Would rumored changes kill the Aspire card?

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Recently, it was reported on reddit and then on Thrifty Traveler that Amex has surveyed some cardmembers about possible changes to the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. At first glance, the rumored changes look like quite a downgrade from the current card. Nobody knows whether the changes suggested in the survey will actually come to fruition, but in this case the changes don’t seem far-fetched. Would they kill the value proposition of the card that I have frequently said offers the best long-term value on the market? I think they would hurt for the outliers who maximize benefits, but ironically enough they may give the card more mass appeal.

The current Hilton Honors Aspire Card details and why I love it

I used a couple of Aspire free night certificates at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui a couple of years ago when cash rates would have been $800-$1,000 per night.

Currently, here are the features and benefits of the Hilton Honors Aspire card.

Card Offer and Details
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
150K Points + free night certificate
150K after $4K spend in 3 months. Free night certificate every year - first certificate is awarded 8-12 weeks after approval. Terms apply.

$450 Annual Fee

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 once per year, and other Hilton properties a few times a year..


Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base
Travel
Dine
Brand

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.

Big spend bonus: Second free night award after $60K spend in calendar year

Noteworthy perks: ⚬Annual Weekend Night Reward upon approval and every year upon renewal ⚬ Free Diamond Status ⚬ Priority Pass membership (Lounges only) with 2 guests ⚬ $250 Hilton Resort Credit per membership year ⚬ $250 Airline Incidental Fee Credit per calendar year ⚬ $100 on-property credit w/ Aspire Card package ⚬ Terms Apply. See Rates & Fees

See also: Amex Hilton Aspire In-Depth Review

As it stands, I have often said that this card is the best long-term value on the market. With $500 in annual fee credits and an annual uncapped free night certificate that can be used at any Hilton property, it is in my opinion a steal for the current annual fee of $450.

Rumored Hilton Aspire Card changes surveyed

It is worth repeating that the following proposed changes were sent out in a survey to some cardholders to gauge their reaction. These are not confirmed changes — we may or may not ever see these rumored changes implemented.

The survey discussed the following new list of annual benefits and key details:

  • $200 airline incidentals credit (down from $250) issued as $50 quarterly and valid for airfare or incidentals on any airline (new: explicitly valid for airfare and on any airline)
  • $200 Hilton credit (down from $250 Hilton resort credit). Note that surveys offered two different ways this could be distributed. We don’t know which is more likely:
    • Possible new “Luxury and Lifestyle Credit” that would offer up to $100 in statement credits twice a year (up to $200 total) at Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, LXR, Curio Collection, Canopy Hotels, Motto by Hilton, and Tapestry Collection propertiesor
    • General Hilton credit: Up to $200 in statement credits issued as $50 quarterly, but now valid at any Hilton property
  • Up to $10 monthly credit for Lyft (new benefit): Get up to $120 back per year for Lyft rides
  • $189 CLEAR credit: Get a rebate of the fee for CLEAR
  • 1 Free night certificate annually upon renewal (uncapped, same as now)
  • Additional Free night certificate after $30K spend (new) and another free night certificate $60K spend (both uncapped)
  • 14x points at Hilton properties (unchanged)
  • 7x points on Airfare, Car Rental, and at U.S. restaurants (unchanged)
  • Annual fee increased to $550 (up from $450)

Does the Hilton Aspire card lose value and gain mass appeal?

Again, I want to emphasize that these changes are the stuff of rumor; there have been no confirmed changes announced to the Hilton Aspire card. Surveys are often issued about changes that ultimately don’t come to pass.

That said, in this case, I don’t find the rumored changes to be far-fetched. Amex has increased the annual fee on all of its other cards that used to cost $450 per year, so I think the question for us has been not “if” but when the annual fee and benefits would change on the Aspire card. We have said from card launch that the benefits on the Aspire card have been surprisingly generous and likely not built to last forever. Given precedent set with changes on the Bonvoy Brilliant card and the Platinum card, the changes to quarterly airline fee and property credits seem plausible as does an increase in annual fee. While none of this may come to pass, I wouldn’t be surprised if all of it did.

At first glance, the rumored changes are awful. The card would cost more and come with less in annual rebates given the hundred dollar increase in annual fee and hundred dollar decrease in annual credits for airline incidentals and qualifying Hilton charges.

Making matters worse, the credits go from a lump sum to be used annually to possible quarterly credits. That would eliminate the opportunity to double dip on airline fee credits in the first year and increase the potential for breakage by requiring you to both find a use for the credits each quarter and remember that you have to find a use for the credits each quarter.

