Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card review: Worth the annual fee for the perks
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest information.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card overview
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is a premium hotel credit card loaded with top-tier benefits. For starters, it comes with Hilton Diamond status for as long as you hold the card, and you’ll earn 14 points per dollar at participating Hilton hotels. In addition, the card comes with up to $250 in airline-fee credits and up to $250 in Hilton resort credits every calendar year. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½
*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
For several years now, Hilton has had an exclusive relationship with American Express for its cobranded credit cards, and this lineup of Amex cards has been a hit. Although Hilton Honors has sky-high award night prices, the resort credits of up to $250 annually and complimentary Diamond status make the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card a great pick if you stay at Hilton properties regularly.
The information for the Hilton Aspire card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
The Aspire card also comes with a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, which gets you (and two guests) unlimited access to 1,200+ airport lounges around the world. On top of that, every year you’ll get a free-weekend-night certificate valid at nearly any Hilton property. There aren’t too many hotel credit cards with all of these perks tied to a single card.
Here's everything you need to know about the Hilton Aspire Card.
Related: The best hotel credit cards of 2020
Who is this card for?
It’s plain and simple — if Hilton is your preferred hotel chain and you know you’ll have a few family vacations or business stays at Hilton properties each year, this card should be in your wallet. The combination of spending bonuses, Hilton property credits, airport lounge access and an airline fee credit present real value to anyone who stays at Hilton properties.
Even with the card’s significant $450 annual fee (see rates and fees), several benefits easily outweigh the cost. The welcome offer and Hilton Honors points you earn with the card alone will cover the fee. When you tag on all the other perks, which we’ll discuss below, you’ll likely agree the Aspire card is one of the best premium credit cards out there.
Related: Choosing the best Hilton credit card for you
The Aspire card’s welcome offer is 150,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Those 150,000 points are great, and worth $900 according to the latest TPG valuations — but it’s not uncommon to see higher-value bonuses on premium travel cards.
Main benefits and perks
There are a lot of perks and value packed into this cobranded card. To take full advantage of these perks, read all the fine print on the Amex website.
- Hilton Honors Diamond status — As long as your card account is open, you’ll receive Diamond Hilton elite status for the primary cardholder (sorry, authorized users don’t get it). TPG Senior Editor Nick Ewen values Diamond status at more than $3,000 annually, thanks to the bonus points you earn, lounge access, free breakfast and room upgrades.
- Up to two reward nights — Receive one night at almost any Hilton property worldwide after opening your account and on your cardmember anniversary each year. Earn a second night when you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year.
- Up to $250 in Hilton resort statement credits — During each cardmember year (defined by when you opened the account), you’ll receive up to $250 in statement credits for incidentals charged to your card at participating Hilton resorts. That $250 can be used on dining, activities, spa treatments and even room rates and taxes — but it doesn't apply on advance-purchase or nonrefundable rates.
- Up to $200 in annual airline fee credits — As with the airline fee credits on The Platinum Card® from American Express, you need to select an airline of your choice in order to receive up to $200 in statement credits for incidentals from that airline on your account each calendar year, including spending by authorized users. The credit is only for incidental fees, such as change or cancellation fees, checked bag fees or lounge passes.
- Up to $100 Hilton on-property credit — When you book at least a two-night paid stay at Waldorf Astoria or Conrad properties through HiltonHonors.com/aspirecard (or over the phone and quote booking code ZZAAP1), you’ll receive a credit of up to $100 for incidentals during your stay.
- Priority Pass membership — Unlimited Priority Pass lounge access for you and two guests. Additional guests will be charged $32 per lounge visit, though authorized users on the card do not receive a Priority Pass membership. It's also worth noting that Priority Pass memberships associated with an American Express credit card are no longer eligible for non-lounge experiences, such as Priority Pass partner restaurants.
Enrollment required for select benefits.
The card currently carries some travel protections as well, including trip delay reimbursement* (when your flight is delayed by more than six hours) along with trip cancellation and interruption insurance.*
*Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company).
