Posted by William Charles on November 2, 2017
Credit Cards

Published on November 2nd, 2017 | by William Charles

55

American Express Hilton Honors Aspire Full Card Review – $450 Annual Fee



As mentioned earlier American Express is launching a new premium co-branded card with Hilton officially called ‘Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card’. In this post we will take a look at the card in more detail including some of the card benefits such as a $250 resort credit. This card will officially launch on January 18th, 2018.

Quick Overview

  • Annual fee of $450
  • Card earns at the following rates:
    • 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 for as long as you hold the card
  • One weekend night at any hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio (on account opening and on every account anniversary)
  • A second weekend night at any hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio after spending $60,000 on the card within a calendar year
  • Priority Pass membership (unlimited access, no word on guest access)
  • $250 airline incidental fee statement credit (to work the same as the credits provided on Platinum & Gold cards)
  • $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
  • Authorized users can be added for no additional charge but don’t receive any of the benefits the primary cardholder does (they can use the $250 credits, but it’s a total of $250 in credits across all cards. They can also get access to the Waldorf Astoria/Conrad $100 benefit).

Card Benefits

As with any card with an annual fee of $450, you’d expect significant benefits to justify that fee. Let’s take a look at each of the benefits in more detail.



$250 Hilton Resort Credit

Every card member year you can receive up to $250 in statement credits for eligible purchases made directly at participating Hilton Resorts. Purchases made by both the primary cardholder and authorized users count towards this $250 total. Eligible purchases must be made directly with participating Hilton Resorts and charged to your Aspire card. Incidental charges (including charges made at restaurants, spas, and other establishments within the hotel property) must be charged to your room and paid for with your Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card at checkout in order for them to be recognized as Hilton Resort purchases. This can be used on the room rate.

Only resorts listed at hilton.com/resorts are eligible.

Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond Status

Diamond status is currently Hilton’s highest loyalty tier (although we’ve speculated this might not be the case for long). The primary cardholder will receive diamond status for as long as the card is open, if the card is closed for any reason you will lose your Diamond status. Diamond status normally requires 30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 Hilton base points in a calendar year. It provides the following benefits:

  • 50% Elite Status Bonus
  • 48-hour Room Guarantee
  • 5th Night Free (also available for Silver & Gold members)
  • Guaranteed Discount: A discounted, changeable & refundable rate is exclusively available for Hilton HHonors members.
  • Digital Check-In: choose your room, and customize your stay from your mobile device up to 24 hours in advance.
  • Complimentary in-room and lobby Premium Internet access, during stays at Waldorf Astoria™ Hotels & Resorts, Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton™, Canopy™ by Hilton, Embassy Suites Hotels™, Hilton Garden Inn®, Hampton Inn & Suites®, Homewood Suites by Hilton®, Home2 Suites by Hilton®, and Hilton Grand Vacations™. Premium speed Internet may not be available at all hotels.
  • Quick reservations and check-ins based on your room preferences
  • Late check-out2
  • Express check-out
  • 2nd Guest stays free3
  • Complimentary access to fitness centers and health clubs4
  • Two complimentary bottles of water per stay (at Waldorf Astoria™ Hotels & Resorts, Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton™, Embassy Suites Hotels™, Hilton Garden Inn™ and Hilton Grand Vacations™ hotels)
  • Full list of other benefits here

$250 Airline Fee Credit

Every calendar year you can receive up to $250 in statement credits toward incidental air travel fees. You must select one qualifying airline at americanexpress.com/airlinechoice and this can be changed once each year in January after it’s originally selected. This is the same benefit that is provided on the American Express Platinum cards.

Free Weekend Night(s)



This card gives you one free weekend night at any hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio with your new card and each year of card membership. You can also receive a second free night certificate if you spend $60,000 or more on the card in a calendar year.

Weekend nights are issued as a redeemable code and sent to the e-mail address attached to your Hilton Honors account within 8-12 weeks of meeting the spend requirement and expire one year from issuance.. You must call Hilton Honors (1-800-446-6677) to redeem these weekend night rewards. Each weekend night certificate can be redeemed for one weekend night standard accommodation double occupancy subject to availability. It’s valid at all properties in the Hilton portfolio excluding those listed at HiltonHonors.com/weekendreward (currently errors out).

