Full Review of Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Credit Card
Lucrative one-time offer
Excellent rewards rates across all categories
- 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 130,000 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.
- 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 130,000-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
Seeks to maximize points or miles earnings across spending categories
Seeks the recognition and perks of branded travel partner status
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 130,000 Hilton Honors points, which according to Investopedia's valuation of 0.45 cents each would be worth $585 on average. 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
- 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.
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 130,000 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 130,000 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
- 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
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.
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.
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 introductory bonus offer alone can help justify this fee for six years, though, so that's important to keep in mind. 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.