About Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

By J.R. Duren
HighYa Staff
Published on: Mar 15, 2018

The Hilton Honors Aspire is a hotel rewards credit card from American Express with lucrative bonuses and a high annual fee that puts it in the premium credit card category.

What makes the card unique is that it’s the only luxury-level hotel rewards credit card that American Express offers and it’s the only one related to the Hilton brand.

The card has all the hallmarks of a premium level card but, with multiple top-tier luxury credit cards on the market, you have to do your research to know if this card is better for your needs. For example, is this card a better for you than, say, the Ritz Carlton Rewards or the Chase Sapphire Preferred?

We’re going to answer questions like that in this review, while, at the same time, covering all the basics of what this card offers.

We’ll talk about the card’s rewards, its rates and fees and how all those features compare against the competition.

At the end of our review, we’ll take a few minutes to talk about the card’s general pros and cons as well as who we think the card is good for.

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire’s Rewards

As we mentioned a few seconds ago, the Aspire is a premium credit card, which means it has an annual fee above $400 (more on that later). What it also means is that you get a set of benefits related to hotels that goes above and beyond the standard hotel rewards card.

We’re going to list the card’s rewards perks, then explain them:

  • 100,000-point sign-up bonus
  • 14x points on Hilton hotel purchases
  • 7x points on flights and car rentals booked through AmEx
  • 3x points on everything else
  • Free weekend night every anniversary
  • Additional free night for $60K yearly spend
  • $250 yearly Hilton Resort credit
  • $100 property credit at Waldorf and Conrad hotels
  • Priority Pass Select membership
  • Complimentary Diamond Status

100,000 Sign-up Points

The sign-up bonus is what you get when you spend $4,000 within the first three months of owning the card.

Transactions that don’t count toward that spending requirement are any balance transfers you send to this card, interest or other fees you pay and cash-type transactions like sending someone money or buying traveler’s checks.

It will take 6 - 8 weeks for the points to show up in your Hilton Honors account, which will be linked (if you already have one) when you apply for the card or assigned to you if you don’t have one.

Points Bonuses

This card gives you points bonuses on nearly every purchase you make. Basically, you earn points whenever you use your card to buy stuff. When AmEx says you’ll get 14x bonus on Hilton purchases, what they mean is you’ll get 14 points for every dollar you spend at a Hilton property.

The same rules apply to airfare and rental cars booked through the AmEx portal. For all other purchases (not AmEx fees or balance transfers) you’ll earn three points per dollar.

How many point scan you earn per year? Normally, we’d refer to our data that shows the average family can spend $25,000 year on their card. However, luxury cards usually go to big spenders, so we’re bumping that number up to $35,000 a year.

For the 14x hotel bonus and 7x airfare/car rental bonus, we’re assuming you’ll stay at least four nights in a Hilton and will spend about $1,200 on airfare and car rentals throughout the year.

Based on those numbers, we believe you could earn more than 116,000 points per year. Considering that Hilton hotel rooms can be had for as little as 5,000 points a night, you can get a lot of use out of those yearly rewards.

Free Weekend Nights

This one is very straightforward. Each year, you’ll earn a free weekend night on your cardmember anniversary. If you can spend $60,000 on your card in one year, they’ll throw in a second night for free.

According to the fine print, the free night will arrive in your Hilton Honors account within 8 - 14 weeks of your anniversary. Your $60K free night works the same way but will arrive in 8 - 12 weeks.

Property Bonuses

Luxury credit cards are known for handing out a travel credit each year to cover certain travel expenses you charge to your card. For example, here’s a list of premium cards that offer cash credits for airfare purchases you make throughout the year:

  • American Express Platinum: $200
  • Mastercard Black: $100

Meanwhile, the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve gives you $325 and the Sapphire Reserve $300 for travel purchases, not just airfare.

We bring these cards’ credits up because the Aspire offers a $250 credit, but since it’s a hotel-branded card the credit goes toward a hotel: Hilton Resorts, to be exact.

Hilton has more than 190 resorts worldwide; they’re special properties that have a resort-style feel and more amenities than you’d get and your average Hilton hotel.