A weekend night is defined as Friday, Saturday or Sunday night. It includes all applicable taxes, but you must still pay mandatory resort fees if applicable. You can combine these free night certificates with other Hilton or Free night promotions. Eligible purchases do NOT include fees or interest charges, cash advances, purchases of travelers checks, purchases or reloading of prepaid cards, purchases of gift cards, person-to-person payments, or purchases of other cash equivalents.

Priority Pass Lounge Membership

This card gives you unlimited complimentary access to lounges in the Priority Pass network. The card also gives up to two guests complimentary access, additional guests can be brought into the lounge at a cost of $27 per guest.

$100 Property Credit At Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts

When you book the ‘exclusive Aspire Card package’ at Waldorf Astoria Hotel & Resorts or Conrad Hotels & Resorts you will receive a $100 property credit. There will be a gated online booking portal that will be ready in January that card members will use to book the package. The $100 credit can be used for property expenses like golf, F&B, spa, etc. The stay requires a min 2 night stay. The credit will be taken off the guest’s folio at checkout. The credit is not used toward room rate.

Our Verdict

When evaluating a card I like to look at two different things:

  • Immediate value
  • Long term value

It’s hard to determine the immediate value currently because we don’t know if there will be a sign up bonus offered (or what that bonus would be) outside the free weekend night certificate. In terms of long term value the idea is to determine if keeping the card passed the first year makes sense and to do that we just look at the annual fee vs the benefits provided. I like to break down each individual benefit and give it a value (I generally ask myself how much I’d pay for that benefit in cash), obviously this is going to vary A LOT from person to person so make sure you’re doing your own calculations.

  • $250 resort credit. I think this is something I need to investigate further to get a value on.
  • $250 airline incidental credit. I personally don’t think these are worth anymore than 80% of their value, maybe even less. So I’d value this at $200.
  • Annual free night certificate. $100-$150. I know I can get a lot more “value” out of the free night than this but I really don’t enjoy luxury hotel properties in most cases – especially when I’ve only got a single night to use them. If I had a partner that also had the card I might value this higher.
  • Priority pass membership. $0, I already hold this with other cards and getting this won’t change my decision to keep those cards open.
  • Complimentary Diamond status. Honestly not much, Maybe $5. I don’t really have paid stays at Hilton properties and don’t value status much in general.
  • $100 property credit at Waldorf Astoria. $0. I can’t see myself ever using this.
  • Earning rates. $0, I barely if ever book paid stays at Hilton and 7x on travel isn’t attractive at all. This also makes the $60,000 spend threshold for the second free night worthless to me.

Without taking into account the resort credit I’d be looking at $305-$355 in value for a $450 annual fee. As I previously stated everybody is going to value these benefits differently! Feel free to argue why my subjective opinion is wrong in the comments below. In all seriousness I think a lot of people fall into a trap of overvaluing benefits and they end up paying a lot of money every year in annual fees without getting any massive benefit from it. I try to provide a counterpoint to that to invite a more robust discussion on benefits.

When this card launches I’ll almost certainly be signing up, but long term will be a different story. I’d love to hear how readers are valuing each of the benefits (and why) in the comments.



55 Responses to American Express Hilton Honors Aspire Full Card Review – $450 Annual Fee

  1. Joe S says:

    Any signup bonus? Thought I saw something about 125K Hilton points?

  2. mcafeeee says:

    Very curious to see if they offer a sign up bonus. That’s the real appeal for most of us that aren’t heavy Hilton users.

    • I’m sure they will, I predict two free nights plus the free night you normally get.

      • Hadley V. Baxendale says:

        AGREED!

        That is what the Citi Reserve offered and I would not be surprised, however, if they only offer 1 free night upon account opening and an additional free night after hitting a minimal spend within first 3 motnths.

