Yesterday, I mentioned increased credit card bonuses as one of my predictions for 2018 and, while I was specifically referring to airline cards, it appears that Hilton has jumped the gun. American Express is making changes to the various Hilton Amex cards that it offers (Citi cards are going away.) and they are all positive. The major changes are occurring in the premium cards, with the major change in the free card being the dropping of the foreign exchange fee, so that’s where I’ll spend most of my time. Changes kick into effect on January 18.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The Surpass card, which will be renamed “Ascend,” sees its annual fee move up $20 to $95, but the enhancement to benefits outweighs the cost increase.
- You will still get Gold elite status automatically and earn Diamond status if you spend $40,000 on the card annually. As I’ve mentioned before, Gold gets you most of the elite benefits that Diamond does, but the card offers the easiest path to top-tier elite status in the travel industry.
- Spend $15,000 in a year and get a certificate for a free weekend night. That’s a smart move given the number of us who have card simply for the Gold status. $15,000 is not a lot to spend and is a tempting offer to generate some revenue for Hilton to put people in rooms that may not have had customers otherwise.
- 10 Complimentary Priority Pass lounge visits per year. That’s a big step up from paying $27 per visit and means that you can eliminate a different card if you use it for Priority Pass access.
The New Hilton Amex Aspire
The trend in credit cards is clearly toward the high and and big spenders, and the Aspire card will fit that niche for American Express and Hilton. The card comes with a $450 fee, but benefits could offset that charge, depending on what you use. Here are the benefits:
- The rewards rate above reflects the highest payback ever in terms of points earned. I value one HH point at 0.4-0.5 cents.
- Up to $500 in fee reimbursements annually. Receive up to a $250 airline fee credit at your chosen airline and another $250 Hilton resort credit. Note that you must choose your airline ahead of time and the credit is for fees and certain ancillary spending, not ticket prices. Likewise, the Hilton reimbursement applies to resorts, not every hotel.
- Unlimited Priority Pass access
- One weekend night at a Hilton property just for having the card, and another if you spend $60,000 annually.
- A $100 credit at Waldorf and Conrad resorts when booking Aspire packages.
Do you need the Aspire card? Probably not. But if you are going to make use of the benefits, particularly the $500 in annual rebates, then the card becomes a profit center for you.
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