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UPDATE: American Express has now rebranded the Hilton Honors Ascend credit card as the Hilton Honors Surpass credit card (more info here)
I’m a little bit of an outlier in the miles & points world in that I don’t apply for a lot of credit cards every year. My credit card portfolio is pretty settled and it usually takes a new entry into the market or a significant improvement in an existing card’s offering to pique my interest. But this week something else caught my eye.
I’ve held the entry-level Hilton Honors credit card from American Express for quite a few years and it’s long been a card I’ve liked quite a bit.
Historically I don’t stay at many Hilton properties so the no annual free Amex card which offers 7 Honors points per dollar for spending at Hilton properties has been perfect for me – it costs nothing to keep, it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees and on the rare occasions I stay with Hilton (like when I stayed at the Conrad Singapore last year) it earns me an acceptable number of points.
But things may be changing.
Back in February I mentioned that I’m considering moving some of my stays over to Hilton as my Marriott Lifetime status isn’t really doing all that much to keep me loyal to Marriott, and those thoughts haven’t gone away.
I have a Hilton stay coming up next week (albeit on points) and I’m tempted to book a couple of Hilton properties for trips I have coming up later in the year so I’ve been reconsidering my need for a more powerful Hilton Honors credit card.
Almost as if American Express read my mind this is what I saw on one of my Amex Offers pages the other day:
This is the same offer as is publicly available for new applications for the Hilton Honors Amex Ascend Card and, interestingly, this upgrade option wasn’t appearing anywhere else on the Amex website – it was just showing under my Amex offers.
American Express had my attention.
Hilton Honors Credit Card vs Hilton Honors Ascend Credit Card
Here’s how the entry-level Hilton Honors credit card and the $95/year Hilton Honors Ascend credit card compare in the more major categories:
Outside of the Hilton earnings there’s not really too much difference between the two cards if you’ve viewing them from my perspective as….
- I wouldn’t use either card at restaurants – I’d use my Citi Prestige card
- I wouldn’t use either card at supermarkets – I’d use my Amex EveryDay card
- I wouldn’t use either card at gas stations – I’d use my Chase Ink Business Plus card
- I don’t need Hilton Silver or Gold status from these cards as I already get Gold status courtesy of my Platinum Card from American Express.
- I’m never going to spend $40,000 on the Ascend Card just to earn Hilton Diamond Status.
But the Hilton earnings are noticeably different.
By my valuation the Ascend card offers a 4.8% effective rebate versus a 2.8% effective rebate offered by the basic card and that makes the Ascend card interesting….and the chance to earn 150,000 Hilton Honors points (which I value at $600) just adds to the interest.
Upgrading To The Hilton Honors Ascend Credit Card
I called up Amex to see if this offer could be transferred over to the Hilton Honors Aspire credit card (Diamond Status would be useful to me over the course of the next few months) but, sadly, the answer was no……but I did manage to confirm the following:
- An upgrade to the Hilton Honors Ascend card would not result in a hard pull on my credit score
- Upgrades are instantaneous
- The $95 annual fee would be prorated across the remainder of my existing credit card year
- My credit card number would not change following the upgrade
With no hit coming to my credit score (no new credit card application will appear on my credit report) and with an upgrade offer as good as any publicly available sign-up bonus, the decision to upgrade was a no-brainer….and the confirmation came through the second I agreed to the terms and conditions of the upgrade.
Even if I eventually decide not to move more of my business over to Hilton I’ll still be getting $600 of Hilton Honors points for $95 (at most) and I can always downgrade back to the no annual fee basic card further down the line. There’s no real downside to me here.
I genuinely don’t know how much use I’ll get out of the Hilton Honors Ascend card over the next year (I’ll be re-evaluating its use to me in 12 months time) but it’s nice to know that my upcoming Hilton stays will see me earn noticeably more points than they would otherwise have done and I’m looking forward to putting the 150,000 bonus points to very good use (once I earn them).
With a bit of luck Amex will target me for a similarly tempting upgrade to the Aspire credit card in the near future so I can earn another large batch of Hilton Honors points without my credit report being touched 🙂