However, these perks are rather unremarkable compared to those offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve. While they're nice to have if you plan to make the Hilton Aspire your primary card, there are definitely better options out there for more comprehensive travel protections.
Finally, the Hilton Aspire has no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees).
How to earn points
The card makes it easy to get a high balance in your Hilton Honors account, which frankly is what you’ll need if you’d like to enjoy luxury or peak-season properties with Hilton Honors award nights. The Aspire card offers 14 points per dollar spent at hotels in the Hilton portfolio. At TPG’s valuation of 0.6 cents per point, that’s equivalent to an 8.4% return on spending. You’ll also earn 7 points per dollar (a 4.2% return) on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants.
Finally, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar (a 1.8% return) on all other spend with the card. I did some digging on the Amex website and found the following car rental companies will earn 7 points per dollar: Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, E-Z, Fox, Hertz, National, Payless, Sixt and Thrifty.
Because the card comes with complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond Status, which offers a 100% points bonus (or 20 points per dollar at most Hilton properties), you’ll be earning a total of 34 points per dollar on most Hilton stays when you use the card (a 20.4% return). Throw in the routine promotions Hilton offers, and your account balance should skyrocket.
For the other bonus categories, unless you’re trying to reach a threshold for an upcoming Hilton stay, I recommend using another card. The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express or Chase Sapphire Reserve are ideal choices for plane tickets, while the American Express® Gold Card is one of the best cards for dining spend.
The transferable points you can earn on those cards are simply too valuable to give up for Hilton points.
How to redeem points
Hilton gives you lots of options when it comes time to use your points. My suggestion is to ignore the options for merchandise, gift cards, premium room redemptions and transfers to airlines (at a roughly 10:1 ratio). Instead, stick with standard award nights.
Related: Your ultimate guide to Hilton hotel brands
Although you can’t be entirely sure how many points an award night is going to cost thanks to Hilton’s variable award charts, you can use Hilton’s Points Explorer to get a rough idea of how many points your desired property will cost. You can also use your points to subsidize paid stays with the Points & Money option, which could get you up to 1 cent per point off your total room bill when choosing very expensive Hilton properties.
Cards that compete with the Hilton Amex Aspire
It’s hard to designate direct competitors for this card. There aren’t too many so-called top-tier credit cards that are cobranded with a specific hotel program.
Interestingly, the most direct competitor of the Hilton Amex Aspire Card may be The Platinum Card® from American Express, with an annual fee of $695 (see rates and fees). This is because you can enjoy lounge access, bonus points on airline bookings, an annual airline incidental fee credit (enrollment is required) ,and Gold Hilton status as a cardholder of the Amex Platinum.
You can also transfer the Membership Rewards points earned from the Platinum card to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio (so 1 Membership Rewards point gets you 2 Hilton points).
If I were a devout Hilton guest, it’d be hard to carry both cards with the overlapping benefits and the ability to earn points that transfer to Hilton with the Platinum card (although with a much lower earning rate for Hilton stays).
However, Hilton Diamond status is a notable step above Gold, and if you're certain to visit a participating Hilton resort every year, the Aspire could make sense.
On the other hand, it's much easier to make a case for carrying both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Hilton Amex Aspire Card. There’s no way to earn bonus Hilton points with the Sapphire Reserve, since Hilton isn’t a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. The Sapphire Reserve doesn’t give you any benefits at Hilton properties, but it offers far superior travel protections.
I think these two cards would be a solid combination.
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card provides an incredible amount of value to even a semi-frequent Hilton customer. This is really a great premium product to carry if you don’t have another similarly positioned card.
If you routinely stay at Hilton properties, the offer of Diamond status and 34 Hilton points per dollar without any promos is incredible — plus, you get complimentary breakfast (or an on-property credit at U.S. properties) from Diamond status and up to $250 off at Hilton resorts every year.
The welcome bonus is enticing, but the added incentive of a free-night reward every time you renew your card is a great incentive to hold the card for the long haul.
Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox, Chris Dong and Benét J. Wilson.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card please click here.
Featured photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy.