not be available at all hotels.
  • Quick reservations and check-ins based on your room preferences
  • Late check-out2
  • Express check-out
  • 2nd Guest stays free3
  • Complimentary access to fitness centers and health clubs4
  • Two complimentary bottles of water per stay (at Waldorf Astoria™ Hotels & Resorts, Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton™, Embassy Suites Hotels™, Hilton Garden Inn™ and Hilton Grand Vacations™ hotels)
  • Full list of other benefits here

$250 Airline Fee Credit

Every calendar year you can receive up to $250 in statement credits toward incidental air travel fees. You must select one qualifying airline at www.americanexpress.com/airlinechoice and this can be changed once each year in January after it’s originally selected. This is the same benefit that is provided on the American Express Platinum cards.

Free Weekend Night(s)

This card gives you one free weekend night at any hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio with your new card and each year of card membership. You can also receive a second free night certificate if you spend $60,000 or more on the card in a calendar year.

Weekend nights are issued as a redeemable code and sent to the e-mail address attached to your Hilton Honors account within 8-12 weeks of meeting the spend requirement and expire one year from issuance.. You must call Hilton Honors (1-800-446-6677) to redeem these weekend night rewards. Each weekend night certificate can be redeemed for one weekend night standard accommodation double occupancy subject to availability. It’s valid at all properties in the Hilton portfolio excluding those listed at HiltonHonors.com/weekendreward (currently errors out).

A weekend night is defined as Friday, Saturday or Sunday night. It includes all applicable taxes, but you must still pay mandatory resort fees if applicable. You can combine these free night certificates with other Hilton or Free night promotions. Eligible purchases do NOT include fees or interest charges, cash advances, purchases of travelers checks, purchases or reloading of prepaid cards, purchases of gift cards, person-to-person payments, or purchases of other cash equivalents.

Priority Pass Lounge Membership

This card gives you unlimited complimentary access to lounges in the Priority Pass network. The card also gives up to two guests complimentary access, additional guests can be brought into the lounge at a cost of $27 per guest.

$100 Property Credit At Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts

When you book the ‘exclusive Aspire Card package’ at Waldorf Astoria Hotel & Resorts or Conrad Hotels & Resorts you will receive a $100 property credit. There will be a gated online booking portal that will be ready in January that card members will use to book the package. The $100 credit can be used for property expenses like golf, F&B, spa, etc. The stay requires a min 2 night stay. The credit will be taken off the guest’s folio at checkout. The credit is not used toward room rate.

Our Verdict

When evaluating a card I like to look at two different things:

  • Immediate value
  • Long term value

It’s hard to determine the immediate value currently because we don’t know if there will be a sign up bonus offered (or what that bonus would be) outside the free weekend night certificate. In terms of long term value the idea is to determine if keeping the card passed the first year makes sense and to do that we just look at the annual fee vs the benefits provided. I like to break down each individual benefit and give it a value (I generally ask myself how much I’d pay for that benefit in cash), obviously this is going to vary A LOT from person to person so make sure you’re doing your own calculations.

  • $250 resort credit. I think this is something I need to investigate further to get a value on.
  • $250 airline incidental credit. I personally don’t think these are worth anymore than 80% of their value, maybe even less. So I’d value this at $200.
  • Annual free night certificate. $100-$150. I know I can get a lot more “value” out of the free night than this but I really don’t enjoy luxury hotel properties in most cases – especially when I’ve only got a single night to use them. If I had a partner that also had the card I might value this higher.
  • Priority pass membership. $0, I already hold this with other cards and getting this won’t change my decision to keep those cards open.
  • Complimentary Diamond status. Honestly not much, Maybe $5. I don’t really have paid stays at Hilton properties and don’t value status much in general.
  • $100 property credit at Waldorf Astoria. $0. I can’t see myself ever using this.
  • Earning rates. $0, I barely if ever book paid stays at Hilton and 7x on travel isn’t attractive at all. This also makes the $60,000 spend threshold for the second free night worthless to me.

Without taking into account the resort credit I’d be looking at $305-$355 in value for a $450 annual fee. As I previously stated everybody is going to value these benefits differently! Feel free to argue why my subjective opinion is wrong in the comments below. In all seriousness I think a lot of people fall into a trap of overvaluing benefits and they end up paying a lot of money every year in annual fees without getting any massive benefit from it. I try to provide a counterpoint to that to invite a more robust discussion on benefits.

When this card launches I’ll almost certainly be signing up, but long term will be a different story. I’d love to hear how readers are valuing each of the benefits (and why) in the comments.



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73 Comments on "American Express Hilton Honors Aspire Full Card Review – $450 Annual Fee"

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Any signup bonus? Thought I saw something about 125K Hilton points?

TPG has a special Stories bonus affiliate code, maybe this?

That’s Hilton Surpass.

Very curious to see if they offer a sign up bonus. That’s the real appeal for most of us that aren’t heavy Hilton users.

Im traying to find a card that gives me free access to airport lounges, while not paying that much on annual fees. Any suggestions?

