Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express

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If you stay with Hilton frequently, consider this card.

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Hilton devotees who spend big on restaurants, gas, supermarkets and, of course, Hilton will probably get a lot of traction out of the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express.

Cardholders are mainly rewarded for being Hilton loyalists, racking up as much as 12x the Hilton Honors Bonus Points through purchases made directly through Hilton. This card is mainly geared for frequent travelers who probably already have a travel rewards card devoted to airfare.

Review

For people who stay at hotels frequently, the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express is certainly worth considering.

The points structure is extremely generous. You’ll earn 12 points per dollar each time you make a purchase through Hilton; 6 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations; and 3 points per dollar on all other eligible purchases. It wouldn’t be hard to earn a few nights each year on this card. If you spend $350 per week on a combination of the highest reward categories, you will have earned 109,200 points or a few nights of hotel stays.

And the sign-up bonus alone is 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points, which varies in value depending on how and where you use them.

For example, a one-night stay at a Hilton in Los Angeles costs either $351 per night or 50,000 bonus points, making each point worth about $.007. In contrast, the same stay at a Hilton in Phoenix costs $155 or 40,000 points, giving your points a value of just under $.004. Be sure to value compare before trading in your points.

This bonus, which you would earn after spending $3,000 within the first three months, is essentially equal to one or two nights at a Hilton. Depending on the city and if you book at a lower cost Hilton affiliate, like Hampton Inn, you could even potentially squeeze a four-night hotel stay out of that bonus.

This more than makes up for the $75 annual fee.

Another benefit is the fact that you can redeem your bonus points at any hotel in the Hilton portfolio. There are 3,900 hotels and resorts in 91 countries that your points are eligible for, giving you some major flexibility in travel accommodations.

Finally, you will unlock Hilton Gold status just by owning this card. This rewards program comes with its own set of benefits – each vary by hotel, but include: complimentary upgrades; late check-out; more bonus points for booking with Gold status; and hotel freebies, including bottled water, free WiFi and complimentary breakfast.

Just beware that from the outside, this appears to be a particularly solid rewards program for Hilton loyalists — but the inflated points aren’t necessarily always worth what they seem.

Who should get this card

If you already have a solid rewards travel card for flights, then you might want to consider this card for hotel stays. For the frequent traveler, the bonus alone makes this card worth considering.

Those who don’t travel much or don’t care for Hilton and its affiliates won’t get much out of this card. Likewise, if you’re in the market for a flexible, all-purpose travel rewards card then you should keep looking. A better option would be the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, which allows you to use your points on everything from hotel stays and flights to cruises and taxi rides.

Advantages
  • You will receive automatic complimentary Gold Status when you open this card; with a chance for Diamond Status if you spend $40,000 on it within the first year.
  • Enjoy a generous rewards program without limits on how many points you can earn.
  • You can choose to redeem your points at thousands of hotels in 91 countries, so there’s no shortage of options.
  • Earn 500 extra bonus points, on top of the 12x points, just for booking your stay online and paying for it all with your card.
Disadvantages
  • You’re limited to redeeming your points through Hilton, or facing a loss when you exchange points for airline miles.
  • There’s a $75 annual fee.
  • The APR runs on the high side, between 16.24% and 20.24%.

 Fees and APR

  • You’ll pay a $75 annual fee.
  • There is a 26.24% APR for cash advances.
  • The APR is between 16.24% and 20.24%.
  • If you make one or more late payments or your payment is returned by the bank, you will face a steep 29.99% penalty APR.
  • This card has a 2.7% foreign transaction fee.
  • See Rates & Fees.

Extras and perks and using points

Get an extended warranty, up to one year, on purchases made on your card.

This card comes with free theft and accidental damage coverage of up to $1,000 per incident and a max of $50,00 per year. For example, if you buy a new phone on your card and drop it, this card will cover the damage.

Cardholders get access to special events and exclusive access to ticket pre-sales throughout the country.

You can use your points to pay for rooms at Hilton properties. The amount of points required varies by hotel, room, booking and stay date. The minimum number of points required for a stay is 5,000. You may redeem points online or by booking a reservation on the phone.

How this card compares

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
Card Details
  • Enjoy 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days - that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made while traveling abroad
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • There is a fee for balance transfers.
Credit Needed Excellent
Regular APR 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99% Variable
Annual Fee $89 - Waived first year
Purchase Intro APR N/A
Balance Transfers Intro APR 0% for 12 months (on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening)

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard will likely appeal to those who want the most flexible redemption options for their miles. You can use your earnings to book travel, get a statement credit for travel purchases, or for gift cards and select merchandise. This may be of greater value to you depending on your spending habits.

Citi ThankYou® Premier Card
Card Details
  • Earn more on travel purchases - redeem points for meaningful rewards
  • Earn 3X Points on Travel, Including Gas Stations
  • Earn 2X Points on Dining Out & Entertainment
  • Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases
  • Points are redeemable for airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou® Travel Center or for gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • Points Transfer allows you to transfer points to participating airline loyalty programs
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases*
Credit Needed Excellent
Regular APR 15.49%-24.49% (Variable)
Annual Fee $95, waived for first 12 months*
Purchase Intro APR N/A
Balance Transfers Intro APR N/A

The Citi ThankYou Premier Card comes with a $95 annual fee, waived the first year, and pays 3x the points for all travel including gas, 2x the points on dining and entertainment and 1x on all other spending. Depending on how you spend, this may work out to be more rewarding for you.

EDITORIAL NOTE

Opinions expressed here are 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.