It’s all about status and earning: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card review

Nov 14, 2019

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The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card provides solid earnings at Hilton properties and Gold elite status. Gold status gets you complimentary breakfast, increased earnings and space-available upgrades when you stay at Hilton properties, which may mean that you’ll quickly be able to justify the card’s modest $95 annual fee (see rates and fees). Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐½

*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

As I’ve learned in my travels, Hilton Gold status is one of the best mid-tier hotel loyalty statuses you can obtain. As a Hilton Gold elite, you’ll get complimentary breakfast, space-available room upgrades up to Executive rooms and improved earnings, just to name a few of my favorite benefits. One of the easiest (and least expensive) ways to get Hilton Gold status is by becoming a cardholder of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card.

This mid-tier credit card, previously known as the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card, re-adopted the Surpass name in June 2019. Despite the name change, most of the card’s benefits remained the same. So the Hilton Surpass is still an ideal choice for Hilton loyalists in need of a cobranded credit card with a modest annual fee. In this guide, I’ll present all the relevant information about the the card and its closest competitors so you can decide for yourself whether the Hilton Surpass is right for you.

In This Post

Who is this card for?

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card is a great option for semi-frequent guests of Hilton properties who don’t typically travel enough to reach Gold (or Diamond) status organically. Since you’re locked into earning (and then redeeming) points through the Hilton Honors program, a baseline requirement for this card is that you recognize the value of the Hilton Honors program. The Hilton Surpass carries a $95 annual fee (see rates and fees) but provides some nice perks when you hit the road, both at Hilton properties and at the airport.

Further reading: Hilton Surpass vs. Hilton Aspire: Which card is right for you?

Welcome bonus: As much as $1,000 in value

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
The current limited-time welcome offer is worth up to $1,000. (Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

The Hilton Surpass currently offers a limited-time welcome bonus of 150,000 points after you spend $3,000 in purchases with your new card within the first three months of card membership. The welcome bonus points equate to $900 in value based on TPG’s most recent valuations, but you may be able to get more value if you choose when and where to use your points strategically. You’ll also get a $100 statement credit after your first purchase with your new card within the first three months of card membership. This offer ends Dec. 31, 2019.

Here’s how the Hilton Surpass welcome bonus compares to the other three Hilton Amex cards:

Each card states the following regarding your ability to receive the welcome bonus:

Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card. We may also consider the number of American Express Cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility.

Further reading: 7 great ways to use 150,000 Hilton Honors points

Main benefits and perks

The Hilton Surpass’ limited-time elevated welcome bonus is attractive, but the long-term value for semi-regular Hilton guests comes in the card’s added perks. In particular, four of the cards benefits really stand out:

Hilton Honors status

(Photo by Katie Genter / The Points Guy)
On a recent stay at the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Fiji, Hilton Diamond status netted Katie and JT Genter an upgrade to the property’s best room type: an ocean view “bure” (bungalow). (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

The Hilton Surpass provides cardholders with automatic Gold status in the Hilton Honors program, which Nick Ewen recently valued at $1,260. Gold status includes perks such as bonus points on stays, space available room upgrades up to executive rooms and complimentary breakfast at all hotels.

If you’re a big spender and plan on charging more than $40,000 on the card in a calendar year, you’ll be bumped to top-tier Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year. Depending on how frequently you stay at Hilton properties (and how much you value the given perks of the applicable status), this can add quite a bit of value to the card.

Keep in mind that Gold status is also an automatic benefit on The Platinum Card® from American Express. So if you already carry that card in your wallet, this particular perk drops in value quite a bit. Likewise, if you want to jump straight to Diamond status, you’ll want to consider the higher-annual-fee Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express.

Further reading: What is Hilton Honors elite status worth in 2019?

Priority Pass access

Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.
Lounges that participate in Priority Pass, like the The Club at ATL, usually provide seating, power and light snacks. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy).

The Hilton Surpass comes with a Priority Pass Select membership, although it won’t allow you unlimited access to Priority Pass lounges. Instead, you’ll receive 10 lounge visits every year once enrolled. You can pay for additional visits. As I mention above, if you’re a semi-frequent traveler who goes through an airport with a Priority Pass lounge a handful of times a year, this is a great perk that won’t break the bank like similar benefits on premium travel-rewards credit cards.

Further reading: Best credit cards for airport lounge access

Weekend night reward

Another nice perk on the card is another complimentary weekend night reward after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year. You can use this free night at almost any Hilton property worldwide as long as your stay is on a weekend night, which is defined as a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night in most of the world.

Further reading: Maximizing Hilton Amex free night certificates

Shopping protections

(Photo by Nick Jio via Unsplash)
The Hilton Surpass offers shopping protections that provide significant value if a recent purchase made with your card breaks. (Photo by Nick Jio via Unsplash)

While other cards have cut shopping protections, the Hilton Surpass offers three important types of protection. The card’s extended-warranty protection may add up to two years to the manufacturer’s original warranty; the card’s return protection may reimburse you when you attempt to return a recently purchased item but the merchant won’t accept it; and the card’s purchase protection covers recent purchases against theft and accidental damage.

Other benefits

The Hilton Surpass offers a variety of other benefits including secondary car rental loss and damage insurance, access to the Global Assist hotline and no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees).

