How to Maximize the Hilton Amex Aspire Card
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We recently looked at the new top-tier Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express. The card packs a wallop of benefits for the frequent Hilton guest, really surpassing all of our expectations for a premium co-branded hotel card. Today, let’s dig a little deeper into the unique benefits of the card and discuss strategies for maximizing each, ensuring you get full value from the card in exchange for the $450 annual fee (See Rates & Fees).
The Aspire card is currently offering 150,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. TPG has looked a few times recently at maximizing large amounts of Hilton points. After spending a lot of time looking for award stays at Hilton properties (thanks to a recent influx of Hilton points in my account), I’ve come to a few conclusions:
- Using Points and Money Rewards at luxury properties can make Hilton points worth as much as 1 cent per point toward subsidizing the cash price of a hotel.
- Hilton points are incredibly valuable in Mexico, Egypt, Malaysia and some South American countries. Many properties require between 5,000 and 20,000 points per night, including full resorts in Oman and Egypt.
- Look to take advantage of the fifth night free, a benefit of Diamond status, any time you can. This is overlooked far too often.
If I were getting the Amex Aspire card, the 150,000-point welcome bonus would only be the beginning of growing a substantial Hilton Honors balance. With the bonus spend categories (discussed below), you should set your sights on a few hundred thousand points then look to execute a killer international trip with the above strategies.
$100 Waldorf and Conrad Property Credits
Stay two consecutive nights at the luxury brands in the Hilton portfolio, which must be booked through the special portal, and you’re eligible for up to a $100 property credit for almost anything charged to your room folio during the stay. In test searches of the Conrad Bora Bora, the Conrad Tokyo; The Roosevelt New Orleans, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel; and the Waldorf Chicago, the full $100 was offered, and the eligible rates matched the flexible rates available to non-Aspire cardholders.
Taxes, fees, gratuity and the room rate itself are not eligible. The terms for the offer say to check with the front desk of your hotel to ensure what you’d like to charge is eligible for the reimbursement. I would check out a massage, room service or gift shop souvenirs, or grab a few intricate coffee beverages to take advantage of the credit.
$250 Airline Fee Credit
Surpassing even the Platinum Card® from American Express’ $200 credit, this co-branded hotel card gives you $250 per calendar year. The credit works the same way as the Platinum family of card credits, where you must select an airline to use the credit. Gift cards, by all accounts, are still working in 2018 for some airlines, but that could certainly change at any given time and you should tread carefully. I look to use the fee reimbursement for checked bags, lounge access and onboard food and drink.
And since we’re speaking of airline-related charges, don’t forget to request your Priority Pass membership from the card, good for unlimited airport lounge visits for you and two guests.
$250 Resort Credits
Visit Hilton.com/Resorts and find properties for your next stay where you’ll be eligible for a $250 annual credit for purchases made during the visit (this includes room rate and incidentals). Like with the $100 property credits above, charges must be placed on your room and you must use the Aspire card for your stay’s folio charges. Remember this is $250 total per year, not per resort stay. You could use the credit for parking, food, spa services and many of the activities resorts can arrange for you during your stay. If I were headed to one of the Hilton resorts in Hawaii, for example, $250 in the bank before arriving would be a pretty sweet deal.
Hilton Honors Diamond Status
In my opinion, there’s a right and wrong way to maximize any top-tier hotel status, like Hilton Diamond offered by the Aspire card. I typically overhear the wrong way a few times annually at Hilton hotel check-in desks. It sounds something like, “But I am Diamond member, I get the suite that is available” or “I am a Diamond, I get 4pm late checkout.” Both of these statements represent a lack of understanding of Hilton Diamond benefits, or the wrong way to maximize top-tier status. They’re also a bit rude and won’t usually lead to the staff complying with your requests.
Unlike with Hyatt and SPG, there’s no guaranteed avenue to suite upgrades as a Hilton Diamond. Also unlike with Hyatt and SPG, late checkout for Hilton Diamonds is not guarantee and according to terms and conditions, “Late check-out must be requested and is subject to availability.” To maximize the Diamond status, read up on all the benefits, including the fine print. The most important benefits are executive lounge access, complimentary continental breakfast (at participating portfolio brands, which can get tricky), 48-hour room guarantee (also not actually guaranteed depending on arbitrarily defined high demand times) and bonus points.
Bonus Spend Categories
If you want to quickly rack up Hilton Honors points, you have to know when the Aspire card should come out and when it should stay in your wallet. The Aspire card offers 14 points per dollar spent at hotels in the Hilton portfolio. At our valuation of 0.6 cents per point, that’s equivalent to an 8.4% return on spending. You’ll also earn 7x points (a 4.2% return) on flights booked directly with airlines or , car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at US restaurants. Finally, you’ll earn 3x points (a 1.8% return) on all other spend with the card.
You need to compare the earn rates for an impending expense across all the cards in your wallet and decide which card will help you reach your next award travel goal the quickest. A $300 plane ticket, for example, will earn you 1,500 Amex points (5x) (which can be transferred to Hilton points) with the Amex Platinum. The Aspire card will earn you 2,100 (7x) Hilton points.
Pay for Hilton Stays
Before you decide to go for earning bonus points for travel spend on a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, consider the massive earning rates that will show in your account when you use your Aspire card to pay for Hilton stays.
Here’s a breakdown of how many Hilton points you’ll earn per dollar when you stay and pay with your Aspire Card:
- 10x base earning
- 10x Diamond Bonus
- 14x Aspire card earnings
- Any promotion/app booking bonus
At a minimum, you’ll earn 34x Hilton points per dollar on your Hilton Hotel stays. Using our valuations, without any promos that’s equivalent to 20.4% return toward your next Hilton stay. While the cost of Hilton award nights is relatively high compared to other chains’ award charts, you can earn many more points per stay compared to those chains. Don’t forget to make your Aspire card your default payment method in your Hilton profile.
Adding the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express to your wallet can give your award trips a shot of adrenaline. At the airport, you’d have lounge access and a reimbursed bag or seat assignment fee. At the property, you’d have Diamond status for breakfast and lounge access, bonus points, a $250 property credit and hopefully an upgrade. This is really a no-brainer to add if you’re even remotely a frequent Hilton guest or have a couple of annual trips to Hilton properties planned.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.
Featured image courtesy Conrad Hotels
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