Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card review: Quality perks for a reasonable fee
Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card overview
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card provides solid earnings at Hilton properties and automatic Hilton Gold elite status, which offers complimentary breakfast, increased earnings and space-available upgrades when you stay at Hilton properties. The status perk alone may make it easy to justify the card’s $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.
Hilton Honors Gold status is one of the best mid-tier hotel loyalty statuses you can obtain. As a Hilton Gold elite member, you’ll get complimentary breakfast, space-available room upgrades and improved earnings when staying at Hilton brands. Luckily, you can easily earn and maintain Hilton Gold status since it is an automatic perk of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card.
The Hilton Surpass card is an ideal choice for those who stay at Hilton properties often and want a cobranded credit card with a modest annual fee and valuable perks — but who aren’t willing to shell out for the top-tier Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.
The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex 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.
With its elevated welcome bonus, you might wonder whether the Surpass card is a good addition to your wallet. Here are the details and other cards to consider as you decide.
Hilton Surpass welcome offer
New applicants can earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points and a free night reward after spending $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of cardmembership. Offer ends July 19.
Having another Hilton credit card doesn’t make you ineligible for the welcome bonus, but remember that Amex has a “once per lifetime” rule on card bonuses. Amex also has these terms for the welcome offer:
Welcome Offer not available to applicants who have or have had the Hilton Honors Surpass® Card or the Hilton Honors Amex Ascend Card. American Express 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, Amex will inform you before submitting your application if you’re not eligible for the bonus. If you get this message, you can proceed without the welcome offer or withdraw your application before Amex performs a hard pull on your credit report.
Related: A complete guide to Amex’s one-bonus-per-lifetime restrictions
Earning points with the Hilton Surpass
The Hilton Surpass card is a great way to earn Hilton points. You’ll earn 12 points per dollar at Hilton hotels and resorts — a 7.2% return on spending, based on TPG’s valuations. This is better than you’d get with most of the best credit cards for booking hotels, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve (6%).
You’ll also earn 6 Hilton points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants (including takeout and delivery), U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, giving you a return of 3.6% on these purchases. Finally, you’ll get 3 points per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases — a return of 1.8%.
These returns on non-Hilton spending aren’t spectacular. But, if you’re looking to boost your Hilton points balance, the Surpass card provides a decent return even for purchases outside the Hilton Honors program.
Related: Booking direct: How much value does Hilton status provide?
Redeeming points with the Hilton Surpass
When it comes to the Hilton Honors program, your best bet is to redeem your Hilton points for free nights. Unfortunately, Hilton doesn’t publish an award chart, instead using dynamic pricing where the number of points needed for a redemption fluctuates based factors such as the cash cost of the hotel, holidays and peak travel periods.
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.
Hilton’s Points & Money option allows you to pay more cash (and fewer points) when making a reservation. This can be useful when you don’t have enough points for a full booking but don’t want to pay the full cost of the hotel room.
Hilton Honors also allows members to earn and redeem Hilton points with partners. However, most non-hotel redemption options provide relatively low value for your points, so avoiding these low-value options is best.
Finally, remember that Hilton allows you to pool your points with up to 10 other members. If you want to combine balances with a friend or family member to put an even more luxurious award stay within reach, you can.
Related: 5 ways Hilton Honors should improve its loyalty program
Hilton Surpass benefits
The Hilton Surpass card’s welcome offer is attractive. But the long-term value for semi-regular Hilton guests comes card’s ongoing perks and benefits.
Hilton Honors Gold status
The Hilton Surpass card gives cardholders complimentary Gold status in the Hilton Honors program. TPG values Hilton Gold status at $1,255 per year. Hilton Gold status includes the following perks:
- 80% points bonus on paid stays.
- Space-available room upgrades up to executive level rooms.
- Elite Rollover Nights.
- Fifth night free when you book a stay completely with points.
- Daily breakfast or food and beverage credit.
If you’re a big spender and charge 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, there’s a simpler path to Diamond status: it’s an automatic perk of the Hilton Aspire card, which has a $450 annual fee (see rates and fees).
It’s worth pointing out that other credit cards offer complimentary Hilton Gold status, though none has an annual fee lower than the Surpass card:
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: $95 annual fee (see rates and fees).
