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Is Hilton Aspire Still HANDS DOWN The Most Valuable Premium Card On The Market?

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Disclosure: Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. Links in this post may provide us with a commission.

American Express Hilton Aspire Card Perks Review 

American Express Hilton Aspire Card Perks Review

I was recently approved for the American Express Hilton Aspire card.  I applied for the card because I have an upcoming stay at the Waldorf Astoria Casa Marina in Key West and I wanted to take advantage of the perks the card offers.  And after digging into the Amex Hilton Aspire card deeper this card’s perks, in my opinion, are the most valuable in the premium card market.  It is like when the Citi Prestige was first launched, it is too good to be true!

Update: With some changes to the perks offered by the card I figured it was time to re-crunch the numbers. We can then see if the Aspire card is still hands down the best perks card out there.

Updated last 12/25/19

RELATED: My experience using the Aspire card’s perks.

Amex Hilton Honors Aspire Perks Review

I am not going to spend time reviewing the entire card.  This article is more to focus on the perks during the first year and beyond.  The sign up bonus is alright ($400 value) and the earning structure is actually less valuable than the Ascend in my opinion.  But, it is all of the perks that come with the card where American Express really outdid themselves!

Let’s get the less meaningful perks out of the way:

American Express Hilton Aspire Card Perks Review 

Now for the perks that make this card a no brainer:

  • Diamond status
    • I almost put this in the less meaningful perks since you can get Gold status for $355 less with the Hilton Surpass card and Gold status is not that much different in the United States.  But internationally Diamonds get treated a lot better than Gold so I left it on there.
  • $250 Property credit
    • It only works at Hilton resorts. Be sure to check the participating hotels before using the perk.  It covers most of the properties you would want to use the perk at.  The credit is supposed to work towards the room rate and/or incidental charges.  Comped drinks on the beach anyone?
  • $250 Airline Fee Credit
  • Free weekend night certificate
    • This is a very valuable perk which will save you up to 95,000 points ($380).  The cert does come with some restrictions. The room must be booked on a weekend night (Friday-Sunday) and there must be a standard room award available.  They also have a list of hotels and resorts that are excluded, mostly time share/vacation rental places.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Application Link

The Brass Tacks

This all sounds great but let’s crunch some numbers.  Remember that I am not including the sign up bonus or the less meaningful perks of the card.  I am focusing on the really valuable perks.

Hilton Honors Diamond Status$95

I value this at $95 since that is what you could get Hilton Honors Gold status for by signing up for the American Express Surpass card.  The American Express Hilton Aspire card saves you that annual fee.  You will probably get more than $95 of value out of the status but I am going to under promise and over deliver.

$250 Property Credit – $200

I am discounting this $50 because it forces you to spend money on site at the resort.  Resorts usually have higher prices versus outside restaurants and bars.  You can use it for cash stays as well, if that is your thing, which would bring it closer to 100% in value.

$250 Airline Credit – $125

I am discounting this 50% since gift cards no longer work which makes it more difficult to use for some.  There are still a few tricks left but they take a little more effort.  I plan on using mine on Spirit Airlines since I fly often enough that it will cover my seat fees. So even though I will get the full value out of my credit I will still greatly reduce the value for these purposes.

Free Night Certificate – $380

This one is the most subjective perk since you could get over $1000 in value if you use it at a super high end property, like the Conrad Koh Samui.  But I will value it at Hilton’s top end points redemption, 95,000 points.  Hilton points are worth $0.004 each placing the value at $380.

Total Value $800 in perks ($925 in the first year) for a $450 annual fee!

American Express Hilton Aspire Card Perks Review 
Conrad Singapore Centennial Lobby.


That is still a great return and profitable overall if you max out the perks.  Most premium cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the American Express Platinum, struggle to give you break-even value for the annual fee.  This card PAYS YOU to keep it. The first year is even more profitable since you get the airline incidental fee twice. American Express really brought their A game with this offering!

Get the American Express Hilton Honors Aspire Card while these perks are still intact because I don’t see them lasting long.  I envision a Citi Prestige level gutting in the not so distant future.  Although I hope I am wrong. I guess I was completely wrong here; the perks have remained mostly intact nearly two years later. Good thing for us! 

This may be the best long term keeper on the market…what do you think?

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Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.
Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. Mark: Following up on a comment I made last year re. someone receiving the resort credit at a ‘non resort’ property, I too got that later in the year. We stayed at a urban/city hotel and noticed after check out that they applied the credit. While the resort list is clearly defined (on the website), it appears that (perhaps) certain hotels may be classified as resorts and thus, are triggering the credit. This can’t be the only ones out there (San Francisco and Hawaii)??? Have you heard any more feedback on this? Thanks.

