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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beat2def
beat2def

With the fifth night free, can you use one night as your free night certificate and that count toward getting the fifth night free? I am going to use two nights of points, one night of certificate, and one night of my resorts credit. I was hoping that would count in order to get the fifth night free.

beat2def
beat2def

Answered my own question (I should Google this first. Duh)

“Points and money doesn’t count as an award stay. You’ll have to use ALL POINTS to get the fifth night free”

beat2def
beat2def

Where do I find the free “one weekend night at any hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio (on account opening”? I’m trying to book my stays.

beat2def
beat2def

Edit – Duh, found it. Reading is hard. “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”

Tu Ho
Tu Ho

Based on your history with credit card balance transfers, American Express welcome offers, introductory APR offers, or the number of Cards you have opened and closed, you are not eligible to receive the welcome offer.

We have not yet performed a credit check. Would you still like to proceed?

I have never had this card, I only had Amex Hilton card no annual fee version. Why Amex?

sue
sue

Just found in Europe, price is different for same room if booked for 3 adults vs 2 adult +max 17 years old kid. As a diamond members, could I book for 2 adult+1kid? will be a couple and 20+ son.

Cole Sandness
Cole Sandness

Have a 150k point Aspire upgrade offer sitting in generic HIlton Amex inbox.

As with all Amex upgrade offers nowadays, will have to keep card at least 12 months. Also, annual fee isn’t waived first year according to offer, so you’d end up paying prorated annual fee + full annual fee.

Waiting for to see if 0.5 cent Amazon conversion story turns out to be true. Would push me to take offer more seriously and evaluate a temporary upgrade.

Cole Sandness
Cole Sandness

Theoretically, I guess the best way to play this would be upgrading your card ~ a month before the date you signed up for original Hilton Amex. That way, your pro-rated first year annual fee is minimized.

From talking to their live chat. The pro-rated fee is based on the start date of the account your taking upgrade offer on.

Spencer
Spencer

You could pay the prorated amount and then always downgrade the card at renewal to a lower/no fee card.

Nick
Nick

I’d say for anyone with quite moderate amount of nights (like 10) at Hilton locations the status is worth quite a bit. As Hilton seems to give free breakfast to golds and diamonds in a unified fashion (at all locations).

Assume that it costs only $10/person in cash for one to get breakfast in hotel(unlikely that low) or elsewhere(you have to get out of the hotel, not always as convenient/safe in the early morning), and 50% of the time one brings a partner/guest to the free breakfasts, it amounts to $150 per year.

Of course, if one does not stay at Hilton there’s little point in holding a hilton card longer term.

CM

Sure, that makes sense, but, OTOH, you already get Gold status through AmEx Plat, so, what’s the added value from Diamond? Doesn’t seem all that much, TBH.

If they had 4pm checkout like the other chains, it’d be another story; otherwise, this isn’t all that different from Gold for an average stay.

James
James

I have a 150,000 upgrade offer from my regular Hilton no-fee card

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Upgrade and 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 annual fee for the Hilton Honors Aspire Card is $450. There is no annual fee for additional cards.

Lousi
Lousi

Do you see any once in a life language?

Andrew
Andrew

is there a list of eligible airlines for the $250 credit that you can see before signing up for the card? I tried the link in the article but it only works if you already have the card.

P
P

Alaska Airlines
American Airlines
Delta Air Lines
Frontier Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines
JetBlue
Spirit Airlines
Southwest
United Airlines

Marc
Marc

Is there a way to combine the $100 on-property credit from Waldorf-Astoria / Conrad with the free weekend night certificate? Can it be gotten on award stays with 5th night free? These are my two biggest questions before applying for the card.

P
P

Doesn’t seem like it’s possible:

How It Works
To receive the $100 Hilton Property Credit book your eligible stay through HiltonHonors.com/aspirecard or by calling Hilton Honors at (855) 292-5757, for a two-night minimum stay at Waldorf Astoria® Hotels & Resorts or Conrad® Hotels & Resorts.‡
See Terms & Conditions for further details.

‡Benefit Terms

$100 Property Credit

When you use your Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card to book through HiltonHonors.com/aspirecard or by calling Hilton Honors at (855) 292-5757, for a two-night minimum stay at Waldorf Astoria® Hotels & Resorts, and Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, you will be eligible to receive a property credit of up to $100 per booking. You must confirm you are booking a room package eligible for the $100 property credit benefit at time of booking. Please reference ZZAAP1 when booking by phone.
Card Member will receive a hotel credit equal to $1 for each dollar of qualifying charges made at the Hilton property under the Card Member’s booking, up to $100. The property credit will be applied as hotel credit on your bill at checkout (and not on your American Express billing statement). Qualifying charges do NOT include property fees, taxes, gratuities and the cost of the room. Additional exclusions based on specific hotel restrictions may also apply (including, without limitation, purchases within the hotel that are made with a third party merchant). Please see the applicable hotel front desk for details. Stays booked by either the Basic or an Additional Card Members on the eligible Card account are eligible for the $100 property credit benefit. Each booking is only eligible to receive a property credit of up to $100, regardless of the number of rooms booked. The property credit cannot be carried over to another stay, is not redeemable for cash, and expires at checkout if not used. The property credit is non-exchangeable and non-refundable and is applied in USD or equivalent in local currency based on exchange rate at time of checkout. May not be combined with other offers or programs unless indicated. Back-to-back stays within a 24-hour period at the same property are considered one stay.

gary
gary

can anyone tell me your experience in time frame on getting the resort credit credited? airlines usually get a done a couple of days after but its been a week on mine and nothing yet, and yes its on the list of eligible resorts. the t&C say as a statement credit but it said that on airline also. missed the cutoff by a day for new statement

gary
gary

DP: Murphys law. It posted this afternoon, wasn’t there this AM so was exactly one week