[Update: Honored retroactively] Targeted no-fee Hilton Aspire upgrade offer


Update 5/7/21: Amex may be retroactively honoring this for those who reversed the upgrade by inviting them back to the Aspire card with honored terms.

The targeted offer in this post was only available for a short time last fall (as seen below, the original offer included an upgrade to the Aspire card with no fee immediately, no fee at first renewal, and a prorated portion of $95 at the next renewal after that). Amex originally indicated in December 2020 that the offer would not be honored as originally written. At that point, some readers who had taken the upgrade offer called Amex to reverse the upgrade (since Amex said they weren’t honoring it). Other cardholders decided to wait and see what would happen. A few weeks later, in January 2021, some readers were told that the offer would be honored after all (and indeed, when anniversary dates came, they were not charged an annual fee), so those who had kept the upgrade in place ended up with a huge win, while those who had reversed the downgrade based on Amex’s stance from December 2020 missed out.

Today there is a new exciting plot twist as a reader has reached out to let us know that she reversed the upgrade in December and then today received an email with the subject line “An Important Message from American Express” that said the following:

As you can see, Amex is owning up to its error and inviting her back to the Aspire card with honored terms. In this case, the reader will receive the Aspire card and its benefits for $0 for the first year and $95 for the second year. While some may still be a little bitter about having missed out on 2020 calendar-year benefits, it is nonetheless great to see Amex own up to the offer they presented even for those who took back the upgrade. I had previously said that those who kept screen shots would have a pretty good case if they chose to press Amex to honor the terms and I have to wonder if someone did pursue it and cause Amex to go back and make good on the offer with folks who had downgraded. The reader who reported this also let me know that calling Amex to get the Aspire card back (after receiving the email) required a long call with a few supervisors and she was eventually told that her card would upgrade by the end of July 2021, with her annual fee billing date reset to July thereafter. You may want to set aside some time for the call or wait a few days if you’d rather they get the kinks worked out in advance.
Original post and updates follows….

Update 1/8/21: Doctor of Credit has reported (and a couple of readers also let us know the same) that Amex reps have now said that this offer will in fact be honored, with no annual fee being charged in the first year. If you kept the upgrade in place, you may be in for a nice win. It might be worth reaching out to Amex via chat to get it in writing that you won’t be charged the fee, though on the other hand you already have that in writing if you kept screen shots.

Update 12/18/20: It appears that Amex is not intending to honor this offer as they have sent a letter indicating that the next annual fee charged will be a prorated portion of $450. The deal may still be worth it for some depending on when your anniversary date is, but regardless it appears that they will not honor it as a prorated amount of a $95 fee as they wrote. An upgrade can be reversed if you wish or you can take your chances / duke it out with Amex for not honoring their terms. I personally think you’d have a decent case if you kept screen shots, but it may not be worth the time spent fighting to some.

CF Frost at Milenomics reports what could be an awesome (though kind of complicated) Hilton Aspire upgrade offer for those targeted. There are some complexities to wrap your mind around, but the basic essence of the story is that the offer comes with no bonus points but also no prorated annual fee immediately, no annual fee at next renewal, and then a prorated annual fee based on $95 (rather than the usual $450) at upgrade anniversary. That structure likely sounds confusing, but if you dig into the details, I think this upgrade offer is well worth considering for those eligible. It may not academically be quite as strong as the typical upgrade offer in some scenarios, but given the low cash outlay I think this would appeal to many.

How it works

The terms reported by Milenomics on the upgrade offer are the following:

Annual Membership Fee: When you upgrade, your new Card will have a promotional annual fee of $0 for one year. In the first billing period on or after the end of the promotional year, you will be charged a prorated amount of the $95 annual fee for your new Card based on the time remaining until your next account anniversary date. On each account anniversary date thereafter, you will be charged the annual fee for your new Card. If you cancel your Card account or switch to another Card during the one year promotional period, you may no longer remain eligible for this promotion.“

In other words, here is how it will work for those who upgrade:

  • You’ll pay $0 from the date you upgrade until a year from the upgrade date
  • A year from the date you upgrade, you’ll be charged a prorated portion of $95 based on the time until your next cardmember anniversary date
  • At the next anniversary, you’ll pay $450

That can perhaps be a little hard to wrap your mind around, but a couple of examples make it clearer why this offer can be appealing and perhaps even better than the typical offer depending on your anniversary date.

A hypothetical example

To make this a concrete example, let’s imagine that your original anniversary date for the card you have is June 12th (exactly 6 months from today). If you are targeted for this offer and upgrade today, you would pay:

  • $0 today
  • $0 on your anniversary date (June 12th, 2021)
  • $47.50 on December 12, 2021 (the prorated amount of 50% of $95)
  • On June 12th, 2022 you will be charged $450

Between now and June 2022 (for an out-of-pocket cost of $47.50), you should get:

  • $250 in airline fee credits for 2020 (if you use this before the end of this month)
  • $250 in Hilton resort credit between now and June 12, 2021
  • $250 in airline fee credits for 2021
  • $250 in Hilton resort credit between June 12, 2021 and June 12, 2022
  • $250 in airline fee credits for 2022
  • 1 free weekend night that should post 8-12 weeks from now
  • 1 free weekend night that will post 8-12 weeks after June 12, 2021

That’s up to $1,250 in statement credits and 2 free nights at nearly any Hilton property in the world for $47.50. I’d say that’s worth it.

