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The Past Offer
I wrote about the Hilton HHonors Surpass card in a Sunday Reader post from this summer. At the time, the card offered a bonus of 40,000 points after the first purchase, and 2,500 bonus points for each of your first eight eligible stays at Hilton when the stay was paid for with the Surpass card within the first 18 months of membership. Eight stays just to earn 20,000 HHonors points was a bit onerous if you ask me, but the card carried other perks for Hilton loyalists that might have made it worth it (I’ll get to that below).
The Current Offer
Those who apply for the card now:
-Earn 40,000 HHonors bonus points with their first purchase.
–20,000 more HHonors points when they spend $3,000 or more within the first three months.
In my opinion, meeting a general minimum spend requirement is a lot easier than the conditions of the previous offer where you had to specifically use the card to stay at Hilton properties.
–9 points per dollar on Hilton spend.
–6 points per dollar on grocery stores, drugstores, gas stations, home and wireless phone, cable and satellite TV, and Internet service providers (less returns).
–3 points per dollar on all other spend.
–500 bonus points when the card is used to make Hilton bookings online..
–Complimentary Gold status (room upgrades, free internet, 25% point bonus on Hilton stays) for the first year, and each subsequent year with $20,000 in annual spend.
–Diamond status (upgrades, club access, free internet, room guarantee, amenities) if you spend $40,000 in a calendar year.
–Priority Pass membership valued at $99 (but you still have to pay for lounge visits at $27 per person)
–PointStretcher reduced awards, elite-only access awards.
-The card carries a $75 annual fee, which is not waived for the first year.
-It also charges foreign transaction fees, and I find Hilton awards to be expensive and that their award chart is highly skewed towards expensive categories -There are very few low category hotels I’d want to stay in, versus Hyatt and Starwood, which have some real gems.
With the full 60,000-point bonus, per the chart below, that’s enough to stay in any non-Waldorf Astoria property for a night like the Hilton San Diego Del Mar (Category 5, 35,000 points) or the Conrad Maldives (Category 7, 50,000 points), and two nights in hotels up to category 4 like the DoubleTree Atlanta Galleria (30,000 points per night).
It’s also enough to stay at any Waldorf Astoria except the Grand Wailea on Maui for a free night in low season, and any Waldorf Astoria except the Grand Wailea and the one in the Maldives in high season.
The Spend Scenario
Let’s say you spend $20,000 on the card the first year (so you have your gold status extended) with the following breakdown:
-$4,000 at Hiltons on ten stays: So 4,000 x 9 points each spent at Hilton, plus 10 stays x 500 bonus points each = 41,000 points
-$12,000 on gas, groceries and utilities like phone and cable: 12,000 x 6 points each = 72,000 points
-$4,000 on other things: 4,000 x 3 HHonors points on all other spend = 12,000 points.
So your spending earned you 125,000 HHonors points. Add in your 40,000 point first purchase bonus and the extra 20,000 points from meeting your minimum spend, and you’ve got 185,000 HHonors points.
You could use those for a free three-night stay at a Category 7 hotel, which costs 50,000 points for a free night redemption, like the Conrad Tokyo where rates start at $475 in March saving you $1,425, or the Hilton Bentley Miami South Beach where rates start at $499 in March saving you $1,497, and still have 35,000 HHonors points left over.
If you wanted to take the family to Disney World or Universal Studios Orlando, you could redeem those points for 6 room nights at a Category 4 hotel like the Embassy Suites Orlando Downtown for a total of 180,000 HHonors points, where rates start at $215 in March, saving $1,290.
With this latest offer, it seems like Hilton and Amex are upping their game in a few ways. First of all by matching more lucrative recent bonus offers from competitors like Marriott, and second, by playing around with the minimum spend requirements to find the right sweet spot to attract both more customers, and more high-yield customers.
There are some definite drawbacks to the card, like the lack of great low-level redemption properties, but the bonuses cardmembers earn with Hilton stays, as well as the general spend categories bonuses might make it worth it to Hilton loyalists.
Hat tip: TPG reader Britt.