Credit Card Credit Card Reviews

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Credit Card Review

overall rating
3.8

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One of several team-ups between the Hilton hotel chain and American Express, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass credit card provides an exceptional introductory one-time offer and generous ongoing rewards for those who frequent Hilton properties. This card comes with a slew of other travel benefits that help to offset its $95 annual fee.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card

overall rating
3
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card
On American Express' Secured Site.

Current Offer:

Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.

Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.74% - 24.74% variable
Annual Fee $95
Rewards Earning Rate 12 points per $1 for eligible Hilton purchases. 6 points per $1 for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations. 3 points per $1 for all other eligible purchases.
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
how this card stacks up
When compared among all rewards cards in our database:
Rewards
Benefits
Low Fees
Security/Customer Experience
Low Interest
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Full Review of Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Credit Card

Pros
Cons

Pros Explained

  • Lucrative Introductory Rewards Bonus: The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass credit card surpasses the competition when it comes to its bonus. The current bonus offer is worth 125,000 Hilton Honors points for new cardmembers.
  • Excellent Rewards Rates Across all Categories: This card features a tiered rewards rate structure with three different levels. Even at the lowest level, members earn 3 points per dollar on purchases. That's far better than other cards, which typically offer just 1 point per dollar at the lowest rewards tier.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fee: The absence of a foreign transaction fee is boon to international travelers and those who regularly make purchases outside the U.S.

Cons Explained

  • Most Rewarding for Hilton Guests: To get the most rewards from this card, you'll need to be partial to Hilton hotels. You could still earn 3 points per dollar on hotel bookings with other brands. But, that's a fraction of the rewards you could earn by staying at a Hilton Portfolio property.
  • No Introductory APR for Purchases or Balance Transfers: Some hotel credit cards and travel rewards cards offer a 0% APR introductory period for purchases and/or balance transfers. That's attractive if you're planning to transfer a balance or charge an expensive trip. This card unfortunately doesn't offer any type of promotional rate for new members. The regular variable APR for purchases is 15.74% to 24.74%, based on creditworthiness.
  • Somewhat High Minimum Spending Requirement to Earn the Bonus: To earn the 125,000-point bonus offer, you'll need to charge at least $2,000 in eligible purchases in the first three months. That may not be difficult if you have a trip in the works or you're charging everyday purchases but if you're not, that target may be harder to hit.

This Card is Best For

  • Avatar for Rewards Strategist Persona
    Seeks to maximize points or miles earnings across spending categories
    Rewards Strategist
  • Avatar for Loyalty Status Seeker Persona
    Seeks the recognition and perks of branded travel partner status
    Loyalty Status Seeker
  • Avatar for Frequent Flyer Persona
    Flies often for business or leisure
    Frequent Flyer
  • Avatar for Frequent Diner Persona
    Dines out regularly while traveling or in home city
    Frequent Diner

This card could be an excellent choice for travelers who book hotel stays exclusively with Hilton. Between the 12 points per dollar rewards rate and other hotel perks, such as complimentary Gold Status in the Hilton Honors loyalty program and the opportunity to earn a Free Weekend Night Award each year, this card could prove valuable to regular Hilton guests. Beyond that, this card also offers an impressive rewards rate of 6 points per dollar for card purchases in everyday spending categories: buying groceries at U.S. supermarkets, filling up on gas at U.S. gas stations, or dining out at U.S. restaurants. The only caveat to keep in mind is that you'll need to be comfortable paying the card's $95 annual fee.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Credit Card One-Time Offer

As mentioned, this card offers an introductory bonus worth 125,000 Hilton Honors points. To qualify for the bonus, you have to spend $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account. Hilton hotel stays typically cost between 5,000 and 95,000 per night, so depending on when and where you're booking, you could easily get several award nights out of the bonus. 

Rewards Earning Details

In addition to the bonus, there are several ways to earn rewards on purchases with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass credit card. The first is by booking with Hilton. Cardmembers earn 12 points per dollar when using their card to book hotel or resort stays at a Hilton property directly with Hilton. 

Next, you can earn 6 points per dollar when you use your card to shop at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and U.S. restaurants. All other purchases earn 3 points per dollar. These rewards rates are competitive to what other travel rewards cards offer on these types of purchases.

Rewards Redemption Details

Points earned with this card can be redeemed for stays at Hilton hotels. The range of points you'll need for hotel stays runs from 5,000 to 95,000. Unfortunately, Hilton no longer publishes an awards chart showing how many points you need for redemptions; instead, the number of points required for an award night will depend on when and where you book. You can guesstimate how many points you'll need using the Hilton Points Explorer Tool.

