Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card review

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Snapshot

4.4

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See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

Rewards rate

3X–12X

Annual fee

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

Intro offer

Earn 130,000 Points

Regular APR

18.74%-27.74% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card Overview

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card* is one of the best cards for Hilton fans who travel occasionally travel. With the card’s hefty rewards system and enticing bonuses, you can acquire quite a few free stays while taking advantage of complimentary Gold Elite Status.

What are the pros and cons?

Pros

  • Earn Hilton Honors Gold status for up to 80 percent more rewards on stays
  • Start to redeem rewards from 5,000 points
  • Variety of perks and experiences make travel more comfortable
  • No annual fee in your first year gives you a chance to try out the card risk-free ($0 intro annual fee for the first year, $95 annual fee after that)

Cons

  • Reward redemptions limited to hotel stays, experiences and gift certificates
  • Single nights at hotels can cost significant points

A deeper look into the current card offer

Quick highlights

  • Rewards rate: 12X points on eligible purchases at Hilton hotels and resorts; 6X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations; 3X points on other eligible purchases.
  • Welcome offer: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases during the first three months of card membership
  • Annual fee:  $0 intro annual fee for the first year, $95 annual fee after that
  • Purchase intro APR: N/A
  • Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
  • Regular APR: 18.74 percent to 27.74 percent variable

Current welcome offer

Currently, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card is offering 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases during the first three months of card membership.

Though Hilton Honors points have a fairly low redemption value compared to similar hotel rewards programs (only 0.6 cents apiece according to The Points Guy), you can find award night available for as little as 5,000 points. Based on a 0.6-cent-per-point valuation, 130,000 points translates to a $780 value. You’ll need to spend at least $667 per month with the card for the first three months in order to secure the welcome offer, but a 39 percent return on spend is great for a bonus on a card in this price range.

That said, the card’s previous welcome offer had potential to be more valuable than this one, as it offered the 130,000 bonus points for the same spending requirement as well as a Free Night Reward, worth anywhere from $50 to $570 depending on which room type and dates you booked (based on the 5,000-point to 95,000-point redemption range).

While you may want to hold out for a higher welcome offer, a $780 bonus value is still high for a card at this price range. Not to mention, the statement credits help make up for loss of the Free Night Reward.

Rewards

The rewards program with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card acts as an extension of the free Hilton Honors program. You’ll earn more points for purchases made with the card than a member of the Hilton loyalty program who is not a cardholder.

Earning rewards

When you make purchases through your Hilton Honors Surpass Card, you’ll earn 12X points for eligible purchases at Hilton portfolio stays around the world. When you use your card on eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, you’ll earn 6X points. All other eligible purchases will accrue 3X points.

In addition, being a Surpass cardholder will grant you Gold elite status, which will give you perks that add further value to your card. For instance, you can get every fifth night free on rewards stays when you stay for five consecutive nights or more. You’ll also earn 10,000 bonus points for every 10 nights you stay in a calendar year (starting at 40 nights) and you’ll get an 80 percent bonus on all Hilton Honors Base Points you earn. Along with several other perks like free Wi-Fi, complimentary water bottles and Continental Breakfast, these are among some of the ones that carry the most value for cardholders.

If you’re a restaurant regular on the road or close to home, you could also boost 6X rate for purchases at U.S. restaurants with the Hilton Honors Dining program. Just linking your card to Hilton’s dining program will earn you an extra 2X points at select restaurants, but you can easily add up to 5X additional points by signing up for Hilton Honors Dining’s email communications list. And by signing up for emails and making 11 qualified transactions with the program in one calendar year, you will earn VIP status, which boosts your base rate by 8X points at participating locations and comes with an expanded pool of potential restaurants and access to the VIP Member Services line.

There are several other ways to earn Hilton Honors points, including linking your Hilton Honors account with Lyft and select car rental partners or reaching Hilton stay milestones. These methods won’t rake in the rewards at the same rate as your card’s bonus categories, but every bit counts toward your next getaway.