  2. Have had the Aspire card for over a year. As mentioned above, it’s one of the few cards whose total value clearly exceeds the annual fee, making it seem like a ‘too good to be true’ type of deal/credit card. In all likelihood, there are enough cardholders to who don’t fully utilize all the benefits; and furthermore, I’m sure the actual cost to Amex/Hilton of all the Aspire benefits is less than the (retail/end-user) value that we assign to it. In any case, the Aspire is a really outstanding card (assuming you are at least somewhat inclined to Hilton family properties) that I hope retains all the original/current benefits well into the future.

    • Great point – I think there is some breakage in the benefits for sure for the normal people out there that carry it. And a lot of it is costing Hilton 50 cents on the dollar if not less so I am sure Amex is paying somewhere in that range to provide it.

  3. This update was so amazingly sober and honest. Kudos to you for the very fair valuations!

    Happy holidays to you all the MtM team.

  4. This card requires jumping through way too many hoops. Too much work and too many restrictions on the benefits. Worst card ever.

    • It is true that it makes you work for it for sure. If you have enough Hilton stays each year it isn’t terribly bad but I do wish Amex would go to a true travel credit even if for $200 versus $250.

    • Just not true for me, used all the perks very easily through normal travel routine. Excellent card, easy decision to keep thus far.

  5. $95.00 is way undervaluing Diamond status.On one trip alone (11 nights in Japan) we saved over $800 for 2 breakfasts daily.Plus executive lounge privileges every night.For those who travel internationally, Diamond is a valuable perk.

    • I undersold it for sure because I think Gold is a pretty valuable status and it can be had for $95. I will say I think people tend to over estimate the value of breakfast since you can usually get it off site for a fraction of the cost hotels charge. But that valuation will also depend on your travels.

  6. Hello again Mark,
    I recently was approved for the regular Amex Hilton card which is no fee and will give me 100k points after 1k spend in three months. Do I also qualify for the 150k sign up bonus if I apply for the Aspire card now? After reading your post I see the Aspire card would be worth it even with the $450 yearly charge.

    • Yeah they are considered separate products and there should be no issue getting the welcome bonus for both.

  7. Got my Aspire card the first day it was offered in January and I just got my free night certificate on March 26th. I made a few phone calls to inquire about the certificate. Don’t know if that helped or not.

    • Thanks for the info. That seems like a long time to send them out. I don’t know why they can’t get them to us within a month or so. Maybe it will get better after the second annual fee.

  8. Checking in again since RTC linked to it today. After having this card for a couple of months, using up the resort credit and airline credits, I do tend to agree with you. This is one of the few premium cards that I might actually consider keeping after year one, though I will likely only put spend on it at Hilton stays. Free night + 2x$250 credits + diamond status is a pretty nice deal for $450, let alone all the other perks. I know many say Diamond is not that much better than Gold, but most of my travel is to Asia, and so far there has been a marked difference in how I have been treated, and the level of upgrades. Since this is a US card, it’s also nice that this card won’t likely significantly dilute the number of Diamonds that I am competing with in Asia.

    The other nice thing is that since this is an Amex, it might actually be realistic to expect a retention offer come anniversary time.

    Overall it’s definitely a winner for me.

    • I agree 100% you forgot about the yearly free night in there too! I am still waiting on my cert to come…have you gotten yours yet?

  9. I have a question. I had the Citi Hilton which of course is now the Hilton Card. I also have an Ascend (aka Surpass). Both have “upgrade” options in them which I plan to use as I have 6 Amex credit cards. The only hesitation is neither one of the offers have the bonus points mentioned. Anyone out there receive an upgrade offer with bonus points?????

        • DP: I just upgraded my Ascenet for a 150k bonus upgrade offer. It was exactly what i was waiting for. Upgraded and confirmed on teh phone and they assured if i meet the minimum spend i will indeed get the 150k HH points

    • Instead of upgrading to the next level which has no benfits just apply for it so you receive the welcome point offers then cancel the cards you no longer need.

    • I am not sure but I would assume not. You could always give Amex a call and see. It would probably depend on how the charge would code.

  10. Mark,

    You mentioned you can use the airline credit twice in the first calendar year. Can you further explain? I was approved and have already purchased a $250 GC from SW (credit posted) using the card. How long do I wait prior to purchasing another $250 GC in the first year of ownership to be successfully credited for my second? Thanks for the review and info. I concur that this is a great card; well worth the fee.

