In both cases, the annual fees have increased, and each card has had some perks taken away and others added to help offset the higher fees.
Changes to the Hilton Honors Aspire Card
The Hilton Honors American Express US Aspire Card has long been a fan-favourite in the Miles & Points community, as it offers outsized value year-after-year.
On October 19, 2023, a number of changes were made to the card, although it’s worth pointing out that many of the card’s most beloved benefits haven’t changed.
To be clear, cardholders will continue to receive Hilton Honors’s top-tier Diamond status as a benefit.
Beginning with the negative changes, the card’s annual fee has increased from $450 (all figures in USD) to $550. This isn’t too surprising, as we’ve seen similar increases on other Amex US credit cards in the recent past as well.
The biggest loss with these changes is that the card will no longer come with a Priority Pass membership as of February 1, 2024.
The annual $250 Hilton resort credit and $250 annual airline fee credit are no longer offered. If you had the card prior to October 19, 2023, you’ll continue to receive the benefits through to December 31, 2023.
Instead, cardholders will now get up to $400 in annual statement credits for spending at Hilton resorts. The credits are available on a semi-annual basis, which means that you’ll have $200 to use up every six months.
The statement credit can be used towards any spending at Hilton resorts charged to your Aspire card. As long as you can spend at least $200 at Hilton resorts twice per year, you’re coming out ahead when compared to the card’s previous $250 annual credit.
Aspire cardholders will now receive up to $200 in annual statement credits for flights. These credits are available quarterly, which means that you’ll benefit if you spend at least $50 each quarter directly with airlines or for flights booked through Amex Travel.
Cardholders may now earn up to three Free Night Rewards each calendar year, which is up from two.
You’ll receive a Free Night Reward upon your anniversary date (same as before), as well as upon spending $60,000 in a calendar year (same as before). However, you’ll also earn a third Free Night Reward upon spending $30,000 in a calendar year.
Therefore, if you charge $60,000 to your card each year, you’ll have three Free Night Rewards at your disposal, which can be redeemed for Standard Night Awards at Hilton properties worldwide, worth up to 150,000 Hilton Honors points apiece.
In terms of other additions, Hilton Aspire cardholders now receive the following benefits:
- $189 CLEAR Plus credit
- National Emerald Club Executive status
- Cell phone protection benefit, which offers up to $800 to repair or replace a damaged phone, with up to two claims each year and a $50 deductible for each
The above changes take effect as of October 19, 2023.
Changes to the Hilton Honors Surpass Card
American Express US has also implemented some changes to the Hilton Honors American Express US Surpass Card, a mid-tier Hilton card in the lineup.
As with the Aspire card, the annual fee on the Surpass card is also increasing. The new annual fee is $150, which is a $55 increase from the previous $95 annual fee.
Cardholders are still award Hilton Honors Gold status for being a cardholder, and can upgrade to Diamond status upon spending $40,000 on the card each calendar year.
Furthermore, you’ll still earn a Free Night Reward upon spending $15,000 in a calendar year, which is worth up to 150,000 points.
As of February 1, 2024, the card will no longer come with 10 complimentary visits to Priority Pass lounges each year.
To offset the increased annual fee and loss of lounge access, cardholders will now enjoy up to $200 in statement credits at any Hilton property. The credits are awarded quarterly, so as long as you spend at least $50 at Hilton properties each quarter, you’ll maximize the benefit.
It’s worth noting that the statement credits apply to all properties in the Hilton portfolio, and just just resorts, as is the case on the Aspire card.
There are also a change to the card’s earning rates, which are now as follows:
- 12x Hilton Honors points at Hilton properties
- 6x Hilton Honors points at US gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores
- 4x Hilton Honors points on US online retail purchases
- 3x Hilton Honors points on everything else
Of these, only the 4x category multiplier for online retail purchases is new, and the other earning rates remain the same as before.
Lastly, cardholders now enjoy National Emerald Club Executive status, as is the case for Aspire cardholders.
Both Cards Still Offer Great Value
Changes to credit cards are almost always a mixed bag, as issuers aim to justify higher annual fees with added perks, or to stimulate more frequent spending with quarterly credits or threshold-based awards.
While both cards have seen an increase to their annual fees, by $100 for the Aspire and by $55 for the Surpass, both cards still offer a strong value proposition overall, given the perks that come with both cards.
As for the Aspire card, it still offers outsized value to cardholders, if not for Hilton Honors top-tier Diamond status alone (which usually requires staying 60 nights each year), but through the ability to earn up to three Free Night Rewards through spending.
Likewise, if you can make use of up to $600 in annual statement credits for resort stays and flights, this card still offers great value.
If you’re someone who tends to fly every quarter and stay at Hilton resorts twice a year, the statement credits alone more than cover the card’s annual fee. Plus, you’ll enjoy all the benefits of Diamond status for your stays, including complimentary breakfast, suite upgrades, and more.
Furthermore, Hilton Honors’s Free Night Rewards are indeed quite powerful, given that they can be redeemed for nights at Hilton properties worldwide, worth up to 150,000 points. If you redeem them at higher-end properties, they can easily be worth hundreds of dollars each, if not more.
The loss of lounge access on both cards is a negative change, especially for the Surpass card, as 10 lounge visits for a mid-tier card was a great benefit.
As for the Surpass card, it’s arguable that the card’s increased annual fee is quite easily offset by the addition of quarterly statement credit, which can be used at any Hilton property. Again, as long as you’re someone who tends to stay at a Hilton hotel every quarter, you’ll easily come out ahead with this new benefit.
The new 4x multiplier for online retail purchases is an interesting addition to the card, although it’s worth checking the earning rates on any other cards you may have at your disposal.
Depending on your situation, the changes may be a net negative; however, for frequent travellers, and anyone who stays at Hilton properties with any frequency, the value still very much checks out.
Both cards saw an increase to their annual fees, and had some perks taken away and others added.
In sum, both the Aspire and Surpass still have a strong overall value proposition, especially for cardholders who stay at Hilton properties with any frequency.
Furthermore, some of the best benefits on the cards haven’t changed, including automatic status and the ability to earn lucrative Free Night Rewards.