The Hilton Ascend Card is Hilton and American Express’ mid-tier card for Hilton hotels. This co-branded card is an affordable way to earn Hilton Honors (HH) points and some nice benefits too.
Is this card a good one for you?
This card earns 12x HH points on Hilton hotel purchases. It also earns 6x HH points for Dining, Groceries, and Gas. All other purchases earn 3x HH points. Each point is worth about 0.5 cents, making this card an OK earner for everyday spend.
The Ascend card has a sign-up bonus of 125,000 HH points. The points can be earned after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months. Of the three Hilton card bonuses, this one is my favorite because of the balance between the points earned and required spend. The bigger Aspire card offers 25,000 more points for an extra $2,000 spend. And the regular Hilton Honors card offers 50,000 fewer points for half the spend.
Hotel redemptions are the only way to redeem HH points. Nights start at 5,000 points, but most locations will cost a lot more points per night. Unlike Marriott, Hilton does not have a rewards chart publicly posted. How many points a night costs depends on your location and date. Your mileage may vary.
Hilton HH points are transferrable to 43 airline partners and three car rental agencies (Enterprise, Alamo, and National). Because of the low value of HH points, transferring them is not recommended. This is also the reason why transfer partners are not often marketed by Hilton or American Express. You’re only receiving a value of 0.1 cents per point (CPP).
Complimentary Gold Status
Hilton Gold Status is a step up from having no status. You receive an 80% points bonus for Hilton purchases including room rates and gift shop purchases. This is a major increase from the 20% that Silver Status offers.
Hilton’s top-tier Diamond Status can be obtained by spending $40,000 per year on the card. I don’t suggest spending that much on this card unless you practically live at Hilton hotels. If you want Diamond Status, apply for the Hilton Aspire Card.
You also receive a fifth night for free when you use points to pay. The free fifth night could save you some money if you stay at Hiltons often for at least five nights. This perk is a huge incentive to make this card a keeper.
You can earn another free night by spending $15,000 per year on the card. This night can be earned just once per year.
Secondary Car Rental Insurance
This benefit covers the entire loss, damage, or theft of your car rental after your regular insurance’s policy kicks in. American Express cards only provide secondary coverage. Secondary coverage means that you must go through your own car insurance company first before calling Amex to activate this benefit.
No Foreign Exchange Fees
You will save 3% on all purchases made outside the United States with the card.
Trip Cancellation / Trip Interruption Insurance
If you must cancel your trip because of an unexpected event, this benefit gives you up to $10,000 per trip for non-refundable expenses. Plane tickets, hotel rooms, and tours are included.
If you’re unhappy with a purchase, this benefit enables you to get your money back with the backing of Amex. American Express is the best in the credit card industry in helping cardholders with returns. This card comes standard with all American Express cards.
This is Hilton and Amex’s entry-level card. It offers complimentary Silver Status and a free weekend night.
The card earns 7x HH points on Hilton hotel purchases. It also earns 5x HH points for Dining, Groceries, and Gas. All other purchases earn 3x HH points.
This card is a good downgrade option for the Ascend card because it has no annual fee.
American Express Hilton Aspire Card
This card is the bigger “sibling” to the Ascend Card. It offers complimentary Diamond Status and multiple free nights.
The Hilton Aspire earns 14x HH points on Hilton hotel purchases. It also earns 7x HH points for US Restaurants, Flights (booked directly with airlines or via amextravel.com), and Car Rentals (booked directly with car rental agencies). All other purchases earn 3x HH points.
This card is a better option for Amex Platinum card-members as it offers Diamond Status (instead of the Platinum and Ascend’s Gold Status).
This card from Chase and Hyatt offers an annual free night and complimentary Discoverist Status.
This card has a $95 annual fee. But it also has a two-part sign-up bonus. First you can earn 25,000 points (40,000 points until January 9) after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. Then, you can earn 25,000 (20,000 points until January 9) more points after spending $6,000 total in the first 6 months.
For earning, you get 4x Hyatt points per dollar spent at Hyatt hotels. You also earn 2x points on Dining, airline tickets purchased directly from the airline, local transit and commuting, and gym memberships.
Hyatt loyalists and those who spend within the card’s categories are better off with this card.
Rules & Regulations
Like all American Express cards, this card is subject to Amex’s Once Per Lifetime Rule. This rule states that you can only receive a sign-up bonus on any card once. The key is to apply for this card when a balance is struck between maximum points and minimum spend. If you cannot afford the spend to hit the bonus, apply when the threshold is lower.
I love the balance between points and minimum spend for the sign-up bonus. Amex and Hilton hit it right on the nose for balance. You will maximize your points for a decent minimum spend if you apply using the current offer.
The Hilton Ascend Card is a great mid-tier card for Hilton visitors. It can also be a great downgrading option for Hilton Aspire card-members. Gold Status and the fifth night free are the highlights of this $95 annual fee card.
For Hilton loyalists, the Ascend Card is a nice earner within the bonus categories and can possibly be a keeper card. Its possible to earn enough points to cover the modest annual fee without taking perks into account.
I would get this card for the sign-up bonus and then upgrade to the Hilton Aspire after one year. As someone who has the Amex Business Platinum, keeping this card and redundant Gold Status doesn’t make sense.