American Express Hilton Honors Aspire Credit Card Review (2023)

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In 2017, Hilton ended its longstanding relationship with Citibank, moving the entire portfolio of Hilton credit cards over to American Express. At the same time, it released its first-ever, ultra-premium card: the Hilton Aspire. Even though the card’s annual fee was expensive at $450, the card offered an impressive array of perks, credits and lounge access that made it one of the most popular hotel credit cards amongst the points and miles crowd. Recently, Amex made some dramatic changes to the Aspire, raising the annual fee, axing the Priority Pass membership and re-jiggering the credit structure. Now that card costs $550 a year, is the Hilton Honors juice still worth the squeeze?

a close up of a blue and red cardAmex Hilton Honors Aspire Current Welcome Offer

Card Offer
150K Points + free night certificate ⓘ Friend-Referral
150K after $6K spend in first 6 months. Free night certificate every year - first certificate is awarded 8-12 weeks after approval. Terms apply.
$550 Annual Fee
Information about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Amex Hilton Honors Aspire Review

The perks of the Hilton Aspire card make it probably the best value of any major hotel credit card. The card comes with Hilton Diamond status, an annual free night certificate that can be used almost anywhere and $600 in total airline and Hilton credits, a pretty generous haul that more than offsets the hefty $550 annual fee. Provided you can maximize all those bennies, it’s just shy of a no-brainer. That said, the poor return on regular spend means that it should stay in the sock drawer, unless you’re using it at a Hilton or to get an airfare credit.

  • Annual Fee: $550
    • Authorized User Annual Fee: None
  • What points are worth: The Amex Hilton Aspire card earns Hilton Honors points. Our current list of Reasonable Redemption Values pegs them at 0.48 cents each.
  • Best Use for Points: Hilton eliminated award charts several years ago and pricing is now extremely variable, with redemption values ranging from well over 1 cent per point to as low as 0.25. A good way to get additional value is by taking advantage of the 5th night free on standard room awards that Hilton offers those with Silver elite status or higher. However, the way that Hilton calculates the price on these 5th night free stays can be confusing. Essentially, it prices each night at 4/5ths of the cost of an award night, though the average nightly cost of a 5-night stay may not be the same as the price of booking 5 nights separately.
  • Earning Categories: 
    • 14X Hilton
    • 7X US restaurants
    • 7X Flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, select car rental companies
    • 3X Everywhere else
  • Credits:
    • Annual $400 Resort Credit ($200 semi-annually): Valid towards room rate or any room charges made at a Hilton resort property (full list here) as long as you pay with your Amex Hilton Aspire card upon checking out of a participating hotel.
    • Annual $200 Airline Credit ($50 quarterly): Good for any airlines charges, including airfare when booked through an airline or amextravel.com.
    • CLEAR Credit: $189 credit towards a CLEAR membership each year.
  • Additional Perks:
    • Annual Free Night Certificate (cardmember year): Good for one night in a standard room at almost any Hilton property in the world (see list of exclusions here).
    • Priority Pass Select Lounge Membership (ends 2/1/24): Cardholder and two guests.
    • National Car Rental Executive Status: Lets you pick a nicer car from the Executive Aisle instead of the usual Emerald Aisle.
    • $100 Luxury Property Credit: Book a 2 night minimum stay at hiltonhonorsaspirecard.com and get up to a $100 property credit at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad hotels.
    • Cell Phone Insurance: $50 deductible/$800 max per claim.
  • Travel Protections:
    • Auto Rental Coverage: Secondary auto rental CDW (collision damage waiver). Provides reimbursement for theft and collision damage for rental cars in the U.S. and abroad.
    • Trip Delay Insurance: Must pay for round-trip airfare with your Aspire Card. Provides up to $500 in reimbursements if your travel is delayed by six or more hours. Maximum 2 claims per rolling 12 months.
    • Trip Cancellation and Interruption Insurance: Must purchase a round trip entirely with your Aspire Card. Up to $10,000 per trip/$20,000 per 12 consecutive month period.
  • Purchase Protections:
    • Return Protection: 90 days from date of purchase. Max $300/item, $1000/year.
    • Purchase Protection: 90 days date of purchase. Provides reimbursement for accidental damage, theft, or loss.
    • Extended Warranty: One extra year added on to warranties of 5 years or less. Maximum of $10,000 per item and $50,000 per cardmember account/calendar year.
  • Who’s this card for? Anyone who stays at Hiltons enough to maximize the resort credits, annual free night certificate and Hilton Honors Diamond elite status.
  • Is the Hilton Honors Aspire card a keeper? If you stay in Hilton Resorts even one time each year, then the card’s benefits probably outweigh the $550 annual fee, once you factor in the annual free night award and diamond status. That said, it’s probably not a good idea to use it for spend anywhere except at Hilton properties or for airfare (in order to trigger the $200 in airline credits each year).

