Big changes to Hilton Aspire and Surpass cards

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With no advanced warning, Amex today introduced big changes to the Hilton Surpass and Aspire cards.  The Aspire card’s annual fee has increased, Priority Pass is gone, annual credits have changed, and a few new perks have appeared.  The Surpass card’s annual fee also increased, but they’ve added new credits and new perks.  In both cases I think some people will like the changes and some won’t.  Overall, I see some upside and I find it a relief that the negative changes aren’t as bad as they could have been.

two blue cards in a field

Hilton Aspire

The Hilton Aspire card will keep its automatic Diamond elite status, annual Free Night Reward, and category bonuses.  Here is what is changing:

  • New welcome bonus (we’ll post about that separately)
  • $550 annual fee (up from $450)
  • $400 resort credit: $200 twice per year (up from $250 per year).  This change begins 1/1/24.
  • $200 flight credit: $50 per quarter. Not just incidental airline fees, but actual airfare counts. (changed from $250 per year airline fee credits).  For those approved before October 19 2023, the old $250 airline fee credit is available through the end of 2023.  You should be able to double-dip this quarter.
  • Free Night Reward with $30K spend (this part is new) and again at $60K total calendar year spend (as before)
  • No more Priority Pass as of February 1, 2024
  • Annual $189 CLEAR reimbursement
  • National Executive status
  • Cell phone protection ($50 deductible, max $800 per claim)

My take on these changes

This is a bit of a relief actually.  Everyone knew that Amex would increase the card’s annual fee, so it’s good to see that it went up only by $100 while increasing annual flight and resort credits from $500 total to $600 total.  The bad news with the credits is that they become more of a pain to use since they’re now split into semi-annual buckets for the resort credits and quarterly credits for the flight credits.  On the other hand, the flight credits will be easier to use for those who haven’t learned how best to take advantage of incidental airline fee credits.

The loss of Priority Pass is a shame, but many of us have other cards that offer better versions of Priority Pass anyway (for example, Priority Pass from issuers other than Amex and Capital One offer free dining at participating Priority Pass restaurants).

Finally, Amex has added benefits that some will really appreciate: CLEAR credits, National Executive card status, and cell phone protection.  These are all a win for those who can use them.

Hilton Surpass

The Surpass card retains its automatic Gold status (and Diamond status with $40K spend), Free Gold status, and its category bonuses. It also retains the Free Night Reward after $15K calendar year spend.  Here’s what is changing:

  • New welcome bonus (we’ll post about that separately)
  • $150 annual fee (up from $95)
  • $200 Hilton credit: $50 per quarter (unlike the Aspire credits, this is not limited to resorts)
  • Earn 12X Hilton spend; 6X U.S. restaurants, US Supermarkets, and US gas stations; 4X on U.S. Online Retail Purchases (this is new), and 3X on all other eligible purchases
  • No more Priority Pass as of February 1, 2024
  • National Executive status

My take on these changes

Previously this was a cheap way to get a set of Priority Pass visits.  I don’t know how many people used the card for that purpose, but if that was you then you’ll be bummed by this change.  For most others, though, I think the changes may be welcome if not exciting.  With the $50 per quarter Hilton credit, you would only need to visit a Hilton once per year and spend $50 or more there to bring your net annual fee down to $100 which is just $5 more than before.  If you manage to use the credit more than once per year, then you’ll be well ahead.  And if you didn’t already have National Executive status, that’s a big plus (it lets you pick a nicer car from the Executive Aisle instead of the usual Emerald Aisle).

What do you think about these changes?  Please comment below.

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Elie

So the list of Hilton resorts right now only shows 154 hotels. I’m pretty sure there used to be a lot more. Did they remove a lot of hotels from the list? If so, that’s a sneaky way to make the resort benefit way less useful.

r2e

Data point on old $250 and new $50 aspire flight credits received against charges on 1/1/2024.

r3t

Had you already used the $250 in 2023?

wwllmm

no way they don’t claw this back; tempted to try the full 250

Nathan

Data point on the Surpass card and the $50 quarterly Hilton credit.
Had date night at a local restaurant that’s associated with a Curio property. I’ve noticed it codes as 12X before, so I paid as normal at the restaurant (not charging to the room) with the Surpass and crossed my fingers I’d get the credit. About a week later, the $50 credit posted. Presumably this will also work at the rooftop bar.

Consider myself happy with the Hilton Surpass changes. Now instead of paying $95 a year to hold the card (and spend for the FNC), I can enjoy a quarterly date night subsidized by Amex and my (higher) annual fee.

