Hilton Gold status the easy way: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card review
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Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card overview
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card provides solid earnings at Hilton properties and Gold elite status. And, Hilton Gold status gets you complimentary breakfast, increased earnings and space-available upgrades when you stay at Hilton properties. So, the status perk alone may let you quickly 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.
Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with a new welcome bonus offer.
As I’ve learned in my travels, Hilton Gold status is one of the best mid-tier hotel loyalty statuses you can obtain. And, as a Hilton Gold elite, you’ll get complimentary breakfast, space-available room upgrades and improved earnings. Usually, you’d need 40 nights, 20 stays or 75,000 base points to earn Hilton Gold status. But, cardholders of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card get complimentary Gold status as a card perk.
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This mid-tier hotel credit card is 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 card and its closest competitors so you can decide for yourself if the Hilton Surpass is right for you.
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Who is this card for?
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card is an excellent option for semi-frequent guests of Hilton properties who don’t typically travel enough to reach Gold (or Diamond) status organically. 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 the airport.
Since the Hilton Surpass locks you into earning (and then redeeming) points through the Hilton Honors program, you should enjoy staying with Hilton brands. And, it certainly helps if you know — or are willing to learn — how to redeem Hilton points and maximize Hilton Honors redemptions.
But, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card might be a better fit if you’d benefit from complimentary top-tier Hilton Diamond status and don’t mind the card’s high $450 annual fee (see rates and fees). After all, the Hilton Aspire Card comes with an up to $250 airline fee credit each calendar year and a up to $250 Hilton resort credit each account year that can more than offset the card’s high annual fee.
Welcome offer: As much as $880 in value
The Hilton Surpass currently offers a welcome offer of 130,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a one-time $100 statement credit after using your new card to purchase an ExpertFlyer Premium annual subscription ($99.99 plus applicable taxes, followed by automatic renewal) within your first year. The welcome offer points equate to $780 in value based on TPG’s most recent valuations.
You may be wondering how the Hilton Surpass welcome bonus compares to the other three cobranded Hilton Amex cards. Here are their current offers, as well as links to our reviews of each card:
- Hilton Honors American Express Card — 80,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership. See our full review of the Hilton Honors Card from American Express.
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card — 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $3,000 on the card within your first three months of card membership. See our full review of the Hilton Business Amex Card.
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card — 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $4,000 on the card within your first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a one-time $100 statement credit after using your new card to purchase an ExpertFlyer Premium annual subscription ($99.99 plus applicable taxes, followed by automatic renewal) within your first year. See our full review of the Hilton Aspire Card.
However, note the welcome offer terms for each card. Generally, each card will state something like the following regarding your ability to receive the welcome offer:
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.
Luckily, you don’t have to guess whether American Express will give you a welcome offer. Instead, you’ll see a message after filling out the application and hit the apply button if you aren’t eligible to receive the welcome offer. If you get this message, you can decide to proceed without the welcome offer or withdraw your application before Amex performs a credit check.
Main benefits and perks
The Hilton Surpass‘ welcome offer is attractive, but the long-term value for semi-regular Hilton guests comes in the card’s added perks. In particular, a couple of the card’s benefits stand out. So, let’s take a closer look at each of these perks.
Hilton Honors status
The Hilton Surpass provides cardholders with complimentary Gold status in the Hilton Honors program, which TPG Senior Editor Nick Ewen values Hilton Gold status at $1,255. Hilton Gold status includes the following perks:
- 80% points earning bonus on stays
- Space-available room upgrades up to executive level rooms
- Daily continental breakfast for you and one guest
- Fifth night free when you book a stay completely with points
If you’re a big spender and plan on charging more than $40,000 on the card in a calendar year, you’ll earn 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 Diamond status — this can add quite a bit of value to the card. However, if you want to jump straight to Diamond status, you should consider applying for the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express instead of the Surpass, since you receive it for free as a perk.
However, the Hilton Surpass isn’t the only way to automatically earn Hilton Gold status. Indeed, Hilton Gold status is also an automatic benefit on the following three cards:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express — $550 annual fee (see rates and fees)
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card — $95 annual fee (see rates and fees)
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express — $595 annual fee (see rates and fees)
So if you already have any of these cards, getting Hilton Gold status as a perk on the Surpass won’t provide any additional value.
Priority Pass access
The Hilton Surpass comes with a Priority Pass Select membership, although it won’t allow you unlimited access to Priority Pass lounges. You’ll receive 10 lounge visits every year once enrolled, but you can pay for additional Priority Pass lounge visits.
So, 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.
