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How I’m Making the Most of the Changes to the Hilton Aspire Card

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Change is rarely a good thing when it comes to travel credit cards. Year after year, banks raise annual fees and tweak benefits. With the  Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card – which we've called the single-best hotel credit card for years – it's a mixed bag.

Big changes first unveiled this fall mean that its already sizable $450 annual fee will increase while some benefits will get harder to use. But other money-saving perks are arguably getting better, and there's even an avenue to earn even more Hilton free night certificates. Some of these changes are already in effect, while others won't kick in until the New Year or the next time current Aspire cardholders renew.

Until then, there's a major silver lining for longtime Hilton Aspire cardholders during this intermediary period: Using up existing benefits before they disappear and double-dipping on new and old perks … all before paying another annual fee. And I'm one of them.

Here's how I'm making the most of these changes before the year is over.


Double Dipping on Flight Credits

For years, the Hilton Aspire Card has offered $250 a year in Amex airline credits to use on costs like seat selection, baggage, and award ticket taxes. While there are a few workarounds that allow you to put those credits toward flights, they're not exactly easy to use.

Come 2024, those airline credits are out. In its place, the Hilton Aspire will get up to $200 in what they call “flight credits,” meaning they can easily be used for airfare outright. Just use your Hilton Aspire Card to pay for a ticket and the credit should kick in. It's a quarterly benefit: You get $50 every three months starting in January – and if you don't use it, you lose it.

But here's the thing: Hilton Aspire cardholders can use the first $50 quarterly flight credit now before the year is over. This new benefit is already live … and since it overlaps with the $250 in airfare fee credits available until the calendar turns to 2024, that's $300 in airfare-related credits on the table in 2023.


delta plane in the dark


I had used up the $250 airline fee credits long ago, pairing it with a Delta eCredit and charging the balance to my Hilton Aspire card to cover a Delta flight to … I don't remember, it was like 10 months ago! The point is, that's $250 in savings and an elegant way to use up this credit before the year is over.

A $50 credit might seem paltry in comparison, but why not use it while you can? And it's incredibly easy: Unlike the old system, there's no need to register in advance or select one specific airline.

In my case, I simply used my Hilton Aspire Card to pay for a $117 upgrade to first class on another upcoming Delta flight. Just over a week later, the $50 flight credit kicked in.


hilton flight credit


Keep that timeline in mind: If these credits take a week or longer to actually kick in, you'll want to put your first $50 flight credit to use sooner rather than later. But anything from purchasing a flight to an upgrade to bag fees to (I assume) onboard drink purchases with virtually any airline should work. So long as it codes to your card as a purchase with the carrier, you're set.

This one-two punch of airline credits won't work for someone who grabs the Hilton Aspire today: That $250 sum is only available to cardholders who applied before all these changes were rolled out on Oct. 19.


Using the Final $250 Resort Credit … For Next Year

Today, Hilton Aspire cardholders get a $250 Hilton resort statement credit to use at select Hilton properties around the world – and it works at hundreds of participating Hilton properties around the globe, not just spots with the word “resort” in them. Come Jan. 1, that increases to $400 … but Amex is splitting it into two, $200 installments to use (or lose) every six months.

But 2023 isn't over yet: Longtime cardholders have until Dec. 31, 2023, to burn any unused balance of their $250 from the year – no matter when they opened their card. I had the entire $250 sum left over … but no travel plans through the end of the year. Time to get creative!

My wife and I are heading to the Conrad Bora Bora Nui next February – a bucket list trip we booked with points and free night certificates back when some excellent award availability opened up. I wasn't about to cancel that reservation and pay $900-plus a night just to use this final $250 resort credit. There was a much better option.


Much like in the Maldives, you have to pay for transportation from the Bora Bora (BOB) airport to the resort. Typically, the resort would simply add the 15,000-franc (about $135 USD) charge per passenger for roundtrip boat transfers to your bill at check-out. But I had a thought: What if I could pre-pay now and put my $250 credit to use?

Lucky me, the hotel agreed! I put the roughly $276 USD charge on my Hilton Aspire card. Step one: complete.

Then there was step two: Wait to make sure the payment would actually trigger the $250 credit. A week later, I was concerned. Two weeks later, I chatted with an Amex agent online to check if something had gone awry … or maybe it just wouldn't work?

This morning, nearly three weeks later, I logged into my Amex account and saw that it worked!


hilton resort credit


Using up my $250 resort credit one last time by covering all but a tiny fraction of the cost of boating to and from a luxury resort in Bora Bora? Yes, please. And then I'll use one of my two $200 resort credits on food, drinks, or other room charges at the Conrad Bora Bora early next year, too!