  11. Mark-
    You failed to mention one of the more important restrictions re. the free weekend night perk, outside of the date and availability, and that is the list of EXCLUDED properties that it can’t be redeemed at.

    Also, assuming one will keep the card beyond the first year, I don’t see a real benefit/angle re. calling out the $250 airline credit (per calendar year) that can be use 2x in the membership year. If you used it a second time in year one, then you’ve used it for year two, etc. The only way you can ‘double dip’ using it twice for $500 is if you actually cancel the card after using it twice but before your new account year kicks in, right?

    • Ouch that list hurts it includes 8 hotels in Hawaii pretty much shuts down every Hilton Hawaii option besides HGI & DoubleTree.
      Its easy to double dip the $250. I always recommend to apply for the card around middle of the year so you have time to use 1st credit before Dec and the 2nd credit after Jan. Some cards take 2-3 months before the credit will post, after it post cancel the card before its time to pay the annual fee.

      • The only Hilton’s that are “shut down” are their timeshare properties, Hilton Grand Vacations Club. I just stayed at the Hilton Hotel Waikoa Beach Resort on the Big Island using a free night! It was built by Disney then Hilton bought it – has a Disney feel to it but overall a nice property. Or try The Grand Wailea on south Maui, a WR property, super nice.

    • Matthew I focused on the yearly value, year over year, and only mentioned the double dip if someone decided to cancel or downgrade it after the first year.

      I will add in the list of exclusions – thanks for the reminder!

  12. Yes, the fine print does exclude gift cards. On my bill the gift cards from Southwest are coded as freight for some reason. It works for now.

  13. Mark, thank you for another great post. We have the Hilton Ascend card and those benefits are great. But this post educated me on some new benefits and that is always a good thing.

    I’d like to suggest that a friend get the Hilton Ascend card as well but I am waiting for a referral offer that will help me as well…

    I always enjoy your daily emails!

    • Thanks for the kind words Scott and for the comment. I would imagine the referrals should be available sometime soon.

  14. Its interesting how ppl calculate the value of points. You say $0.004. I say whatever the same room rate is at the time of booking in cash or points. For example, $204 cash room rate or 30,000 points is $0.0068. Its valued only at the time a booking is executed. I usually only use points when the value is over $0.10 a point redeemed.

    • Hilton has pretty much moved to a fixed rate point – you are going to get at least .004 a majority of the time now…that is why I went with that figure.

    • At the HGI Kauai standard room start at $320 I used 40k points, $.008 value. I appreciate Mark’s post using worst case benfit Vs. over inflating the value at best case. At worst case the benfits of the card are still great and if you catch a deal with more bang for the buck the value can only get that much better.

  15. I booked 5 nights with 160k points (40k night x 4 (+1 night free)). At Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay, HI. This hotel also charges a $22 per night “resort fee” does this mean I can spend my $250 Aspire resort property credit at this hotel?

    • Its sad that a Garden Inn can have a ‘resort fee’, even in Hawaii. Ive stayed there, its ‘resorty’ but only because it has to be to compete.

    • Check the Hilton Resorts link in the article. If it is one of the resorts listed then it should work. Not sure that a garden inn would be on the list though.

      • Its not on the list of Hilton resorts guess I’m not able to use my property credits, very funny they are not a resort but they can still call them self a resort adding a daily resort fee. “Daily Resort charge will be added to the room rate includes: Arrival Aloha shell lei; Mai Tai or soft drink (2 per day/rm); Cultural sunrise ceremony (3 x days week); 2hr bike rental (2 per stay); cooler & beach mat usage; 1-800 & local calls.” What a joke for that extra $22 daily resort fee. My guess is on top of that they will not have breakfast for Diamond members, as most hotels in Hawaii do not have breakfast.

        • Just stayed there…free breakfast. King cottages in back are easy walk to beach, worth looking into. Great location – easy drive from Lihue airport and to main town of Kapa’a.

  16. I had the Surpass card which was upgraded to Ascend. After reading this blog I just applied (100k) for the the Aspire card and was approved. Is it a good idea to dump the Acend card now, as it does not offer the airline or hotel credits?

    • The Ascend does have a good earning structure getting bonus points for grocery, gas, and restaurants. If you spend 15k on it you get a free night. If you can do that every year I would keep it but if you can’t aren’t I would downgrade it to the no fee card (if you haven’t gotten that bonus yet since downgrading would eliminate your chances at getting a sign up bonus).