However, keep in mind that the above isn’t a straight comparison to a point upgrade offer. Ordinary upgrade offers include 150,000 Hilton points (worth $750) and still include all of the above.

The difference here is that with an ordinary upgrade, you would pay a prorated portion of $450 for the time between now and next anniversary and then the full annual fee at renewal. In other words, given the same anniversary and upgrade dates listed above, if you upgraded today under the “normal” 150K offer (which I should note is also a targeted offer but more commonly seen), you would pay:

  • $250 upon upgrade for now until June 12, 2021
  • $450 at renewal on June 12, 2021

That is a total of $700 in annual fee money versus $47.50. That point offer is arguably better since it often comes with $750 worth of Hilton points. However, given that it requires you to lay out $700 in the first 6 months for a $50 win, I could certainly see that some will have a preference to pick up all of the benefits for no money now and $47.50 later.

This new upgrade offer gets better for those with later anniversary dates

However, the deal improves for those with more recent anniversary dates. Let’s imagine instead that your anniversary date was November 12th. Under the new no-fee upgrade offer, you would pay:

  • $0 today
  • $0 on November 12, 2021
  • ~$87 on December 12, 2021 (prorated portion of $95 fee for 11 months)
  • You would then need to pay $450 on renewal on November 12, 2022

If instead you had the typical upgrade offer that includes 150K points and a prorated portion of the $450 fee right away, you would pay:

  • $412.50 today
  • $450 on renewal on November 12, 2021 and every year thereafter

With the “normal” upgrade offer and an anniversary date of a month ago, you’d pay $862.50 between now and November 12, 2022 vs $87. That means the “normal” upgrade offer would cost you $775 more in order to get 150K points. Given that Hilton regularly puts points on sale for half a cent each, you could straight up buy 150K points for $750 (and earn cash back on that purchase for a net cost of even less!). The no-fee upgrade offer would clearly be better.

Bottom line

I have no idea whether or not this offer will be widely available. Milenomics has more detail about how and where they found this upgrade offer (see their post for more detail). It is worth noting that there is a possibility that the prorated $95 renewal fee could be a typo, but given that the terms are in black-and-white I would just recommend taking screen shots of the details and saving them in case you have an issue. It should be a pretty easy follow-up with Amex if you were somehow charged more than you should be. Given that they did offer the Aspire card with no annual fee briefly (long since expired) almost exactly a year ago and they did honor that offer without any push back, I expect this is intentional but wouldn’t expect it to be long-lived (that no-fee new cardmember offer lasted just a few hours).

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Gene Wang

I received this same offer 3 days ago. The offer ID in the email is only 4 digits. When I called Amex, I was told that the ID has to be 16 digits. The person I spoke to knew nothing about a 4 digit code. She said she would file a complaint forme. Do you know anything about this situation (non-working ID in the email)?

Judas Priest

Join the club. The agent was very polite but didn’t have a clue. They said they had no idea about a 4 digit reference number but did see the email I had been sent. Finally she brought a supervisor on the line that said the upgrades wouldn’t take effect until the end of July or first of August. They evidently rolled out a fix without information their front-line customer service agents. I’m guessing their marketing department or IT team goofed up, tried to cover it up, and then a wave of CFPB complaints smoked them out. Who knows for sure? Only Amex, and they will never do the right thing unless they’re all out of other options. I have no idea how this one will turn out.

Gene Wang

Thank you

Frank Booth

For those getting the AmEx apology email and offer to upgrade, be aware that the AmEx reps have absolutely no clue how to handle this. This offer isn’t yet loaded on their system, from what I can tell. I was on hold 20 minutes yesterday with an amiable fellow who was, unfortunately, unable to help me. He stated they would ‘start a ticket’ and elevate the issue. In AmEx terms, starting a ticket is the phone agent’s version of HUCA. Expect lots of HUCA’s before this one gets solved.


Here’s my (hopefully, final) update. Long story short, based on the comments here, it would seem that my wife and I were two of the first cardholders to upgrade to the Aspire card back in November using the no-annual-fee offers that we were both targeted for. We both then received letters from AmEx, telling us that our annual fee would be $450 beginning on January 8, 2021, but that we can downgrade before that. Many calls with AmEx representatives ensured in December and January. Finally, before January 8, 2021, with no success in getting AmEx to honor the terms, both of us reluctantly downgraded the Aspire cards. It was only after we downgraded, did I find out that AmEx actually was honoring the terms of the upgrade offer but only for some customers (due to probably inconsistent training for the reps).

Of course, I was not happy. But it was not worth fighting over and burning bridges with AmEx. I am please to report that, consistent with Nick’s update, both my wife and I received an e-mail this morning from AmEx, apologizing for the snafu and inviting us back to upgrade to Aspire with $0 annual fee for the first year, and then a $95 fee for the second year. I’m happy that AmEx (eventually) did the right thing.