On its face, this sounds like a total decimation of the value proposition of the card. I’m certainly disappointed: I’ve found neither the annual airline fee credits nor resort credit to be difficult to use, so I have long said that the Aspire card is the best annual value proposition on the market. With five hundred dollars in annual fee credits and an uncapped annual free night certificate for the current $450 annual fee (as of the time of writing), the card is a standout value. There is no doubt that the value proposition on this card decreases substantially with the rumored changes.

However, I think these changes might actually give the card broader appeal. Yes, I mean to say that the value of the card will go down but the mass appeal will go up. That’s crazy, but I think it’s true for several reasons.

Airline fee credits would become easier to use

People frequently bemoan the restrictive nature of annual airline fee credits (both on this card and Platinum cards). Despite the fact that we maintain a resource full of easy ways to trigger those credits, a common complaint is about the need to “jump through hoops” to earn airline fee credits. With this change, the credits could explicitly be used for airfare. Those who have paid attention know that’s long been possible to use them for airfare in the right circumstances, but for those unwilling to look through the data points or unaware of what works, this would make the airline fee credits far easier to use since they could be used toward an airline ticket at any price point. I think that would probably be more appealing to a wider audience.

If these credits are valid for use on any airline, that also substantially increases the value of the credits. While Amex has historically been good about allowing cardholders to change their selected airline upon request, the limitation of only being able to use airline incidental credits on major US-based airlines has been a limiting factor. Being able to use the incidental credit on any airline would make it possible for things like award fees or cheap international tickets to trigger the credit, which would probably be far more useful. I generally prefer to put award taxes on a card with good travel protections, but there are certainly instances where I wouldn’t find those protections to be important and I would be happy to trigger this credit.

That said, I certainly strongly prefer $250 in airline fee credits as-is. I don’t have trouble using them now and would be disappointed in this change.

Hilton credits could be easier to use for a wider audience

Hampton Inn & Suites Hilton Honors Hotel Sign Logo
With the rumored change, you might be able to use your $50 quarterly credit for a stay at any property, which could make them more useful.

The change on the annual Hilton credit might actually be seen as an increase in value for some, particularly if it becomes valid at any Hilton property.

Currently, the Hilton Aspire card offers up to $250 in annual credits (in total per cardmember year) for qualifying charges at “resorts” listed on this page. Given the weird restriction to only be able to use the credit at certain properties listed on an obscure website full of “resorts”, some of which really weren’t resorts at all (and missing many properties that clearly are resorts), and even then running into occasional exceptions that were on the list but where American Express is not accepted, the resort fee credit has been potentially challenging to use. Sure, you could find a property that charges a deposit but has free cancellation or you could put down a deposit toward a future stay, but those solutions wouldn’t work for everyone and there’s always the chance that the credits could be clawed back if your plans changed and you cancelled those stays.

I actually think that I would personally get more value out of a quarterly $50 Hilton credit (if it were valid at any property) than an annual $250 resort-only credit. If you are a true Hilton fan and you typically visit a qualifying property every year where you would have used your $250 credit in one lump sum toward things like room charges or a spa visit, this change really stinks. You could still try that old deposit technique if you have a reservation far in the future and make a $50 advance deposit each quarter (if the property will accept it), but then you once again run into the issue of potential claw-back if your plans change (and you’re still down $50 over the previous $250 credit even if you’re able to thread the needle with future deposits).

This is unquestionably a downgrade for those who currently use the $250 resort credit with ease, but I think the crowd of people who would use a $50 general Hilton credit quarterly is likely larger. In my case, I think that $50 credit would make Hilton my default choice for an airport hotel stay or road trip room once per quarter and while I would need to find a use four times per year, I probably wouldn’t have to go far out of my way to use the credit. And if the idea of card benefits is to make me stay at Hilton more often, this might make progress toward that goal.

Is it worth spending on a Hilton Aspire card for the free night certificates?

The additional free night at $30K spend is kind of interesting to me. Let’s be clear: if you want one additional free night certificate per year (or two), you should get the Hilton Honors Surpass card or Hilton Business card (or both!). Either of those cards offer a free night certificate after $15K spend in a calendar year, and both of them offer category bonuses that would potentially give you far more points after meeting that $15K spend than you’d get with the Aspire card. Furthermore, if spending $30K on the Aspire card would prevent you from being able to meet the minimum spending requirements on other cards that you would consider opening, then you’re doing it wrong: spending toward a new card welcome bonus is a more efficient use of spend.