        I do think that you evaluated the free night at the very low end. However, for this to make it work for most people, you should look at getting at least $200.00 return for the free night — plenty of choices for resorts in Florida, AZ, CA and Hawaii, where you could pair the $250 resort credit.

        I’m perhaps looking at the W-A Cavalieri where no Diamond really gets any benefits, so the $250 can be used for food, etc. during the stay.

        I’m sure no one knows, but I would also expect that the $250 credit could likely be used for parking charges incurred at various resort properties.

  3. Daniel B says:

    Im traying to find a card that gives me free access to airport lounges, while not paying that much on annual fees. Any suggestions?

  4. Brian says:

    Diamond does provide a free breakfast at most of their locations. Waldorf Astoria is one exception I know of off the top of my head.

  5. Oliver says:

    Diamond does guarantee you 2 free breakfasts and lounge access (if any) at most properties. I would value that at $20 per night at least.

  6. Aarif says:

    Hilton Gold gets free breakfast at many Hilton properties (Hilton, Hilton Garden, Doubletree, Conrad, etc), so I assume Diamond would get those as well.

  7. Jason says:

    Diamond does get free breakfast (just like Gold) right?

    • mastervk says:

      Yes . Diamond gets free breakfast (some properties are excluded ) for 2 people .

      I have stayed at many Hilton properties and always enjoyed free breakfast (with hot omelette stand) . Also got suite and executive lounge access at Hotels like Chicago Palmer house . If you stay at Hilton regularly you can value Diamond status at at least $20 per day .

  8. Elias says:

    Diamond gives you a lot of benefits IMH Experience. I ve been diamond for 3 years and even at waldorf astorias that supposedly you get nothing I have always gotten free breakfast and lounge access, waived resort fees, gifts on arrival and many cool stuff.

    • Hadley V. Baxendale says:

      Please list each and every WA where you supposedly received free breakfast and lounge access — I would be quite interested to know as I am sure others would.

      In addition, to your securing this valuable perk that no one has been able to do, please indicate whether these were reward stays or cash stays and if so, how much did you pay on an average nightly rate to be treated so well.

      Color me skeptical.

      • CJ says:

        I’ve stayed at the WA Shanghai and WA Beijing, and in both instances received free breakfast as a diamond member. At the WA Beijing, I had 3ppl staying in the room and was offered free breakfast for all 3 ppl. Stayed at the WA in Maui but did not receive free breakfast. Did however receive a suite upgrade. My guess is it is a lot easier to get free breakfast at WA in Asia then it is in the US. All paid with cash and points.

    • Jan B says:

      Honestly, my Diamond status got me “not much”. I am Gold, again for now.

      I guess it’s because my stays were not at upscale props and/or YMMV circumstances.

      On thread topic, however, this card is unappealing and I am trying to make decisions on an early application run. The benefit breakdown was helpful. Thanks, WC.

  9. Scott says:

    You must really hate Hilton to give Diamond status only a $5 value! LOL

    • I just don’t have paid stays with them much and don’t really value status in general, I think a lot of times it makes me make bad decisions.

      • Lu says:

        I do think you are making a mistake here. I like your style, more down to earth than other guys. I too not value status much but Hilton is one exception. They give you free breakfast at a easy to get gold level and unlike upgrade etc, it is something with real value for most people.

        However the difference between diamond and gold is not much in my opinion. If the decision is moving from surpass I wouldn’t give too much weight here.

        The 14X return on Hilton spending is really standing out. It is more valuable than the 3X return from CSR. I value chase point at 2 cents a point and Hilton 2 points a cent. so it is 6 vs. 7 cents.

        • Sure, but like I said I don’t really have paid stays at Hilton so 14x doesn’t do much for me. Everybody is going to be different, I share my own valuations just to get conversation started. I know some people will highly value Diamond/Gold status, I’m just not one of those people.

          • DeauxBois says:

            I’m with you, Doc. The value of status is so dependent on each person’s travel habits.