Frank Booth

Multiple CFPB complaints helped AmEx ‘do the right thing’ in this instance.


I had upgraded both my husband and my Surpass cards to the Aspire using the no AF for a year, $95 the second year offer. In January my husbands card was going to renew and it said $450. We chatted with Amex, they asked him to send screen shots. We did. They never charged the AF and the online account shows $0 AF. So, we assume they honored it. On my account, it renews next month. I was waiting to get the renewal statement. It came today. Happy to say it says “Your AF is $0, Effective 2/1/22 the annual fee will be $95” so, they are honoring the upgrade terms!! I will gladly pay $95 next year for the Aspire card!


Hi Nick, is the account anniversary date the same as account open date, or the first statement closing date? My original aspire card (which was then downgraded to no fee card, then upgraded using the no fee link last month) was opened around Dec 1, 2018, but the annual fee was charged around Dec 20, 2018. I hope I can also get two free night certs!


Upgraded to Aspire in early Dec ‘20 from fee free Hilton Honors card, with an anniversary date of late Jan. According to T&C, free wknd night terms state: “You will receive the reward email within 8-14 weeks after opening your Card Account AND each year within 8-14 weeks after your Card Account anniversary date.” Does that mean I should expect to receive 2 free wknd night certs? (One for opening card in early-mid Dec, another for hitting anniversary in late Jan)


So I received one free night cert in Feb, exactly 8 weeks after my upgrade date (early Dec). However, it’s been over 8 weeks from my anniversary date (late Jan) and I haven’t received another one. Was wondering if there are any DPs reflecting otherwise. TIA!


Surprise, surprise — “ You’ve received an Annual Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors” appeared in my inbox this morning 🙂 I actually chatted with an AMEX rep yesterday afternoon, asking if/when the anniversary cert was going to come, having already received the upgrade conversion cert in Feb. I was assured that it’s on the way; lo and behold, it arrived this morning. Not sure if chatting w the rep has anything to do with the peculiar timing, but just glad I finally got it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jimmy

Just an update:

Upgraded to Aspire on 12/12
Renewal membership fee posted 1/11 for $95

Not sure what this means for the $450 AF…


Did you originally have the Surpass Card or the no fee one?




wondering if there are any more data points here from folks who have recently spoken to Amex. All chatter about this offer has died down…are folks waiting till end of jan?


I have not talked to amex. Guess I will wait. Did get a free night already. Not sure how that will work out, and I am wondering about using the $250 airline credit before end of January. Probably be okay, but would likely be permanently in Amex doghouse if I do that, then downgrade.


Thanks. I’ll avoid using the airline credit. I’ve not yet got the free night, Nov card anniversary. I’ll call Amex next week as there were some comments earlier about them being aware of the issue and wait for further info…


just sitting tight. people complaining so soon just are impatient.

I never received a 2nd letter clarifying as others have noted…well past 2 weeks. renew date is Nov.


True, I’ve not seen anyone get the second letter. I have similar renew date as yours. Prorated AF should be about 370 for a $500 airline credit + $200 resort + FNC – it may still be worth it


$250 resort! I think it would be $400 pro-rated a/f for me. A slight discount…just found a high value possible redemption which might make it worth it….but they need to offer something…if they fess up and say we screwed up, fine, and they give us 150,000 points no spend requirement for the trouble…something like that.

They get their annual fee, and all they miss out on are some spend requirement interchange fees.

150k is the offer I had to upgrade in 2019

They are prob sitting on a boatload of Hilton points.


Ah yes, $250 resort. I doubt they will switch the offer to HH points. I do think there will be some more temp credits or ways to use this $250 similar to the paypal news on plat today


Interesting…didn’t know about the Paypal credit. Nice!


I figured I would provide an update, FWIW. As a recap, both my wife and I upgraded on 11/20/20. At the time of upgrades, I specifically called AmEx and CSR told me that although he could not see the offer on his side, I should save the T&C and he thinks AmEx would honor the no-fee. Two or so weeks later, we each received a letter, purportedly dated 11/20/20, advising us that we will be charged a pro-rated fee of $450 on 1/8/21 and advising us that we can downgrade by 1/8/21. Called AmEx on 12/12/20 and 12/13/20 and opened a dispute for each account. As part of the disputes, uploaded to AmEx website copies of the upgrade offers’ T&Cs.

As of today, still no resolution of the disputes. Called today, and the CSR told me that I will likely receive a response by 3/3/21. In response to my request to expedite in light of the approaching 1/8/21 deadline, she indicated that the annual fees would not be charged until the disputes are resolved. If this is correct, this is good news. This way, we can let the process play out without making any rush decisions. Hopefully, given the clear language in the upgrade offers’ T&Cs, AmEx will do the right thing and, at the very least, honor the $0 fee for the first full year.

I will update once I received any further response from AmEx.


thanks for the update. Have not received a follow up letter here. Not quite 2 weeks though.


Curious if the free weekend night will still be issued to those that choose to reverse or downgrade from this erroneous, falsely advertised Aspire upgrade. If so, would I be eligible for 2 free wknd nights since my anniversary cycle date is Jan 20?

