My Aspire Annual Fee Just Posted – Debating Whether To Keep, Cancel, Or Downgrade?

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Aspire Worth Keeping
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Is The American Express Aspire Worth Keeping After Year 1

So the $450 annual fee just hit on my Aspire card. I have called the Aspire card the best perks card on the market in the past.  I honestly thought American Express would devalue it by year two but they haven’t and it still holds that title in my opinion.  That should make this a simple decision, right?  The card is offering me more value than I am paying for, if I max out the perks, so why debate it?  High annual fees drive me crazy and the earning structure for card is not the greatest which gives me pause.

Details on the Card

A quick back of the napkin math reveals the following to me.  For $450 I would get the following tangible value:

  • $250 airline incidental credit worth around $200 in cash even though it has become more difficult to use.
  • The free night cert is worth a minimum of $250 to me but it most likely much more valuable.
  • The $250 resort credit is worth around $200 to me as well on average.  I would most likely use it on room rates in Orlando so the value is probably actually $250 this year but I am going on average value.  I discount it since it is available only at certain resorts and if you use it on food and beverage the prices are usually 20% higher than off property options.

The finally tally is a minimum of $650 in value for a $450 price tag.  That also doesn’t include the other perks like Diamond status or the Priority Pass membership etc. where the true value is a very personal equation since it varies widely.  Seems like a no brainer, getting a minimum of 30% off upcoming travel is pretty great.  But I hate paying anything for travel so I resist.  Although I have become more willing to take advantage of these options with banks cracking down and making point accrual more difficult.

Aspire Worth Keeping

Should I Close It?

Whenever the annual fee is large this question needs to be considered.  But with the value it offers, the downgrade options, and Amex making up the rules as they go along I don’t need another card closure on my record.

Downgrade Option

I still have the no fee Hilton card, my oldest Amex card, so the other option would be to downgrade to the Ascend card (learn more).  Now I love the Ascend card because of its earning structure and it is actually a great everyday card. I also am depleting my Hilton Honors stash quicker than I am replacing it since the Aspire doesn’t get much use.

If I were to downgrade I would save $355 in annual fees and would be able to earn a free night after $15,000 in spend.  That would net me a free night and at least 45,000 Hilton points, but likely much more than that.  That option does come with $15,000 in spend and I am already working on $15K for mine and my wife’s World of Hyatt credit card for that free night.  That would lock me into $45,000 in spend if I went for all three and I don’t know if I want to tie up that kind of spend.

My wife also has the Aspire card from her upgrade offer so I could downgrade one and keep the other for the perks.  That muddies the waters some for me.

My Decision

I am leaning towards keeping the card because the value is supreme and I know for a fact I will use the resort credit this year.  I think that is where the value point hinges.  If you are unable to easily use the resort credit, it is pretty restrictive, then you may be better off downgrading.  Since I know for sure that I can use the credit it puts me into the plus side of things.

I still plan on calling American Express just to see what kind of retention offer they have. I don’t expect much because the value of the card is so high but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Look for a post tomorrow updating you on my results of the phone call.


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. Is the Aspire card worth it? Heck yes. I’m in month 10 of my of my first year and received the $250 resort credit (Hilton Phuket Resort), $236 of incidental airline charges (BA seat selections), and a free night worth $257 (Hilton San Diego/Del Mar). That’s a subtotal of $743. I won’t mention the other benefits and tons of points earned during my first membership year, which will end with 11 nights split between the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice and the Waldorf Astoria in Rome (both properties have lounges but I upgraded to to an Imperial Room to get the lounge benefit, which Diamonds do not get at the Roma Calavieri WA. That alone will yield a minimum of 150,000 points, that I value at $750. Hehe …. Marriott…… Marriott who?

  2. Do we know if the Diamond status from the Aspire counts towards the 10-year requirement for lifetime Diamond? If it does, this could be an incentive to keep the card for those that are close to lifetime status.

    • Interesting question. I would guess not but I have no idea. Hopefully someone else can chime in that has some first hand knowledge.

