The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card offers complimentary Gold elite status that provides extra perks when you stay at Hilton properties
Right now the card comes with 150,000 bonus points and a $150 statement credit for new card members
CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value, but does not review all financial companies or all available financial offers. We may receive compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as CreditCards.com, and this compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site.
Our quick take: The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card offers generous elite benefits along with a lucrative welcome bonus and a $95 annual fee, making it an enticing option for consumers who want to earn rewards toward free Hilton hotel stays without paying an exorbitant cost.
- Earn a generous welcome bonus and 12 points for every dollar you spend at Hilton.
- Earn 6 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, as well as 3 points per dollar on other purchases.
- Complimentary Gold elite status in the Hilton Honors program.
- 10 free visits each year to Priority Pass airport lounges worldwide.
- Free weekend night when you spend $15,000 on your card within a calendar year.
- Hilton Honors points are worth less than many competing hotel loyalty programs.
- $95 annual fee.
Current welcome bonus: Earn 150,000 bonus points when you spend $2,000 on purchases within three months of opening the account, plus a $150 statement credit after your first purchase within the first three months.
Best for: Regular travelers who want a basic suite of benefits when they stay in Hilton resorts, as well as those who want to rack up rewards for free Hilton hotel stays by using their credit card on everyday purchases.
If you want a Hilton credit card with elite benefits but don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars in annual fees, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card is a thoughtful middle-ground alternative.
Carrying this card will set you back just $95 per year, yet you’ll get complimentary Hilton Gold elite status with it. Gold is in the middle of the three Hilton status levels and qualifies you for a complimentary continental breakfast on each morning of your stay. You’ll also get annual benefits like 10 Priority Pass airport lounge entries and a weekend night award when you spend $15,000 on your card in a calendar year.
The $95 annual fee looks even more reasonable when you consider the welcome bonus you can earn in the first year on the Hilton Amex Surpass card. Frequent flyer website The Points Guy values Hilton points at 0.6 cents apiece, so those 150,000 points are worth as much as $900. Add in the $150 statement credit you can earn by making one purchase with the card in the first three months you have it, and that’s over $1,000 in total bonus value.
Related: Earn up to 150,000 bonus points and $150 in credits with Hilton credit cards.
The earning rate on this Hilton card is also solid. As a card member, you’ll earn 12 points for every dollar you spend on Hilton purchases, 6 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations and 3x points on other purchases. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Hilton points aren’t worth as much as many other types of hotel points, so you may be earning less than you think.
Hilton loyalty program members also earn 10 points per dollar spent when they stay with the Hilton brand, and elite status members earn even more. Having Gold status — which you get automatically with this card — means you’ll earn an 80% bonus on base points. So when you stay at a Hilton property, you’ll earn 18 points per dollar as a Gold status member, plus 12 points per dollar when you pay with this card.
Finally, the Hilton Amex Surpass card gives you a path to Hilton Diamond status, which is the highest tier of elite status the program offers. To reach Hilton Diamond status, you’d need to spend $40,000 on your credit card within a calendar year, which averages out to about $3,333 a month.
PHOTO: American Express
The Hilton Amex Surpass card comes with Gold elite status and some generous earning rates.
When it comes to the Hilton Amex Surpass, several advantages really stand out. The most important benefit is its automatic Gold elite status, which lets you enjoy some VIP benefits now while also making it easier for you to reach Diamond status down the line through spending on the credit card, staying at Hilton hotel or bothn.
In addition to free breakfast, there are plenty of other Gold elite status benefits you might value. The most important ones include:
- 80% bonus points on paid stays
- Space-available room upgrades
- Elite rollover nights toward elite status
- No resort fees on award stays
- Milestone bonuses such as earning 10,000 bonus points for every 10 nights at a Hilton after you’ve stayed 20 nights within a calendar year.
Many cardholders also like the fact that the Hilton Amex Surpass grants members 10 free visits to Priority Pass airport lounges worldwide. While this perk isn’t quite as good as having a Priority Pass Select membership with unlimited visits, being able to visit 10 times might be more than enough for those who rarely fly or have infrequent layovers.
The biggest downside of the Hilton Amex Surpass card is its lack of benefits aside from Hilton Gold elite status and airport lounge visits, and the fact that Hilton points aren’t worth nearly as much as many other travel loyalty points or miles. Even though you can earn a lot of points with the card, those points might be worth only a fraction as much as the points you could be earning with another credit card.
Also, some of the card’s secondary benefits require spending a lot of money on it each year. In addition to being able to unlock Hilton Diamond status by spending $40,000 on your card within a calendar year, you can also earn a free weekend night at a Hilton property when you spend $15,000 on the card within a calendar year.
Finally, you won’t find many travel protections on this card — the main ones are auto rental coverage (which is secondary to your own personal auto policy) and access to a Global Assist hotline.
CNN Underscored uses the Citi® Double Cash Card as our “benchmark” credit card. That doesn’t mean it’s the best credit card on the market — rather, it means we use it as a basic standard to compare other credit cards and see where they score better, and where they’re worse.