What would the prorated AF calculation look like based on the new terms ($450 prorated AF on or after Jan 30, 2021) with an anniversary cycle date of Jan 20?

Johnny be good


Ed k

We used to love Amex and a number of their cards and bonus offers. And, we would use their cards for everyday purchases. I would give my points to charity through their own program. Then, they took back over $1k in rewards that I was about to donate (all) and even after discussing it with them they just didn’t seem to care. I was swept into the rest of the culling even though I had plenty of regular purchases. I closed any card that was tied to their membership rewards and so did all my family and friends. The RAT team went too far with their algorithms. I also moved all my business transactions to Chase. Chase’s Private Client program is the winner. I don’t expect AMEX to do as well in the market because of the bad client relationship they seem to have for so many. Plus, they outsource a lot of their calls. I imagine some of their departments really abhor the RAT algorithms, but seems the leadership isn’t concerned. Hopefully, they don’t lose even more jobs in the US… feel bad for some of their employees. But, maybe they’ll attract some new customers in the future with their letters. Maybe they get business from offering bloggers (not this one) decent affiliate bonuses otherwise why would they even be talked about? Strange operation.


Same here, they were my go-to card. In the past their back office operation was very good, probably best-in-class. Chat reps were excellent, but now every conversation seems rote and rarely productive. I was hopeful when Squeri replaced hapless Mr. Chenault as CEO, but by all accounts he is underperforming in the role and just a placeholder until shareholders start pushing for a change. The fish rots from the head, and Amex appears to be running on fumes from indifferent leadership. For a company rather dependent on business and leisure travel they seem to be constantly at war with their customers. Strange operation indeed.

Brad C

Sigh, this is just the standard separate letter they send out when upgrading to a higher fee card. Last year I got a separate letter with identical wording when upgrading from Bonvoy Amex to Bonvoy Brilliant.

There is nothing nefarious or indicative by this letter that they have made a final decision to not honor their original terms. I would say a more definitive indication they intend to not honor their terms will be if they send out a letter that specifically addresses the mistake that was made or they DO end up charging pro-rated $450 AF in early/mid Feburary.


I think you may be right, but Amex won’t acknowledge a mistake in writing. Their GC office would go ballistic.

Brad C

Good point, when they decided to increase the fee on the Gold card from $195 to $250 they didn’t acknowledge any mistake when they pushed back the fee increase from April 2019 to 2020.

The letter they sent in April 2019 mainly said “…we have decided to not increase your annual fee at this time. We previously sent a letter stating that your annual membership fee would increase to $250 on 2019-04…
…fee on your account will remain at $195”

Of course they neglected to mention it would go up to $250 in 2020. So then they had to put yet another notice on an early 2020 statement that the fee was going up. For real that time.


I knew it!

Brad C

DP: Upgraded this past weekend a few days before statement closed this week. $95 AF was still billed. I don’t think it’s worth fighting Amex over a $95 error when Aspire card benefits/credits still outweigh even a 1 year promotional $95 AF.

I still think it’s best to wait and see if Amex DOES charge a pro-rated $450 AF in mid-February. If they do, it may still be possible to ask nicely if they’ll waive it. If not, a downgrade back will recoup most of the higher AF. At most, you’ll be out ~$75 in pro-rated AF to receive all the Aspire benefits/credits for 2 months.

Erika Hamilton

Looks like Amex isn’t honoring this: https://imgur.com/a/aBNVW5T


Did anyone here just received an email from Hilton with the free weekend night after upgrading?

12/12 – upgraded Surpass to Aspire
12/13 – Aspire reflected, also saw the updated terms
12/15 – received email with free night (complete with Reward ID)

Anniversary date for this card is 12/13. The free weekend nights have always posted at least 8 weeks after AF posts, so I’m surprised I got mine right away.


will u folks plan to keep the aspire even if the fee is $450 posted next month or soon? if not, let’s hope it won’t be clawed back


Yes. I got my certificate even though I reversed the upgrade.

Erika Hamilton

You already reversed the upgrade?


Yes. I upgraded on Saturday. Reversed the upgrade on Monday. Got the email a cert was coming on Tuesday. The certificate arrived on Wednesday.


When was your anniversary date of your original card prior to the upgrade?


Oct 15 – I downgraded from Aspire to no-fee

I looked through my emails to find last year’s certificate for the date, but haven’t found it yet. I’ll keep looking.


From DOC comment:

You sign up, it’s prorated to (months until anniversary) / 12 * $0 (initial fee). Then the fee structure changes back to $450. The error they’re correcting is the annual fee of $95 part (which was initially posited to be your first anniversary fee).

You’re never charged your normal fee until your anniversary, so there’s no way they’re actually charging $450 in January. That would be worse than no special offer — imagine someone with their anniversary in February getting two $450s in back to back months, LOL.

Beyond that, a rep confirmed this structure, which, TBH, is less reliable than the logic above; reps are saying all sorts of things.

translation – the later your anniversary date in 2021, the better this is – correction wise.

My anniversary is 4Q…so if this logic is true – getting an Aspire card year for $50?



