Why the Amex Hilton Aspire Card is the Best Hotel Credit Card
Over the past few years, no credit card has caught my attention more than the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, which rolled out in 2018.
While the card’s annual fee of $450 may intimidate some, it offers some incomparable benefits that offer far more value than that fee. That’s why we always encourage readers to do the math when it comes to annual fees, rather than simply rule out big-fee cards. They can end up saving you a ton of money in the long run.
And that’s definitely the case with the Hilton Honors Aspire card. Let’s break down all its lucrative benefits and why it should be on your radar.
Apply Here for the Hilton Honors Aspire Card (for full disclosure, this is our personal referral link)
Big Welcome Offer Bonus
The Hilton Aspire card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 150,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of card membership.
Based on our experience, you should be able to redeem Hilton Honors points for a value of around 0.6 to 0.8 cents each. That means the welcome offer bonus alone is worth between $900 and $1,200. But you can potentially get much more value than this out of your points.
That’s because Hilton Honors points are notoriously strong when the cash prices are at their highest. That was my experience earlier this year when I redeemed 50,000 Hilton Honors points a night to attend the Masters Golf Tournament. Cash prices for a room at our hotel were $800 a night, which I was certainly not willing to pay.
Instant Hilton Honors Diamond Status
Just for holding the Hilton Honors Aspire card, you will get their top tier Diamond elite status. No other credit card in the marketplace offers you the ability to earn top tier status just by holding a credit card. Without the Hilton Aspire Card, you have to stay at Hilton properties 60 nights (or 30 stays) in a calendar year to earn Diamond status.
And that’s a big deal because of the great benefits Diamond members get:
- Complimentary breakfast for two can save you hundreds of dollars during a stay (Hilton Honors Gold members also get free breakfast).
- Complimentary Upgrades to preferred rooms (when space is available)
- Executive Lounge Access for complimentary drinks, snacks and hors d’oeuvres. This experience will vary by Hilton property.
- Complimentary premium internet access
- Late check-out
- 100% bonus on base points earned: Just for having Diamond status, you automatically receive a 100% bonus on all the Hilton Honors base points you earn during a stay.
- 48-hour room guarantee: As a diamond member, you are guaranteed a room when you make a reservation at least 48 hours prior to arrival.
- Fifth night free on award stays: This benefit is available for Silver, Gold, & Diamond elite members but it allows you to get a free fifth night when you book a stay using Hilton Honors points.
You can read more about Hilton’s top tier Diamond elite status at their terms & conditions page.
An Annual $250 Hilton Resort Statement Credit
Each year you hold the Hilton Honors Aspire card, you will receive a $250 Hilton Resort Statement Credit. This benefit is based on your cardmember year and not the calendar year. This means if you opened the card in June, you would receive a new $250 resort credit each year after paying your annual fee in June.
The credit can be used for incidental charges that you charge to your card during a stay at participating Hilton resorts. That means you can use it for things like dining at restaurants on the resort, activities or a trip to the spa. All you need to do is charge the expenses to your room and pay with your Aspire card at checkout.
But as mentioned, this benefit isn’t available at all Hilton hotels. It can only be used at participating Hilton Resorts.
$250 Airline Incidental Fee Statement Credit
The Hilton Aspire Card also offers a $250 annual airline fee credit. Combined with the resort statement credits, these two benefits alone can easily wipe out that $450 annual fee.
Much like the American Express Platinum card, you have to select one airline each year that the credit will apply to. It is meant to be used for things like checked bag fees, seat assignment fees if you are flying basic economy, flight change fees, and even lounge access.
Historically, you have been able to use this credit to buy gift cards for airlines like Southwest and Delta, though recent reports indicate this option might be going away.
Regardless, it is another credit the card offers. If you often check bags or want to buy your way into a lounge, it should be easy to use.
A Free Weekend Night Certificate
After opening your new card account, and each year on your card anniversary after paying your annual fee, you will receive a free weekend night certificate that is valid at almost all properties in the Hilton portfolio. There are a handful of property exclusions which can be found here.