How to earn points

(Photo by Katie Genter / The Points Guy)
Earn 12 points per dollar spent on your stay at the Hilton DoubleTree Resort Fiji. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

As a cobranded hotel card, you’d expect the Hilton Surpass to offer a solid bonus on purchases at Hilton properties worldwide and you’d be right. As a cardholder, you’ll earn 12 points per dollar of spending on these stays (in addition to the normal points you’d earn through the Hilton Honors program). This is a solid return of 7.2% on these purchases, based on TPG’s valuations, and more than you would get with other popular cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve (6%).

You’ll also take home 6 points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, giving you a solid return of 3.6% on these purchases. Finally, you’ll get 3 points per dollar spent on all other purchases, equating to a return of 1.8%. Neither of these rates is spectacular, but it’s still a decent return for purchases away from the main program with which the card is aligned.

Further reading: The ultimate guide to the best cards for each bonus category

How to redeem points

When it comes to the Hilton Honors program, your best bet is to redeem your points for free stays. Unfortunately, in 2017, Hilton pulled its full award charts and instead added the following language:

“The amount of Hilton Honors points required to redeem hotel rewards varies by hotel, room, booking date and length of stay.”

This makes it difficult to determine how many points you’ll need for a stay until you actually book the stay.

Home2 Suites by Hilton Long Island City
The Home2 Suites by Hilton New York Long Island City, NY can cost up to 60,000 points per night. (Photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy)

To alleviate this uncertainty, Hilton added a Points Explorer tool to its website. The Points Explorer tool allows you to check the maximum number of points required to book a standard room at a particular property or for multiple properties in a specific area. While the tool also shows the least number of points required to book a room at the property recently, in many cases this information is missing or simply the same as the maximum number of points required. In the end, it’s best to assume your stay will cost the maximum number of points — and then you have points to spare if the cost happens to be less.

Alternatively, you can book stays using Hilton’s Points & Money option. As the name suggests, this option allows you to decrease the number of points and increase the amount of cash you pay when booking a stay. The premise is simple: You can redeem points to cover an entire stay, pay cash for the entire stay or adjust these amounts to use a combination of the two. This provides valuable flexibility for your Hilton Honors points, since you’re in charge of how many (or few) points to use on a given redemption.

Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.
You can save on points and cash by using Points & Money. (Photo of a suite at the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Penang by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Like most other programs, Hilton Honors also allows members to redeem points for various non-hotel rewards. Most of these options provide relatively low value for your points and should be avoided. Here are three guides that will help you get solid value from your Hilton points:

Which cards compete with the Hilton Surpass?

The other personal cobranded Hilton credit cards — the Hilton Honors American Express Card and the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express — are certainly competitors of the Hilton Surpass. The Hilton Honors American Express Card offers weaker benefits and lower earning, but it charges no annual fee (see rates and fees). The Hilton Aspire Card has a $450 annual fee (see rates and fees) but offers stronger benefits including Diamond status, a $250 resort credit each year of card membership, 14x earning at Hilton properties, a $250 airline fee credit each year of card membership and a Priority Pass Select membership that provides unlimited visits.

Further reading: How to choose the best Hilton credit card for you

Mid-tier cobranded hotel credit cards from other major brands also compete with the Hilton Surpass. The choice of which card(s) are a good fit for you will depend on how much you can utilize the benefits and earning offered by each card. Here are some cobranded hotel credit cards that compete with the Hilton Surpass:

Card Annual Fee Welcome Bonus Earning Categories Best Benefits
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card $95 Earn 75,000 Marriott Rewards points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening 6x points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels; 2x points on all other purchases A free-night certificate every year (up to 35,000 points); Marriott Silver status; 15 elite credits each calendar year; no foreign transaction fees
The World of Hyatt Credit Card $95 25,000 World of Hyatt points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening; 25,000 additional World of Hyatt points after you spend $6,000 total on purchases in your first six months from account opening 4x points at Hyatt properties; 2x points on local transit and commuting, dining, airline tickets purchased directly from airlines and fitness club and gym memberships; 1x points on everything else A free night after each account anniversary (valid at a Category 1-4 property) and a second free night after spending $15,000 during your cardmember anniversary year; World of Hyatt Discoverist status; five qualifying-night credits each year as well as two more for every $5,000 you spend; no foreign transaction fees
IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card $89 80,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months 10x points at IHG properties; 2x points at gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores and 1x points on everything else Anniversary free night after each account anniversary (valid at a property costing 40,000 points per night or less); Platinum Elite status; fourth reward night free; save 20% on IHG points purchases with your card; a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit every four years; no foreign transaction fees

If you’re not looking to be locked into a single program, another competing product is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which also carries a $95 annual fee. The bonus (60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening) can be used in a variety of ways, including transferring to Hyatt, Marriott or IHG for hotel stays. You’ll earn double points on all travel and dining purchases, including a variety of merchants. You’re covered with trip-delay and trip-cancellation insurance plus primary car-rental coverage, and like the others above, it also waives foreign transaction fees.

Further reading: The best credit cards for booking hotels

Bottom line

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card is competitive in the crowded mid-tier category of cobranded hotel credit cards. With a lucrative welcome bonus, solid earning rates, complimentary Gold elite status and an array of valuable perks, the Hilton Surpass is a great option for those who visit Hilton properties semi-frequently. It doesn’t offer the flexibility of a card like the Sapphire Preferred, but it could be just what you need to make your next stay with the Hilton Honors program even more rewarding.

Apply here for the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card

For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.

Featured photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

For a limited time, earn 150,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. Plus, a $100 statement credit after your first purchase with the card in the first three months. Terms apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn a $100 Statement Credit after your first purchase on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Plus, earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 12/31/2019.
  • 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
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent, Good
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.