I actually think they will honor this. I’ve seen some data points elsewhere confirming CSRs are now briefed on this issue and if you mention the no AF offer to them, they will tell you to wait for a decision from the internal team. After all this is a legit offer showing up and not a system glitch we exploited.

The only reason I reversed the upgrade is some very unpleasant experience with Amex on a dispute and I feel like I don’t want to waste any more time on Amex.


well if the internal team is aware of it…why don’t they change the language immediately?

or did they just realize it in the last couple of days? well..changes take a little time at big companies.

I think Amex will offer a fair resolution on this “mistake t&c” (Mistake fare).

Don’t be greedy. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.


Quasi — Not true. According to the CSR I talked with, this is a marketing screw-up trying to generate more fees from customers to make up for the 2020 shortfall they experienced.


They are most certainly not honoring this. I just got my card and the language was not what the offer stated. Its 450 by end of Jan. I was told its a marketing error and that the only upgrade bonus is the fact that you can use the hilton and airline credits by end of Jan and you would get a fee night now and at end of Jan. This is an absolute hack job by Amex. They also offered to free take me back to surpass and remove the upgrade from my history. Gee thx I guess


It’s Jan.31 because terms can only be changed with 45 days notice.

thinking the later the anniversary date, more benefit.


I also called in after my chat on Sunday. The CSR confirmed that this is a known issue (claimed there was an internal memo today) and said they are working on a solution. Said that a letter would be sent to all effected accounts. When I pressed him on when we should expect the letter he didn’t know but said they usually make a decision on something like this in about a month.

Interestingly though he said that if I would like to revert back to my no annual fee Hilton within the first 45 days I can and that I would be able to use the Aspire benefits between now and when/if I wished to do that. I pressed him on this and specifically asked if he meant that I could use the Hilton resort credit and the airline fee credit, then revert the card back to the no annual fee and he said yes. I asked him if Amex would have a clawback for these credits and he said no. However, idk if I believe him.


I would just wait. No need to keep calling/chatting.


II would be leery of relying on the CSR. The reps are usually well-intentioned but they’re prone to telling you what you want to hear and getting you off the phone/connection. Obviously, be sure to save your chat scripts as they’re helpful if you ever end up in arbitration with Amex.

Erika Hamilton

i would screenshot those chats.


From past experience with CFPB complaints with Amex, the chat transcripts can be helpful weapons but aren’t a cure-all. Amex Salt Lake complaint department handles most BBB and CFPB inquiries, and will respond “chat agent was in error and appropriate leaders have been notified and will use this incident for training”….I have sympathy for reps stuck in the middle between angry customers and idiots in Amex marketing.


Just spent a whole bunch of time on chat, then the phone with Amex. The rep said they are getting a lot of calls about this and the offer is not legit. Not willing to spend weeks or months waiting for an answer from Amex that will be a denial if I submit a ticket, I reversed the upgrade back to my no-fee card. C’est la vie. It would have been nice if it was real.


Same thing happened to me, Dee! I knew something was up — this offer was too good to be true.


I upgraded on Saturday. Talked to Amex on Monday, and reversed the upgrade. Got an email Tuesday saying my free night cert was on the way. Wednesday AM, got the email with the free night cert number. Did anyone else get their cert?


Not yet. I received the Aspire card, downgraded back to Surpass after CSR said they weren’t honoring promotion, and now they’re sending a new Surpass card. Sounds like a lot of time and energy wasted over some imbecile in Amex marketing launching a scam they hadn’t sufficiently thought out. The poor chat folks have to take the brunt of it, but life isn’t fair.


Yes. I upgraded four days ago and got my free night cert today. It’s good for two years at any property and any day of the week.


With the suspense of whether Amex will honor the original terms, I wonder whether it is prudent then to start using the benefits that come with the new card (such as the airline credit for 2020), until the air is cleared. What is everyone planning on doing?


You ask the 64k question I was wrestling with myself. I’m opting to act conservatively, as Amex will likely clawback any Aspire benefits if they hold to the $450 and one decides to downgrade. Amex should spend more time on clear and unambiguous communication in their promotions. They’re getting pretty sketchy.


I used airline credit earlier this year on Aspire before downgrading….so I will not do it in 2020. I will wait to see what happens in January/Feb before using any of the benefits.


I am <$500 away from triggering the free night certificate for $15k spend on Surpass.

Any idea if I will lose out on this, if I upgrade before reaching?

Looks like I am eligible but wanted to confirm before I pulled the trigger.


Yes, you will. I upgraded and my 2020 spend disappeared. If you can, spend the $500 first, then upgrade — or don’t upgrade since this is sounds like a “bait and switch” offer from Amex.


Second data point. When I upgraded from the Surpass four days ago, all my spend to date toward the $15k reset to $0.


I’m not sure if AMEX will honor it but here is what’s in the card agreement terms after the upgrade:
None; however, as you have been previously notified, your Annual Membership Fee will be
$450 as of January 31, 2021.


yup see that now. Now I wonder if someone accidentally copied terms for a Surpass promo into the document for the Aspire. As the Surpass a/f is $95.

This whole “previously notified” thing is bogus. If they made a mistake, just fess up and accept it.