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: $695 annual fee (see rates and fees).
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: $695 annual fee (see rates and fees).
So if you already carry any of these cards, getting Hilton Gold status as a perk from the Hilton Surpass won’t provide any additional value.
Related: Points of View: Which credit card should you use for Hilton stays?
Priority Pass access
The Hilton Surpass comes with a Priority Pass Select membership offering 10 lounge visits per year after you enroll for this benefit. Bringing a guest into the lounge uses one of your 10 visits, but you can pay for additional Priority Pass lounge visits.
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.
Related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access
Free night reward
You can earn a free night reward by spending $15,000 on purchases with the Hilton Surpass card in a calendar year. You can use this free night at almost any Hilton property worldwide on any night of the week. Even at a conservative valuation of $300, you’re still looking at an additional 2% return on that $15,000 in spending.
Related: How to get maximum value from Hilton free night certificates
The Hilton Surpass offers various other benefits. For example, you will pay no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees) when traveling outside the U.S.
You’ll also enjoy free two-day shipping with Shop Runner, Send & Split to divide bills with friends — such as a group dinner — Pay It Plan It to pay large purchases over time and secondary rental car insurance of up to $50,000 for theft or damage.*
* Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Not all vehicle types or rentals are covered, and geographic restrictions apply. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for details. Policies are underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company. Coverage is offered through American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc.
Related: 6 reasons to get the Hilton Honors Amex Surpass card
Which cards compete with the Hilton Surpass?
For those looking to earn and redeem points with Hilton, natural competitors of the Surpass card will be other Hilton credit cards. It’s also worth considering cards whose points you can use at Hilton in addition to other redemption options.
- If you don't want an annual fee: The Amex Hilton Honors card also earns points you can redeem with Hilton for free hotel stays. As a card with no annual fee (see rates and fees), you’ll naturally earn at lower rates and enjoy fewer perks. With the Amex Hilton Honors card, you’ll earn 7 points per dollar at Hilton hotels and resorts, 5 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants (including takeout and delivery), 5 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations and 3 points per dollar on other purchases. For more details, see our full review of the Amex Hilton Honors card.
- If you want more perks: The Amex Hilton Aspire card is Hilton’s premium card, offering top-tier Diamond status as an automatic benefit. The card’s annual fee is $450 (see rates and fees), but TPG values Diamond status at more than $3,000 annually. You’ll receive a free night reward on each account anniversary, and you can earn another by spending $60,000 on purchases with your card during a calendar year. Additionally, you can receive statement credits each year for up to $250 in airline fees per year, up to $250 in Hilton resort credits and up to $100 in Hilton on-property credits. You’ll also receive a Priority Pass membership with unlimited lounge access for you and up to two guests. For more details, see our full review of the Amex Hilton Aspire card.
- If you aren't partial to Hilton: Try the Amex EveryDay Preferred card, with which you’ll earn 3 points per dollar on up to $6,000 of annual purchases at U.S. supermarkets (then 1 point per dollar), 2 points per dollar at U.S. gas stations and 1 point per dollar on other purchases. You’ll also earn a 50% points bonus each billing period if you have 30 or more transactions during that period. The Amex EveryDay Preferred card doesn’t earn Hilton points. Instead, it earns American Express’ own Membership Rewards points, which you can transfer to Hilton for hotel redemptions but also can use with more than a dozen other airline and hotel partners. For more details, see our full review of the Amex EveryDay Preferred card.
For additional options, check out our full list of the best travel cards.
Read more: Which credit card should you use for Hilton stays?
The information for the Amex EveryDay Preferred and Hilton Aspire cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Is the Hilton Surpass worth it?
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.
While the Surpass doesn’t offer the flexibility of a card like the Amex EveryDay Preferred card or the elite perks of the Amex Hilton Aspire card, it could still be just what you need to make your next stay with the Hilton Honors program even more rewarding. You'll get the benefits of having Gold status as well as lounge passes to use. Just note that you do need to spend $15,000 in a calendar year to receive a free night award.
Official application link: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card
For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Amex Business Card, click here
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex EveryDay Preferred card, click here.
Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox, Stella Shon, Chris Dong, Robert Thorpe and Ryan Smith.