Back in November 2017, there was news that the Citi Hilton cards will become Amex branded cards. There were talks about new product offerings, but no one knew what – or if – there would be any associated signup offers.
Well, we know now! There is new newly branded mid-tier Ascend card, and the premium Aspire card. I’ll share my thoughts on what I think about them. Disclaimer: I’m not using affiliate links here, so I am not trying to steer you towards a particular product.
Why I Am Excited
I am excited about the Hilton cards because I am quite fond of the Hilton properties. I’ve had my share of stays at the Hiltons and the Conrads, and I most recently stayed at Hilton Tokyo when I visited Japan. Of course, I also had the unique experience of being denied access to the Executive Lounge at the time.
Still, I am excited because new credit card offerings are few and far between. All things considered, the new Amex offers are reasonably attractive. I’m giving a shout out to Danny Deal Guru since I like the way he presented the new card info and the application links.
Note: Amex has a once-in-a-lifetime restriction, so you won’t qualify for a bonus offer if you had the product before. In other words, you want to make sure you’re applying for the best offer.
What New Hilton Cards Are On The Table?
I should make a mention that I am aware of the value of the Hilton points. The Hilton Honors program has gone through multiple, massive devaluations in recent years. I am under no illusion that the 100,000 Hilton points is anywhere in the same ballpark as the time-limited Chase Sapphire Reserve 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points offer that came out last year.
Let’s talk about the cards themselves. If we ignore the business card option, I think of the 3 product offerings this way:
1. Basic (no-annual fee) Hilton Card
The basic no annual fee Hilton card comes with a Silver status at Hilton. It’s free, and it comes with 50,000 bonus offer. If you just want a basic Hilton card, this is an option to consider. I won’t go into the details since there’s not much to write home about.
2. The Hilton ASCEND Card (comes with a $95) annual fee
The Hilton Ascend card is generally considered a mid-tier premium travel card. It is the equivalent to the Hilton Surpass card. In fact, Amex will be converting Surpass cardholders into the Ascend card, so it would simply be a product name change for those cardholders.
Since this is a new product, no one really knows at this point if previous Hilton Surpass cardholders can apply for the Ascend card (new product) and get the sign-up bonus. One thing is for sure: those who are being converted from Surpass to Ascend won’t be considered a new Ascend cardholder once the conversion is done.
There are the key benefits of the Ascend Card:
- Complimentary Hilton Gold Status: This is a nice perk. It is also the same benefit that Surpass holders enjoy. Gold Status at Hilton includes complimentary breakfast at certain properties, which makes it worthwhile if you stay at Hilton properties frequently. (And really, free food is always a nice perk)
- Weekend Night Reward: Available only after $15,000 in a calendar year. It would be nice if it came as a benefit of the card.
- No Foreign Transaction Fee: Nothing to write home about. This is a relatively fairly standard benefit, especially in the mid-tier premium card space.
- Priority Pass Select – 10 Free Visits: “Get 10 free lounge visits every year once enrolled. Additional passes are $27 per person per visit.” – not bad.
- 100,000 Hilton points sign up offer: $2000 spend within first 3 months, and another $1000 within 6 months. This should get you possibly a night or two at the mid-to high end Hilton property.
All in all, I think this is a standard mid-tier premium card. If you want to have a card with lower annual fee, Gold Status at Hilton properties, and 100,000 Hilton points, this is a decent offer.
2. The Hilton ASPIRE Card ($450 annual fee)
Then, there is the new Aspire card, which is branded as the premium Hilton card out of the lot. Naturally, since it is a premium card, it also comes with more benefits along with a hefty $450 annual fee. These are the benefits:
You actually have to look at fine prints to see the details of some additional benefits:
Just like the Ascend card, I’m ignoring the 14x, 7x, 3x points earned per dollar, focusing instead on some of the more practical benefits.
- Complimentary Hilton Diamond Status: This is the highest elite status at Hilton. Frankly, I wouldn’t say Diamond status is necessary (when the perk I care most about — ahem, complimentary breakfast) already comes with the Gold status. Still, as a Hilton Diamond, you do get some added unique perks, like guaranteed access to the executive lounge. (Ha, you can’t deny me access to the lounge anymore now, can you, Hilton?)
- Weekend Night Reward: They advertised it as two weekend nights, which is a little deceiving. It’s really one free weekend night, and the second night is only available after you meet a particular – and not unsubstantial – spend requirement. Still, this could be worth hundreds of dollars depending on where you stay.
- Up to $250 Hilton Resort Statement Credit: This could be handy if you have plans to stay at a Hilton Resort. I’ve not ever stayed at a Hilton “resort” so I have to look more into this benefit.
- 100,000 Hilton Points sign up offer: $4000 spend within first 3 months. Same as the Ascend offer. I am surprised it’s not a slightly higher for this card given the higher annual fee.
- $250 Airline Fee Credit: Incidental fees charged by airlines
- Priority Pass Select Membership: “Relax with unlimited lounge visits for you and up to 2 guests per visit once enrolled in complimentary Priority Pass”. This is a fairly standard benefit among premium cards.
Which Card Did I Decide On?
I decided to go for the more exciting Aspire card. Since I travel often, the $250 airline incidental credit and the free weekend night easily more than makes up for the $450 annual fee. All the other benefits are just icing on the cake.
I was pre-approved and promptly got this message when I submitted my application.
I can’t wait to get it in the mail!
What are your thoughts on the these new cards? If you are planning to apply for a Hilton card, which one are you going for?