Dear XXXX, recently you applied for an Aspire card and we screwed the pooch…we’d like to offer you ________________

Maybe they can offer a compromise? A reduced a/f for 2 years? A bunch of Hilton points? (No spend req)

This is like an airline “mistake fare” it seems. A credit card mistake t&c. How did this get past their army of lawyers though?

Maybe their lawyer was wearing a mask and got confused! [Really…mask brain, it’s real. Hypoxia….] multiple lawyers?

I would NOT take Amex to CFPB or what not over this. I appreciate my Amex relationship. But I think I would be willing to send them a copy of the terms and request consideration.

We’ll see what happens. What’s confusing, is if this has been on their website since November? It would take almost no time to “fix it.” So…as a customer it could seem legit. It’s not a leaked link, it’s on one’s pre-qual offers.

Worst case scenario, it’s like getting an Aspire for $400 a/f or what not. $50+ discount…which is the 1.5 months of the “None A/F” until Jan. 31

Brad C

I think they will honor it. I was grandfathered in for two years with the $195 AF Gold card before they finally charged the $250 AF for the first time 2 months ago.

IIRC they sent a letter in 2019 that they wouldn’t raise my $195 AF “at this time” followed by another letter/disclosure earlier this year that my AF would in fact be going up to $250 at next renewal.


I see the same thing after upgrading. A little frustrating.

Interesting thing is I looked at 2020 and my AF was charged on 1/10/20, so I assume the AF will post around the same date in 2021. With the updated wording in the agreement terms, I wonder if I’ll still be ok since the AF will post before 1/31/21.


I upgraded yesterday, and the upgrade took affect overnight. This morning I looked at the card member agreement PDF on my account. For annual fee it says “$0. But as you have been previously notified, your annual fee will change to $450 on January 31, 2021.”



Same here – I’ll be filing a CFPB complaint to try to get to the bottom of this.


Troubling, indeed. Why? What previously notified? I wonder what the best way to bring this to their attention is. Twitter, Chat?


I’m sure they know about it, but they’ve told the chat reps to go to the mattresses. Going to BBB and CFPB might possibly generate a response that could tell us whether this is a glitch or an intentional bait and switch.

Brad C

Please don’t call the bank! Some people may still be able to get in on this upgrade offer in the coming days if people just wait to see what charges post in January or February.

Brad C

I would wait and see if they charge a prorated $450 AF in the next few months. If they do, call up and nicely ask they honor their terms. They most likely will. If they don’t, then resort to CFPB complaints.

I had a botched Amex upgrade offer before where the offer said the upgrade AF was $450 then they sent terms saying it was $95 covering my upcoming renewal with $450 for next renewal, then 2 months after upgrade they tried charging a prorated of $450. I called up and they removed the prorated charge when I pointed out what the terms were in the letter they sent me.


That’s good advice. Not to get political, but CFPB is about to get a lot more consumer friendly. Business travel is dead, leisure travel will be slow until summer, at best, so there’s little incentive for Amex to roll out a bait and switch ad that generates a ton of CFPB correspondence for their Salt Lake City complaint department to waste time on. This is either a glitch they’re having trouble explaining or a straight up scam gone wrong.


Wait a week or two. You will probably receive a letter like we did, dated as of the exact date that you upgraded, saying the annual fee is prorated $450 starting on January 31, 2021 for you. This would be the “previously notified” letter that they are referring to. Even though it is mailed to you several weeks later (but dated as of the exact date when you did the upgrade). Very weird. I opened two disputes with AmEx to make sure that we don’t get charged the annual fees in January. I hope the letters mailed are the glitch, and not the terms and conditions on the upgrade page. Both CSRs I spoke with seemed to suggest that if the terms and conditions say $0 annual fee, AmEx will likely honor it. We’ll have to wait and see.

I would suggest applying for this offer if you have previously had an Aspire card, because the letter that gets mailed to you says you can reverse the upgrade by the January date. So, seems like there is not much to lose. On the other hand, if you have never had an Aspire, you’ll (potentially) be foregoing 150,000 SUB by upgrading and downgrading in January if the fee dispute does not go your way.


I started a dispute over the phone, and uploaded my documents. The agent said it should take 24-48 hours. But it sounds like your dispute isn’t resolved yet? How long have you been waiting?


Your agent probably meant that it would take 24-48 hours to receive the documents. I opened the disputes yesterday and uploaded the documents today. The agent that I spoke with said it might take 2 to 3 months (!!) to resolve the dispute and that I should hear something by March! I told her that I would prefer it resolved before January, so that I can decide whether to downgrade and she said that she will notate the dispute with a request to look at it right away but can’t promise anything.


It will take them 2 to 3 months to come up with a cover story to explain away this cluster****.

Just a Note

Just closed a Surpass when the annual fee hit for P2 and have the offer, decided to bite as there is still a no-fee card on the account, and it seems to have worked. Now wondering if I (uh, we) should reopen the Surpass and see if I (we again) should try for another. Also have a no-fee card on my account and need to see if I have the offer. Never too many credits!


just downgraded last month from Aspire. Got targeted for this…requested, and approved. Let’s see if they honor it. Amazing.