Amex Hilton Honors Aspire Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Only credit card to give top-tier elite status in a major hotel program
  • Credits alone can more than make up for the annual fee of the card
  • Annual free night certificate is probably the most powerful of any hotel brand, as it can be used at almost any Hilton property worldwide
  • Airline credits are easier to use than other Amex cards, since they can be applied directly to airfare.

Cons

  • High annual fee ($550)
  • Not a good card for regular spend
  • Breaking up credits semi-annually and quarterly will make them harder to use for some
  • Travel protections lag behind many other premium cards
  • No lounge access after 2/1/24
  • Hilton Honors points are among the least-valuable of any hotel program currency

Related Cards

Card Offer and Details
150K Points + free night certificate ⓘ Friend-Referral
150K after $6K spend in first 6 months. Free night certificate every year - first certificate is awarded 8-12 weeks after approval. Terms apply.
$550 Annual Fee
Information about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.
FM Mini Review: This card is loaded with valuable perks that are more than worth the card's annual fee if you stay in Hilton resorts at least twice per year.
Earning rate: ✦ 14X Hilton spend ✦ 7X US restaurants, flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, select car rental companies ✦ 3X on all other eligible purchases ✦ Terms & Limitations Apply.
Base: 3X (1.44%)
Travel: 7X (3.36%)
Dine: 7X (3.36%)
Brand: 14X (6.72%)
Card Info: Amex Credit Card issued by Amex. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Big spend bonus: Additional free night awards after $30K and $60K spend in calendar year
Noteworthy perks: ✦Annual Free Night Reward every year upon renewal ✦ Free Diamond Status ✦ Up to $400 Hilton Resort Credit per membership year ($200 semi-annually) ✦ $200 Flight Credit ($50 per quarter for purchases directly with airlines or via Amex Travel) ✦ $100 on-property credit w/ Aspire Card package ✦ Terms Apply. See Rates & Fees
130K points ⓘ Affiliate
130K after $3K spend in 6 months. Terms apply.
$150 Annual Fee
Recent better offer: 130K + free night certificate after $2K spend in 3 months [Expired 7/19/23]
FM Mini Review: Easy way to secure Hilton Gold status (which offers free breakfast among other perks). Those who want Diamond status may be better off with the Aspire card.
Earning rate: ✦ 12X Hilton spend ✦ 6X U.S. restaurants, US Supermarkets, and US gas stations ✦ 4X U.S. Online Retail Purchases ✦ 3X on all other eligible purchases
Base: 3X (1.44%)
Dine: 6X (2.88%)
Gas: 6X (2.88%)
Grocery: 6X (2.88%)
Shop: 4X (1.92%)
Brand: 12X (5.76%)
Card Info: Amex Credit Card issued by Amex. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Big spend bonus:
✦ Free night award after $15K spend in calendar year ✦ Diamond elite status with $40K calendar year spend ✦ Terms apply
Noteworthy perks: Free Gold status. Diamond status w/ $40K spend. ✦ Up to $200 in Hilton credits ($50 per quarter) ✦ Terms Apply. (Rates & Fees)
175K Points ⓘ Affiliate
Limited-time offer: 175K after $8K spend in first 6 months. Terms apply.
(Offer Expires 6/5/2024)
$195 Annual Fee
FM Mini Review: Easy way to secure Hilton Gold status (which offers free breakfast among other perks). Amex business cards do not count towards 5/24 status so will not hurt chances of applying for Chase cards.
Earning rate: ✦ 12X Hilton spend ✦ 5X on other eligible purchases (on the first $100K in purchases per calendar year, 3X thereafter). ✦ For eligible purchases made from March 28, 2024 through June 30, 2024: 6X on Select Business & Travel Purchases (flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel; car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies; US restaurants; US gas stations; wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service provider; US shipping purchases)
Base: 3X (1.44%)
Brand: 12X (5.76%)
Other: 5X (2.4%)
Card Info: Amex Credit Card issued by Amex. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Big spend bonus: Eligible purchases made through June 30, 2024 will count toward a Free Night Award after $15K spend within a calendar year and another Free Night Award after $60K spend. This benefit will no longer be available after June 30, 2024.

