Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express Review

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When you’re in the market for a premier travel credit card, it’s easy to overlook hotel credit cards. These cards typically only work with one hotel brand, and they offer minimal perks other than loyalty status, room upgrades, or free internet.

But the new Hilton Aspire Card from American Express takes hotel cards to another level. While it’s a hotel card at its core, this premier credit card offers broad travel benefits you can use to improve your entire travel experience – and not just your experience at Hilton brand hotels. Keep reading to learn more about this offer, what it’s worth, and some popular alternatives. But first, here are the main benefits to be aware of as you consider this option:

Hilton Aspire Card from American Express

Highlights:

  • Earn 100,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $4,000 on your card within three months.
  • Earn automatic Hilton Diamond status.
  • Earn 14X points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide, 7X on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants, and 3X on other purchases.
  • $250 annual airline credit
  • $250 annual credit at Hilton resorts (participating resorts can be found here)
  • $100 annual credit at Waldorf Astoria & Conrad properties
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Free weekend night upon account opening and every year with card ownership
  • A second weekend night after you use your card for $60,000 in purchases within a calendar year
  • Priority Pass airport lounge membership
  • $450 annual fee

Hilton Aspire Card Key Takeaways

  • Earn points quickly, especially if you stay at Hilton properties. If you stay at Hilton hotels, earning 14x points for every dollar you spend will help you grow a big point balance quickly.
  • Score great annual travel credits. The airline credit and resort credit combined more than make up for the annual fee each year if you use them.
  • Automatic Hilton status makes travel more comfortable. This status will grant you lounge access, free breakfast, and room upgrades at some Hilton properties.

Hilton Aspire Card from American Express: An Epic Hotel Credit Card with Real Travel Rewards

While the Hilton Aspire card is a hotel card first and foremost, its benefits put it on par with several general travel rewards cards. For that reason, this card option could be a good one for any traveler – but especially for someone who travels anywhere but loves staying at Hilton resorts.

The fact that you get a $250 airline credit and $250 Hilton resort credit each year makes this card an ideal option if you can easily plan a vacation in a Hilton property each year. Better yet, it’s important to note that the resort credit can cover any expense charged to your room – and that includes your hotel’s nightly rate itself.

With that being said, the card’s $450 annual fee may make it a tough sell for people who don’t travel often or don’t necessarily want to stay with the Hilton brand. But, then again, this is a hotel credit card at heart, and those who want more flexible rewards should probably choose a flexible travel credit card or cash-back credit card anyway.

Hilton Aspire Card from American Express: Where It Shines

One of the biggest benefits of this card is the fact that it grants you automatic Hilton Diamond status. This feat is usually only possible if you have 30 stays, spend 60 nights, or earn 120,000 Hilton Honors base points through paid hotel stays within a calendar year. Since your average traveler would never spend 60 nights in a hotel, let alone at a Hilton every time, this card offers a fast track to status the average traveler may never see otherwise.

But really, it’s the card’s first-year benefits that help make it a no-brainer. Not only does the card offer 100,000 points as a intro bonus, but you get a free weekend night upon account opening. Considering the fact that you also get a $250 Hilton resort credit – and that there are plenty of Hilton properties that cost 50,000 points per night and in the $250 range, your $450 annual fee could help you score at least four free nights worth well over $1,000 the first year. And remember, that doesn’t even account for the card’s other benefits like the $250 airline credit and the Priority Pass airport lounge membership.

Last but not least, the Hilton Honors program is one that lets you pool points with your spouse or basically anyone else. And they let you pool points with “no fees attached.” This is obviously a huge deal for spouses who each want to earn a intro bonus and pool their rewards, but it can be helpful for anyone who wants to share their points for any reason.

Hilton Aspire Card from American Express: Where It Falls Flat

While the Hilton Aspire Card’s first year benefits are stellar, the utility of the card becomes questionable after the first year. Sure, you still get a $250 airline credit, a $250 resort credit, and a free annual weekend night each year, but the intro bonus is only a one-time thing.