Weekend night reward
Another nice perk on the Hilton Surpass is a complimentary weekend night reward after spending $15,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year. Typically, you can use this free night at almost any Hilton property worldwide as long as your stay is on a weekend night. Hilton defines weekend nights as Friday, Saturday or Sunday night in most parts of the world.
However, unexpired free weekend night rewards earned through the end of 2020 can be used on any night — not just weekend nights. And, nights issued between May 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, are also valid for 24 months.
Plus, the Hilton Surpass is also offering several temporary benefits to help cardholders maximize their card while spending habits and travel plans have shifted during the coronavirus pandemic. For example, any bonus points earned through eligible purchases that post to your Hilton account between May 1 and Dec. 31 will be base points and count toward elite tier qualification and lifetime Diamond status.
How to earn points
As a cobranded hotel card, you’d expect the Hilton Surpass to be a great way to earn Hilton points. And, the Hilton Surpass won’t disappoint you in this area. When you use your card to pay at Hilton hotels and resorts, you’ll earn 12x Hilton points per dollar spent. Based on TPG’s valuations, this is a solid 7.2% return. Notably, this is a better return than you’d get with most of the best credit cards for booking hotels, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve (6%).
You’ll also take home 6x Hilton 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 3x points per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases, equating to a return of 1.8%. Neither of these rates is spectacular, but it’s still a decent return for purchases outside of the Hilton Honors program.
How to redeem points
When it comes to the Hilton Honors program, your best bet is to redeem your Hilton points for free nights. 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.”
The lack of an award chart makes it difficult to determine how many points you’ll need for a stay until you book.
To alleviate this uncertainty, Hilton added a Points Explorer tool to its website. The Points Explorer tool allows you to check the minimum and the maximum number of points other Hilton Honors members have recently used to book a standard room. You can search for properties in a particular city, state or country. You can also filter your choices by brand and the number of points you’re willing to use. However, since this tool uses historical data instead of current pricing information, you may occasionally find that you need to pay more or less than the tool shows.
There are many ways to maximize redemptions with the Hilton Honors program. One of my favorite options is to focus on properties that cost relatively few points but provide great value. For example, here are 20 of the best Hilton hotels in the U.S. bookable for 20,000 points or less per night. And, here are some of the top Hilton properties overseas bookable for 10,000 points or less per night.
You can also 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 Points & Money option 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.
Finally, like most other programs, Hilton Honors also allows members to earn and redeem Hilton points with partners. But, most non-hotel redemption options provide relatively low value for your points. So, I recommend avoiding these low-value options.
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 lesser earning rates, but it charges no annual fee (see rates and fees).
- Hilton Diamond status
- Up to $250 resort credit each year of card membership
- 14x earning at participating Hilton properties
- Up to $250 airline fee credit each calendar year
- Priority Pass Select membership that provides unlimited visits
However, 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 each card’s benefits and earning rates. Here are some cobranded hotel credit cards that compete with the Hilton Surpass:
|Card||Annual fee||Sign-up bonus||Earning categories||Best benefits|
|Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card||$95||75,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.||6x points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels
2x points on all other purchases
|A free-night certificate every account anniversary (up to 35,000 points); Marriott Silver status; 15 elite credits each calendar year|
|The World of Hyatt Credit Card||$95||25,000 World of Hyatt points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
25,000 additional World of Hyatt points after you spend $6,000 total on purchases in your first 6 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|
|IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card||$89||140,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months||10x points at IHG properties
2x points at gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores
1x points on everything else
|Anniversary night after each account anniversary (valid at a property costing 40,000 points per night or less); Platinum Elite status; fourth night reward; save 20% on IHG points purchases with your card; a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit every four years (up to $100)|
If you don’t want your card to lock you into a single program, you may be better off with the $95 annual fee Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. The Sapphire Preferred’s sign up bonus is 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. You can use this bonus in many ways, including transferring to Hyatt, Marriott or IHG for hotel stays. Plus, you’ll earn 2x points on all travel and dining purchases.
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card is competitive in the crowded mid-tier category of cobranded hotel credit cards. With a lucrative welcome offer, solid earning rates, complimentary Gold elite status and an array of valuable perks, the Hilton Surpass is an excellent 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.
Official application link: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card
Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor.
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.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum Card, please click here.
Featured photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy.
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This card offers 130,000 bonus points after you use your card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn a one-time $100 statement credit after using your new Card to purchase an Expert Flyer Premium annual subscription ($99.99 plus applicable taxes, followed by automatic renewal) within your first year. Terms apply.
- Earn 130,000 Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn a one-time $100 statement credit after using your new Card to purchase an Expert Flyer Premium annual subscription ($99.99 plus applicable taxes, followed by automatic renewal) within your first year.
- 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