Credit card showdown: Hilton Honors Surpass vs. Hilton Honors Business Card
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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
The past few years have been exciting ones for hotel credit cards. Not only did World of Hyatt and IHG Rewards revamp their co-branded products, but in creating Bonvoy, Marriott took the opportunity to overhaul its slate of cards with American Express and Chase.
For its part, Hilton Honors changed its entire lineup in 2018 when it ended its partnership with Citi and doubled down with American Express. Now, after a few name changes and other tweaks, the family of Hilton Honors credit cards offers some great choices for travelers looking to cash in on their loyalty for free stays and on-property perks.
The two mid-tier credit cards Hilton now offers are the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card. In addition to identical annual fees, they offer many of the same benefits. But there are also a few key differences that are of note for consumers trying to decide which of them is better for their needs.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the benefits of each card.
|Hilton Honors Surpass||Hilton Honors Business|
|Annual fee||$95 (see rates and fees)||$95 (see rates and fees)|
|Welcome offer||150,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership, plus a $100 Statement Credit after your first purchase on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 12/31/2019.||125,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months|
|Earning||12x on eligible Hilton purchases
6x at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations
3x on everything else
|12x at Hilton
6x at U.S. gas stations, U.S. restaurants, U.S. purchases for shipping, flights booked with airlines or through Amex Travel, direct car-rental bookings, U.S. wireless telephone purchases
3x on everything else
|Hilton status||Hilton Honors Gold, or Diamond if you spend $40K in a calendar year||Hilton Honors Gold, or Diamond if you spend $40K in a calendar year|
|Hotel benefits||Free weekend night after you spend $15,000 in a calendar year||Free weekend night after you spend $15,000 in a calendar year. Second weekend night after you spend $60,000 total in a calendar year|
|Other benefits||No foreign exchange fees (see rates and fees), 10 Priority Pass lounge visits, secondary car rental insurance, travel accident coverage, warranty extension, purchase and return protection, access to tickets and exclusive events, ShopRunner||No foreign exchange fees (see rates and fees, 10 Priority Pass lounge visits, secondary car rental insurance, travel accident coverage, warranty extension, purchase and return protection, access to tickets and exclusive events|
Now, let’s get into the details and why you might choose one over the other.
Personal versus business credit cards
The first question you should ask yourself is whether you need a personal or business credit card more. Many folks might default to applying for a personal credit card, but there are several reasons a business credit card might make more sense.
First, having a business credit card helps you separate your personal and work expenses. The activity on it sits on a separate report from your personal credit activity and so it won’t have the same impact on your personal credit score. Many issuers also extend more credit to business accounts than personal ones, so if you do have some large purchases to make, this could be an easier way to do so.
Opening a business credit card is also a possible way to get around the limits some issuers impose on the number of personal cards any one consumer can have open, such as Chase’s 5/24 rule or Bank of America’s new rules.
What’s more, you do not need to own or operate your own business in order to qualify for a business credit card. Banks know that employees and freelancers also require business credit cards for their endeavors and are more than willing to let them open accounts.
That said, you should have legitimate reasons for opening and using a business credit card, so don’t just apply for the sake of doing it — especially considering the other assets these two specific products have in common.
Both the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card (see rates and fees) and the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (see rates and fees) cost $95 a year to keep in your wallet, so this is not a major differentiating factor.
At time of writing, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card is offering 150,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership plus, a $100 Statement Credit after your first purchase on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 12/31/2019.
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card is offering 125,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
So the potential points haul is the same for both cards, but you have to spend $1,000 more to earn it with the business version. Still, that’s not too onerous over a three-month period.
This is where the two cards really diverge, as the business version’s bonuses are predicated on work expenses.
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card earns 12x points per dollar on eligible purchases from a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio. It earns 6x points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations. This really has many of the major purchase categories covered. Finally, the card earns 3x points per dollar on everything else.
The Hilton Honors Business American Express Card earns 12x points per dollar on Hilton purchases. Cardholders also earn 6x points per dollar spent on wireless services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. shipping purchases, at U.S. restaurants, on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel, and on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies. The card earns 3x points per dollar everywhere else.
As you can tell, the personal card’s spending categories are much more focused on everyday purchases such as groceries, gas and dining. By contrast, the business version rewards business travelers more richly thanks to several travel bonus categories as well as upped earning on dining (a major expense for some businesses) and day-to-day professional needs like shipping and wireless.
Since many of these two cards’ other benefits are quite similar, you should be able to look at your spending habits and intentions and determine which of these will earn you more points over the course of time.
Both cards offer automatic Hilton Gold status, which confers benefits like earning 80% bonus points on paid stays (so 18x points per dollar rather than 10x), a welcome amenity of 500-1,000 bonus points, a fifth night free on award stays, space-available room upgrades and complimentary breakfast at most brands that do not provide it for all guests.
Cardholders of both can also spend their way to top-tier Diamond status by making $40,000 or more in purchases on their card in a calendar year. (Though if this is your goal, you might just be better off applying for the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, which offers Diamond status as an automatic benefit.)
Surpass cardholders who spend $15,000 on eligible purchases in a calendar year also earn a free weekend night reward that can be used at most properties around the world.
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card also offers a free weekend night when you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year, but you have the opportunity to earn a second one with $60,000 or more in purchases.
That’s a lot more spending for just one more free night, but if you’re planning to put a lot of purchases on your card anyway (and this is not outside the norm for many small-business cardholders), then you might as well get an extra night out of it.
Both the Surpass and business Hilton cards offer members 10 free Priority Pass lounge visits per year. This is an interesting, if not overly compelling, perk. For fairly frequent travelers who pass through airports with Priority Pass lounges, 10 visits per year might be enough to cover their needs. However, if you plan to regularly visit Priority Pass lounges and can really maximize access, you might want a card with a more comprehensive lounge benefit, such as The Platinum Card from American Express or the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Neither card charges foreign transaction fees (for the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card, see rates and fees, and for the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card, see rates and fees). Both offer travel accident insurance up to $100,000, baggage insurance up to $500 for checked bags and $1,250 for carry-ons, and secondary rental-car insurance (unless you opt for Amex’s pay-per-use Premium Protection).
Return protection maxes out at $300 per item, up to $1,000 per account per calendar year, and purchase protection is up to $1,000 per claim and $50,000 per calendar year on both cards.
The Surpass also offers free two-day shipping on eligible items from more than 100 online stores via ShopRunner.
Should you get both cards?
Given their similarities, you will probably only need one or the other of these cards. To decide which one is best for your needs, review their earning bonus categories and calculate which will earn you the most points based on your typical spending habits. If you plan to use it for everyday purchases that include groceries, gas and dining, the Surpass is the better option.
However, if you do need a business credit card and can max out this one’s benefits through spending, like the upgrade to Diamond status and a second annual free weekend night, the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card might be the better choice for you.
Featured image courtesy of the Conrad Maldives.