Diamond elite status with $40K calendar year spend
Noteworthy perks: ✦ Free Gold status. Diamond status w/ $40K spend. ✦ Up to $240 in annual credits for Hilton purchases (Up to $60 per quarter) ✦ National Car Rental Executive Status ✦ Terms Apply. (Rates & Fees)
80K points ⓘ Affiliate
80K after $2K spend in 6 months. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)
No Annual Fee
Recent better offer: 70K + free night certificate after $2K spend in 3 months. [Expired 7/19/23]
FM Mini Review: This card isn't particularly rewarding, but it's good to keep primarily for targeted Amex upgrade offers to the Surpass card.
Earning rate: ✦ 7X Hilton spend ✦ 5X US restaurants, US Supermarkets, and US gas stations ✦ 3X on all other eligible purchases
Base: 3X (1.44%)
Dine: 5X (2.4%)
Gas: 5X (2.4%)
Grocery: 5X (2.4%)
Brand: 7X (3.36%)
Card Info: Amex Credit Card issued by Amex. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Big spend bonus: Gold elite status with $20K calendar year spend
Noteworthy perks: ✦ Free Silver status; Gold status with $20K spend. ✦ Terms Apply. (Rates & Fees)
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[…] Frequent Miler – American Express Hilton Honors Aspire Credit Card Review (2023) […]

Ran Her

Question on the semiannual credit
I’m sure this is a no brainier but want to verify this is broken into 1/1-6/30 then 7/1-12/31?

We have stays in March and first week of a June.

TIA

Omar

If I book a Hilton resort for next year (like March) today, will it trigger the $200 credit for the second half of 2023 today or will it not trigger the credit until I complete the stay in Mar 2024? Wondering because I would like to book a stay at a Hilton resort in December this year and get 2023 credit, but would also like to go ahead and book another stay at a Hilton resort in March 2024 and use the credit then as well.

Linda

I have not used the airline credit for 2023 yet. I paid the annual fee renewal in Sept at the old fee. Alaska is my chosen airline. If I buy a lounge membership for Alaska, will I get the credit for 2023 and get the new benefit after 1/1/2024? I have purchased the lounge membership at this time of the year in the past, but I have had to call 60 days after the purchase to get my credit, it has never in the last 3 years posted automatically. If it doesn’t post, I will have to call in 2024. Do you think I will have problems getting the credit?

VIS

Unfortunately, AMEX cards are getting weird in posting credits. I had resort credit in 2022, posted in 5 days. Used resort credit 2 weeks ago, still nothing. Same with AMEX offers. I did online chat after 2 months, rep was clueless, gave him a bad review and suddenly credit appeared next day.

Beechy

I upgraded my Hilton card to the Aspire back in July. I was charged the fee of $379, difference of fee already paid and am being told that I do not get the free night certificate???? Thoughts or suggestions? Thanks.

Biggie F

Well, that is not good news. I upgraded two no-fee Hilton cards to Aspire within the past 12 months – one with an anniversary date in Jan 2023 and the other in May (I think) 2023. In both cases, like you, I paid a pro-rated annual fee until the anniversary date, and the normal (then $450) annual fee thereafter. In both cases I received, soon after upgrading, a night because of the upgrade (this is how it is labeled on the Hilton site) and, six weeks or so after the anniversary dates, an anniversary night (again, so labeled on the Hilton site).

So when you are speaking about “the” free night certificate, what are you talking about exactly? It sounds like the unannounced upgrade night – I only knew about it because of one of Tim’s earlier posts – is a thing of the past. As for your anniversary night, that will come after your anniversary date, which I infer (given the $379 fee) is probably not until May 2024.