However, if you’re a heavy hitter with capacity for a lot of spend and/or you’re not looking to open multiple cards, the return on spend for the additional free night certificates on the Aspire card isn’t unreasonable (provided that you’ll put the free night certificate to good use).

Our valuation of hotel free night certificates takes into account the maximum number of points in value you can get from the certificate (120K with an uncapped Hilton free night) and multiplies by a fudge factor that takes into account the fact that a certificate is not as flexible as points and has an expiration date (in Hilton’s case, our fudge factor is 0.85, better than other free night certificates since there is no category restriction and it can be used any night of the week). That means that Frequent Miler values Hilton free night certificates as follows:

Given that a Hilton free night certificate can be used at almost any Hilton property in the world (with very limited exceptions), it is certainly possible to get $489.60 (or more) in value out of one of those certificates.

That said, let’s play it more conservatively and say that you value a Hilton free night certificate at $250. Would it be crazy to put $30K of spend on the Aspire card?

Given that the card earns a base rate of 3 Hilton points per dollar spent and our Reasonable Redemption Value for Hilton Honors points is 0.48c per point, you could look at the return on spend for unbonused purchases as being about 1.44% (which is abysmal). Getting an additional $250 return at $30K spend is like adding an additional 0.83% back. Combined with the base points earned on spend, it’s like a return of around 2.27%. That’s not so bad.

Keep in mind that the above numbers shouldn’t be compared equally to cash back: the 2.27% return I’m citing is an approximation based on the reasonable value of the points and a $250 valuation of the free night certificate, but it is important to remember that the return on the card comes in the form Hilton points and a free night certificate — things that are far less flexible than cash. Still, my point is that spending $30K (and $60K) on the Aspire card isn’t entirely unreasonable.

The math on that changes significantly if you value the free night certificate more highly. For instance, at our valuation of $489.60 for a free night certificate, that’s like adding 1.63% in additional value back on $30K spend. combined with the base earning rate of 3 Hilton points per dollar spent, that’s like a return north of 3%. While that certainly won’t rival the return you can get from opening multiple credit cards and dividing that spend to meet minimum spending requirements, it is nonetheless a reasonable rate of return.

If a significant chunk of your spend comes in bonus categories — for instance, if you frequently stay at Hilton properties (where you would earn 14x with the card) —  the return on spend obviously gets better.

As a quick point of comparison, the World of Hyatt credit card offers a free night certificate after $15K spend and many cardholders find it worthwhile to spend for that certificate. Based on our formula, the value of a Hyatt Category 1-4 free night certificate is $192. That’s like an additional return of 1.28%. Added together with the base earnings on that card (1 Hyatt point per dollar spent, which we peg at 1.6c per point in our Reasonable Redemption Values), that’s like a total return of 2.88% back on $15K spend on the Hyatt card. The Aspire card could compare favorably, though it requires a lot more spend (and a high-value use of the Hilton free night certificate).

In the right situation, with a cherry-picked use of a free night certificate, I think it could be worth big spend to get those extra free night certificates.

But that increase in annual fee….

All of the above ignores a major factor influencing the value proposition: a rumored increase in annual fee. This is perhaps the most easily believable change given the fact that the Platinum card long ago increased its annual fee to $695 and other co-branded cards that used to cost $450 per year now carry annual fees of $550 or more.

And unfortunately, the increase here could wipe out the numbers above: even if you like the rumored flexibility that would come on airline fee and Hilton credits, it is hard to imagine that a decrease in total credits combined with an increase in price would feel appealing.

On the flip side, how heavily to weigh the increase in annual fee against everything else might rest on how much you value the rumored new benefits: a $10 monthly credit for Lyft purchases and a $189 statement credit for CLEAR.

If you already have another Amex card that reimburses the cost of CLEAR (like I do), you won’t value that benefit at all. If you don’t, you certainly might find that to be a decent trade for the increase in cost.

Similarly, if you are a frequent Lyft user, the $10 monthly credit could be appealing. Personally, I just never think to check Lyft, in part because other Amex cards have gotten me so used to using Uber Eats that Uber has easily become my go-to ride share app. However, given the recently-launched ability to earn 2 Bilt Rewards points per dollar spent on Lyft, I was already thinking that I need to change my habits when it comes to ride share. A monthly Lyft credit would give me a push in that direction.

That said, I don’t have a monthly need for rideshare but rather an occasional one. I bet there will be at least 2 or 3 times per year when I’m able to use this credit, so it will chip away some at the rumored increase in annual fee, but it won’t make up for it entirely. And I need another increased annual fee like I need a hole in the head.

