New high-end American Express Hilton Honors Aspire card launched!

Hilton Worldwide is one of the largest hotel chains with over 4,800 hotels in 93 countries. As of January 2018, American Express is the only card issuer for the Hilton Honors rewards program and the new Hilton Honors Aspire card is the top offering with great benefits, including Diamond status, a weekend night certificate and airline and hotel credits! See my detailed review whether those perks are worth the annual fee of $450!

If you are new to this site, please read “how we evaluate credit cards”. I don’t receive any compensation from this review of the credit card links to American Express. I don’t hold the AmEx Aspire card at the time of review!

The HiltonHonors Aspire card from American Express offers a long list of benefits, more than most hotel rewards card – check out the summary below:

  • Sign-up bonus of 100,000 points, worth about US$400, after spending $4,000 in three months – that’s not a great sign-up bonus despite the high minimum spend!
  • Earn Points for Spend
    You earn 14 points per US$ spent at Hilton, 7 points/$ spent on flights, car rentals and at US restaurants and 3 points/$ on everything else. At a value of 0.4 cents/point, that’s an earnings rate of 1.2 to 5.6 cents – very good for the Hilton category spend and good for air spend, but below average for the general spend
  • HHonors Diamond status; very valuable with upgrades, free breakfast, lounge access
  • One weekend night certificate at a Hilton hotel each year; a second one with $60,000 annual spend
  • Priority Pass membership with unlimited lounge access
  • $250 airline fee statement credit
  • $250 Hilton resort statement credit
  • $100 Waldorf Astoria & Conrad on-property credit when booking “Aspire Package”
  • travel and shopping protection; concierge access
  • $450 annual fee, no foreign exchange fee, EMV chip

The Aspire card boasts the highest earn rates of any Hilton card at 14 points/$ – a very good 5.6% reward rate. The reward rate of 2.8% for airline and car rentals is competitive with other high-end cards like the Citibank Prestige. The sign-up bonus of 100,000 is the same as for the Ascend card and sounds great, but is worth less than on the Citi Prestige or AmEx Platinum cards!
The Aspire card doesn’t have a foreign exchange fee and an EMV, both essential for any travel related credit card!
One of the new benefits of a Hilton affiliated credit card is Hilton Honors Diamond status – the highest level available, usually requiring 60 nights at Hilton hotels! It adds lounge access and a higher bonus of 50% over Gold status. 

Conrad Manila Lounge

The card also offers a weekend night certificate each year (instead of earning it with a $15,000 spend on the Ascend card). You can earn a second night with a spend of $60,000 – a very steep requirement!
Similar to other high-end cards, the Priority Pass Lounge membership includes unlimited access, and you get statement credits for airline fees of $250 and Hilton resort stays of $250 – making up for the annual fee, if you are able to take advantage of the credits each year!
The other benefit of holding this card is access to American Express concierge service. Of all the cards I have held, American Express has consistently delivered the best customer service. AmEx has some of the best fraud protection I have encountered, without the annoying card blocks other companies use (looking at you, CapitalOne!). They have also been great to work through disputes with merchants over charges, much better in my experience than other providers. A downside is worldwide acceptance of the card – Visa and MasterCard are more widely accepted, so this should not be your only credit card.
With the high-end perks comes a high-end annual fee of $450, again similar to other cards in this category.

Bottomline: American Express offers the first high-end hotel rewards card, competing with general travel cards like the Citibank Prestige or Chase Sapphire Reserve. The Diamond Elite status, weekend night certificate, airline and resort credits can easily offset the annual fee of $450 for frequent travelers. If you don’t hold another high-end card with similar benefits already and are a frequent guest at Hilton, this is a very attractive card worth getting! If you already hold other high-end cards, it might be harder to justify the benefits!


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