Aside from booking hotel stays at Hilton properties, there are other ways to redeem your rewards. You can also apply Hilton Honors rewards points for:

  • Online shopping rewards
  • Dining
  • Hilton gift cards
  • Concert tickets
  • Exclusive experiences, such as travel excursions
  • Rental cars
  • Airline miles
  • Rail miles
  • Vacation and resort packages
  • Charitable donations

You also have the option of transferring your points to friends and family who are Hilton Honors program members.

Transferring Points

Points can be redeemed for airline miles, rail miles or rental cars with partner brands. In the U.S., air miles partner brands include American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines. International transfer partners include British Airways, Air France, Virgin Atlantic, and Qantas. You can also redeem points for miles with Amtrak or use them to rent a car through National, Enterprise or Alamo. The full list of transfer partners is available on the Hilton Honors website. The points to miles conversion ratio is different for every travel partner but you'll need a minimum of 10,000 points to redeem for air or rail miles.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

The first step in maximizing rewards with this card is spending the $2,000 minimum required to earn the 125,000 introductory bonus points. You'd need to charge at least $667 per month for the first three months to hit that target, which you could do through a combination of charging travel and your everyday spending, such as a weekly grocery shopping trip. 

The next best way to maximize rewards is to book hotel stays with Hilton and use this card to pay. The amount of rewards you can earn and what those points end up being worth will vary, based on how much you spend. 

For example, assume that you want to book a three-night stay at a Hilton property. Assuming the minimum number of points required to book is 5,000 per night, you would need 15,000 points total. To acquire that number of points quickly, you'd need to charge at least $1,250 in Hilton purchases. 

Now, assume that you want to book a room at the Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills, which requires 95,000 points for one night. For a three-night stay, you'd need 285,000 points total. Assume that you already earned the 125,000 introductory points. That brings you down to 160,000 points you'd need to earn. To make up that amount in just Hilton purchases, you'd need to spend $13,334. Assuming you always stay at Waldorf Astoria locations when you travel, you might be able to reach that number fairly quickly if you're booking rooms for $400+ per night. For example, it would take 34 nights at that rate to earn enough points for three nights using Hilton Honors points. But if you were booking a suite at $1,000+ per night, you could cut that down to 14 nights.  

If you want to transfer points to an eligible airline, focus on those you have frequent flyer membership status with. That way, you can use your points to supplement any miles you've already earned toward a flight.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Credit Card's Outstanding Benefits

  • Complimentary Gold Status in the Hilton Honors program
  • Earn Hilton Honors Diamond Status when you charge $40,000 in purchases each year
  • Earn a Free Weekend Night Award when you charge $15,000 in purchases each year
  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, plus 10 free lounge visits per year

Standard Benefits

  • Secondary car rental loss and damage insurance
  • Global Assist hotline
  • Extended warranty coverage
  • Price protection
  • Purchase protection
  • Presale ticket access to selected events
  • Free two-day shipping with Shoprunner
  • Pay It Plan pay over time benefits

Cardholder Experience

American Express ranked second behind Discover Bank in J.D. Power's 2019 Credit Card Satisfaction Survey, earning an 838 rating. That puts it well above the national average for credit card satisfaction compared to other major issuers. 

Cardmembers have a number of tools available to help manage their accounts, including online and mobile access. The Pay It Plan It feature allows you to create a customized repayment plan for certain purchases while benefits like purchase protection and extended warranty coverage help protect the things you buy. 

American Express customer service is available by phone at 1-800-528-4800. You can also log in to your account online to chat with a customer service rep.

Security Features

American Express uses a number of tools and strategies to secure and protect cardmember accounts. Security features include automatic time-outs to log you out of your account if it becomes inactive, a personal security key, pre-purchase verification and ongoing monitoring for suspicious or fraudulent activity. You can also secure and protect your account by setting up email alerts to notify you of any new transactions on your card.

Fees to Watch Out For

This card is fairly transparent about its fee structure so there really aren't any gotchas to be aware of. There's no foreign transaction fee, so purchases made outside the U.S. won't cost you anything extra. You should consider the $95 annual fee and what the card's benefits are worth to you in comparison. If you think you could earn rewards of greater value than the annual fee over the course of the year by accumulating points toward award night stays, then the fee may be well justified.

Our Verdict

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass credit card is well-suited for travelers who choose Hilton as their go-to hotel. When you compare it to the hotelier's other co-branded card options—Hilton Honors American Express Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Cards—it falls right in the middle in terms of rewards, benefits and cost. If you're already enrolled in the Hilton Honors loyalty program, this card could help you reach the top tier of benefits faster, since you're already starting off with complimentary Gold status. How quickly you can get to Diamond status depends on how often you spend, since you need 120,000 base points to qualify. 