Matthewsf

Has anyone had a history of success and can confirm having a hotel run a charge for a future stay to activate the credit ahead of time/prior to arrival? Either a deposit or the full room charge of the rez? I’ve read a lot of comments here about doing that, but came across some other travel blogs/postings that stated the credit is not valid for non-refundable advanced bookings (since that goes though Hilton’s AP dept and not the property itself) AND PREPAID rooms. (Another site states that it has to be charged to the room folio). However, looking at the T&Cs on AMEX, it only mentions advance purchase reservations are ineligible. So assuming I can get the property I’m staying at next year to run a charge now, will that indeed be be eligible and trigger the credit??? Thanks

Karla

I don’t know about the new credit in 2024. But many times in the past I have booked the Sandestin Resort, which requires a deposit of one night at the time of booking. That deposit has always triggered the resort credit. And it has been refundable if my plans changed, but the credit remained. Hope that helps!

vij

Have done it one time with a Hilton Resort in Egypt and another time at Conrad in Las Vegas was able to pay ahead by one year

Susan

Trying to make the most out of the $250 airline incidental charges for 2023. My card will reset in January, and I have still not used the $250 credit for this year. If I purchase upgraded seats for an upcoming flight and put the charge on my Aspire card, will that trigger the $250 credit for 2023? The Amex Aspire website has the new terms and conditions for the new $200 airline credit ($50 each quarter) but I can’t find the terms and conditions for the old credit. As I recall, it wasn’t a “per quarter” amount, but could be used anytime in the year. And, does it have to be with an airline I selected back when I got the card? If so, how do I change the “preferred” airline to the one I want to purchase upgraded seats on? Not sure the increased annual fee will be something I want to do, but I certainly want to get the most out of the card wile I still have it!

Susan

Update: I had an online chat with American Express this morning. Yes, the $250 airline credit is still active for those who already have the card. If you log into your account on the AMEX website, you’ll see that the only tracking is for the $50 last quarter credit; but I was assured that the $250 credit is still available through December 31, 2023. They will not track that on my account page; I’ll heve to keep tabs on that. I was able to change the preferred airline during the chat and will test the waters with a United Travel Bank purchase.

VIS

Does $100 credit for a 2 night stay at Waldorf apply to one annual free night and one night on points ? Staying at Vegas Waldorf which is classified as a resort so will use $250 resort credit and if I get additional $100 credit, my stay will be free. $50 breakfast credit for 2 people will total $100 also. Planning to use all the credits before next renewal in march 2024.

Mark

Me and my wife have the Aspire and one renewed on 10/15 and the other 10/25. Does anyone know what this means for eligibility for the old $250 credit for the rest of 2023? I’m thinking may the old credit of $250 may be available, at least for the 10/15 renewal, till the end of 2023.

Mark

this is for the resort credit.

Brian P

I have basically the same question. My Hilton Aspire cardmember year resets in early November. I already got the $250 Hilton resort credit under the old regime for this past year and it appears the new semiannual $200 resort credit doesn’t kick in until 1/1/2024. Since I have a new cardmember year just starting here shortly, I’m wondering if the $250 credit will work again as long as I stay at a resort before the end of the year? Or, on the other hand, since these changes were announced in October before my cardmember year starts, maybe I won’t get any more credits until the new program kicks in? I’m tempted to try it out and stay sometime in Nov/Dec to see if I get another $250 and then be eligible for another $200 starting in January. Anyone have thoughts on this?

YAK

Let us know if either of you finds out the answer. Our membership years reset in July and August and I’m wondering if I can get 2 x $250 resort credits with our cards before the end of the year. Thanks!

Last edited 5 months ago by YAK
P J

Hey Greg- Data point: was able to “double dip” on the airline credit. Had a $5 charge for airline on 10/17 and on 10/20 received $5 “amex airline fee reimbursement” & $5 “amex flight credit”. Was confused at first, then I remembered the changes. Sadly will be missing this card once renewal comes due, enjoyed the “almost free” ride for the past few years.

VIS

So what is your tipping point not to renew ?

P J

I think everyone’s situation is different. Personally, I don’t really stay at Hilton’s much anymore. I’m not a fan of high annual fees and their “coupons” either. The $550 annual fee will not be worth it for me as the only “real” benefit would be the $200 travel credit so it would essentially be costing me $350 for a free night (with a one year expiration date) and “resort credits” (I typically do not buy many meals etc at a Hotel.) For now I’m getting more bang for my buck as a Hyatt Globalist and Marriot Platinum Elite. For someone who stays at Hiltons often or routinely goes to an expensive Hilton (even once a year) this card might make sense for its free night certificate and diamond status, but I would rather put my travel money towards something else. Enjoy!

