Battle of the mid-tier hotel credit cards: World of Hyatt card vs. Hilton Surpass card
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Editor’s note: The guide has been updated with the latest offers and information.
Although sometimes overlooked, hotel credit cards can be a lucrative addition to any wallet.
Many of these cards offer generous sign-up bonuses or welcome offers, incredible hotel redemptions and free night perks. Today, we’ll take a closer look at two mid-tier hotel credit cards: the World of Hyatt Credit Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card. Both cards have a reasonable $95 annual fee (see rates and fees for the Hilton Surpass), especially when considering some of the benefits that you’ll receive on them.
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Personally, I have both of these cards in my wallet. And while they each get used, there is one that comes out on top. Let’s take a deeper dive into these two similar hotel cards to see which may be a better fit for you.
Both cards at a glance
Here is a high-level overview of each card and its respective benefits.
|World of Hyatt card||Hilton Surpass card|
|Welcome offer/sign-up bonus||30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
Plus, up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2 points per $1 spent on purchases that normally earn 1 point, on up to $15,000 in the first 6 months of account opening.
|130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in eligible purchases on the card in the first 3 months of card membership.
Plus, you earn an additional 50,000 points after spending a total of $10,000 in purchases on the card in the first 6 months.
|Free night award?||Yes||Yes|
|How the free night works||Earn a free night at a Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort every year after your cardmember anniversary and an extra free Category 1-4 night after spending $15,000 in a calendar year.||Earn a free weekend night reward after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year.|
|Earning points||4x at participating Hyatt hotels
2x on local transit and commuting, restaurants, airline tickets purchased directly and fitness club and gym memberships
1x on all other purchases
|12x at participating Hilton hotels
6x at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets
3x on all other eligible purchases
|Redeeming points||Fixed award chart with nightly redemptions starting at 5,000 Hyatt points||Dynamic award chart|
Sign-up bonus/welcome offer
The Hilton Surpass currently has a welcome offer of 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in eligible purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, you earn an additional 50,000 points after spending a total of $10,000 in purchases on the card in the first six months.
Meanwhile, the World of Hyatt Credit Card staggers its sign-up bonus. You’ll first receive 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2 bonus points total per $1 spent on purchases that normally earn 1 bonus point, on up to $15,000 in the first six months of account opening.
The Hyatt card is issued by Chase, which means it’s subject to the restrictions of 5/24. That essentially means you will not be approved for this card if you have opened five or more personal credit cards across all banks in the last 24 months.
Which is better?
On paper, the Hilton Surpass card should easily beat out the Hyatt card. Not only do you get more than double the points, but you also have to spend less to earn the full welcome offer of 180,000 points.
However, the sheer number of points only tells part of the story. As mentioned above, our TPG valuation pegs Hilton Honors points at almost less than a third of what World of Hyatt points are worth.
In the real world, the number of Hilton points required for a hotel redemption is closely tied to the cash equivalent of how much it costs per night. Therefore, it’s harder (but certainly possible) to get more value on a per-point basis. However, Hyatt has a fixed award chart that can provide outsize value compared to paying in cash.
With that said, the World of Hyatt card’s offer has a bit of a caveat attached to it. After the initial 30,000 bonus points, new cardholders can earn another 30,000 points by spending up to $15,000 in the first six months of account opening. However, it’s not what you probably think — it’s really half that number of bonus points by our calculations.
The way this works is that Hyatt is now giving you 2 points per $1 on purchases that normally earn just 1 point per $1, on up to $15,000 in purchases for a total of 30,000 additional points. And while that does indeed add up to 30,000 points, it’s really just 15,000 more points above and beyond the 15,000 you’d earn for those purchases at the usual 1x rate.
Winner: Hilton Surpass card
Main benefits and features
A card’s long-term value isn’t in its sign-up bonus, but the perks and benefits that you can make use of regularly.
Instead of including entry-level Hilton Silver status, Surpass cardholders actually receive automatic Hilton Gold status. TPG senior editor Nick Ewen values Hilton Gold at $1,255. If you spend more than $40,000 on the card in a calendar year, you’ll be bumped to top-tier Hilton Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
Gold status perks include bonus points on stays and space-available upgrades up to executive rooms. It used to also mean a complimentary breakfast at all hotels. However, starting in July and continuing through the end of the year, Hilton Gold and Diamond members will benefit from a daily food and beverage credit that will vary by hotel, valid at all luxury, full-service, lifestyle and Hilton Garden Inn properties in the U.S.
Meanwhile, World of Hyatt cardholders get automatic entry-level Discoverist status, which comes with benefits such as late checkout, preferred rooms and a 10% points bonus on eligible purchases. According to our valuations, Discoverist status is worth only $160.