Bottom line

The rumored changes that could be coming to the Hilton Honors Aspire card seem highly plausible. Unfortunately, they would  represent a clear devaluation of the card. Despite a clear decrease in value, the card may pick up more mass appeal if the annual credits become far easier to use. I think many people would probably use the monthly Lyft credits and many would certainly find it easier to use an airline fee credit that could be used toward airfare and a hotel credit that could be used at any Hilton property. I don’t like the rumored changes, but given that I’ll still easily get $150 in value out of the airline fee credits and Hilton credits, I’d still find this card to be a keeper for its annual free night certificate. It wouldn’t be the killer value it is today, but I’d essentially be happy to pay $250 per year for an uncapped Hilton free night certificate and a few Lyft credits. Will I spend $30K for an additional free night certificate? Probably not, though if I had an easy mechanism for high spend and a high-value use for the certificate, I would probably consider it as part of a strategy that included first spending for a free night certificate on a Surpass or Business card.

In short, I think that the rumored changes on the Hilton Aspire card will make it less valuable for the maximizers, but we’re the outliers. I think that if these changes come to light, it will make the Aspire card more like a coupon book while making it feel less like a coupon book given the less-restrictive nature of credits. That’s probably a win for a lot of people even if it is a loss for me.

Will I ultimately dump my aspire card if the rumors are true? I really don’t want to pay another increased annual fee, but I probably still would easily get north of $550 out of the card. I’ll have to re-evaluate if and when changes get announced. The good news is that Amex usually gives some advance warning of changes and I think it’s likely that I’d get at least one more annual fee in before any changes take effect, so I wouldn’t need to make a decision for quite a while. For now, the card remains what I consider to be the strongest value in our wallets even if it’s a card we don’t often use. I guess these rumored changes would force me to use the card more often — I just wish they wouldn’t make it less valuable to do so.

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Andrew

Being newer to the points and miles game I’ve been working through 5/24 cards and was planning to pick up the Aspire card toward the end of the year. Disappointed to hear the annual fee might jump before I get it but not surprised.

I have mixed feelings on the airline credit. The change to being usable on any airline and for any charge would make it more convenient to use but making it quarterly charges is a pain. The any airline option is nice for international carriers you couldn’t pick before.

I hope the new credits are semi-annual worst case. The Bonvoy Brilliant having monthly dining credits seems annoying but at least are likely to get used each month. Quarterly airline and hotel credits seem ripe for breakage.

[…] 何度か方々のブログ等で取り上げられていましたが、Frequent MilerがHilton Aspireの改定後(噂ベースです。公式のものではありません!)のベネフィットを具体的に取り上げていましたので、内容を分析してみたいと思います(出所はFrequent Milerの>こちら<の記事です)。 […]

VIS

Thinking about cancelling both Hilton Aspire and Marriott Brilliant and replace with AMEX platinum with a signup bonus of 150k points. Thoughts ?
Hilton Diamond status is worthless, have not tried Platinum status on Marriott yet.

Last edited 2 months ago by VIS
Desperado

Diamond status is worthless? OK… I just spent 5 nights at WA Pedregal using points and Diamond status was clutch. Free breakfast for 2 daily which otherwise would’ve cost $100 per day.

Upgraded to a suite because of Diamond status for entire stay – the room was at least $800 per night more expensive than the points room I secured (standard).

Please do cancel the card and give up your status – better for those of us who get value from it.

JC

You wisely utilized the Aspire/Diamond status to its max value, literally one of the most expensive Hilton properties in the entire world. It’s very nice. I’ve stayed there as a Diamond. Certainly you realize that property is an outlier and the vast majority of people will not spend >$1/night to stay there just for the “free” $100 breakfast. Points wise, availability at Pedregal is more thin than thick.

I’ve been Hilton Diamond consistently for 10+ years, sometimes organically and sometimes with Aspire. It has never been less impressive to be Hilton Diamond, nor has that status ever gotten me less than it does today. Hilton began a STEEP deval of that program and points years ago.

I’m currently Hyatt globalist. That status blows away Hilton Diamond from my experience, even Diamond way back in the day when I first earned it organically in the mid 2000s.

Don’t be a horse’s rear to others just bc you hit up the Pedregal and had a nice breakfast. You’re response was smug. It’s just a credit card. It doesn’t make you smarter than others.

Desperado

Typical Hyatt fan boy.

JC

If you thoroughly enjoy Diamond then feel free to do so without feeling upset that others don’t. It’s ok, friend. Me having Globalist and Diamond doesn’t have to steal your joy just because I can compare them side-by-side and have a preference.

