Is the Hilton Surpass the best card to use for Hilton stays?

Oct 15, 2020

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If valuable hotel elite status without the high annual fee is what you’re after, it doesn’t get much better than the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card. The $95-per-year Surpass (see rates and fees) offers immediate Hilton Gold status — an elite tier that is quite valuable for even an occasional traveler. Free breakfast and late checkout, anyone? However, when it comes to spending money at Hilton properties, what card comes out on top? Hilton has a trio of consumer cards to choose from, in addition to other travel cards that give you a bonus on hotel stays.

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Remember, you don’t necessarily have to pay with the card to reap its benefits. Let’s take a closer look to see which card is best for Hilton stays.

Current Hilton Surpass offer

Both the premium Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and mid-tier Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card include substantial welcome bonuses along with a unique TPG-only offer: a one-year subscription to ExpertFlyer Premium, worth up to $100. ExpertFlyer is owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures.

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

The Hilton Surpass card offers 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases with your new card within the first three months of card membership.

Related: TPG exclusive: Earn up to 150,000 Hilton points and a year of the new ExpertFlyer Premium

How the Surpass card stacks up to the competition

Based on TPG’s latest monthly valuations, the Hilton Surpass card’s 12x points earned at Hilton hotels equals a return of 7.2%. However, cobranded Hilton cards aren’t your only options for earning bonus rewards on a Hilton hotel booking.

Below, I’ve compared the earning rates — and the return on spending — you’d get with the three current Amex Hilton cards and a handful of other top travel rewards cards that offer bonus points on hotels.

Related: Review of the Hilton Surpass card

CARD POINTS PER DOLLAR AT HILTON HOTELS RETURN ON SPENDING (BASED ON TPG’S VALUATIONS) NOTES
Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express 12x 7.2%
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card 14x 8.4%
Hilton Honors Card from American Express 7x 4.2%
Chase Sapphire Reserve 3x 6% 3x points on all travel
The Platinum Card® from American Express 5x 10% Must be booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year. Terms apply.
Chase Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited 5x 10% Must book through Chase Travel
Citi Prestige® Card 3x 5.1% 3x on hotels

The information for the Chase Freedom Flex, Freedom Unlimited and Citi Prestige 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.

As you can see, several cards are great for earning bonus points on Hilton stays and hotel purchases in general.

But the cards that offer the highest return on hotel purchases — the Amex Platinum and new Chase Freedom cards — require that you book prepaid reservations through their respective portals, restricting your ability to earn Hilton points and use elite perks. Beyond those cards, the Hilton Aspire and Hilton Surpass are currently your best bets for Hilton stays.

Of course, it also depends on which points are the most valuable to you — if you’d rather earn points in the Ultimate Rewards program than Hilton, the higher return on spending with the Hilton cards doesn’t mean much.

Waldorf Astoria La Quinta (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

Some of the best cards to use for Hilton stays are, in fact, not even Hilton cards. Booking with a Chase Freedom through Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel (or any third party) typically won’t earn you Hilton points or let you make use of your elite perks, but that may not matter to you.

However, if you want points, elite night credit, and the ability to utilize your status benefits, booking directly through Hilton is your best option.

In that case, you can’t go wrong with the Hilton Aspire and Hilton Surpass cards — offering 14x and 12x Hilton points per dollar (terms apply), respectively.

Additional reporting by Sarah Silbert. 

Featured photo by Julie Soefer for Canopy Philadelphia. 

For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Surpass Amex, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Aspire Amex, click here.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

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.

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More Things to Know
  • 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
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
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.