Ameriprise Amex Platinum offers PP access and Centurion lounge access with a waived first year annual fee. Also get the $200 travel credit per calendar year plus the uber credit ($15/month)

Diamond does provide a free breakfast at most of their locations. Waldorf Astoria is one exception I know of off the top of my head.

Diamond does guarantee you 2 free breakfasts and lounge access (if any) at most properties. I would value that at $20 per night at least.

Hilton Gold gets free breakfast at many Hilton properties (Hilton, Hilton Garden, Doubletree, Conrad, etc), so I assume Diamond would get those as well.

Diamond does get free breakfast (just like Gold) right?

Yes . Diamond gets free breakfast (some properties are excluded ) for 2 people .

I have stayed at many Hilton properties and always enjoyed free breakfast (with hot omelette stand) . Also got suite and executive lounge access at Hotels like Chicago Palmer house . If you stay at Hilton regularly you can value Diamond status at at least $20 per day .

Diamond gives you a lot of benefits IMH Experience. I ve been diamond for 3 years and even at waldorf astorias that supposedly you get nothing I have always gotten free breakfast and lounge access, waived resort fees, gifts on arrival and many cool stuff.

Hadley V. Baxendale
Hadley V. Baxendale

Please list each and every WA where you supposedly received free breakfast and lounge access — I would be quite interested to know as I am sure others would.

In addition, to your securing this valuable perk that no one has been able to do, please indicate whether these were reward stays or cash stays and if so, how much did you pay on an average nightly rate to be treated so well.

Color me skeptical.

I’ve stayed at the WA Shanghai and WA Beijing, and in both instances received free breakfast as a diamond member. At the WA Beijing, I had 3ppl staying in the room and was offered free breakfast for all 3 ppl. Stayed at the WA in Maui but did not receive free breakfast. Did however receive a suite upgrade. My guess is it is a lot easier to get free breakfast at WA in Asia then it is in the US. All paid with cash and points.

Stayed at the Waldorf Rome Cavalieri‎ 3 years ago. Fabulous buffet breakfast (dining room..no lounge) and welcome cocktails for two. Gold Status.

Honestly, my Diamond status got me “not much”. I am Gold, again for now.

I guess it’s because my stays were not at upscale props and/or YMMV circumstances.

On thread topic, however, this card is unappealing and I am trying to make decisions on an early application run. The benefit breakdown was helpful. Thanks, WC.

You must really hate Hilton to give Diamond status only a $5 value! LOL

I’ve always thought the “2nd guest is free” benefit is incredible. How generous on their part.
Also, what other card has a $60,000 spend to get one night (extra, I know). What’s the opportunity cost on that, $1,200?

Still some of the card benefits are worthwhile. Like others said, adding bonus points would be great.

Is it metal? If not, it will be the only $450 card that is not.

*Delta Reserve

Why such a low value on the Diamond Status?

With this reward structure, I’m not really sure it’s sustainable. 7% equivalent back on hiltons, 3.5% equivalent back on restaurants, plus the potential $50 profit(if you can spend both $250’s for travel), free diamond status and additional amex offers, it seems like you could come out way ahead.

I personally wouldnt touch the other fee hilton cards bc I think it’s pretty easy to come out ahead with this card.

The big limiting requirement being that you want to spend your hotel pts at a hilton property.

Do you realize that almost every one of your so called ways of coming ahead require spending $ in the first place?

The fact that they can convince you that all this additional spend benefits you more than them already means they’re coming out ahead.

Appreciate the review and, as ever, there is no unitary value to these things (cards). They depend a lot on where each person is in their aspirations and travel habits.

To me, the sweet spot is if you want to stay at an affordable Waldorf-Astoria for a couple of nights that are also resorts. I’m talking about something like the Boca Raton beach one, or the Versailles Trianon, both of which happen to be in my wheelhouse. If the booking portal is not a rip-off, then the $250 for the resort plus the $100 for incidentals take on some real value.

For me, the key will be seeing if the $200 in airline fees pays out like on the Amex Plat cards. If so, this becomes a buy-and-hold for me, since for stuff I’ll probably do anyhow (or steer myself to willingly), I’ll make a few bucks and have Diamond status, for whatever that is worth. Hyatt has sort of kicked me to the curb in the new World of Hyatt thing-a-ma-jig, so I’m more open to Hiltons than in the past.

I guess I put this in the category of the Chase Ritz-Carlton Visa — not a keeper for everyone, but if you fly as a couple on cheap itineraries ($100 discount) and can handle the bizzarro-world air credit scheme, then it’s a wash-plus and starts to pay cash if and when you ever stay at a Ritz-Carlton, with the club privileges.

Again, look at your travel habits and tastes before deciding.

Hadley V. Baxendale
Hadley V. Baxendale

Biggie —

Beware the Trianon. Apparently gets terrible reviews for Diamond treatment vis a vis rooms, etc.

I have a feeling this card will go the way of the citi prestige eventually. offering a ton of benefits to get people hooked into Hilton and then with a few years a lot of the benefits will be removed or devalued. best to take advantage while its hot.

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