Beechy

Thanks for the info. I will look for the earlier post. I must have missed it. I was talking about the free night you get for upgrading to the card. I probably should have waited to upgrade closer to anniversary. Feel like I paid a lot and didn’t get all of the perks. Appreciate the input 🙂

Alex

You do not get a free night for upgrading (unless you got a specific upgrade offer). You will get a free night after the card’s anniversary and after you pay the annual fee.

Biggie F

Until recently (apparently), you did get a free night for upgrading without an offer – at least some of us did. Now that Hilton shows each free night on line, you can clearly (I can clearly) see nights labeled for card upgrade. I am not posting the link here (avoid moderation), but if you Google back somewhere just over a year ago, you can see this is a post by Tim (and comments) about his experiences upgrading their Hilton cards to aspire.

So maybe Hilton/Amex have put a stop to this unintended generosity. My recollection is that as far back as Tim’s article, some people were saying – like Beechy, that they were not getting the upgrade night. So it is also possible that this may have been a YMMV thing all along. More DPs welcome!

Dave

I upgraded my Surpass to an Aspire in September. Just got my free night (~9 weeks later). Anniversary date isn’t until January (and so I’ll get another free night in ~March).

Upgrade free night seems to be alive still.

Spiel

does Priority Pass from Aspire really include restaurants as stated in the Pros section of this post?

Billy Bob

Thought that was Chase only…

VIS

All AMEX cards have discontinued restaurant credit and Aspire will discontinue priority pass next year. Bummer !

Maestra K

My huge complaint about the changes in the Aspire card are that the $50 per quarter for ANY kind of flight credit went into effect immediately, but they said that the $250 per year anything-but-the-flight credit would be still in effect. I almost immediately got $50 of credits for the taxes and upgraded seat on ff tickets on my chosen airline, but when I put a $30 baggage fee on the card, it didn’t come off. ALL those fees which were refunded coded as “Passenger Ticket” rather than “Additional Collection,” which is how all the refunded fees on the Platinum cards had coded. Has anyone finished up their $250 refund on their selected airline since this change suddenly occurred? How did any refunds earlier in the year code in the original charge on this Hilton card? Thanks. I really wanted to figure out a way to still use that $250 credit from the old perks.

VIS

My chosen airline is United and I put $50 for United travel bank and $56 for a seat selection on American. Both were credited in 10 days at $50 each.

Maestra K

Thanks, this is helpful. Now I wonder if it is just Alaska’s coding that doesn’t say “Additional fees” or whatever, and trigger the credit.

VIS

Not sure about Alaska but I have used it for United every possible way without any problems, travel bank, seat upgrade, baggage and an actual ticket. Shows on my statement as United Ticketing Houston.

Tyler C

Pros section has a few mistakes as noted as well as the comment about the Priority Pass featuring restaurants

Summit Hotwani
  • Only major transferable currency (outside of Bilt) that has Hyatt as a partner
  • Points can be redeemed at 1.5 cents each for travel through the Chase Travel Portal

Doesn’t seem right for the Aspire card.

Andy

Sweet! Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa and Paris-Vendome here I come!

Thanks, Hilton!

Sco

Your Pros list seems to have a couple bullets taken from a Ultimate Rewards template…..

That said, if anyone knows how to transfer Hilton points to Hyatt, or use them for 1.5c on the Chase portal, I’m VERY interested. 🙂

Brutus

It must be a metaphor for making the update worse than the original.

rj123456

Redemption through *Chase* portal???

[…] See more about the Hilton Aspire here. […]

[…] I personally think that both the $95 and $450 Hilton cards offer perks that exceed the annual fee.  The $95 card, for example, gives you Hilton Gold status which offers free breakfast at Hilton hotels worldwide.  The $450 Aspire, meanwhile, is loaded with high end perks.  See: A new ultra-premium card, in-depth review: Amex Hilton Aspire. […]

Matt

Does anyone know whether the Hilton Aspire resort credit can be used for points + money reservations?

Nick Reyes

I don’t know for sure. My first instinct was probably not as I know that Hilton’s advance purchase division codes differently than a charge at a property directly (which is why an advance purchase rate won’t trigger an Amex Offer). But then I realized that I’m not sure whether or not Hilton charges you in advance for the cash portion on that….

I’d guess that if you pay at the property, it should work….