Hilton's consumer credit cards are more interesting than most hotel-branded cards, because their perks aren't limited to just Hilton Hotels. We've previously discussed how the $95/year Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card breaks the mold with 10 Priority Pass airport lounge passes per year, and the high end Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card follows suit with a number of wide ranging travel benefits of its own.
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The Hilton Honors Aspire card carries a $450 annual fee, in line with other premium travel rewards credit cards. But in return, you can snag a 150,000 point welcome bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
You'll earn an impressive 14 Hilton Honors points per dollar spent at participating Hilton hotels and resorts (in addition to the points you'd earn on stays as a Hilton Honors member regardless...more on that in a bit), 7 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, and car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies, and 3 points per dollar on all other purchases.
That may seem like a lot of points per dollar, and it is. But unfortunately, Hilton Honors points are worth less than most other hotel rewards currencies, and are currently pegged at just .6 cents each in The Points Guy's latest valuations. Still, that equals a 1.8% return on all purchases, 4.2% on the three 7x categories, and 8.4% at Hilton properties. Those are all very solid returns!
Whereas most hotel chains divide their brands into distinct categories, each requiring a different number of points for a free night, Hilton utilizes dynamic award pricing. That means that the number of points it'll take to redeem a room can vary considerably from one day to to the next, depending on demand and the cash price of the room. When deciding whether to utilize points, you should use that .6 cent valuation as a baseline to determine whether it's a good value or not for a given stay.
Luckily, Hilton is unique in letting you pay for a portion of your stay with points, and the rest with cash. Sure, some other chains offer fixed Points + Cash redemptions, but only Hilton gives you a slider and lets you pay for any portion of the stay with points. The only restrictions are that you'll have to put up at least 5,000 points per night, and pay in 1,000 point increments, but however many points you spend will subtract the equivalent percentage from the cash rate that you're responsible for paying.
It wouldn't be a $450/year credit card without an impressive portfolio of perks. In addition to the typical travel insurances and purchase protections you'd expect, these are the benefits that make the Aspire card stand out from the crowd:
Hilton Diamond Status
Just by holding the Aspire card, you'll automatically receive Hilton Honors' top tier Diamond status, which confers a 100% points bonus at most properties, space-available suite upgrades, free breakfast, executive lounge access, the ability to gift your status, and more.
With that 100% points bonus, you'll earn 20 points per dollar spent on qualifying Hilton purchases, plus an additional 14 points for putting those charges on your Aspire card. That 34 points per dollar, valued at .6 cents each, means you'll effectively earn back over 20% on your Hilton stays.
Free Weekend Night Reward
Every year, you'll automatically receive a certificate valid for a weekend night award at almost any Hilton worldwide. Unlike other chains' annual free nights, you can only use Hilton's on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, but you'll be able to redeem it at some truly splurge-worthy properties.
There are a handful of hotels that aren't eligible, including Hilton's all-inclusive resorts, but no other credit card's free annual award night comes close to offering this much flexibility.
Plus, if you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year, you'll get a second free weekend night award to use as well.
$250 Hilton Resort Credit
Every year, you'll receive a credit of up to $250 towards room charges and incidentals (charged to your room) at over 200 Hilton resorts worldwide. Unfortunately, this credit is only available at resorts, and not all Hilton hotels, but as long as you'll reliably use it every year, it should eat up a big chunk of that annual fee.
$100 Hilton Property Credit
If you book a two night minimum stay through HiltonHonors.com/aspirecard, you'll get up to $100 in credits for qualifying charges at participating Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts. It's a shame that this benefit is limited to just two high-end chains, but you can use the perk as many times as you'd like throughout the year.
$250 Airline Fee Credit
Additionally, you'll be able to select a single airline every year to receive up to $250 in credits for baggage fees, in-flight purchases, seat selection charges, and other incidentals. Just note that, unfortunately, it won't apply towards airfare.
It's similar to the Platinum Card® from American Express's airline fee credit, but actually more valuable at $250/year rather than $200, despite the card's lower annual fee.
Priority Pass Select Membership
Like a number of other high-end travel rewards credit cards, the Hilton Honors Aspire card gets you unlimited access to over 1,200 Priority Pass airport lounges around the world, but unfortunately does not get you discounts at Priority Pass restaurants like some Chase cards.
Somewhat uniquley for a hotel branded credit card, the Hilton Honors Aspire card can reward you on almost all aspects of travel, from flights to rental cars to Hilton hotels worldwide.
Its $450 annual fee might give you pause, but if you're confident that you'll use the up to $250 airline fee and Hilton resort credits every year, you'll still come out ahead, and that's before accounting for perks like Diamond status, Priority Pass lounge access, and an annual free weekend night award.
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.