I’m going to Pedregal again, using my 5th night free, like you wisely did (pro-tip: always order the breakfast buffet. Some drinks aren’t included when you order from the menu, but they are included with the buffet.) Ordering from the menu can make the free breakfast, not-free with drinks.

It’s ok if others don’t receive value from the things you do. It’s ok to be kind to others who are different. You’ll be a happier person. Travel blogs should make you happy not mean and angry 🙂

Desperado

You’re way too sensitive.

JC

Bwhahahaa! Ahhh, thank you for this response. I needed that. I literally laughed to where my kids asked what is so funny. Good stuff.

You’ve become upset at a stranger’s choice of a HOTEL loyalty program. Don’t let others’ decisions get you down, friend. If Hilton’s program makes you feel big, then roll with it regardless of a stranger’s choice to the contrary.

“Status” is just a word. You’re important because of the good you create in this world, not some loyalty program. “Status” is a ruse that we can’t be sucked into. Go do some good. You’ll feel better.

Much love to to you…

Desperado

Never said I was important nor did I become upset. You were triggered like a snowflake and started replying in paragraphs like a typical blind Hyatt fan boy.

I’ve gotten great value out of both Hyatt and Hilton. My initial counter point to your post is that Hilton Diamond isn’t “worthless” as you suggested.

Keep following the group think Hyatt tribe you puppet.

JC

If Diamond is worthless for you, for whatever reason, then definitely cancel. I find diamond/Aspire has a very specific use case, at high end, international resorts. Outside of that use case, I agree that Diamond and Aspire would not be worthwhile for me. I aggregate my stays at Hyatt and have been happy doing so. I do keep the aspire but it’s because I can leverage the best use of it.

JC

I think you’ll find the exact same is true for Bonvoy Plat, regarding the use case. Both of those programs’ breakfast benefits have become so inconsistent, convoluted, and diluted that it’s not worth my time.

Hilton has become incredibly terrible about upgrading rooms for most domestic properties.

Desperado

I’m lifetime titanium big dog. You’re approaching me like I’m a rookie and you’re a pro.

Marriott has been devalued to the point where it is very selectively useful at super high end properties (legacy Starwood).

For MY travel, I get equal value out of Hilton Diamond and Hilton Globalist.

You do you, bb

JC

It’s unfortunate your ego was able to be bruised by a stranger on a blog talking about preferences of hotel programs. I guess we all have our weaknesses.

Desperado

Hilton Diamond > Hyatt Globalist.

All the broke people love Hyatt for free breakfast – powder eggs and fake sausage – yum!

Keep going with the drift of group think and enjoy your $2 Chuck wine in the regency lounge.

VIS

I agree on Hilton domestic properties. Forget upgrades, I was given the absolute worst rooms first and I had to go back to registration and showed them on the web which rooms are available.

JC

Yep. Having to conduct a debate at check-in, showing the employee which rooms are available for upgrade (and quoting the T&Cs)…then getting some small “credit” for breakfast that doesn’t actually cover the breakfast…that’s the new, domestic, Hilton “Diamond” experience. I’m not mad at it. I just don’t want it.

For those that want it, enjoy.

rich

I don’t travel much anymore so I canceled it nearly a year ago. My status (Diamond) was going to expire at the end of March but I was offered 3 stays to extend it and we happened to had 3 overnight trips so should be extended for another year.

Robert

I would be fine if they left the card the same and just up the fee to 550. Lyft is useless to most and to have to track quarterly credits is what keeps me from others. I will probably keep it but for the first time consider closing or downgrading. Maybe they outta consider increasing honors points value. Or give more to adjust.

Last edited 2 months ago by Robert
Dave

I will probably give up the card

Billy Bob

It’s a deal killer for me. I use the airline credit on GCs and the resort credit on one place right on the road where I typically travel once or twice a year. The diamond credit has been hit or miss. I never see upgrades, for instance. The certificate always provides value – at least $300 there every year.
I don’t need ride share and anything ‘quarterly’. Even without the $100 increase, I’ll close out the card if they do this. I already closed Amex Bonvoy Brilliant for similar reasons.

Jim Lovejoy

I like the changes!
I pay too much in annual fees (even though I get value from them). This will let me cut a card and save $450 a year.

whocares

stay at hostels! Meet other travelers! Hotel credit cards? Who needs hotels!

…actually I did this for many years, probably at least 100 different hostels I imagine… but current travel purpose / style means that’s not something I consider these days…though I did stay at a hostel on the Azores a few years ago. Top bunk!

next mega trip…nearly all camping…

JC

Whatever floats your boat. Different people have different priorities.

