The Hilton Aspire Card is Hilton and American Express’ top-tier co-branded card. It’s known for its incredible earning opportunities and perks, specifically its complimentary Diamond Status. Diamond Status is Hilton’s highest status and the Aspire Card is by far the easiest way to obtain it.

The Aspire Card has a $450 annual fee (NOT waived the first year). However, you can easily get lots of value from the card if you take advantage of its perks and spend within its bonus categories.

Is the Hilton Aspire the right premium card for you?

 

Earning

The Hilton Aspire earns 14x Hilton Honors (HH) points on Hilton 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.

The Aspire Card has a sign-up bonus of 150,000 HH points. This bonus can be earned after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. The Aspire Card offers 25,000 more bonus points than the Hilton Ascend card for an extra $2,000 spend. It’s the biggest Hilton card bonus, but it also has the highest minimum spend threshold.

 

Burning

Hotel Redemptions

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.

Transfer Partners

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).

 

Benefits

Complimentary Diamond Status

Hilton Diamond Status is Hilton’s highest status. You receive an 100% points bonus for Hilton purchases including room rates and gift shop purchases. For comparison, Silver Status offers a 20% points bonus and Gold Status offers an 80% points bonus.

Other perks that come with Diamond Status include Elite Status Gifting, Diamond Status extension, and 48-Hour Room Guarantee.

Credits

The Hilton Aspire also comes with a $250 annual airline credit and a $250 resort statement credit. The former credit is very similar to those from the American Express Gold and Platinum Cards. It’s designed for airline incidentals such as checked bags and in-flight purchases. However, people use these credits for gift cards all the time.

The latter credit gives you back up to $250 in purchases made at Hilton resorts each year on your card. Not all Hilton properties are classified as resorts. So be sure to visit Hilton’s website for their full list of qualifying properties.

You will also receive a $100 On-Property credit each year. The catch is that you must stay at least two nights at either a Waldorf Astoria or Conrad Hotel.

If used in full, both credits will justify the Aspire’s annual fee and leave you with positive expected value.

Free Nights

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 Hilton properties often for at least five nights. This perk is a nice way to help justify the card’s $450 annual fee.

You can earn another free night by spending $60,000 per year on the card. This night can be earned just once per year. Another free night is also given each year on your cardmember’s anniversary.

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.

Return Protection

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.

 

Similar Cards

Hilton Ascend Card

This card is the middle “sibling” of the three Hilton Cards. It offers complimentary Gold Status and a free night each year. You can also earn a second free night each time you spend $15,000 on the Ascend Card.

The Hilton Ascend 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.

This is a decent downgrade option for the Aspire card because it has a $95 annual fee. It also serves as a nice balance between annual fee, earning, and perks.

Hilton Honors Card

The Hilton Honors Card is Hilton and Amex’s entry-level card. It offers complimentary Silver Status and a free weekend night. The card offers a 75,000 HH-point sign-up bonus as well. This bonus can be earned after spending only $1,000 in the first three months. The Hilton Honors card’s highest bonus is 100,000 points.

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.

The Hilton Honors is another downgrade option for the Aspire card because it has no annual fee. It’s also the better downgrade option if you want to keep your account and its history for no cost.

American Express Platinum Card

American Express’ premium charge card is a great alternative for those who want more perks than rewards. The Platinum Card’s numerous perks are second to none for air travel whereas the Hilton card’s perks are hotel-specific. The Platinum Card comes with complimentary Hilton Gold Status as opposed to the Hilton Aspire’s Diamond Status.

The Platinum Card earns 5x Membership Rewards (MR) points on airfare and only one point on everything else. The Hilton Aspire is the better card for earning as you can earn more points faster in more categories.

For redemption, both points can be transferred to airlines. But MR points are more versatile than HH points given the higher value of MR points. MR points can also be transferred to Hilton because Hilton is an Amex transfer partner. However, this redemption option is not a good one, as you will get a value of about 0.5 cents per MR points.

 

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.

The Aspire Card has the largest of the three personal Hilton card bonuses. It also has the highest minimum spend which is unlikely to decrease. Take the 150,000-point offer if you can afford to spend $4,000 in a 3-month period.

If you can’t afford the Aspire’s bonus, there is a workaround. In that situation, I would apply for the Hilton Ascend and get its bonus. Then I would keep the card until I get a decent upgrade offer for the Aspire card. You could net more points this way, despite being a long-term play.

 

Final Draw

The Hilton Aspire Card is a great premium card for Hilton loyalists. It can also be a great upgrading option for Hilton Ascend and Hilton Honors card-members who want more from their card. Diamond Status and the free nights are the highlights of this premium card.

The Aspire Card is a great earner within the bonus categories. It can possibly be a long-term keeper card if you earn enough points and take advantage of its benefits.