Full Review of Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Extremely generous rewards for Hilton hotel stays
Above-average rewards on flights, car rentals, and dining
Packed with upscale travel perks
$450 annual fee
No introductory APR for purchases and balance transfers
- Generous Rewards Towards Hilton Hotel Stays: Altogether, American Express offers three consumer co-branded Hilton credit cards and of the three, the Aspire card offers the best rewards rate on Hilton hotel bookings. If you're highly loyal to the Hilton brand, the 14 points per dollar you earn with this card on Hilton spending is rewarding enough. But the card also automatically grants the cardholder Diamond status in the Hilton Honors loyalty program, whose perks include a doubling of the regular 10 points-per-dollar earnings from Honors membership. Add the card's 14 points per dollar earned to the 20 points conferred by Diamond status and you earn a total of 34 points per dollar spent. While that's an extraordinary number, Hilton Honors points are valued well below those of most other hotel programs, according to Investopedia's point-value calculations. That means the actual value of Hilton points earnings might be less than those figures suggest to you.
- Above-Average Rewards on Flights, Car Rentals, and Dining: While the most rewards value comes from booking Hilton hotels, you also get pretty decent rewards on other purchases. You can earn 7 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or AmexTravel, U.S. restaurants, car rentals from eligible card rental companies and dining out, which is good if you're looking for a card that rewards you well for other travel purchases besides hotels.
- Upscale Travel Perks: This card doesn't skimp on travel benefits. In addition to the complimentary Diamond status, extras include a $250 airline incidental fee credit on one eligible airline you choose each year, $250 Hilton Resort statement credit at eligible Hilton resorts, and complimentary lounge access through Priority Pass Select. It's a solid combination of benefits that allows you to save money while traveling in comfort.
- Hefty Annual Fee: At $450, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card is one of the more expensive travel rewards cards. If you want something less expensive, there are plenty of cards to choose from with lower or no annual fee.
- No Introductory 0% APR Offer: Even if you customarily pay your bill in full every month, an introductory offer for a period of 0% APR might be welcome, if only to give you greater flexibility to juggle your financial obligations for a year or more. Alas, this card won’t help you in this regard, since it has no intro APR offer, on either purchases or balance transfers.
This Card is Best For
Seeks to maximize points or miles earnings across spending categories
Seeks the recognition and perks of branded travel partner status
Flies often for business or leisure
Dines out regularly while traveling or in home city
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card is ideal for travelers who are prepared to pay its high annual fee because they stay extensively at the hotel chain’s properties and want to reap both exceptional Hilton rewards and a wide range of travel benefits. It's suited to Hilton stays in both the U.S. and abroad, since it imposes no foreign transaction fees. You'll earn a substantial 7 points per dollar spent on flights, and 3 points per dollar on other purchases like gas, groceries or shopping, which makes it an ideal card for everyday spending.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card Bonus
This card features an impressive one-time offer of 150,000 Hilton Honors points. To earn the bonus, you'll need to spend $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of opening your account. That’s a high spending bar, since you'll need to charge $1,334 per month for a full quarter to reach the target. While some Hiltons abroad can be booked for as little as 5,000 points per night, 20,000 to 40,000 points per night is a more customary number, especially in the U.S. Your bonus, then, would more typically earn you three to seven nights of Hilton accommodations.
Rewards Earning Details
Once again, you'll earn 14 points per dollar on eligible Hilton hotel purchases, which includes both hotel and resort properties. This is unlimited, so you can earn a substantial number of points each year if you're a heavy travel spender. Since the card also comes with automatic Diamond status in the Hilton Honors program, you receive an additional 20 points per dollar spent, which is double the rewards earned by a regular Honors member.
There's also no cap on the number of points you can earn at the two lower tiers, of 7 points per dollar spent on eligible rental cars, flights, and dining, and 3 points per dollar spent on all other expenses.
Rewards Redemption Details
There are several ways to redeem Hilton Honors points earned with your card or from staying at Hilton hotel properties. You can redeem for:
- Award nights at Hilton properties
- Rental car and airfare bookings with Hilton travel partners
- Vacation packages
- Exclusive experiences
- Shopping at Amazon or the International Hilton Honors Shopping Mall
- Gift cards
- Charitable donations
The per-point value is different for every redemption option and unfortunately, Hilton doesn't offer a conversion chart for comparison. But generally, you'll get the most value per point when you redeem them for award nights at Hilton hotels.