Free night award
Both of these mid-tier hotel cards offer a free night award — but differ in how you earn it.
For the Hilton Surpass, you’ll receive a complimentary weekend night reward after you spend $15,000 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, defined as a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night in most of the world.
Even the most expensive Hilton properties (think: Conrads, Waldorfs and more) qualify to use this free night reward.
Because of the pandemic, unexpired free weekend night certificates (including those issued this year) can be used on any night of the week.
The World of Hyatt card offers an annual free night certificate at a Category 1-4 Hyatt property, which you’ll receive every account anniversary. This can be worth much more than the card’s $95 annual fee but does not include more premium properties in the Hyatt portfolio. However, you’ll also get a second free Category 1-4 night after spending $15,000 in a calendar year.
When compared to the Surpass, you’ll essentially be getting two free nights versus one night on the Hilton — with the caveat being the Hilton night can be at a super high-end property. There are clear pros and cons for each card with this perk.
The Hilton Surpass offers a Priority Pass Select membership, although it won’t allow you unlimited access to lounges. Instead, you’ll receive 10 lounge passes every membership year once enrolled.
While it doesn’t have any lounge perks, the Hyatt card allows you to spend your way toward higher status levels.
You can earn five elite qualifying nights every year you have the card, with the opportunity to earn even more elite credit. Also, every $5,000 spent on the card will normally earn you two additional qualifying nights.
Winner: World of Hyatt card
With the Hilton Surpass, you’ll receive Hilton Honors points at the following rates:
- 12x at participating Hilton hotels.
- 6x on dining at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets.
- 3x on all other eligible purchases.
Related: What’s the best Hilton card for you?
Meanwhile, the World of Hyatt card earns bonus points with these categories:
- 4x at participating Hyatt hotels.
- 2x on local transit and commuting, restaurants, airline tickets purchased directly and fitness club and gym memberships.
- 1x on all other purchases.
As you can see, the Hyatt card’s earnings are about one-third of that of the Hilton Surpass. This falls basically in line with our TPG valuation. Since the Hyatt card has more bonus categories (and ones that are more relevant for me), I’m giving a slight edge to that card.
Winner: World of Hyatt card
Your best bet for both of these cards will be to redeem for hotel stays with each respective brand. With the ongoing pandemic, you also have much more flexibility in terms of changing and canceling reservations — even when using points.
Hilton has a much larger global footprint than Hyatt, so consider that when deciding which card is a better fit for you.
With Hilton Honors, there is no award chart to determine how many points you need for a particular stay. This makes it difficult to determine how many points you’ll need until you are ready to book. However, Hilton does have a Points Explorer tool that 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.
Meanwhile, the best way to redeem World of Hyatt points is for free nights and upgrades. You also have the option to redeem points for dining, spa visits, Lindblad Expeditions and other experiences, but you’re almost always better off using points for hotel rooms.
Redemptions for standard rooms start at 5,000 points per night at Category 1 hotels and 40,000 per night at Category 8 hotels. Premium suites go for as much as 60,000 points per night at Category 7 hotels.
In general, awards are typically lower in cost than other programs and there are some amazing opportunities to get a lot of value from your Hyatt points, more so than Hilton.
Winner: World of Hyatt card
Which card is better for you?
At the end of the day, the card that is better suited for you may come down to brand and loyalty preference. In general, I find the World of Hyatt program to be much more lucrative, but the Hilton Gold elite status benefits may also be enticing for the $95-annual-fee Hilton Surpass.
Another consideration is that the Hilton Honors and World of Hyatt programs both partner with transferable points currencies. You can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to Hilton and you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt. Transferable points are a powerful tool. If you don’t have enough points with a specific program, you can easily shift points from another program.
Keep in mind that the Hilton Surpass card also has a more expensive big brother, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, that offers automatic Diamond status and an annual free weekend night reward just for holding the card — but with a $450 annual fee (see rates and fees). 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.
The World of Hyatt card has no such premium cobranded card offering or any other card that provides Hyatt status.
In this showdown, I’m giving a slight edge to the World of Hyatt card. That’s because it has a superior loyalty program with lower-priced redemptions and the ability to earn two free night rewards over the course of a cardmember year with $15,000 in spending.
However, your needs may be different from mine. You can’t forget about the Chase 5/24 rule. Overall, it’s well worth evaluating what you find most useful in a cobranded hotel credit card. There also is a compelling case to pick up both cards and split your loyalty between two hotel programs — that is exactly what I do.
Related: The best hotel credit cards of 2021
Featured photo of The Confidante Miami Beach’s pool by John Gribben/The Points Guy.
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