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Hilton Aspire Card

Our Two Cents: Hilton Aspire Credit Card Review

The Aspire is a new Penny Jar favorite. Joining the ranks of the Ritz Carlton credit card, Aspire is the second premium hotel credit card to launch in the market. With the ability to earn 100,000 Hilton points as a new card member, complimentary diamond status, a complimentary reward night on your card member anniversary after paying the annual fee, and up-to $350 in travel credits, this card is dripping with benefits. You'll need to balance these perks against the card's $450 annual fee though, and if you can't remain brand loyal a generic rewards card will be a better bet. Let's take a closer look to see what makes sense for you.

Counting Your Pennies - How To Earn Points with the Aspire Card

First, let's talk about that new customer bonus. As a new customer, you'll be able to earn up-to 100,000 points after being approved for the card. Earn 100,000 points after you spend $4,000 or more in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening. We value this bonus at about $500. If you can average an additional $5,000 a month on this card, you will qualify for the complimentary weekend night. Charging over 60k in a calendar year triggers this perk. 

For ongoing earning rates, the Aspire card has a tiered reward structure, meaning you'll earn different rates depending on your purchase. 

  • 14x points - Eligible Hilton purchases will earn 14x per dollar. This will typically include charges made directly with the hotel, such as direct hotel bookings (sorry, no Orbitz), charges during your stay, and gift cards.
  • 7x points - You'll earn 7x points on eligible airline, car rental, and restaurant purchases.
  • 3x points - Earn 3x points on all other eligible purchases.

What does "eligible" mean? There are four things to consider when trying to determine what point structure your purchase will qualify for:

  • American Express relies on merchant codes to issue you points.  For example, you might be buying a brisket taco at Buc-ee's, but the store codes as a gas station rather than a restaurant, so you will not earn 7x points. 
  • Any item you return is not an eligible purchase. If you return an item, AmEx can take those points back. 
  • In categories like airfare or car rentals, the purchases need to be made directly with the airline (sorry Priceline) or with AmEx travel.
  • In other categories, there are geographical restrictions. For example, gas stations and restaurants only qualify for additional points for purchases made in the U.S. #MAGA

14x points sounds like a lot, but what does that mean? Generally, we value Hilton points at half a penny, making this card effectively a card that earns rates comparable to earning 7%/3.5%/1.5%  cash back in the respective category. We have redeemed points for over a penny each on some occasions though.

How do you determine value? Create a Hilton account if you don't already have one. Search for a hotel you are interested in points, and then do a separate search in cash for the same dates. Let's say a hotel stay was going to cost you $195 a night or 25,000 points. That makes your point value over 0.7 cents each. We'd consider this a good booking. If you see values less than half a cent each, you're probably better off using cash.

Here's an overview of booking rewards with Hilton.

We should probably assign a value to Diamond  status as well. Diamond will net you an additional 50% on all Hilton points earned. Note, this is through Hilton, not a bonus on your AmEx rewards. Discounted hotel rates (typically $5-$10 a night when booking through, 5th night free if you book a stay of 5 nights using points, and complimentary breakfast for 2 at most Hilton properties. You'll also be guaranteed a room if you book at least 48 hours in advance.

And on to the travel credits. Aspire offers three different travel credits you need to take into consideration.

  • $250 in Hilton Resort Credits - Each year you're eligible to receive $250 in statement credits for eligible purchases made directly with Hilton resorts. Think restaurants, spas, etc.
  • $250 Airline Credit - Each year you're eligible to receive $250 in airline incidental travel fees. You must select an airline with AmEx and the credit is only good on that one airline for the year. You can change the airline each year. This is good for things like baggage fees, flight change fees, and inflight entertainment.
  • $100 Property Credit - Book a two night stay at eligible properties and receive a $100 property credit. There are quite a few steps you need to take to claim this one, so read up on terms of how to book.

If you earn 10,000 points a year, the 50% bonus will get you 5,000 additional points, which we value at $25. If you are able to make use of the breakfast for two during four nights, the value there is about $80. Your annual free night should be worth $150 on a mid-tier range, plus you have up-to $600 in credits to enjoy. The math checks out on this one. $750 in benefits > $450 annual fee. That doesn't even take into consideration the value of any base points you earn throughout the year!

Who Should Get It?

Hilton has over 570 worldwide properties. You should almost always be able to find one when you travel. The benefits of Diamond are okay, but not significantly better than gold. If you can make use of the travel credits, and stay at a Hilton at least twice a year, this card is for you. Bonus if you are able to put $5,000 a month on the card for that complimentary night, but there might be better cards to put all of that additional spend on. On the low end of it's rewards earning this card is comparable to the common 1.5% cash back cards, so you aren't losing much, if anything there.

Who Shouldn’t Get it?

The extreme deal seeker. Are you going to book a hotel 100% based on where you can find the absolute lowest price, regardless of benefits? If a hotel is just a place to sleep for you, without any other considerations, a branded hotel credit card probably doesn't make much sense. Skip this card and opt for a cash back or rewards travel card. They will suit you better.

Additionally, if you have Good/Fair/Poor/No Credit  (AKA anything under 720), you probably want to hold off on applying. AmEx is looking for customers with excellent credit with this one. If you're not quite where you want to be credit score wise, check out some products for those that need to build credit.

Final Thoughts

We feel like AmEx shines most with its hotel cards. Both the Hilton and Starwood products are well thought out products that bring good value to savvy users. If you're interested in Hilton and can use the travel credits, pull the trigger. If you're not ready to commit to a card with a $450 annual fee, take a look at the Aspire's little brother, the Ascend.

Aspire® Card Highlights

  • $450 Annual Fee
  • Earn 14X points for charges with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 7X points for eligible flights, car rentals, and restaurants.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Terms Apply
  • Apply Now

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Hilton Honors Business Card

  • $95 Annual Fee
  • Earn 12X points for charges with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 6X points for charges at eligible restaurants, gas stations,flights, car rental, and wireless services.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Terms Apply

Hilton Honors Ascend Card

  • $95 Annual Fee
  • Earn 12X points for charges with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 6X points for charges at eligible U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Terms Apply

Hilton Honors Credit Card

  • $0 Annual Fee
  • Earn 7X  Points per dollar of eligible purchases directly with Hilton properties
  • Earn 5X Points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Points for all other eligible purchases.