If you'd rather exchange your points for rail or air miles, you do have that option with this card. Hilton partners with a number of travel brands, including Amtrak, American Airlines, Delta and United to allow cardmembers to exchange points for miles. The transfer ratio depends on the travel partner you're exchanging points for miles with. For example, you can turn 10,000 Hilton Honors points into 1,500 Amtrak Guest Rewards points or 1,000 United MileagePlus miles.
Exchanges are allowed in increments of 10,000 points each. It can take up to 30 days for a points exchange to be completed so if you're planning on doing this for a future trip, give yourself plenty of time to make the request.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
Maximizing your rewards is a two-step process that starts with earning the 150,000 introductory points bonus. You'll need to spend $1,334 per month on average for the first three months to qualify. You can add to your points total by having that spending include booking Hilton hotel stays and charging airfare, rental cars, dining and other purchases to your card.
To give you an example of your points earning potential, let's assume you’re a true road warrior who, in your first year with the card, every month spends $1,000 on Hilton stays, $1,000 on other travel expenses eligible for the 7X points rate, and $700 in other charges, such as groceries and gas. At the end of the year, you'd have earned 168,000 points on your Hilton purchases, 84,000 points on other travel expenses, and about 25,000 points on your miscellaneous charges. Add in the 150,000 bonus points and you'd have 427,000 points to work with.
How much hotel accommodation you can buy with those points, and for how long, depends on the location and luxury level of the Hilton property you choose. But our research shows that 50,000 points is the average redemption in major cities. At that rate, you could buy about 8 nights of hotel stays with your first-year earnings, as outlined above, and about 3 nights in subsequent years, when introductory bonus points won’t sweeten the pot. Of course, you can choose quality over quantity and book shorter stays at premium properties like the Hilton Bentley Miami in South Beach, which usually costs 87,000 points a night.
This example assumes spending is at the low end. You could accumulate significantly more points if you're a frequent Hilton guest or traveler. For instance, assume that you spend three times as much on Hilton hotels, travel and everyday spending each year. Your first-year points total, including the bonus, would come to a huge 981,000 points per year. That doesn't include the additional 10 points per dollar you can earn on Hilton bookings as a Hilton Honors member, or the Elite tier bonus points you qualify for with Diamond status. In a nutshell, despite the low value of Hilton points, this card can be very lucrative for someone who spends a significant amount each in general and on Hilton stays specifically.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card's Outstanding Benefits
- Complimentary Diamond status in the Hilton Honors program
- $250 Hilton Resort statement credit
- Enjoy one weekend night award each year
- $250 airline fee credit
- Priority Pass Select lounge access
- Concierge service
- Car rental loss and damage insurance
- Premium Global Assist hotline
- Baggage insurance
- Travel accident insurance
- Premium roadside assistance
- Extended warranty protection
- Return protection
- Free 2-day shipping with ShopRunner
American Express received a rating of 838 in the 2019 J.D. Power Credit Card Satisfaction Survey. It came in second overall for consumer satisfaction, after Discover.
Managing your account is made easier through online and mobile banking access. You can view your statements and transactions and schedule Pay It Plan It transactions online. Pay It Plan It is a feature that allows you to create a schedule for paying down eligible expenses with interest. If you need help or have questions, live chat assistance is available when you log in to your account. You can also call American Express and talk to a live person at 1-800-528-4800
American Express takes the standard measures in securing cardmember accounts. Your card is EMV chip-enabled, with digital wallet capabilities. You can set up account alerts and notifications and enable secure two-factor authentication. And like other card issuers, American Express monitors accounts for suspicious activity. If someone uses your card to make fraudulent purchases, you won't be held responsible for the charges.
Fees to Watch Out For
The most important fee to consider is the $450 annual fee and what the card's benefits are worth to you. That being said, in your first year with the card it’s fairly easy as a frequent traveler to justify the fee between regular rewards earned on purchases and the introductory points bonus. The $250 Hilton Resort credit and the $250 airline incidental fee credit might all be used to justify the fee going forward as well.
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card isn't for merely occasional guests of the chain and its partners, who would be hard-pressed to earn enough rewards to justify the cards $450 annual fee—especially after the first year, with its hefty points bonus no longer in the mix.
But those who spent thousands a year at Hilton properties, and in getting to them, could plausibly earn the value of the fee several times over every year. In the process, they'd enjoy perks such as concierge service, automatic room upgrades, and access to airport lounges.
If you'd still like to get premium travel benefits but want more flexibility in earning rewards when booking hotels, other cards that might be a better choice, such as the American Express Platinum card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. The Reserve card also offers the added benefit of being able to transfer points on a 1:1 basis to selected hotel and airline travel partners.