Alex

It all depends on personal patters. To me it’s a big deval.

Right now the card is basically free after airfare and Hilton credits. So to me it’s a free night cert which I’ve used at the properties that charge $500-$1000/night and free Diamond status which is quite useful abroad.

If they implement the change, it will be $150 for the free night and Diamond. Is it worth it – probably. Is it great – nope. If they did Uber credits, at least I could use those together with Amex Platinum credits. Lyft will be mostly useless.

whocares

don’t need another coupon book here too. Don’t want to track quarterly credits. What I have a half yearly United credit from IHG — no thanks. Value of zero.

LYFT – not interesting. Never used. CLEAR – paid for it 2x from AmexPlat, but I don’t want to give my biometrics to CLEAR anyway, so have never activated it.

No issues with lines anyway…int’l travel usually in business…so go right through anyway. Don’t mind waiting a little if necessary.

Yes, resort credit can be a pain…but if the trade off is quarterly credits, no. Gotten good use out of Resort Credit here. Many Hilton prices are sky high so reducing value here is negative.

Tim

Pros:

  1. The most important part is not a change at all: The Free Nights remain uncapped. Given that, the additional Free Night at 30K could be huge for big spenders, and if you previously earned the Free Night at 60K you could still get that for a total of up to 3 Free Nights per year. In my opinion, that makes the Free Nights even more valuable, because before it seemed unlikely that someone would only spend 1 night at a fancy hotel. But now that you can get 2 or 3 Free Nights you could make it a long weekend each year at some of the best hotels in the world.
  2. The $189 CLEAR credit could give me the courage to finally close my Amex Platinum. At first, I figured it overlapped and wouldn’t offer me any additional value, but I’ve been on the fence about Amex Platinum for a while and this is one of the benefits I consistently find useful. So if Hilton Aspire starts offering it, I could actually save on my overall annual fees by cutting the Amex Platinum.
  3. I guess the $10 Lyft credit is a Pro. But personally I’d rather have an Uber credit, so I can’t use it on food delivery. I don’t take rideshares very often.

Cons:

  1. Obviously, not a fan of the increased $550 annual fee, especially considering the card isn’t offering an obvious increase in value. But I still feel confident in my ability to at least offset the annual fee by using the Free Night in Hawaii each year. I’d prefer to go somewhere else around the world, but if I get lazy, I know Hawaii is an easy trip I can make and it has Hilton hotels that charge that much or more.
  2. I like how they’re making the airline/Hilton credits more accessible to use directly on airfare and at any Hilton hotel. But personally I was able to use them before regardless of those stipulations. So obviously I’d be better off with a larger credit. I’d also prefer to use it all at once, because I’m not sure I’ll travel each quarter. So overall it seems like they’re just replacing one stipulation (how you use it) with another stipulation (when you use it), and decreasing the amount in the meantime.

Bottom Line: I’d still keep this card in my wallet, but it won’t be as sacred of a can’t-miss opportunity that it used to be. Which is really sad if you ask me. In fact, I’d still be willing to pay a $550 annual fee if they made no changes to the benefits whatsoever.

Bob

30K annual spend gets you 5x Ink sign-up bonuses (ie 575K UR if in P2 mode). 1 Hilton FNC or 12 Hyatt cat 8 peak free nights? Hmmm, difficult decision.

Mary Jane

Nick, great article. I agree with your assessment. I wonder how the Brilliant cc is doing with the $650 AF. I’m still on the fence about that one. I also wonder if AmEX will make changes to the Aspire cc depending on the success/popularity of the Brilliant cc….

tda1986

I’ve never been able to make use of the resort credit, but at $450 the card still made sense with Diamond status, the free night (usually redeemed at a WA or Conrad), and the $250 airfare credit. While I’d probably get more use out of the general hotel credit, making it $50 quarterly (and reducing the airline credit–whether quarterly or not) wouldn’t make up for a fee increase. And the Lyft credit doled out monthly wouldn’t even be enough to factor in my consideration.

NK3

Regarding spending for the free night, one thing you do not take into account is the $95 annual fee for both the Surpass & Business cards. If you already think the Aspire card is worth it for the other benefits, is it worth spending $30k on the Aspire, or spending $15k on the Surpass + the $95 fee. If you already have the Aspire, the Surpass or Business cards do not provide many other benefits, other than the lower spend threshold for a free night. And while the Surpass & Business cards have better bonus categories, most of these categories (like grocery or gas) have more valuable multipliers on other cards (like 4x Amex Gold, 5x Freedom this quarter, etc).