            I stay in hotel chains regularly, but I rarely pay for stays and I’m a quantity over quantity guy when it comes to award stays. To stretch my available points as far as possible, I almost always (i.e. unless I’m going to a beach resort where the hotel itself is part of the destination) end up staying in the lower and mid-tier brands within each chain much more often than the luxury properties.

            With that said … you know what almost all of the lower- and mid-tier brands now offer? Free breakfast, in some form, with most now offering some type of hot breakfast. You don’t even need status; you just need to be staying at the property.

            I understand that a lot of people prefer nicer hotels and arguably better breakfasts, but many others don’t find value in it. I appreciate your willingness to voice your opinion and point out the subjectivity of it. It seems that so many people in this hobby always assume the highest values for benefits, even though so many that I know do this for frequent, relatively frugal travel instead of the more aspirational travel that seems to dominate the blogosphere.

      • Mser says:

        HH Diamond can be an outstanding perk if you know how to maximize it. Head and shoulders better than being Hyatt Diamond in my experience.

  10. Kent C says:

    I’ve always thought the “2nd guest is free” benefit is incredible. How generous on their part.
    Also, what other card has a $60,000 spend to get one night (extra, I know). What’s the opportunity cost on that, $1,200?

    Still some of the card benefits are worthwhile. Like others said, adding bonus points would be great.

  11. Scott says:

    Is it metal? If not, it will be the only $450 card that is not.

  12. Jeff says:

    Why such a low value on the Diamond Status?

    • Because I don’t value status in general and typically don’t stay at Hilton properties. I prefer non chains where possible.

      • Paul says:

        Do you have a previous post (or perhaps a future post) where you could further expand on this (the non-chain preference/strategy)? I’d be interested to hear more.

        I recently upgraded to the Surpass card for the 100k bonus, so I am not sure if I will qualify for any sign up bonus if I upgrade to Aspire. But for sure the Ascend card doesn’t really appeal to me (12 priority passes, when I don’t fly all that much is not attractive, and the 15k spend for a single weekend night is far less competitive than IHG’s free night offering on it’s card.

  13. danny says:

    With this reward structure, I’m not really sure it’s sustainable. 7% equivalent back on hiltons, 3.5% equivalent back on restaurants, plus the potential $50 profit(if you can spend both $250’s for travel), free diamond status and additional amex offers, it seems like you could come out way ahead.

    I personally wouldnt touch the other fee hilton cards bc I think it’s pretty easy to come out ahead with this card.

    The big limiting requirement being that you want to spend your hotel pts at a hilton property.

    • Tony says:

      Do you realize that almost every one of your so called ways of coming ahead require spending $ in the first place?

      The fact that they can convince you that all this additional spend benefits you more than them already means they’re coming out ahead.

  14. Biggie F says:

    Appreciate the review and, as ever, there is no unitary value to these things (cards). They depend a lot on where each person is in their aspirations and travel habits.

    To me, the sweet spot is if you want to stay at an affordable Waldorf-Astoria for a couple of nights that are also resorts. I’m talking about something like the Boca Raton beach one, or the Versailles Trianon, both of which happen to be in my wheelhouse. If the booking portal is not a rip-off, then the $250 for the resort plus the $100 for incidentals take on some real value.

    For me, the key will be seeing if the $200 in airline fees pays out like on the Amex Plat cards. If so, this becomes a buy-and-hold for me, since for stuff I’ll probably do anyhow (or steer myself to willingly), I’ll make a few bucks and have Diamond status, for whatever that is worth. Hyatt has sort of kicked me to the curb in the new World of Hyatt thing-a-ma-jig, so I’m more open to Hiltons than in the past.

    I guess I put this in the category of the Chase Ritz-Carlton Visa — not a keeper for everyone, but if you fly as a couple on cheap itineraries ($100 discount) and can handle the bizzarro-world air credit scheme, then it’s a wash-plus and starts to pay cash if and when you ever stay at a Ritz-Carlton, with the club privileges.

    Again, look at your travel habits and tastes before deciding.

    • Hadley V. Baxendale says:

      Biggie —

      Beware the Trianon. Apparently gets terrible reviews for Diamond treatment vis a vis rooms, etc.

