Hilton Honors American Express Card vs. Aspire

1
Tom Merton / OJO Images / Getty Images
Bankrate Logo

Why you can trust Bankrate

While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for .

If you are a fan of Hilton properties, American Express offers multiple co-branded cards that can help you earn more rewards in the Hilton Honors loyalty program. Two such cards, the Hilton Honors American Express Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Credit Card are great cards to consider if you’d like to earn rewards towards stays at Hilton properties and eligible Hilton purchases.

In essence, the Amex Hilton Honors is an entry-level rewards card with no annual fee—but a limited amount of benefits and perks. It works well for less frequent travelers who would like award nights on a budget.

The Amex Aspire, on the other hand, caters to “aspirational” travelers who don’t mind paying a much higher annual fee for award accommodations that land in the luxury and high-end categories.

If you’re wondering how the cards stack up against one another, here are more details that should help.

Main details

Cards Hilton Honors American Express Card Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Credit Card
Rewards rate
  • Earn 7X Hilton Honors points on eligible Hilton purchases
  • Earn 5X points at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and U.S. restaurants
  • Earn 3X points on all other purchases
  • Earn 14X Hilton Honors points on eligible Hilton purchases
  • Earn 7X on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  • Earn 7X at U.S. restaurants
  • 3X on all other purchases
Welcome bonus
  • Earn 80,000 points after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of card membership
  • Earn an additional 50,000 points after you spend a total of $5,000 in purchases on the card in the first 6 months
Earn 150,000 points after you spend $4,000 in your first 3 months.

 

Annual fee $0 $450

Hilton Honors American Express Card vs. Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Credit Card

When comparing these cards, it’s best to look at the features that are most important to you. The main difference between these cards is the annual fee—the Aspire card costs $450 per year and targets luxury travelers with additional perks, while the Hilton Honors Amex costs $0 per year but comes with fewer auxiliary benefits.

Take a look at all of the differences between the cards below to choose the one that best matches your needs.

Welcome bonus winner: Hilton Aspire Card

Earning 150,000 bonus Hilton Honors points after spending $4,000 in your first three months is a pretty substantial welcome bonus, but there is a caveat. Hilton Honors points are worth only around 0.6 cents each, so this bonus would be worth around $900. However, the Aspire card makes up for the lower points value with its generous rewards rate, which we will cover below.

Despite having a lower bonus than the Aspire, the Hilton Honors Amex still has a respectable bonus for a card with no annual fee. It offers 80,000 points if you spend $1,000 in the first three months, plus an additional 50,000 points if you spend $5,000 in the first six months. If you can meet the full bonus, that’s about $780 in value. That’s not as valuable as the Aspire card, but nothing to scoff at either.

Rewards rate winner: Hilton Aspire Card

The Aspire card offers phenomenal rewards on eligible Hilton purchases, flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com and U.S. restaurant purchases. The rate on all other purchases is also pretty high:

  • 14X points on eligible Hilton purchases
  • 7X on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  •  7X at U.S. restaurants
  • 3X on all other purchases

If you’re taking your award bookings to the next level, then you’ll need the higher rewards rate this card offers. The very name of this card, Aspire, suggests that you’ll be using your points to gain access to top-tier accommodations, which means that the more points you can rack up, the better.

In this way, the Amex Aspire delivers, while you’d have to do more spending with the Amex Hilton Honors for the same results. If you’re game for the higher annual fee, you could stand to gain access to some amazing Hilton properties with the rewards you earn on this card.

Annual fee winner: Hilton Honors Amex

This entry-level travel card has no annual fee. Even as a no-annual-fee travel card, it still offers significant rewards rates for many common spending categories:

  • 7X Hilton Honors points on eligible Hilton purchases
  • 5X points at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and U.S. restaurants
  • 3X points on all other purchases

Without an annual fee, you are poised to net quite a bit of value with the welcome bonus and ongoing rewards, especially since it has the potential to be an everyday spending card with the common bonus categories.

If you want to test the rewards waters with an entry-level travel card, you’d definitely choose this over the Amex Aspire card. As long as you are ok with fewer card perks and benefits, you can still get good deals on Hilton stays without the annual fee.

Which card earns the most?