HADLEY V. BAXENDALE

United Travel Bank still should work — credit has not been applied yet (it is too early) but here is why:

My $50 charge is no longer pending. The verbiage associated with the charge reads as follows:

Special Service Ticket
Flight from CHICAGO O’HARE INT on October 19
CHICAGO O’HARE INTCHICAGO O’HARE INT
PASSENGER
Hadley V Baxendale /TRAVEL BANK CA
TICKET NUMBER
XXXXXXXXXXXX

Since it actually is coding as a ticket, I see no reason why AMEX should not reimburse.

Will keep you updated when (or if) credit comes through.

HVB

Biggie F

I hope that you are right, and I appreciate your having gone ahead to test this for the rest of us, and for reporting back.

And, I concur: What you are seeing is consistent with what we have all been seeing when making UA Travel Bank purchases that were subsequently automatically airline-credited by Amex. The irony — or reverse logic, or jiujitsu, or some such — is that in the past these credits were coming our way in spite of the fact that a charge looked like a UA plane ticket, i.e., something that was (and still is, I assume) enjoined for the Amex Plat cards. Whereas now, with plane fares being explicitly permitted for the Aspire, we are reading the same entrails as a positive augury.

usernamechuck

Any news?

HADLEY V. BAXENDALE

OK, Chuck and others — ALL IS WELL!

The $50 United Travel Bank purchase coded as a ticket and I was just reimbursed by AMEX today! I have a nice big fat $50 credit appearing on my account — so use it at will!

VIS

Ditto.

Sco

I seem to be alone on this, but I really don’t like the Aspire changes. I’m a United flyer, so the airline credits were always easy for me to use (TravelBank). But I find the resort credits very difficult to use. I rarely stay at Hilton resorts. And even when I do, the value is often diminished by the fact that it doesn’t work on room rates that are pre-paid/non-refundable. I actually happen to have a Hilton resort stay planned at the beginning of next year, but the pre-paid rate is $80 cheaper than the flexible, so I’ll only get $120 in real value from the $200 resort credit.

With the old Aspire, once netting out the airline credit, I saw it as paying $200 for a free night certificate which was easily worth it. And then if I got to use some of the resort credits it was a bonus. With the changes, it’s now like paying $350 for the free night certificate which is less of a no-brainer. I’ll likely evaluate each time the annual fee is due to see if I have an expected resort stay or enough other stays where the free breakfast will make it worth keeping the card.

(Yes, I know that there have been other ways that have worked to use the resort credit without staying at a resort. I’ve used them in the past when I haven’t used the credit by the time my anniversary has come up. But I’m assuming that doing that twice a year for $200 each time is just begging for Amex to notice and start doing clawbacks or worse.)

matthewsf

@SCO: I agree completely! My renewal just happened so I will be evaluating and downgrading next year. The resort credits are now too hard to utilize 2x a year vs. 1x. And I valued the PP membership a lot in places where there was not a SA member lounge and/or airports where my airline or ticket wouldn’t otherwise provide access to the operating contract lounge. So, between the loss of that, coupled with the reduction by $50 of the airline credit and in increased AF, it’s a net downgrade on the overall value.

Gerry

In thinking here, wouldn’t the $50 airline credit be a very underrated use of Amex airline offers (since you don’t have to pick an airline)? For example, there is a $50 off of $250 Delta offer, you book a flight, wait for both credits to hit ($50 and $50) and have a $250 credit for $150.

This is (of course) assuming that the airline offer would be on this card. Guess we will have to wait and see.

Last edited 7 months ago by Gerry
Mary Jane

Does anyone know of a Hilton resort in south florida that sells gift cards?

Ivan

Having received my surpass card in September this makes the first year benefit even sweeter. In addition to the 140k and free night cert I’m getting an additional $200 in Hilton credits for my $95 AF. I’ll even my priority pass for the first year so pretty f’n sweet overall

I probably won’t keep the card as the AF is a bit high for a hotel card worth no annual free night but it’s a great first year value

VIS

My go to card will be Marriott brilliant, it does offer priority pass and one stay at St. Regis or Ritz pays for the annual fee. Always used the monthly $25 restaurant credit so net cost is $350.

HADLEY V. BAXENDALE

Greg,

Also realized that one could downgrade from the Aspire to the Surpass after you pass your anniversary date and you will be charged the Surpass’ lower annual fee; however, you should still be able to receive the uncapped free night that arrives about 10 – 12 weeks after your anniversary date.

This circumstance was tested and confirmed by me and others who downgraded their Brilliant card to the Bonvoy Amex $95 card and still received their 85,000 point free night.

Therefore, since AMEX issues both cards, Marriott example should apply to Hilton.

Never considered downgrading Aspire before, but now that the Surpass looks pretty good with the annual fee vs. the credit, the timing of doing this should be paid close attention!