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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:

Each of these cards are currently offering their best-ever welcome bonuses, so there’s never been a better time to apply for them. However, 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.

Card Overview

Card Annual Fee
Hilton Honors Amex $0 (see rates and fees)
Hilton Surpass Amex $95 (see rates and fees)
Hilton Honors Business Amex $95 (see rates and fees)
Hilton Aspire Amex $450 (see rates and fees)

 

Card Welcome Bonus
Hilton Honors Amex 90,000 points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months
Hilton Surpass Amex 130,000 points plus a free weekend night certificate after you spend $4,000 in the first four months
Hilton Honors Business Amex 130,000 points plus a free weekend night certificate after you spend $3,000 in the first four months
Hilton Aspire Amex 150,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months

 

Card Earning Rates
Hilton Honors Amex 7x at Hilton hotels

5x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations

3x on all other purchases

Terms Apply

Hilton Surpass Amex 12x at Hilton hotels

6x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations

3x on all other purchases

Terms Apply

Hilton Honors Business Amex 12x at Hilton hotels

6x 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

3x on all other purchases

Terms Apply

Hilton Aspire Amex 14x at Hilton hotels

7x at US restaurants, flights booked directly with airlines and car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies

3x on all other purchases

Terms Apply

 

Card Annual Travel Credits
Hilton Honors Amex N/A
Hilton Surpass Amex N/A
Hilton Honors Business Amex N/A
Hilton Aspire Amex Up to $250 in statement credits for purchases at participating Hilton resorts

Up to $250 in statement credits for incidentals from an airline of your choice

Up to a $100 credit for incidentals every time you book at least a two-night paid stay at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties

 

Card Elite Status
Hilton Honors Amex Automatic Hilton Honors Silver

Upgrade to Gold by spending $20,000 in a calendar year

Hilton Surpass Amex Automatic Hilton Honors Gold

Upgrade to Diamond by spending $40,000 in a calendar year.

Hilton Honors Business Amex Automatic Hilton Honors Gold

Upgrade to Diamond by spending $40,000 in a calendar year.

Hilton Aspire Amex Automatic Hilton Honors Diamond

 

Card Free Night Certificates
Hilton Honors Amex N/A
Hilton Surpass Amex One weekend night after you meet the welcome bonus requirements, and another every calendar year you spend $15,000
Hilton Honors Business Amex One weekend night after you meet the welcome bonus requirements, and another weekend night after spending $15,000 in a calendar year

Second weekend night when you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year

Hilton Aspire Amex One weekend night when you open your card, and another every year after you renew

Second weekend night when you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year

 

Card Lounge Access
Hilton Honors Amex N/A
Hilton Surpass Amex 10 Priority Pass visits a year
Hilton Honors Business Amex 10 Priority Pass visits a year
Hilton Aspire Amex Priority Pass select membership, with up to two free guests

 

Card Other Benefits
Hilton Honors Amex No foreign-transaction fees (see rates and fees)

Car rental insurance (secondary)

Access to Amex Offers

Hilton Surpass Amex No foreign-transaction fees (see rates and fees)

Car rental insurance (secondary)

Access to Amex Offers

Hilton Honors Business Amex No foreign-transaction fees (see rates and fees)

Car rental insurance (secondary)

Access to Amex Offers

Hilton Aspire Amex No foreign-transaction fees (see rates and fees)

Car rental insurance (secondary)

Baggage loss and damage insurance

Travel accident insurance

Premium roadside assistance

 

As you can see, the spread in costs and benefits between these cards is pretty significant. However, unless you’re in the market for a business credit card — in which case your only option is the Hilton Honors Business Card — for most people, the Hilton Honors Aspire Card will be the clear winner.

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)

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. 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 photo courtesy of Hilton Los Cabos.

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Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points and a free weekend night reward after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 4 months of Card membership.
  • Earn a Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 in 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
17.99%-26.99% 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.