The other problem with the Hilton Aspire card is the fact that Hilton Honors points are so devalued it’s not even funny. Where some other hotel brands like Hyatt or Starwood Preferred Guest offer properties you can book for less than 10,000 points per night, most Hilton stays start at 30,000 points per night and can cost up to 95,000 points per night. Meanwhile, a stay at an in-demand property during a peak travel time can easily cost hundreds of thousands of points per night.

Obviously, your points won’t go far with those rates… and that’s especially true once you’ve blown your intro bonus.

Who This Card Is Good For:

  • Hilton enthusiasts who frequently stay at Hilton properties
  • Frequent travelers who know they can use the annual airline credit, resort credit, and travel perks
  • Someone who doesn’t mind paying an annual fee in exchange for superior perks

Who Should Pass:

  • Anyone who doesn’t want to pay a high annual fee for a credit card
  • People who don’t stay in Hilton properties often
  • Someone who wants the ability to redeem their points for cash-back or other types of rewards

How Does It Compare to Other Hotel Travel Cards?

While the Hilton Aspire Credit Card from American Express is in a class of its own, we wanted to compare it to another travel credit card that offers an annual credit and airport lounge access. The chart below shows how the Aspire compares to the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (currently unavailable):

 Hilton Aspire Credit CardChase Sapphire Reserve® (currently unavailable)
Annual Fee$450$450
Point Earning StructureEarn 14X at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide, 7X on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants, and 3X on other purchases. Terms Apply.Earn 3x points on travel and dining and 1x points on other purchases
Annual Credit$250 annual airline credit
$250 annual Hilton resort credit
$100 on-property credit at Waldorf Astoria & Conrad properties (conditions apply)
$300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for any travel purchase charged to your card each account anniversary year
Airport Lounge MembershipPriority Pass SelectPriority Pass Select
Global Entry or TSA Precheck CreditNo$100
Bonus100,000 Hilton Honors points. Terms Apply.50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Transfer points to airline and hotel partnersNoYes
Free weekend hotel nightEvery year, including the first yearNone

As you can see, the cards both have a very lucrative set of benefits – and for the same annual fee. The Hilton Honors Aspire Card comes out slightly ahead in terms of its first-year benefits, however. Not only does it offer a large intro bonus, but it offers two $250 travel credits that more than make up for the annual fee. Throw in the free weekend night the first year, and it’s easy to see how this card could leave you better off. Obviously, that’s especially true if you use your free weekend night at an expensive Hilton property such as the Conrad Rangali Island, which frequently runs almost $1,000 per night.

With that being said, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a much better card when it comes to flexibility. Not only can you use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book any kind of travel you want through the Chase travel portal, but you can transfer Chase points 1:1 to popular hotel and airline loyalty programs like Southwest Airlines, Hyatt, Marriott, IHG Rewards, United MileagePlus, and Air France/Flying Blue.

The fact that the $300 annual travel credit is good for any type of travel also makes it superior.

Best Strategy with the Hilton Aspire Card: Pair it with a Flexible Travel Credit Card

While you may not want two cards with a $450 annual fee, we think the Hilton Aspire Card probably works best when paired with a flexible travel rewards card. One option is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. This card lets you transfer points to the same partners as the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, but it only has a $95 annual fee that is waived the first year. It does come with fewer benefits, however.

With both of these cards in your wallet, you could use your Hilton Aspire card for Hilton stays, flights, and rental cards, then use your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for all your other purchases. Of course, you would especially want to use your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for travel and dining purchases since you earn 2x points for each dollar you spend.

On the redemption side, you could use your Hilton stash for hotel stays and lean on your Chase credit card to pay for flights.


Highlights
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

Hate Huge Annual Fees? Try This Hilton Credit Card Instead

If you want a similar intro bonus with fewer perks and a much lower annual fee, definitely consider the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card. This card option comes with a lighter set of perks than the Aspire card, but the annual fee is only $95.

Partner Offer

Highlights
  • Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn a Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your Card in a calendar year.
  • Earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Spend $40,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

Final Thoughts

If you’re playing with the idea of getting a new travel credit card, don’t discount the new Hilton Aspire Card from American Express. Not only does it offer a large intro bonus, but it offers many of the benefits you can find with other top travel credit cards.

The $450 annual fee may be steep, but it’s not that out of line when you consider just how lucrative this card could be the first year. Run the math and think it through. Only then can you decide.

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