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American Express offers Hilton travelers many choices when it comes to cobranded credit cards. There are currently four different Hilton-branded cards on the market; three personal cards and one small business card:

*Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card formerly known as the Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express

Given all the options, it can be a tricky to decide which one you should get. Today we’ll dive right in and take a closer look at the differences between these four cards.

First, let’s take a look at the details of each of these cards and offers.

Hilton Honors Card from American Express

Bonus: Earn 75,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening your account.

Earning rate(s): 7 points per dollar spent at Hilton hotels, 5 points per dollar spent at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, and 3 points per dollar everywhere else.

Benefits: This entry-level card offers automatic Hilton Honors Silver status (with an upgrade to Gold when you spend $20,000 in a calendar year), basic travel and shopping protections and no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees)

Annual fee: $0 (see rates and fees)

Analysis: There’s a surprising amount of value to be had in the Hilton Amex Card for a no-annual fee card. It’s not often that a starter card offers benefits like complimentary elite status, a decent bonus and the ability to earn substantial points on bonus spend categories.

For more information, check out our review of the Hilton Amex Card.

APPLY HERE: Hilton Honors Card from American Express

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

Bonus: 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

Earning rate(s): 12 points per dollar spent at Hilton hotels, 6 points per dollar spent at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, and 3 points per dollar everywhere else.

Benefits: The card offers automatic Gold status and the ability to upgrade to Diamond status by spending $40,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year. It also awards a weekend night certificate when you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year and grants you 10 complimentary Priority Pass visits a year.

Annual fee: $95 (see rates and fees)

Analysis: This card is a great option for infrequent travelers that want to enjoy premium travel perks without paying a high fee. Hilton Gold status is among the most valuable mid-tier hotel statuses out there, and for most people, the 10 free visits to Priority Pass airport lounges are sufficient. The weekend night certificate is valid at mostly any property in the Hilton portfolio so that can easily get a few hundred dollars of value, and you’re still getting a great return of 7.2% on your paid Hilton stays.

For more information, check out our review of the Hilton Amex Surpass.

APPLY HERE: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

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

Earning rate(s): 12 points per dollar spent at Hilton hotels, 6 points per dollar spent on wireless services purchased directly from US service providers and on US purchases for shipping, at US restaurants, on flights booked directly with airlines and through Amex Travel and on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies, and 3 points per dollar everywhere else.

Benefits: Like the Surpass, this card offers automatic Hilton Honors Gold status and the ability to upgrade to Diamond status by spending $40,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year. It also gives you a free weekend night when you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year and 10 Priority Pass visits a year.

Annual fee: $95 (see rates and fees)

Analysis: Like the Surpass card, the business version is a great option for those who visit Hilton properties just a few times a year or are looking for a cheap way to get Priority Pass lounge access. Plus the 7.2% return on Hilton stays and 3.6% on common business expenses are both very solid.

APPLY HERE: Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express

Bonus: Earn 150,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first four months of opening your account.

Earning rate(s): 14 points per dollar spent at Hilton hotels, 7 points per dollar spent at US restaurants, flights booked directly with airlines and car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies, and 3 points per dollar everywhere else.

Benefits: Enjoy a host of valuable perks, including automatic Hilton Honors Diamond status, a free weekend night every calendar year (plus a second weekend night when you spend $60,000), $250 Hilton resort statement credit, $250 annual airline fee credit, up to $100 Waldorf Astoria and Conrad on-property credit and unlimited Priority Pass airport lounge access for you and two guests.

Annual fee: $450 (see rates and fees)

Analysis: When this card first came out people thought that it was too good to be true. The weekend night certificate alone could effectively cover your annual fee so when you factor in perks like the $250 airline incidental fee credit, $250 Hilton resort statement credit and automatic top-tier Diamond status, you’re almost guaranteed to come out ahead. And that’s before you even touch upon the 150,000-point welcome bonus or terrific 8.4% return at Hilton properties.

For more information, check out our review of the Hilton Amex Aspire.

APPLY HERE: Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express

Hilton Credit Card Comparison

Hilton Honors American Express Card

Bonus Offer Bonus Value* Perks Value Annual Fee Total Value
75,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months. Terms Apply. $450 N/A $0 (see rates and fees) $450

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card

Bonus Offer Bonus Value* Perks Value Annual Fee Total Value
125,000 points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply. $750 10 free Priority Pass lounge visits a year (worth $270). Terms Apply. $95 (see rates and fees) $925

Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

Bonus Offer Bonus Value* Perks Value Annual Fee Total Value
125,000 points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply. $750 10 free Priority Pass lounge visits a year (worth $270). Terms Apply. $95 (see rates and fees) $925

Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express

Bonus Offer Bonus Value* Perks Value Annual Fee Total Value
150,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. Terms Apply. $900 Up to $250 in statement credits for Hilton purchases each card member year, $250 in airline incidental fee credits per calendar year, Priority Pass Select lounge membership without restaurant access (worth $75) ($575 total). Terms Apply. $450 (see rates and fees) $1,025

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.