Maybe Amex is sitting on a boatload of “worthless” Hilton nights / resort credit that they negotiated earlier.


That might explain the motivation behind the offer. But I don’t think the free nights and resort credits are “worthless” to consumers. We just spent three days at the Waterfront Resort in Huntington Beach and two Aspire resort credits allowed us to save $500 on the trip. If AmEx honors the $0 annual fee, that is a great deal!


I’m having a tough time figuring this one out, Nick.

I opened an Aspire card on 12/5/2018, then downgraded it to a Surpass on 1/10/2020.

I just did a chat with an amex rep and they said my next annual fee will be posted on Jan 10, 2021.

So will my $250 resort credit & free weekend night cert reset each Dec 5 or Jan 10?


Got and accepted this offer in my Surpass card, so now I have 3 Aspire cards and 1 no annual fee Hilton card total


Wow. This is a great deal. Just upgraded 2 cards for P2 and one for me. That is a lot of free nights and Hilton credit for nothing.


I am glad FM is writing about this upgrade offer. I had exactly the same offer and upgraded on 11/25. A week later I received the new Aspire card and two days later a letter with the following ‘Important changes to your account terms’:
Revised Terms, as of January 13, 2021: Annual membership fee: $450. The letter was dated Nov 25, so it appeared to intend to charge the full $450 at the time of upgrade. Not fee free for the first year, or prorated $95 for the second membership year.
I haven’t got a chance to contact Amex regarding the change, but I did save the original upgrade offer in pdf. Will see if anyone else took the offer and got switched immediately.


There is no reason they wouldn’t update the terms on the offer if this wasn’t intentional on their part … Even more so if they caught the “error” in November.


I’m in the same position. My wife and I both upgraded on November 20, then received “updated” letters a few weeks later, purportedly dated November 20, attempting to advise us that the fee is updated to be prorated $450 as of January 8, 2021. I just called AmEx and the nice CSR that I spoke with opened a dispute for both accounts. I’ll update once the dispute is resolved. Hopefully, AmEx will honor the terms As noted by Nate, had this been a mistake, you would think AmEx would have fixed it by now. Let’s hope AmEx does the right thing.


Got this offer and upgraded. After seeing the reports above I chatted in with Amex to confirm the offer. They are NOT seeing the promotional $0 annual fee. I have opened up an investigation. So we’ll see.

They did say that if I do not want the upgrade due to this the upgrade can be reversed in the next 49 days.


I’ve found their chat reps to be quite courteous and they try to be helpful, but once incidents get escalated into ‘investigations’ Amex can go south. The ‘investigations’ are never resolved short of the GC’s involvement.

I bit on the upgrade as well, so l’ll hope for the best but prepare for total trench warfare over bait/switch.


I actually wrote to Greg about this a week ago. Both my wife (who has never had an Aspire) and I (who had an Aspire but downgraded earlier this year) were targeted for this offer back in November. We applied on November 20. Later, AmEx sent both of us “updated” terms and conditions that purport to state that after January 8, 2021, our annual fees are going to be $450 pro-rated through the anniversary date. I am planning to call AmEx this week to discuss this, because the only reason both my wife and I upgraded was because of the $0 fee for the first year and a pro-rated $95 fee for the next year. If AmEx charges a prorated $450 fee right off the bat, there is no benefit to this offer. I’ll post my result after my call.


So from my understanding after seeing all the posted screenshots of updated T&C after people requested upgrades (showing January $450 annual fee), as well as the “revised term” (Annual membership fee: $450) now showing up on upgrade request website T&C:

  1. The $95 annual fee in the original website T&C was a typo, what they intended to say there was $450, the regular annual fee of this card. They tried to correct this typo via “revised term”. This typo was probably from a similar offer on Hilton Surpass ($95 annual fee).
  2. The rest of the original T&C was written as intended. The “promotional annual fee of $0” is a different term than the “annual fee” in the revised term (otherwise the revised term would’ve made it clear that there was no promotional annual fee).
  3. The wording from the updated T&C is “Annual Membership Fee: None; however, as you have been previously notified, your Annual Membership Fee will be $450 as of January 31, 2021.” This doesn’t mean that your prorated annual fee will be charged on that date, otherwise, they would’ve specified “you will be charged $xxx” in your updated T&C (like they did and always do in the promotional T&C “you will be charged a prorated amount of $XXX…”).
  4. The reason there’s a January date for a $450 annual fee on everyone’s updated T&C is very likely a more literal description of the code behind the “promotional annual fee”. This is a bit of speculation and a little technical so take it for a grain of salt. Once the upgrade request is accepted, variable annual_fee is changed to $0 and charged immediately. But this variable obviously needs to be changed back to $450 since $0 only applies to the first annual fee charged. The problem with changing that back to $450 immediately is if anyone cancels the upgrade during the grace period, technically they can get a full refund of the annual fee, which is now coded as $450 instead of $0 that got charged initially–in this case Amex loses $450 out of nowhere. So this is their solution: variable annual_fee will be $0 until the grace period ends, at which time they automatically changes the variable back to $450; during the grace period even if people reverse the upgrade, they will only get a refund of $0 as intended. If you look at datapoints from people upgrading in the past few days (~12/12/2020) their updated terms have dates of 1/31/2021, so about 50 days after upgrade request. Your application was submitted on 11/20/2020 and your updated terms have a 1/8/2021 date for new annual fee, also about 50 days, which is likely the system’s value of grace period accounting for both posting $0 annual fee and product change grace period.