    • Brian over at The Gate pointed out something regarding the new Hilton Aspire card that I hadn’t thought about before. The card comes with Diamond status among other benefits, Hilton also offers lifetime Diamond status if you meet the following qualifications:

      Have earned Diamond Status for at least 10 years (non-consecutive) AND
      Who have done one of the following:
      Have completed stays totaling at least 1,000 paid and reward nights
      Have earned at least 2 million Base Points over life of membership
      The Aspire card won’t really help with either of the second qualifications (apart from giving you some free nights towards the 1,000 total) but it does give you Diamond Status for at least one year. I’ve double confirmed with American Express & Hilton that Diamond status earned from the card will count towards the 10 year requirement.

      from DoC site

    • With most cards you are able to get it in the window before or after fee posts and you have a chance to close after not with Aspire the card comes weeks after renewal upwards of 8-10 weeks at times. Hope that helps

  3. DP Got a very low 10k points retention offer to keep for another year w $2K spend. Decided to take it, since its a good card hopefully this year ill take advantage even of the resort properties, did not last year.

  4. We had a nice stay at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace last month while doing Disney World. Not the most high value use for free weekend night certs, and a little clunky as each is treated as a separate stay, but they worked and the Resort Credit essentially took the last night off. Staff was really great throughout the resort. Enjoyed the lazy river. Aspire paid for itself on one stay.

    • That is the toughest task imo and what makes the difference in keeping or not keeping the card. The first year I used points on the WA in Key West and used the credit for food, beverage, and parking costs. This year I plan to use it on a room rate in Orlando with the family. I do find it strange what they put on the list and what they leave off – it doesn’t seem to make sense what they call a resort. I wish it wasn’t so restrictive though.

  5. Currently I have 11 Amx cards:
    Platinum (previously the Mercedes Benz)
    Morgan Stanley Plat (thru unfunded MS access account via Windbag blog)
    Bus Plat (from over the last summer)
    Bus Gold Rewards (no longer available)
    Bus Gold (received a call from Amx and given an offer)
    Gold card (renewed in Jan)
    Everyday Preferred (approved a couple of weeks ago)
    Hilton Ascend (just got it today and my first Hilton card)
    Delta Reserve (Personal & Bus)
    Bonvoy Bus (my 12 months is up and will cancel as soon as my next statement arrives w/AF)

    Recent cancelled cards (since last summer):
    Platinum (vanilla)
    Green card
    Delta Gold (Personal & Bus)
    Delta Platinum (Personal & Bus)
    SPG personal

    I still have a whole slew of Amx cards I want to get (including Schwab), but I am not sure if I am at the Amx max limit (open/close)?…..knock on wood!!

    • I think you can technically get one more credit card (up to 5) but no one knows what triggers the naughty list. That is what makes it so annoying 🙁

    • I met somebody this weekend who had 21 AMEX. She had 11 Plat cards alone. And a very young person as well. That was amazing. She is cranking some heavy MS

  6. I received a pro-rated fee on upgrade. Guessing it should be due next month in full again. Literally just burnt the annual resort credit on a $243 local stay in the hopes it will reset. Not sure, but likely.

    It’ll be very, very hard for me to justify this *and* the CSR. Both fees will be due at once. One will get the axe, and it is going to be a tough choice.

    • Remember to be cautious on upgrades. Amex wants you to keep upgrades for a full 12 months now and have done some yank backs. Those were on MR earning cards though and not sure how that would work with Hilton points. Could put you on their naughty list though. Could also downgrade when you hit the 12 month mark as well.

      With how often you rent cars I gotta imagine CSR will win 🙂

      • That is my one worry. I can’t afford to risk the wrath of Amex. And the CSR is amazing. I need to look into insurance on other cards to see if I have anything that compares. Could always downgrade to the Preferred.

        If I do keep the Aspire, I’m totally keeping it until January 2020 at a minimum. For those calendar year 3 benefits. 😉

  7. Hi Mark. I’m going though the same scenario soon but so far I’m planning on renewing it. I can definitely use the free night each year and i’m mostly using them at high dollar per night hotels (my wife also got the card). Where I think it makes the biggest argument for keeping it is the Diamond status. So far, I’ve had great success getting upgraded to a nicer room. Especially internationally but even domestically I’m getting a larger room most times.

    As long as they don’t cut back on any benefits, I’ll keep renewing the card.

    • I think you really notice the difference in Diamond vs Gold overseas and I hope to get some nice upgrades on my upcoming trip but all I really want is free breakfast :). I think many will lean towards keeping it as long as the perks stay the same.


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