Redeeming rewards

You can redeem rewards by logging in to your Hilton Honors account online, via the app or by calling 1-800-4HONORS. The minimum required redemption is 5,000 points if you’re paying with both points and money, but a night’s stay often costs a considerable amount more in points. You can use your points not only for free hotel stays and on-property perks (like free Wi-Fi) but also for:

  • Exclusive experiences in dining, concerts, sports and more
  • Lyft rides
  • Shopping on Amazon.com or with Hilton’s merchandise portal
  • Rental cars with Alamo, National and Enterprise
  • Transfers to 30+ partner travel loyalty programs

How much are points worth?

Hilton Honors points are among the most inflated in hotel rewards programs, only worth around 0.6 cents per point. However, we’ve found that number is a relative baseline since Hilton’s redemption structure means your points’ value can fluctuate based on your booking, with some properties and travel options typically costing more. For example, while the card’s high rewards rate can be attractive, it can often cost around 25,000 points or more for a single night’s stay at some locations. While it’s possible to find stays for as low as 5,000 points, these are not widely available.

If you use your card enough, you’ll likely get a good number of hotel stays under your belt. But don’t expect rewards to stretch too far.

Benefits

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card boasts some impressive travel perks, which are nice for getting a worldwide Hilton experience. While some people may find more value in these benefits than others, all cardholders are encouraged to take advantage of them if they’re able. These perks are easy ways to recoup the card’s annual fee after your first year.

Hilton Night Reward

By spending at least $15,000 on eligible purchases in one calendar year, you earn a “Free Weekend Night Reward.”

You’ll receive your complimentary night in the form of a redeemable code via email about eight to 12 weeks after meeting the eligibility requirement. Your complimentary night can cover one weekend night standard accommodation for two guests and all applicable resort fees and taxes on the cost of the room for the night. Unfortunately, it doesn’t cover incidentals and must be redeemed on or before its expiration date.

Travel benefits

When you travel with Hilton, expect to travel in style. You’ll have premium airport lounge access with a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership featuring ten free airport lounge visits each Priority Pass Membership year once enrolled. You’ll also be able to avoid pesky foreign transaction fees while you travel and get access to the Global Assist Hotline.

American Express experiences

As a cardmember, you’ll also get exclusive Amex benefits. You can enjoy special members-only experiences like sporting events, Broadway shows and more.

Money management tools

Enjoy $0 fraud liability, a year-end summary of your spending and payment assistance plans to help you budget your spending and stay on track.

Rates and fees

Although, other Hilton cards range from $0 to $450, the Surpass comes with a $95 annual fee after your first year ($0 intro annual fee in your first year), which is a nice middle ground. You can try out the card for a year without paying an annual fee and decide whether it offers enough value to justify the fee in year two and beyond.

Unfortunately, there is no intro APR to help you save on interests as you pay down debt or finance new purchases. You’re looking at an interest rate between 18.74 percent and 27.74 percent (variable).

International travelers may find the card a good choice, though, as there are no foreign transaction fees.

How the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass compares to other hotel cards

Whether you want the Hilton Honors Surpass card may come down to how strongly you feel about branded cards or the convenience of more flexible rewards cards. If Hilton isn’t your preferred hotel chain, then you might be looking at Marriott. Or, on the other hand, if you aren’t particularly sold on any hotel brand you’ll likely want to use a more flexible rewards card that earns a generous rate for all purchases.

American Express Image

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

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4.4
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Annual fee

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

Intro offer

Earn 130,000 Points

Rewards rate

3X–12X

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)
Chase Image

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card

Annual fee

$95

Intro offer

100,000 Bonus Points

Rewards rate

2X–17X

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)
Capital One Image

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee

$95

Intro offer

75,000 miles

Rewards rate

2X–5X

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass vs. Marriott Bonvoy Boundless

A close competitor to the Hilton Honors Surpass card is the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card. The ongoing annual fee is also $95, and you’ll earn comparable rewards you can use at Marriott hotels around the world.