  15. Andy says:

    I have a feeling this card will go the way of the citi prestige eventually. offering a ton of benefits to get people hooked into Hilton and then with a few years a lot of the benefits will be removed or devalued. best to take advantage while its hot.

  16. P says:

    I love your valuation. If Amex ever changes the way their airline credit functions to match CSR or Prestige then I’d value it at face value but I’ve had my platinum for almost a year and I haven’t used the credit this year because it’s too hard to do so

  17. Sam says:

    hi DOC, is “One weekend night at any hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio (on account opening and on account anniversary)” meaning

    a.) free night on account opening and 1 free night account anniversary (total of 2 nights) OR
    b.) free night on account opening and free night EVERY account anniversary

  18. Gerry says:

    Well, for work I stay at Hilton and get reimbursed so that $250 hotel credit would go right into the annual fee. Not too shabby once I include another 250 in incidentals and priority pass.
    It’s got potential!

  19. Blue says:

    I think the best way to value the resort credit is as a rebate of the resort fee at a property. My guess is that the best use of this card is to apply for it during a membership year in which you are planning a resort stay.

  20. Darv says:

    The problem with free night certificates is that they expire. For those of us who plan ahead, this is a challenge. Especially when properties fill up. I hope the sign up bonus is in points.

  21. Josh says:

    Doc, first, you are awesome. You are the down to earth hero that the “travel” blogging community needs. Valuing Hilton Diamond Status at $5 whereas some other blogger who shall not be named valued it at over $2,000. I love it. I know you are flush with compliments, all well deserved, but telling it like it is, that Hilton Diamond just doesn’t matter much, kudos to you. While I wouldn’t personally value it quite so low, I wouldn’t value it that much higher than you did. Your analysis seems to be spot-on. I do wonder, and I am not sure if you have heard, with Amex’s RAT team empowered, if there will be a crackdown on the airline incidental fee. They have to know that people using it on Southwest, for instance, can’t possibly have $200 in incidental fees. I have been expecting that to end for a while, and to me, that greatly impacts the value of this card. I don’t plan to apply for it, unless the sign-up bonus is 100,000 points, then I could be persuaded for at least the first year. I would expect a 50,000 to 75,000 bonus. Getting people to sign up for a $450 annual fee card with no bonus? Unlikely.

    As an aside, I know you have pushed back on it in the past, but I will ask again to give us a bit more insight into your travel style. A full-blown trip report isn’t needed, but throwing some candy at the parade would be appreciated. Is it mostly using points for stays, but otherwise, using Hotels.com gift cards at 20% off plus stacking to stay at boutique places?

    • Rob says:

      I don’t think Amex is going to crack down on the airline incidental reimbursement because they would get a wave of closures. They are aware that their main competitor cards (CSR, Prestige etc) offer higher travel credits and without restrictions even though they are charging the same annual fee. Amex is likely leaning the other way, looking to make it more competitive, in my opinion.

      • Simon says:

        That’s a good point. now that the Plat card charges $100 more on annual fees, I doubt Amex is going to put more restrictions on the restricted enough airline credit.

  22. Scott says:

    The resort credit can be used for the room rate is a surprise but makes sense from a folio perspective. I was looking back a few years and I usually have a resort stay every year. Combine that with the free night and that is worth a decent value.

    I wish I had this card when I was traveling all the time for work. Diamond level earning plus 14x on stays is crazy point earning per trip. I love how easy Hilton points are to get and spend.

  23. BW says:

    Diamond seems like a joke. Late checkout? Water bottles? I request this all the time and they give it to me, no status needed.

  24. Abey says:

    This is the only hotel credit card that offers priority pass.
    For someone who doesn’t swipe much and doesnt have the Amex Platinum, Chase Reserve or Citi prestige. This credit card gives you a free hotel night, Free Breakfast, Resort credit, Travel Credit, Free Priority Pass. That is pretty good, I like this card. In fact this might be my first $450 card i keep for the long run.

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