Here’s how the Hilton Amex Surpass card scores against our benchmark. The features of each card in the below chart are colored in green, red or white. Green indicates a card feature that’s better than our benchmark, red indicates the feature is worse than our benchmark and white indicates the feature is either equivalent or cannot be directly compared to our benchmark.
|Citi Double Cash Card||Hilton Amex Surpass|
|Card type||Mastercard||American Express|
|Welcome bonus||None||150,000 Hilton Honors points when you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening, plus earn a $150 statement credit with your first purchase within three months|
|Earning rate||2% on all purchases (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off)||12 points per dollar on Hilton purchases, 6 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, and 3 points per dollar on all other purchases|
|Redemption value||1 cent (cash back)||0.6 cents per point*|
|Ease of basic redemptions||Easy||Easy|
|Advanced redemption options||Can convert cash back to ThankYou points that transfer to 16 airline partners if you also have the Citi Premier℠ or Citi Prestige® Card||Can pool points with other members or redeem for experiences and other travel|
|Quality of advanced redemptions||Good||Fair|
|Foreign transaction fee||3%||None|
|BENEFITS AND PROTECTIONS|
|Travel perks||None||Complimentary Gold elite status with Hilton Honors, Priority Pass membership with 10 free visits a year, Free weekend night after spending $15,000 on the card in a calendar year, Global Assist hotline|
|Travel protections||None||Secondary Auto Coverage|
|INTEREST RATES ON PURCHASES AND BALANCE TRANSFERS|
|Introductory APR on purchases||None||None|
|Length of introductory APR on purchases||N/A||N/A|
|Introductory APR on balance transfers||0%||None|
|Length of Introductory APR on balance transfers||18 months||N/A|
|Introductory balance transfer fee||3% or $5, whichever is greater||N/A|
|APR after intro period ends/standard APR||13.99%-23.99% variable||15.74%-24.74% variable|
|* Based on point valuations calculated by frequent flyer website The Points Guy.|
While it’s easy to see where the Hilton Amex Surpass card comes out ahead — and where it may fall short — it’s important to note how different these cards are, and the fact that they’re targeted at very different types of consumers. The Hilton Amex Surpass is geared to frequent travelers who like to stay at Hilton properties, while the Citi Double Cash was created for people who want to earn cash back, as well as those who want to consolidate and pay down debt with an introductory balance transfer offer.
Related: Read CNN Underscored’s review of the Citi Double Cash card.
Before you sign up for a rewards credit card, it can help to consider the different types of credit cards out there and which ones might work best for your situation and goals. You can read our credit card methodology for more details on what we take into account ourselves when it comes to perks, protections and redemption value.
If you’re interested in earning Hilton hotel rewards in particular, then you’ll want to take a closer look at credit cards within the Hilton Honors loyalty program. For the most part, the Hilton Amex Surpass is the middle-tier card of the program.
For those who don’t like to pay for a credit card each year but still want to earn Hilton points, there’s the Hilton Honors American Express Card, which offers a lower 100,000-point welcome bonus after you spend $1,000 in purchases within your first three months of card membership. This card only comes with Silver elite status and you’ll earn fewer points on paid Hilton stays and regular spending, yet it’s worth considering if you want to earn rewards toward free Hilton nights without paying an annual fee.
Related: These are the best credit cards to use at Hilton hotels in 2021.
Meanwhile, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is the luxury travel credit card offered by Hilton. This card comes with better earning rates and perks like complimentary Hilton Diamond status, up to $250 in annual airline fee credits, an annual $250 resort credit, Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership and more. While this card’s utility is nearly unmatched among luxury hotel credit cards, you’ll pay a pricey $450 annual fee every year you have it.
And if you don’t stay at Hilton hotels more than once in a while, you might prefer a broader travel credit card that earns rewards that can be used in multiple airline and hotel programs. One option is the classic Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which costs the same $95 as the Hilton Amex Surpass, but earns points that can be transferred to 13 different airlne and hotel partners, including Marriott, Hyatt and IHG.
Related: 6 reasons you should consider getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.
PHOTO: Hilton Hotels
Redeem the points you earn with the Hilton Amex Surpass for free stays at properties like the Hilton San Diego Airport/Harbor Island.
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card offers generous rewards for Hilton travelers along with a handful of elite benefits, yet you’ll only pay $95 per year as a card member. Considering other Hilton credit cards are on entirely separate ends of the spectrum, many see the Hilton Amex Surpass as a compromise that gives card members just enough of what they want without a big financial commitment.
With that being said, it makes sense to spend some time comparing rewards credit cards before you decide, especially if you don’t stay at Hilton hotels that often. The Hilton Amex Surpass may be exactly what you need, but don’t be afraid to consider alternatives in other programs.
Learn more about the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card.
Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards of 2021.
Get all the latest personal finance deals, news and advice at CNN Underscored Money.