That is really outstanding analysis…..very well-reasoned. I’ll go ahead and pop them with CFPB and BBB complaints in hopes of smoking out the cause of the snafu and (maybe) they’ll be a bit tighter in writing future promo terms. Lots of folks wasted a lot of time because Amex got sloppy.


Interesting analysis but I think you are being too generous to AmEx. The language used is just contradictory, no way around it. If they intended to honor the $0 promotional fee for the first year, they could have easily mailed the following revised terms: “Annual fee: None for the first year, then prorated annual fee of $450 until your next account anniversary, then $450 a year.” That being said, I would likely agree to $0 fee for 12 months, then prorated $450 as a compromise.


Can you clarify anniversary date and fee charged date? It’s confusing!
Anniversary date is the card opening date.
Annual fee will be charged the first bill after opening, which normally is 30 days after the card opening/anniversary.

If “anniversary date was November 12th”, then “You would then need to pay $450 on renewal on November 12, 2022” is not true. You would be billed in Dec, 2022, and need to pay in Jan, 2023.


Hey Nick – Thanks for the news! BTW – I really LOVE the FM podcast! Anyone who hasn’t listened to it – be sure and check it out – Greg and Nick’s warmth and humor really shines through! 🙂 Just as a data point, the offer is indeed targeted. I got in on my Hilton Amex no fee card and my husband did not. 🙁 We both upgraded to the Surpass for about a year and then downgraded back to the no fee after 12 months. Glad to pick up the two free nights. Amex clearly will be honoring the promotional annual fee of $0 for one year (why else would they have put it in the “targeted” terms?). Who knows what will happen after that. I have a feeling the $95 prorate was a typo – as it says “a prorated amount of the $95 annual fee” and the annual fee is $450. Hoping Amex makes good on it – if not, I’ll be happy with the two free nights for free. 🙂


92% heheheheheh 🙂

92.5? Or 92.8?


The analysis of this upgrade offer vs. the “regular” upgrade offer is missing one thing: This upgrade offer has no spend requirements to get the benefits.


Particularly in Pandemic times


Be careful with this offer. I tried and the terms and conditions first state you pay $0 the first year, then $95 the second year, then the regular fee in 2022. Then immediately below it says Annual Fee:$450. It’s sounds like Amex is talking out of both sides of its mouth, so be aware before hurting that request upgrade button.


I saved a pdf of the terms and conditions. I don’t see why Amex won’t honor them.


Hey Nick — this has caused a firestorm. Amex marketing team majorly messed up with this — my guess is they did it to drum up more revenue and the big bosses quietly approved it. And to the person who gave me a “thumbs down” on my post — really?

Jason Morgan

So… I have an Aspire card. I also has this upgrade offer showing on my Surpass, which used to be the vanilla Hilton card. I upgraded from Hilton to Surpass in June 2019, then paid the Surpass in March 2020. I’m considering taking this offer for the Aspire benefits. Is it okay to have 2 Aspires? Is there a risk here, even though this is offered on my account, I don’t want to risk points/relationship… I have 700K Hilton right now. I’m assuming the play is to at least keep this as Aspire for 12+ months since Amex frowns upon closing/downgrading after less than 12 months. I’m saying that since the $95 could be a typo, which would make paying the prorate amount less attractive.


I just downgraded my Aspire to a no-fee Hilton card on 11/1 and got this offer on that same card. I wouldn’t anticipate getting a points upgrade this soon, but I’ll take this offer.


I checked my Amex account about an hour after doing the upgrade and the account hadn’t changed. I checked with customer service via chat. They said it will show up in 24 hours and that the upgrade did go through.

I’ll wait for the upgrade to show to downgrade my Surpass to a no-fee card.

DPs: The offer did not show up on my Surpass, only my no-fee Hilton Honors. My husband did not get the offer on his no-fee Hilton Honors.


I have the no-fee card with this offer, and an Aspire that I was thinking of cancelling early next year after collecting the $250 airline credits. But now I want to do the upgrade so that I can still get the $250 credits for 2020 on the upgraded card. So for a little bit, I will have 2 Aspire cards. Will Amex be angry?


Currently, i have 3 regular Hlton cards, and have for years. why isn’t Amex angry that I have three of those, but would be angry if I had three Aspires?


Thanks, that’s all I needed to know.


so, no bonus for upgrading?


I skimmed over the article. Indeed, there’s no bonus for upgrading. Still a good deal, nonetheless.


Does anyone know how the anniversary date works for a previously downgraded card? I opened an Aspire card on 12/7/2018, then downgraded it on 12/29/19 to a no-fee Hilton Honors card. In this case, would my anniversary date be the date that the account was first opened, or when the card was downgraded?