Brad C

Why not have both? In theory you could downgrade to the Surpass, hit the $15K to get first certificate, continue to spend in better grocery bonus category to $29K or so, then upgrade back to Aspire. Meter should retain $29K spend, then cross $30K threshold while holding Aspire to get a second certificate.

Nate

Coupon book is narrowed down to the biz cardholder (quarterly airline/hotel & uber monthly); not the leisure crowd. As that goes against current market trends, I’d expect a net decline, absent huge SUBs.

Nate

Hey Nick! Love your articles, thank you for writing great stuff.

You make an excellent point. There is a new normal that no one has a great handle on and you have to believe Hilton/Amex put some work into looking at spend and credits to make an appealing product. This one doesn’t feel like a complete dilution — more of a re-targeting and some people obviously must love the expensive coupon book. Let’s see if they’re right!

Last edited 2 months ago by Nate
jsn55

Switching the annual resort $250 CR to ‘luxury hotels $100 2x year’ would be a real problem for me. Love the reduction in benefits plus increase in annual fee. typical AmEx. Sigh. They’d be smart to offer ‘either/or’ for the annual credit. Will be interesting to see if anything comes of this.

Joe

I make very few paid stays, so the higher fee, a Hilton credit that forces breakage, plus the reduced airline credit, is all likely to pencil into a net setback for me. I accept some breakage with the Platinum FHR credit, but FHR is a different animal.

Clear is duplicative, and with the Platinum’s Uber credits, I realistically wouldn’t bother to juggle a second carrier.

The thing is, under the current setup, if I were forced to choose to give up the Platinum or the Aspire, I’d probably give up the Platinum. This actually puts me in the other direction.

So in this scenario, I’d try for a retention offer to test drive it a year, but almost certainly, ultimately downgrade.

Last edited 2 months ago by Joe
NK3

I don’t think I am convinced that the card will have more mass appeal. I think these changes are not aimed to get more people to sign up. They know the higher annual fee and new benefits will result in some people dropping the card. But those that keep it will be more likely to use the card (because of the quarterly/monthly credits), and will be much more likely to stay at Hilton (because of the quarterly credits).

Right now its a great card to have, even if you stay at a nice Hilton a couple nights a year. The proposed changes would make me more likely to stay at the lower end brands (such as a night before a flight, or on a roadtrip, etc). Currently the card really does not prompt me to do that.

Its hard to get mass appeal for a brand specific, $550 (or $450) annual fee card. With its current set up, I think there are plenty of people with the card who get outsized value from it (I probably would not use the term outlier). I think with the new set up, there will be a smaller number of card holders, but they will be more likely to be loyal to Hilton, while at the same time getting less overall value from the card (because of breakage with the quarterly/monthly credits).

matthewsf

I got the survey from AMEX and said that I would definitely cancel it if changes like these were implemented. While I am open to paying more with an increased annual fee, there needs to be enhanced benefits associated with it, even if they aren’t widely utilized (e.g. Clear, Lyft). Taking away (Priority Pass) or reducing existing credits (Airline and Hilton) will not work. And while tweaking the way they are used/redeemed can be beneficial, as Nick as outlined, it is still a downgraded and the cardmember is getting less than before. Even if you didn’t get the survey, I strongly encourage all cardholders to reach out to AMEX and let them know that you will drop the card (or downgrade to a lower level one) if these are implemented.
Send complaints to: Alyssa Gelkopf, Vice President, Loyalty Programs at American Express.

Alex

Thank you for telling them!

Jerry

This card certainly would lose the frequently used “no brainer” characterization at the very least, to one that requires analyses

Rob

These changes would make the decision to cancel a simple one that I wouldn’t second guess at all. Sam hits the nail on the head. The quarterly credits kill it for me and I imagine anyone that isn’t a road warrior.

Nun

Thanks for analyzing.

I’d pay $100 more if they kept all benefits untouched.

If they make the changes, I feel there’s less mass appeal not more. It targets those who travel every quarter. Today light travelers can benefit from Aspire by using annual benefits. The Lyft benefit targets urban customers since it’s monthly. There’s no way to use the credit for “Lyft Eats” since it doesn’t exist.

If it really happens, my personal valuation is closer to $200 of airline credits, maybe $30 of Lyft, 1x$50 hotel benefit, meaning I’m paying $270 for a free night, diamond, and the chance at a FNC at $30k. The free night also has the advantage of avoiding resort fees which has value. I put $0 on everything else. $270 could still be worth it, but borderline.