While a bit pricey in the general credit-card universe, the Surpass' $95 annual fee is in line with what you'd expect from similar hotel or travel rewards cards that are just below the "premium" rewards category. The 3 points per dollar you get for everyday purchases is pretty good, considering that many general travel rewards cards, like Chase Sapphire Preferred, only offer 1 point per dollar on everyday spending. 

On the other hand, those cards also have fewer restrictions on redeeming points. While you can transfer Hilton Honors points to travel partners, those don't include other hotels. With the aforementioned Sapphire Preferred card, for example, you can transfer points to eligible hotels and airlines on a 1:1 basis. If you're looking for that kind of flexibility, you might do better to choose a more general travel rewards card, in place of a co-branded hotel rewards option.

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For Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card
on American Express' Secured Site.
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CURRENT CARD
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card
overall rating
3.8
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.74% - 24.74% variable
Annual Fee $95
Rewards Earning Rate 12 points per $1 for eligible Hilton purchases. 6 points per $1 for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations. 3 points per $1 for all other eligible purchases.
Investopedia Credit Card Rating Methodology
Investopedia is committed to delivering the best credit card recommendations in the industry. We’ll tell you when a card is good, we’ll tell you when a card is bad, and we’ll only call a card the best if we would recommend it to our friends or family members.
Overall Star Rating Explained
To rate credit cards we objectively assess, score and weight nearly 100 individual card features which roll up into five major feature sets: fees, interest, rewards, benefits and security/customer service. Here’s how we weighted those feature sets for the overall star rating of a card:
We have applied our proprietary rating methodology to every generally-accepted credit card in the U.S. domestic market to allow consumers to make fully informed choices. It’s important to note that for our overall score that we make a number of assumptions about how you would be using your credit card:
  1. While we make no assumption as to whether balances are carried on a given card we do assign varying weights to all credit cards’ introductory APR (if present) in addition to the regular, long term purchase and balance transfer interest rates.
  2. We utilize BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) income and average category spending data to calculate annual earnings rates for rewards cards that offer cash back, points or miles rewards at a set rate on all spending or in consideration of bonus rewards for certain spending categories, like gasoline, groceries, restaurants or travel.
  3. We determine the maximum points value of rewards cards by dividing the points, cash back or miles required to exchange for the retail price of the most valuable redemption option (for example, in the case of a card that offers a domestic roundtrip airline ticket as a redemption option vs. another redemption option of lesser value that requires the same amount of points or miles to acquire, we would base the rewards value on the airline ticket).
  • Cards that are selected best overall in their respective categories generally feature most if not all of the following attributes:
  • Low or Reasonable Fees Credit card fees come in many forms but the primary ones involve those for annual card membership and balance transfer. There are a myriad of reward and non-reward card options that charge no annual fee but for the many that do assess an annual fee the cost is often justified by their lucrative ongoing rewards and initial signup bonuses. Balance transfer fees are occasionally waived during introductory periods with certain cards, a factor which is heavily and positively weighted in our scoring model for cards offering this benefit. When charged, balance transfer fees range between 3% - 5%, which we grade accordingly. Other standard fees can generally be avoided, such as those for paying late or taking cash advances but we rate those relative to other cards in the market for reference, though with less weight assigned
  • Competitive Interest Many cards offer 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for varying lengths and then revert to a permanent or regular APR (based on a variable rate tied to the prime rate) that applies to any balances not paid in full. We rate both introductory APR percentage and length (in months) along with the midpoint of the variable regular APR interest rate range.
  • Valuable Rewards Credit card reward programs can be based on cash back, points or travel rewards (which can be generic or travel partner-specific, as with airline and hotel co-brand card programs). For cards that offer rewards we determine the value per dollar spent along with average redemption values and assign more favorable ratings to cards that offer superior consumer value. We also assign value to sign-up bonus offers and their initial spending requirements, when present.
  • Excellent Benefits Credit card benefits cover a range of offerings like concierge service, TSA Pre-check, auto rental coverage, travel accident insurance, lost luggage assistance and free credit scores. We rate cards on the number and level of over a dozen standard and upscale benefits and provide extra weighting emphasis for those travel-related perks that apply to premium travel cards when present.
  • Solid Security/Customer Service Security and customer service features like lost or stolen card replacement, being able to lock one’s card from an issuer app and 24 hour customer support are becoming more standard across the card market and we provide a significant amount of weighting to features in this area.
  • You can also read the full version of our methodology for a more in-depth look at how we assess cards and award them the best in various categories.