Forget The $450 Hilton AMEX Card – The Free Card Is The One For Me


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From next year Hilton is moving from having two credit card providers (Citi & Amex) to just the one provider (Amex) and that has sparked some changes in the Hilton credit cards you can apply for and that you may already have.

Amex has announced that, in January 2018, it will be adding two new Hilton co-branded cards to its stable as well as “refreshing” its two existing Hilton cards and this has got a few people quite excited.

The big news that has everyone talking is that Amex will offer a new premium card with upgraded benefits and an annual fee to match.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card will offer the following benefits in exchange for a $450 annual fee:

  • 14X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
  • 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants
  • 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on other purchases
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status
  • One Weekend Night Reward at a hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio with your new Card and each year of Card Membership
  • A second Weekend Night Reward at a hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio after spending $60,000 in purchases on the Card in a calendar year
  • Unlimited Priority PassLounge passes to ease the airport experience
  • $250 Airline incidental fee statement credit
  • $250 Hilton resort statement credit
  • $100 on-property credit at Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts when booking the exclusive Aspire Card package
  • Access to 24/7 American Express concierge
  • No foreign transaction fees

If you’re a Hilton loyalist I can see why this may be a card that will interest you – Diamond Status alone is probably a big reason to have this card – but, if like me, you mainly stay with other chains I’m not sure there’s any real compelling reason to get the card.

Some will argue that the $450 annual fee will be offset by the cash benefits that come with the card regardless of your hotel loyalties….but I tend to disagree.

  • The $250 airline fee works in exactly the same way as the airline fee benefit that comes with the Amex Platinum Card….and if you have airline status you tend not to get hit with all that many fees. Sure, you could buy airline gift cards and hope that they trigger the rebate (they probably will) but now you’re in the realms of making an effort to get value and you’re running a risk that the rebate never materializes.
  • The $250 Hilton Resort credit only applies, unsurprisingly, if you actually stay at a Hilton Resort….so this pushes you to stay at a property where you may not otherwise have chosen to stay and may even encourage you to book a stay that you may not otherwise have booked (and you know that stay will cost you more than $250).
  • The $100 credit at Waldorf Astoria properties suffers from similar limitations and issues that you find with the $250 Hilton resort credit – if you’re not already a Hilton loyalist this isn’t all that helpful.

So why am I pointing all of this out?

I’m guessing some of you will be thinking that it’s obvious that a Hilton co-branded card won’t be of much interest to someone who doesn’t stay at Hilton properties…but that’s not actually true.

There is one card that has suddenly become a lot more interesting….especially if you’re just starting out in the miles & points hobby and want to limit your costs.

The basic Hilton Honors American Express Card is a simple card that doesn’t offer any amazing benefits….

  • 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
  • 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations
  • 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on all other eligible purchases
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status; Earn Gold status after spending $20,000 in purchases on the Card in a calendar year

….but it does have two very big things going for it – it has no annual fee and, as of January, it comes with no foreign transaction fees either.

This may not be the first credit card that offers the no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee combination (Bank of America and Capital One offer cards that offer this) but it’s the first credit card that I can think of that offers this combination with the ability to earn hotel points…. and it’s definitely the first Amex to offer this combination too.

I value Hilton Honors points at around 0.4 cents each so, effectively, this card offers a 2.0 cent/$ (2%) rebate at all US supermarkets, restaurants and gas stations….and that’s not bad for a card that costs absolutely nothing to keep.

On top of this you get access to Amex Bonus offers (which can easily save you hundreds of dollars a year) and, if you go abroad, you can spend on the card without worrying about additional fees.

I really like this card.

Bottom Line

I’ll let all the other blogs tell you all about the other Hilton-Amex cards and why they think they’re interesting/good/wonderful/must-have cards….but I think the no-fee Hilton Honors American Express Card is the quiet hero here.

It’s a nice starter card for anyone looking to dip their toe into the miles and points hobby and, for someone like me who only stays at Hiltons every now and again, it’s a useful card for earning bonus Hilton points when I do actually visit the chain and it gives me yet another card on to which I can load up the Amex bonus offers that I’m targeted for.

Best of all, it’s free.