Hilton American Express Card Enhancements

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Update: The Hilton Amex Bonus is now down to 50,000 points.

American Express just announced that it would be enhancing its two Hilton credit cards by upping the bonus on the Hilton Amex for a limited time, and by increasing the spending bonus on the Surpass card starting November 1.

Hilton Amex 65,000-point Sign-Up Bonus
From now until November 30, 2012, the basic Hilton Amex will come with a potential 65,000-point sign-up bonus.

Similar to the current bonus, new cardholders will get 40,000 points when they spend $750 in the first three months, however, they will then be eligible to receive another 25,000 points when they spend $3,000 more within the first six months.

The rest of the terms of the card are the same:

  • Earn 6 Hilton HHonors bonus points for every dollar of eligible purchases at any participating hotel within the Hilton HHonors portfolio of brands, at U.S. stand-alone supermarkets, at select major drugstores, on gasoline at U.S. stand-alone gas stations, and for U.S. wireless and home telephone, cable TV and satellite TV service.
  • Earn 3 HHonors Bonus Points for each dollar of other eligible purchases.
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • Complimentary Hilton HHonors Silver status for life of membership
  • Hilton HHonors Gold status after $20,000 spending annually

If you’ve been considering the Hilton co-branded credit cards and the sign-up bonus is the single most important factor, then it’s time to consider the Hilton Amex. This current offer brings its bonus higher than it’s sister product, the Surpass card, which just offers 60,000 points total with the same spending amount and time period requirements. Plus, this card has no annual fee, whereas the Surpass card carries one of $75.

However, if you spend a lot of money at Hilton and the points bonus you receive for in-house spending is a big factor to you, then you might be interested in the upcoming enhancement to the Surpass card…

Surpass Card Will Earn 12 Points Per Dollar at Hilton
Starting November 1, 2012, the Hilton Surpass Card will begin earning cardholders a total of 12 Hilton HHonors bonus points for every dollar of eligible purchases at any participating hotel within the Hilton HHonors portfolio of brands. That’s a 3-point boost from the current bonus earning level of 9 points per dollar.

The rest of the terms will remain the same including:

  • Earn 6 Hilton HHonors bonus points for every dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. stand-alone supermarkets, at select major drugstores, on gasoline at U.S. stand-alone gas stations, and for U.S. wireless and home telephone, cable TV and satellite TV service.
  • Earn 3 HHonors Bonus Points for each dollar of other eligible purchases.
  • $75 Annual Fee
  • Complimentary Hilton HHonors Gold status for the first year and Silver thereafter
  • Hilton HHonors Gold status with $20,000 annual spending, and Hilton HHonors Diamond status with $40,000 annual spending
  • Priority Pass Select lounge membership

If you spend a lot of time and money at Hiltons in particular, the spending bonus on this card could make it a great value for you, even with that $75 annual fee (which is not waived the first year).

For instance, let’s say you spend $1,000 a month at Hiltons. The regular Amex would earn you just 72,000 points in a year while the Surpass card would earn you 144,000 points. That’s another free night at top-tier properties like Waldorf Astoria  Shanghai on the Bund or the Hilton Park Lane in London, both of which have room rates that regularly go up to several hundreds of dollars, making up for that $75 annual fee.
With both these cards, you’d have Hilton elite status – Silver with the Amex and Gold for the first year with the Surpass card. While both will let you spend your way to Gold, only the Surpass will get you Diamond status if you spend $0,000 annually. A steep price, but still an option that you have.

Thanks to the elite status conferred by both cards, cardholders will be able to book reduced-price GLON awards, and since they are American Express products, cardholders will also have the option of booking awards at discounted AXON levels.

See this post for how to maximize these kinds of awards.

While it’s too bad the bonus on the Hilton Amex is for a limited time, I’m glad to see American Express stepping up the benefits on both cards – especially in response to the recently unveiled Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa Signature, which offers new cardholders:

Two weekend-night stay certificates after a minimum spend of $2,500 during the first 4 months of cardmembership
One free anniversary weekend-night stay certificate when cardmember spends $10,000 or more annually
10 Hilton HHonors points per $1 spent on hotel stays within the 3,800 properties in the Hilton worldwide portfolio in addition to base points normally earned for stays
5 Hilton HHonors points per $1 spent on airline and car rental purchases
3 Hilton HHonors point per $1 spent on all other purchases
-Automatic HHonors Gold Status plus an upgrade to HHonors Diamond Status when you make $40,000 or more in eligible purchases in a year
No foreign transaction fees
-Access to Visa Signature Concierge 24/7
-Access to the best in music, sports, family entertainment and dining through Citi Private Pass
SmartChip technology
$95 annual fee

While I got the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card this summer because I’d rather have the two free nights outright that it awards instead of the 65,000 points the Hilton Amex is now offering, as well as the Gold status instead of just Silver, the spending category differences and the Hilton spending bonus on the Surpass card would give me pause if I were considering applying for any of the Hilton cards for the first time right now.

However, since I do have the Citi Reserve, I might consider getting the Hilton Amex because the card’s current bonus is higher than the Surpass card’s, the spending requirement isn’t too high to meet, there’s no annual fee, and having it as a companion card to the Citi Reserve will open up the possibility of booking AXON reduced-price awards.

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