Reasons to Get the Aspire

Despite having the highest annual fee among the entire family of cards, the Hilton Aspire offers the greatest maximization potential. The card’s up to $500 in cumulative annual travel credits — up to $250 toward airline incidentals and up to a $250 statement credit to spend at Hilton resorts — aren’t as easy to spend as they used to be, but the resort credit is good toward room rates (though not advanced purchase rates) and the airline credit can be useful for incidental fees, though using airline gift cards to trigger the credit currently no longer works.

On top of the annual credits, the card offers an annual free weekend night at almost any Hilton property worldwide (and another one after you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year), automatic top-tier Hilton Diamond status and unlimited Priority Pass lounge access.

A stay at the Hilton-owned Conrad Bora Bora is better with complimentary Diamond status. (Photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy.)

All of that is before you even factor in its 150,000-point welcome bonus, which is worth $900 according to TPG’s valuations, and impressive earning rates: 14x points at Hilton properties; 7x points on flights booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel, on car rentals booked directly with select car rental companies and at US restaurants; and 3x points on everything else. Fourteen points per dollar is a 8.4% return on Hilton spending, but when you factor in the 100% point bonus (or 20 points per dollar at most Hilton properties) that comes with Diamond status, you’ll actually be earning 34 points per dollar on most Hilton stays, which is a terrific 20.4% return.

Reasons to Consider Hilton’s Other Cards

If you don’t believe you’ll be able to get full value from the travel credits, or can’t comfortably spend $4,000 in the first three months (an average of $1,334 per month) to get the welcome bonus, you may want to consider a different personal Hilton credit card. If so, you’ll need to pick between the Hilton Honors Card (with no annual fee) or the Surpass Card (with a $95 annual fee). Both of these cards’ welcome bonuses and earning rates are pretty generous for their annual fees. Deciding which one is best for you ultimately depends on your personal spending habits and what other travel rewards credit cards you already have.

If you’re a frequent Hilton guest, you’ll benefit from the Surpass Card’s higher return on Hilton spending and higher level of elite status. However, if you have The Platinum Card® from American Express, you already get automatic Hilton Gold status, as well as a full Priority Pass membership. So, for Platinum card holders, the Surpass would only makes sense if you can benefit from the higher return on Hilton spending or plan on meeting the spend requirements for Diamond or the weekend night award. If you don’t have the Amex Platinum, then the Surpass is a great mid-tier pick.

You could use your Hilton points for a stay at the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok. (Photo by Eric Rosen/The Points Guy)

If You Travel With a Family

Hilton has some of the best brands for when you travel with the family, including Embassy Suites (hello, extra space and free hot breakfast!) and even Homewood Suites. Whether your goal is to book a hotel near Grandma’s house or relax on a resort on Hawaii, we highly recommend families stock up on Hilton points.

Hilton Waikoloa (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Hilton Waikoloa (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

If you have to pick one Hilton card to put in your family’s wallet, the Hilton Aspire is the best choice. Simply put, the lounge access, upgrades and free breakfast perks that come with the Hilton Diamond Elite status that’s automatic with the card become more valuable when you travel with a crew. While some hotels will stick to the terms and not extend those perks to more than two people per room, we’ve had lots of experience with hotels being more generous — such as at the Hilton Waikoloa Village in Hawaii where free breakfast for a family can save more than $100 per day.

With lots of bellies to fill, seat assignments to secure and bags to check, using up the $250 airline incidental fee credit and $250 Hilton resort credits that come with the card is also a breeze over the course of a year with a family. In fact, it just might be the best premium hotel card for families on the market.

How to Get 350,000+ Hilton Points

Although the majority of benefits overlap, if it’s just a large sum of Hilton points you’re after, you don’t necessarily need to consider these cards as mutually exclusive. Unlike some other cobranded cards out there, Amex considers each of the Hilton cards as separate products. This means that although Amex typically allows you to earn only one welcome bonus per “lifetime” per card typeyou’re able to earn the welcome bonus on each of the Hilton cards. If you apply for all three of the personal cards, you can earn a whopping 350,000 points — or 475,000 if you also pick up the business card. (This doesn’t even include the free night certificates included with some of the bonuses.) Just note that all of the Hilton cards are credit cards, as opposed to charge cards like the American Express® Gold Card and the Amex Platinum, and you’re only allowed to have a total of five Amex credit cards open at any one time.

Bottom Line

The Hilton Honors Aspire Card makes a compelling case for itself as one of our top credit cards. Whether you stay Hilton properties just once per year or basically live at them, you should have no problem maxing out the travel benefits and coming out ahead with the card. Aside from the up to $500 in annual travel credits, it has the highest number of bonus points, the best earning ratio, the highest elite status level, an annual award night without a spending requirement and more. However, if you’re not willing to take the numerical leap associated with the Aspire’s annual fee or can’t maximize the annual credits, you could get a good return from the basic Hilton Honors Card and Hilton Surpass cards as well.

For more information on the Hilton cards, check out the following guides:

For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Surpass Amex, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Business Amex, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Aspire Amex, click here.

Featured image by Eric Helgas / The Points Guy.

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Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
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More Things to Know
  • Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn a Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your Card in a calendar year.
  • Earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Spend $40,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.49%-26.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Good, Excellent
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.