Like the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless offers a high rewards rate (up to 17X points) on hotels participating in the issuer’s rewards program. Over 7,000 hotels participate in Marriott Bonvoy, and cardholders who regularly stay at (or prefer) Marriott hotels and their partner branches would certainly want this card on their radar.

The Hilton Surpass earns a boosted 12X points at Hilton locations, which is a bit lower than Bonvoy Boundless card’s offer. Additionally, Bonvoy points are worth about 0.8 cents per point compared to Hilton Honors points, which are valued at of 0.6 cents per point (according to TPG).

If you plan to use your hotel card specifically for hotel stays, then the Marriott Bonvoy is your best option from a strictly rewards-oriented perspective. The Hilton Honors card will earn more at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and U.S. restaurants, but if you already utilize a card in your rewards strategy with a strong rate in those categories, you could potentially garner more value with a hotel card that focuses on rewarding hotel stays, like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless.

While the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless can be more rewarding on a regular basis for purchases at participating hotels, the Hilton Honors Amex Surpass card has a more attainable welcome offer. The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless offers 100,000 bonus points for spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. At 0.8 cents apiece, 100,000 points when redeemed is worth $800. While this is $20 higher than the Hilton card’s 130,000 point bonus (a $780 value), you need to spend much more to receive it. Where Hilton’s bonus is a roughly 39 percent return on spend, Marriott’s is only about a 27 percent return on spend.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass vs. Capital One Venture

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers a more flexible rewards program than the Hilton Honors Surpass card’s, albeit one that may be less rewarding if you’re planning to focus your spending on hotel stays.

The Venture card’s welcome bonus is a bit less valuable than the Hilton Honors Surpass card’s, offering just 75,000 miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases within three months from account opening (equal to $750 in travel). Conveniently, though, you can redeem miles for any travel purchase with any brand, including for hotel nights, airfare and more.

While Capital One miles are worth about 1 cent per mile through the issuer, which is a bit more than Hilton Honors points.

The Hilton Honors Surpass offers’ higher earning bonus categories that can earn points much faster.

For example, if you shop regularly at grocery stores in the U.S. and frequently stay at Hilton Hotels, the Surpass card’s 6X points at U.S. supermarkets and 12X points per dollar at Hilton Hotels and resrots may net you more value than the Venture card’s 5X miles on hotels booked through Capital One Travel and 2X miles on general purchases. For instance, if you spent $5,000 per year at U.S. supermarkets and $2,000 per year at Hilton hotels with both cards, you’d earn 20,000 Capital One miles and 54,000 Hilton points, respectively. Your Capital One miles would be worth $200 in travel redemptions while the Hilton points would be worth roughly $324 when redeemed through the Hilton Honors portal.

That said, if you’re the kind of cardholder who makes everyday purchases more often than you stay at hotels, a flat-rate rewards card may be in your best interest. This is especially the case if you want to redeem points for air travel or other travel expenses through the issuer’s portal.

Best cards to pair with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass

The Hilton Honors Surpass Card is almost exclusively geared toward hotel stays, so you could create a powerful combination with a general travel card or a co-branded airline credit card. That way, you’ve got both travel and lodging covered.

Bankrate’s Take—Is the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass worth it?

According to Stephanie Zito, Bankrate’s Travel Rewards Expert Contributor, “The Hilton Honors Amex Surpass is a great card for people who spend most of their money on everyday items—like groceries, restaurants, and gas—and then use these points to cover their hotel costs on a trip at a Hilton resort. Pair the solid points earning with Hilton’s fifth night free benefit, and you’ll have a free week in a hotel covered in no time.”

Overall, the card is a fairly high-quality hotel card for the casual traveler. For those with high travel budgets and trips planned, you may want to consider a different Hilton credit card that may cost more but has the potential to be more rewarding. Or, if you’re looking for something with more flexibility, check out our guide for choosing a hotel credit card.

*The information about the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.