Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card

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A high-points option for Hilton loyalists who enjoy travel luxuries.

If you’re on the go and prefer Hilton hotels, the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card is a great option to have in your wallet to collect all sorts of bonus perks.

Review

The Ascend is the second tier of three personal cards offered by American Express for Hilton loyalists, boasting a dramatic 125,000-point bonus for new cardholders when you spend $2000 in the first three months of membership. Redemption value starts at 5,000 points per night at select hotels, so this is a tempting offer for those hoping to rack up free nights quickly.  Add to that a free weekend night’s stay when you spend $15,000 in the first year, and you’re sitting pretty as a first-year cardholder.

Racking up points can happen rapidly with the Ascend card, with 12x base points on the dollar for each stay at a Hilton portfolio hotel.  The card also grants 6x points for spending at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, or U.S. gas stations.  All other eligible expenses accrue points at a rate of 3x on the dollar.

While the other Hilton Honors card fees range from $0 to $450 a year, the Ascend is a good middle-of-the-road option with its $95 annual fee, offering enough perks to make it worthwhile to a traveler who loves Hilton hotels, but doesn’t need the whole kit and caboodle. As an Ascend member, you are granted Hilton Gold Status, which enables you to earn 80% more points, every fifth night free when staying five or more nights and free room upgrades. Spend $40,000 on the card in a calendar year and get an upgrade to Diamond Status for even more royal treatment.

At the outset, this card puffs itself up with big bonus point rewards, and it’s certainly tough to resist the introductory bonus.  It should be noted, however, that the redemption rate may not be quite as rosy as it appears on the surface.  While Hilton requires 5,000 points for the minimum number of points required per night for redemption, we found that to be a fraction of the number required for a night’s stay. A standard room at the Hilton Garden Inn at the Charlotte Airport listed the redemption rate at 31,000 points. You may be able to earn more efficiently with a cash-back rewards card.

Bottom line:  It’s a great card for the first year, and perhaps longer if you’re a big fan of Hilton, but only if the luxury perks add up for you. Points alone may not suffice for the long term.

Who should get this card

Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card is a good option for travelers who are loyal to the Hilton portfolio of hotels and can benefit from the many additional perks that come with being a Gold member. If you prefer flexibility in hotel brands, or shy away from annual fees, you may prefer a general travel rewards card.

Advantages
  • This card gives holders Hilton Honors Gold status, which grants 80% higher bonus points earned with each stay (18 points per dollar spent), and a fifth night free when booking a reward stay of five nights or more.
  • Acquire Hilton Honors Diamond status when you spend $40,000 on eligible purchases within a calendar year.
  • You can transfer your Hilton points to one of their airline partners, which may result in greater value than using for a hotel stay.
  • Starting at 5,000 points, you can choose a combination of points and cash in 1,000 point increments to pay for a Hilton property hotel room.
  • Numerous bonus perks to make frequent travel more comfortable.
Disadvantages
  • You cannot redeem your rewards for cash back, only for hotel stays, gift certificates or experiences through the Hilton portfolio.
  • Redemption value of points is considerably lower than a cash back credit card.

Fees and APR

  • Annual fee of $95.
  • Variable APR of 17.74% to 26.74% based on creditworthiness.
  • The balance transfer fee is $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • A penalty APR of 29.99% may apply for at least six months after one or more missed payments or a payment is returned by the bank.
  • A late fee of up to $38 may apply.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fee.
  • See Rates & Fees.

Extras, perks and using points

Earn a Weekend Night Reward after spending $15,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year.

Complimentary Gold Status includes 80% bonus on base points earned from Hilton Honors when you stay, room upgrades, in-room high-speed Wi-Fi and a fifth night free on a standard room when five nights or more are booked using points.

Priority Pass Airport lounge access, roadside assistance, baggage insurance, and 24-hour Global Assist Hotline access for any travel needs. This card comes with auto insurance and protections, cell phone insurance and access to extended warranties on eligible purchases.

Cardholders also are eligible for exclusive pre-sale access to select entertainment events.

How this card compares

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Credit Needed

Excellent/Good

Regular APR

17.99% - 24.99% Variable

Annual Fee

$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfers Intro APR

N/A

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a ‘Best Travel Credit Card’ by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a great choice if you travel frequently and want the flexibility to book the airline or hotel of your choice with your reward points.

This card is one step below the super-premium credit cards, giving you access to good rewards without having to spend high sums on annual fees each year.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
  • Earn 75,000 Bonus Points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 6 points for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels and 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 points) at a participating hotel. Select hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
Credit Needed

Excellent/Good

Regular APR

17.74%-26.74% Variable

Annual Fee

$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfers Intro APR

N/A

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

  • Earn 75,000 bonus points if you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of opening your card.
  • This card automatically qualifies you for Silver Elite status and when paired with a free membership to the Marriott Rewards loyalty program, it can fast-track you to free nights or free flights.
  • Flexible points are transferrable to over 30 different airlines.
  • Annual fee waived for the first year.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is a great choice if you are loyal to Starwood and Marriott Hotels and also enjoy the flexibility of transferring your points.

This card is one of the most highly reviewed co-branded cards on Bankrate.

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.