      With the surpass they used to have upgrade offers from the no fee to the Surpass and I imagine they will for the ascend too. You can get the upgrade offer even if you have had the card before. I have done it a few times at 100k each time.

      • Makes sence, Sounds like ill keep the Acend for spend and treat the Aspire card for status and benfits as I do my AMEX Platinum where benfits are great but aside from air tickets the spend sucks. I may also blast through the 15k this year to earn the free room, then downgrade to no fee and hoping to get a bonus offer for upgrade back to the Ascend which I can repeat the process in 2019.

        • That is what I do – go back and forth from Ascend and free card. I have gotten 2 upgrades each so far for myself and my wife.

  17. Given that the perks easily pay for themselves, I’d be inclined to try this card to take advantage of the Diamond status overseas. But I’m a bit put off by the $4000 minimum spend. If that just entailed buying some gift cards it would be fine, but with the AMEX RAT team at work, I’d probably have to make it real spend. That wouldn’t be impossible, but it would be a hassle (I’m already finishing off another AMEX card sign up spend). I’m not sure the benefits are worth the spending hassle.

    • You are correct, I just applied for Aspire and after I was approved it says “Purchases of Gift Cards and other cash equivalents do not count towards the welcome bonus spending requirement.”

    • Yeah the 4k in spend does suck. I wish it would have been 3k. The 100k Hilton offer is a little weak too but that is probably because the perks are so valuable.

      Maybe wait to sign up until you have a bill expense coming up?

      • I have several Asia Hilton stays coming up so, if I’m going to get the card, now would be the right time. But I am concerned with the $4k minimum spend.
        Understandably, folks seem reluctant to discuss their minimum spend strategies. Is there worthwhile information out there about what AMEX is allowing and punishing?

        • So far 3rd party gift cards for reselling have gone ok but you are taking a risk with them so that is a personal choice. I would mix in a lot of regular spend if you go that route.

  18. Nice. I had the Surpass which automatically upgraded to the Ascend. When I logged on, I was able to upgrade to the Aspire. Can’t wait to enjoy Diamond status on my trips to Europe!!!

    • Did they offer you a bonus for upgrading after a certain amount of spend or did you do it just for the perks?

      • No. Actually, I never asked. I read that upgrading wouldn’t qualify for a bonus. I primarily did it for the perks. I was also able to request for status match with Best Western to the Diamond Select status. It seems Best Western hotel chain is pretty popular in Europe as well. Not much value, but why not take it if they offer it.

  19. The ascend is a better value. CSR is a better premium card than Aspire. Stop drinking the cool aid. Logic over Emotions!

    • This is about the perks. Which card gives you more return from perks then this card. The CSR is a better card since it has a better earning rate but the perks are not as rewarding. And there is no way you get better value from the Ascend. It does give you a better return on your spend since the bonused categories are better. The Prestige used to be the same way before they gutted it.

      • The point value is more valuable with Chase then it is with Hilton. You can also redeem your points from the CSR for almost anything travel and even for shopping. The Hilton points is mainly meant for stay redemptions and its value is nowhere near the same as CSR. Of course, if your primary goal is to just earn points for Hilton, one can argue it is more valuable for themself. Overall though, CSR takes it if including point redemption.

        • Michael this article is about the perks of the card. American Express essentially pays you to get and keep this card. That isn’t the case with the CSR, The Amex Plat, or the Citi Prestige (although it was close before they gutted it).

          The CSR is a better card for spend and has better points. But the Aspire has the most valuable perks on the market and it is the most profitable card out there.

  20. The airline credit from the Aspire works with Southwest. I purchased a $25 gift card first to make sure the credit worked. I was reimbursed for the $25 so I purchased a $225 gift card and have been reimbursed for that one as well.

  21. I’m reading the fine print concerning the $250 airline fee credit and it seems to specifically exclude the purchase of airline gift cards–“Airline tickets, upgrades, mileage points purchases, mileage points transfer fees, gift cards, duty free purchases, and award tickets are not deemed to be incidental fees.”
    Any thoughts?

    • It says the same think on the Amex Plat card but they still work. Check flytertalk for your specific airline first to make sure it works. For example SW works for almost any GC amount where Delta only works for $50 gift cards.

  22. Is the calculation of getting $437.50 profit each year assuming two $250 airline credit every year? How so? Maybe $437.50 profit the first year, then $187.50 profit each year thereafter?