Hilton Honors American Express vs. Hilton Honors American Express Aspire spending example

If you travel a fair amount and put a lot of your travel and personal expenses on a credit card, here’s what your monthly spending could look like for either of these cards:

  • $700 per month for supermarket spending
  • $300 gas stations
  • $200 restaurants
  • $300 on Hilton hotel stays
  • $400 on airfare (booked directly or via Amextravel.com)
  • $500 on other spending

With the Hilton Honors Amex card, you’d earn 129,600 bonus points annually, while you’d earn 154,800 bonus points with the Hilton Honors Aspire card each year. If you factor in the welcome bonus for these cards, you could earn 209,600 and 304,800 with the Hilton Honors and the Hilton Aspire card, respectively.

If you use the 0.6 cent valuation for Hilton Honors bonus points, the value is roughly equivalent to $1,250, and $1,800 towards Hilton stays on the Hilton Honors Amex and Aspire, respectively. Although you’d get this $1,800 with the Hilton Aspire card, the $450 annual fee takes you down to $1,350 in value based on the points alone, making the Hilton Honors Amex the winner on straight rewards earnings.

However, the Aspire card’s true value lies outside of its point-earning potential. The card comes with additional credits like award nights and perks such as access to airport lounges through a complimentary Priority Select Pass membership. If you factor in the more than $600 in credits and other perks, then you come out ahead with the Amex Aspire based on both rewards earnings and benefits.

Why should you get the Hilton Honors American Express Card?

Additional benefits

The Hilton Honors American Express card doesn’t have many extras, but it does carry some additional benefits like automatic Hilton Honors Silver elite status. Silver elite status comes with perks like digital check-in, free internet access, a fifth night free on award stays, two free bottles of water per stay and more.

If you spend $20,000 on your card within a calendar year, you can move up to Gold status through the end of the next calendar year without ever staying in a Hilton property.

Cardholders also receive secondary car rental insurance along with access to a Global Assist hotline that can help with lost passports, medical referrals, legal referrals and more when you’re far from home. This card doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee, either.

Redemption options

When it comes to redeeming points earned in the Hilton Honors program, the most popular redemption option is award nights at Hilton properties. Also, if you’re a Silver elite member or better, your fifth night is free when you book at least five consecutive nights with points.

Recommended credit score

You will need to have good to excellent credit (670 to 850) for this card.

Why should you get the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Credit Card?

Additional benefits

Since this card has a $450 annual fee, you should expect some perks and benefits. Fortunately, this card offers multiple benefits that help offset the cost:

  • $250 Hilton Aspire Resort credit for eligible purchases at Hilton resorts
  • $250 airline fee credit for incidental airline charges
  • $100 Hilton on-property credit when you book at least a two-night stay at select properties
  • Access to Priority Pass Select, which gives cardholders unlimited access to over 1,200 airport lounges
  • Access to the Premium Global Assist Hotline
  • Car rental insurance (when the entire rental is reserved and paid for with the card)
  • Baggage insurance
  • Complimentary concierge services
  • One free weekend night reward immediately, plus one every year after card renewal
  • Additional weekend night reward if you spend $60,000 in a calendar year. (Can now be used any night of the week).

Redemption options

Here’s how you can redeem your Hilton Honors bonus points:

  • Reward nights at Hilton properties: Hilton properties range from 5,000 to 95,000 points per night, depending on the property.
  • Convert to airline miles: This has a low-value conversion rate and only makes sense if you need a certain amount of miles for a specific flight.
  • Book a rental car: Book rental cars with many car rental companies worldwide.

Recommended credit score

You will need to have good to excellent credit (670 to 850) for this card.

The bottom line

Using a co-branded hotel card isn’t for everyone. In certain situations, however, it can make perfect sense for the right person. If you are a frequent traveler and like the Hilton brand, either one of these Hilton hotel cards could work well for you.

If you don’t travel as frequently, you may opt for the Hilton Honors American Express Card, while more frequent travelers would get the Aspire Card. Either way, earning and redeeming rewards with one of these travel credit cards could help you reach your discount-travel goals.

Written by
Aja McClanahan
Personal Finance Writer
Aja McClanahan is an author, blogger and speaker on personal finance and entrepreneurship. Aja is the author of "How a Mother Should Talk About Money with Her Daughter."
Edited by
Senior Editor, Credit Card Product News
Reviewed by
Credit Cards Reporter