Last edited 2 months ago by Nun
YoniPDX

Definitely a devaluation- still valuable but we would likely dump P2s card which we would likely end up dumping my card – as we have often used FNC stacked for a long weekend (often at resort properties- and used credit for F&B, Spa or towards another night).

FNCs have been nice when staying in expensive cities with high cost & taxes.

Diamond has veen less valuable as many properties still have not reopened
executive lounges and with the daily F&B vs free breakfast – but upgrades have been great at least through our last Hilton stay (Last May).

The Lyft and Clear credit are a wash (normally we use our UBER/Eats credits for rides to/from PDX when we travel or for pickup from U/E).

But I always check Lyft/Uber. Last month Uber was $80 vs $35 for Lyft from PDX even checked P2s account (this was 11AM it wasnt super busy either) I get 10X UR on Lyft rides from Chase.

Clear we can covered P1-P4 (adult kids) with Plat Credits (at least until next renewal) but PDX doesnt have Clear – Clear’s time savings has been hit or miss.

So Amex is definitely looking for breakage with coupon books

Mantis

Great, another Amex coupon book in the works. Lyft, airline incidentals and Clear have nothing to do with staying at Hiltons. They are purely benefits that count on significant breakage…aka, a coupon book.

Johnny

If I applied today would I get the annual free night the first year or does it come the next year upon renewal?

Paul

What about Diamond status?

Starbucks Man

Thanks for the cogent and thoughtful explanation of the potential changes, including potential upsides. The Aspire has provided outsize value for me, which is backed up by the wonderful FM “Which hotel program is most rewarding on paid stays?” post.

At this point, I *think* I’d be in for another year even after these changes. The resort credit is currently a bit weird, and I’d be able to use this either for the “luxury credit” or quarterly Hilton credit. Likewise for the changes to the airline credit.

Anonymous

You forgot the loss of global Priority Pass benefit, that’s being replaced by useless US only Clear membership ?

Last edited 2 months ago by Anonymous
Matt

Priority pass is worthless. so many lounges explicitly have signs saying they aren’t accepting priority pass because they are “at capacity”

JC

…and that they aren’t accepting PP from Amex.

Anonymous

That’s incorrect, all PP lounges accept AMEX PP. You are confusing it with PP restaurant benefit

JC

Not confusing, adding to the point. Both are PP benefits, however the Amex PP version holds less value than the Visa version because of the limited use of the membership (restaurants).

PP lounges are difficult to get to for Southwest flyers. The PP lounges seem to most often be located in different terminals than Southwest gates. I’m a companion pass junky so Amex PP holds little value to me.

Andrew

Agree wholeheartedly, lots of terminals or whole airports Southwest flies out of with no PP options. Haven’t been able to use PP flying through Phoenix, Austin, Milwaukee, Houston Hobby, Dallas Love Field… O’Hare actually had one in the same terminal but they had a sign up not accepting any PP members that day.

Biggie F

Can be quite useful in Europe … Cork, Porto, Lisbon, Madrid, Orly, Nice come to mind as places where PP got us into decent to very good lounges.

JC

For EU, definitely. I’ve been burning up the Southwest companion pad for the last two years so it doesn’t hold a lot of value for me, currently.

I’ll be doing more EU travel beginning in ‘24 so maybe I’ll change my tune then.

Sam

The quarterly restriction on credits would make this card an absolute no go for me. I do not have the opportunity to use quarterly travel credits every year. Usually only get to do any meaningful travel once or twice a year. So this would cut into the value proposition of the card even further for people like me.

JC

Agreed. I’m a Globalist. I used to consolidate stays work Hilton and earned Diamond organically. Hilton has cut breakfast and other benefits so much that it drove me to Hyatt and I’m not looking back. I use this card sparingly. Quarterly is unusable.

chris

Would kill it for me too, the resort credit all at once , thought harder to use, is nice that you can use it all in one stay. Now if they had a $200 any hilton credit but it was not quartly, that would be nice.

loungeabuser

I don’t need another coupon book. Enough already. Change this at your peril, Amex & Hilton.

JC

I’m so tired of the coupon book. My time his more valuable to me than the aggregated hours it takes to discover a coupon I’ll use for $50 here or $100 there. The time it takes chasing those down sucks.

Richard

Great analysis Nick. I wish they would at least do semi-annual with the credits, or allow GC purchase to trigger it. Otherwise still kind of a pain trying to plan for each quarter as non-business travelers.

Last edited 2 months ago by Richard
Another Jeff

Where are you buying GC? Every resort I’ve tried is doa. No way they would approve online 🙁 increased breakage is the name of the game

Last edited 2 months ago by Another Jeff