Though they’re fancier properties, their prices are pretty reasonable. For example, the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort is $219 per night, a fee that would easily be covered by your $250 yearly credit.

You’ll also get a $100 property credit for Waldorf and Conrad hotels; the credit can be used for spa treatments, restaurants, and other on-site amenities.

Free Priority Pass Select

This final bonus is common among luxury cards and gives you access to the Priority Pass network of more than 1,000 lounges around the world. You get a physical card that you use to get into these lounges, which often are stocked with refreshments and snacks and provide a quiet place to work between, before or after flights.

Complimentary Diamond Status

Cardholders also get an upgrade to Diamond status, which is the top tier of benefits in the Honors four-tier program. This status normally takes 60 nights or 30 stays to achieve.

Being Diamond means you’ll get the following perks:

  • 50% bonus on all the points you earn
  • 1,00 bonus points per stay
  • Free upgrades when available
  • Complimentary continental breakfast for you and a guest at Hilton’s best properties

The American Express Hilton Honors Aspire’s Rates and Fees

Premium credit cards like this one usually have a high annual fee and the Aspire is no different: $450.

As for APR, the range for purchases and balance transfers is 16.99% to 25.99% which, for travel cards, is on the higher side but still lower than the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s 17.24%.

Other rates and fees to note:

  • Cash advance APR: 26.49%
  • Penalty APR: 29.99%
  • Cash advance fee: 3%
  • Foreign transaction fee: None
  • Late/returned payment fee: $38

The penalty APR kicks in when you make a late payment or your on-time payment is returned. The rate will apply to your account for six months at a time until you can make six consecutive on-time, unreturned payments.

How the American Express Hilton Honors Aspire Compares to Other Luxury Cards

Every year we rate the best premium credit cards according to specific categories we think are most important to your experience with the card.

The following table highlights the similarities and differences between the AmEx Aspire, the Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and two other premium cards:

AmEx Hilton Aspire Ritz-Carlton Rewards Chase Sapphire Reserve U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve
Sign-Up Bonus 100,000 Two free nights 50,000 50,000
Yearly Rewards 116,400 41,000 47,900 38,900
Cheapest Room 5,000 30,000 5,000 N/A
Travel Credit $350 at certain hotels $300 for incidentals $300 for all travel $325 for all travel
Lowest APR 16.99% 17.24% 17.24% 16.99%
Lounge Access Yes No Yes Yes
Annual Fee $450 $450 $450 $400

When you compare the Aspire to the competition, a few things jump out at us. First, it has the highest travel credit out of the four cards but that distinction comes with a caveat.

The credit is only good for certain properties, so you don’t have as much freedom to use the credit as you would with the Altitude Reserve or Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit.

Second, the card’s yearly point totals are twice as high as what you’ll get with any of the other cards. When you couple that with the fact that Hilton’s cheapest redemption rates for hotels is 5,000 and you’re looking at getting a lot of points and a lot of nights each year.

In our opinion, the Hilton Ascend has bonuses and rewards potential that’s just as good or better than competing luxury cards.

Pros, Cons and Who the American Express Hilton Honors Aspire Is Good For

Based on our research, we believe that this card’s greatest strength is the number of points you can earn throughout the year. The point totals we calculated far exceed nearly every rewards card we’ve ever reviewed.

We also like the $250 credit to Hilton Resort properties. Depending on where you stay, that $250 dollars is good enough for a free night and then some.

The downside of the card is that it isn’t a good fit for those who are seeking value out of their points because there are just two Category 1 properties in the U.S. This downside is negligible, though, because value-seekers are usually not the ones applying for luxury cards with high annual fees.

We believe this card is a good fit for those who are loyal to the Hilton brand and want a card that can produce excellent rewards throughout the year. The card is an even better fit if you make a habit of staying at Hilton Resort properties when you vacation because you can take full advantage of the $250 credit.

It would be nice if AmEx would use all $350 of the travel credits for Hilton Resort properties instead of splitting up the rewards to separate properties.

If you’ve read through this and think that a card with a lower annual fee may be a better choice, then take a moment to read through our guide to the best hotel credit cards of 2018. We talk about the leading hotel rewards cards and show you which ones provide the best value.

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