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Earlier this year, Hilton and American Express teamed up to launch some new Hilton credit card products. A few months have gone by since they revamped the line-up and benefits and now we are seeing some dramatically increased welcome bonuses. I’m still impressed with 100,000-point offers, but three of the Hilton Amex cards sail past that 100,000-point threshold with these new offers — one goes as high as 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points!
Since Hilton has many family-friendly brands and resorts, including Embassy Suites and even Homewood Suites, Hilton points are very relevant to traveling more for less. In fact, we just used six figures of Hilton points to secure award nights for a big 2019 family trip to Hawaii.
In the points and miles world, all award currencies have different values and knowing the difference between a Hilton Aspire and Ascend card is not necessarily intuitive. So let’s dive into what 150,000 Hilton Honors points are really worth and which of these similarly named Hilton cards is the best match for family travelers.
Increased Hilton Amex Bonuses
All of the Hilton Amex welcome bonuses are increased over the standard offers, with the Hilton Honors Ascend and Aspire Cards hitting their all-time highest point offers by 25,000 Hilton Honors points each.
- Hilton Honors American Express Card: Earn 75,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
- Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card: Earn 125,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Earn 150,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
- Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Earn 125,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
According to TPG’s latest valuations, the 150,000 Hiltons Honors bonus points that are available with the Hilton Aspire are worth an impressive $900. The 125,000 Hilton Honors point bonuses are worth $750 and the 75,000-point bonus is worth $450.
If you want to see that information outlined a bit differently, here’s the line-up of available bonus points, annual fees and TPG’s valuation of those points. The $450 Hilton Aspire annual fee looks scary at first, but hang with me because it’s not as bad as you might think.
|Hilton Aspire||150,000-point bonus||TPG values the bonus at $900||$450 annual fee (up to $500 in annual travel credits) (See Rates & Fees)||Hilton Diamond status|
|Hilton Ascend||125,000-point bonus||TPG values the bonus at $750||$95 annual fee (See Rates & Fees)||Hilton Gold status|
|Hilton Business||125,000-point bonus||TPG values the bonus at $750||$95 annual fee (See Rates & Fees)||Hilton Gold status|
|Hilton Amex||75,000-point bonus||TPG values the bonus at $450||$0 annual fee (See Rates & Fees)||Hilton Silver status|
If your family can spend $4,000 in the first three months (average of $1,334 per month), then the best bonus is the biggest one, making the Hilton Aspire my top pick of the four. However, if you can’t comfortably shift $4,000 in spending to the card in the first three months then I’d look to one of the cards with a lower spending requirement of $1,000 – $2,000.
Best Bonus Winner: Hilton Aspire
Hilton Elite Status
Having hotel elite status is one of the easy ways that families can make award travel even better. Each Hilton Amex comes with built-in elite status that the cardholder enjoys simply by having the card linked with their Hilton Honors account. In some cases, you can nudge that elite status to the next level with significant annual spending on the cards, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s just look at the elite status the cards come with automatically.
The Hilton elite status you receive with all of the four cards allows you to get the fifth night free on standard award stays, which is great for families who want to stay put for five nights while on vacation, whether that is in the sand, snow or somewhere between.
The Hilton Aspire provides you top-tier Hilton Diamond status that gets you valuable perks including Executive Floor Lounge Access, space-available room upgrades, breakfast, bonus points, welcome amenities and more. For us, lounge access is code for easy access to food and drinks that don’t hit our travel budget. Families, note that perks like breakfast and lounge may only apply to two guests per the terms of the Hilton Honors program. However, in practice, children may very well be permitted into the lounge with the parents at some properties. In terms of breakfast, if the parents can eat “for free” thanks to status, the bill should be reduced significantly even if the children aren’t all totally complimentary.
The Hilton Gold elite status that you get with the Hilton Business and Hilton Ascend cards doesn’t get you the guaranteed Executive Lounge access you get with Diamond status as you must be in a room upgraded to an executive floor to get access with Gold status, but it does still provide you things like breakfast, bottled water at some properties and a shot at an upgraded room.
Hilton Diamond status is clearly better than Hilton Gold, though Gold status is quite valuable as well.
Best Elite Status Winner: Hilton Aspire
Hilton Card Perks and Fees
I really didn’t intend to stack the deck here in favor of the Hilton Aspire, but it has the most built-in perks, so let’s start there. The Hilton Aspire has a $450 annual fee that is much higher than the other Hilton Amex cards, but it also comes with a $250 annual Hilton resort credit (that can even be used to cover your reservation) and $250 to use each year toward airline incidental charges, which can be used for a wide variety of things beyond just bag and seat assignment fees.
If you max out the included $500 in cumulative travel credits each year, and my family absolutely would, then the $450 annual fee isn’t nearly as painful as it seems at first glance. In addition to the credits, the Hilton Aspire also comes with unlimited Priority Pass lounge access and a free weekend award night each year of card membership (and another one after you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year).
The weekend award nights are great to use somewhere like the iconic Hotel del Coronado in California that otherwise goes for as many as 95,000 Hilton points per night or several hundred dollars. Another family-friendly Hilton property where I’d love to use a weekend award night is the Grand Wailea in Maui.
The other Hilton cards don’t have annual travel credits, but they do have some built-in perks absolutely worth mentioning. Both the Hilton Honors Business Card and the Hilton Ascend Card provide 10 Priority Pass lounge access passes per year (Priority Pass keeps expanding to more restaurants!) and a weekend award night available after you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year. The Hilton Business Card takes that a step further with a second free weekend award night after spending a total of $60,000 in a calendar year.
Both the Hilton Honors Business Card and the Hilton Honors Ascend Card have a $95 annual fee, which is obviously much lower than $450, and could be the better choice if you wouldn’t have otherwise spent $250 at a Hilton resort and $250 on eligible airline charges in a year. However, if you plan to utilize the annual built-in credits with the Hilton Aspire Card, it actually provides more overall value for a family from all of the built-in perks.
Speaking from experience, top-tier hotel elite status makes family trips more affordable and more enjoyable.
Perks Winner: Hilton Aspire (if you use the credits)
If your family prefers to avoid the higher annual fee cards, or you aren’t certain if you’ll make full use of the built-in travel credits with the Aspire, the Ascend is a great option that will offer 125,000 points after just $2,000 of spending in three months with a $95 annual fee. The Hilton Honors Business Card is very similar and for small business owners also offers a solid value with 125,000 bonus points after $3,000 in spending in the first 3 months. If you don’t ever want to deal with an annual fee, then 75,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months on the Hilton Amex is a great solution.
However, families who travel at Hiltons with some frequency and know how to maximize card perks will often do best with the Hilton Aspire Card. It has the highest number of bonus points, the best earning ratio, the highest elite status level (with guaranteed lounge access and breakfast!), up to $500 in combined travel credits, an annual award night without a spending requirement and more. If you will make full use of the credits and status, then the $450 annual fee can be worth the cost. In fact, it may actually be a better investment than a $95 card that doesn’t come with any annual credits or guaranteed annual award nights without $15,000 in annual spending.
Every family is different, but from Disney World to Hawaii and lots of places in-between, there are lots of opportunities for families to make use of Hilton Honors points and credit card perks. The next step is simply picking the right Hilton credit card for your family.
For rates and fees of the HIlton Aspire Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Ascend Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Business Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex Card, please click here.
Know before you go.
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