Once again, this won't work for someone who just recently opened the Hilton Aspire Card. The $250 annual resort credit is only available for travelers who had the card before Oct. 19.


Getting CLEAR for My Wife

CLEAR® did travelers with companions dirty earlier this fall, raising the price of adding loved ones to a CLEAR® Plus Family Plan from $70 to an extra $99 a year.

For a few years, I covered the service for both myself and my wife using just the $189 annual credit on my *amex platinum*. But as CLEAR® has eliminated discounts and raised Family Plan additions, that cost is swelling to $248 a year for the two of us – $59 out of pocket after that credit.

CLEAR® Plus can be great for a shorter trip through airport security … but not always. It's not worth that much. But one of the new additions to the Aspire Card means I can go back to getting CLEAR® Plus for the pair of us without paying an extra dime out of pocket.

Yes, the Hilton Aspire Card has joined the ranks of cards with a credit of up to $189 that will cover the entire cost of CLEAR® Plus. And this credit is available to Hilton Aspire cardholders today.


clear kiosks


Read our full review of CLEAR® and whether it's worth it!

So rather than paying an extra $99 to have my wife on my plan, I'll simply set her up with her own CLEAR® Plus account and pay for it with the new credit of up to $189.

Now, let's be clear: This isn't free. With the mammoth $695 yearly fee on the Amex Platinum Card (see rates & fees) and the cost of the Aspire Card increasing to $550 a year when I renew next summer, I'm paying a lot in annual fees. Not everyone can justify that.

But between all the other money-saving credits both cards offer, I've done the math and decided it makes sense. Covering CLEAR® Plus for my wife is just a bonus.


Bottom Line

With a higher fee and benefits changing, the Hilton Aspire Card's recent refresh isn't all good news. I'll probably keep it for another year, though I haven't decided yet.

But I've already squeezed as much as I can out of these changes by double-dipping on both new and disappearing credits. That'll make my decision much easier.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

13 Responses

  • Hi Kyle,
    My wife and I are headed to the same place in Bora Bora for our 5th anniversary but are leaving on Feb 3rd so I’m not sure if you’ll be there then but it would be awesome if we were there at the same time! We’re using all points for a 5th night free and using our FNC for a 6th night thanks to all of TT’s great advice in the numerous posted articles over the years. I actually did the same thing as you did with reference to the pre-pay for the round trip boat ride to take advantage of my final $250 credit since my card just renewed for the next year. I’m curious, you were quoted 15,000 franc per person? Every time I spoke with them they quoted 18,000 franc. Did you negotiate that price? Anyways, thanks for the great article as always and I hope to see you there!

    • I was originally quoted 18,000 XPF but when the form came through, I was charged 15,000 per person.

      We’ll miss you by just a few weeks. Enjoy your trip and thanks for the kind words!

      • Kyle, how did you pay for the transfer? Did they send you a link to follow to make the payment? That’s how I paid for them but on the Amex website I still haven’t been credited the $250 and when I chatted with Amex, they said it was sub categorized at Miscellaneous (which I can’t see that anywhere on the website) and that I need to have the resort recode it but upon emailing with the resort, they don’t have another way to do it other than the link. I made the purchase on Dec 16th so I’m getting worried I won’t get the credit even though it shows as lodging on the Amex website AND I got the 14x points for the purchase so that tells me that I should be getting the resort credit since the Amex website knows that it was a Hilton lodging purchase, correct?

        • Yes, I followed the link provided by the resort. It took about 2 weeks for the charge to be recategorized from something random (I can’t recall exactly what it was) to “Conrad Bora Bora Nui.” About four days after that, the credit triggered.

          • Okay, thank you. Depending on which page I’m looking at on the website, mine will either say New Merchant or Conrad Bora Bora Nui so I’m hoping since you did the same thing, mine will credit soon also. Once again, thank you for your time.

  • All the changes that Amex Aspire made for the new year, are, well, uninspiring! I have been on the fence for this CC for a long time. Now, I will never apply for it!

    • They can’t overlap, per se: The last $250 credit is available through Dec. 31 while the first $200 credit is available starting Jan. 1. But you can (and should) absolutely use them both!

  • We were all set to use up 2 $250 resort credits plus A $50 credit on the surpass card. Had a stay planned at the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach on points using a credit card free night. Our first covid experience and now we’re out fo the the year.

    If I book a free night for January who should I talk to at the property and what should I say about trying to use up 2023 credits. I had planned on using it for spa services. It’s not the same as your need for transport, so I’m not sure how they can hold the credit. Any suggestions on how to approach this would be appreciated. We have 3 resorts in reasonable proximity, so I figured I’d try each one to see who could be most accomodating.

    Thanks for the article even if you have no further suggestions. It reaffirmed what I stumbled across.

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