You can even earn a second free weekend night if you spend $60,000 or more on the card in a calendar year.
This benefit alone can easily justify your annual fee because of how many properties it can be used at. Considering weekend nights are the most expensive, you shouldn’t have to try too hard to get $300 to $400 or more out of this benefit each year.
Unlimited Priority Pass Membership
Another great benefit of the Hilton Aspire Card is an unlimited Priority Pass Select membership. This is your ticket to accessing thousands of airport lounges all over the world. You can also bring up to two guests with you on each visit at no additional cost.
One notable change to Priority Pass membership is that as of Aug. 1, 2019, Priority Pass memberships issued from American Express credit cards like the Aspire card will lose the restaurant credit benefit.
Regardless, if you don’t already have Priority Pass membership from another credit card, the Aspire Card is a great option to get airport lounge access.
Thrifty Tip: Not familiar with Priority Pass? See Thrifty Traveler’s Ultimate Guide to Priority Pass Lounges.
$100 Waldorf Astoria & Conrad Hotels On Property Credit
When you book a paid stay of at least two nights at Waldorf Astoria or Conrad Hotels through HiltonHonors.com/aspirecard you will receive a $100 credit for incidental charges. This credit can be used for almost anything charged to your room during your stay. Taxes, fees, gratuity and the room rate in and of itself are not eligible for the credit.
Again, this has to be for a paid stay, so if you are planning on using your Hilton Honors points to stay at either a Waldorf Astoria or Conrad Hotel, you won’t be able to take advantage of this credit.
All Benefits of the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express
- 14x Points per dollar for each eligible purchase on your Card made directly with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
- 7x Points per dollar for eligible purchases on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com; on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies; & at U.S. restaurants.
- 3x Bonus Points on all other purchases.
- Hilton Honors Diamond Status: As long as your card account is open, you will receive Hilton’s top tier Diamond status
- $250 Hilton Resorts Statement Credit: During each cardmember year you’ll receive up to a total of $250 in statement credits for incidentals charged to your card at participating Hilton resorts.
- Free Weekend Night: After opening your account and each year on your cardmember anniversary, you will receive a certificate for a free weekend night at almost any property in Hilton’s portfolio.
- Additional Free Weekend Night: If you spend $60,000 or more on the card in a calendar year.
- $250 Annual Airline Fee Credit: Receive $250 in statement credits for incidentals on your selected airline each year.
- $100 Hilton On-Property Credit: When you book at least a two-night paid stay at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties through HiltonHonors.com/aspirecard
- Priority Pass Membership: Unlimited Priority Pass lounge access for you and up to two guests.
- $450 Annual Fee: Not waived for the first year of card membership.
- Apply Here for the Hilton Honors Aspire Card (for full disclosure, this is our personal referral link)
All the benefits on this card almost seem too good to be true.
After carrying the card for about six months now and putting all these benefits into action, I can’t help but wonder when they will devalue this card by removing some of these perks. And hopefully, that never happens.
There is no other card offering top-tier hotel status simply for holding the card. This benefit alone can score you great upgrades and provide you with free breakfast for you and a guest during your Hilton stays. To me, these benefits alone are worth their weight in gold. On a recent trip, my wife and I took advantage of the free breakfast benefit for Diamond members and saved ourselves a ton of money. At some properties, especially in Europe, free breakfast can save you up to $70 per day.
While a $450 annual fee isn’t for everyone, all of the benefits and credits this card offers at the moment make it far more palatable. If you are able to take advantage of them each year, you should come out far ahead.
I love the Aspire Card. I think Amex and Hilton did a great job to not only entice new cardholders but to reward them for holding onto the card long term. There simply isn’t another co-branded hotel card that comes close to competing with it right now.
If you often stay at Hilton hotels, this card is a no-brainer. And if you don’t, this card gives you a reason to change that.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.