The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is one of the best credit cards on the market, and it definitely deserves its title of the Champion of Hotel Credit Cards.

The card has one of the highest annual fees for hotel credit cards, but all the benefits and perks that come with it make the annual fee well worth paying year after year. Even if you aren’t loyal to Hilton or any other hotel chain, there’s still a place for it in your credit card portfolio.

Welcome Bonus

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (see rates and fees) offers a welcome bonus of 150,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months.

The welcome bonus is available to new cardholders only. However, you are still eligible for the bonus if you have, or have had in the past, any of the other Hilton Amex cards, including the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card.

If you are wondering what 150,000 points are worth and what you can use them on, here are a couple of examples. Some Hiltons hotels outside of the United States can be booked for as few as 5,000 points per night, but 20,000 to 60,000 points per night for a standard room is a more realistic number, especially for U.S. properties. There are, of course, the luxury properties that cost 95,000 to 120,000 points per night, but these are outliers and aren’t the norm.

A night at this lovely Hilton Berlin goes for 30,000 to 40,000 points, and the gorgeous Hilton Naples in Florida requires 60,000 points per night. Remember that you get the fifth night free when booking four nights with points as an elite member. Hilton doesn’t charge resort fees on reward stays.

Rewards Earning Details

This card has a generous earning structure:

  • 14X points per dollar on eligible Hilton hotel purchases
  • 7X points on eligible rental cars, at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel
  • 3X points on all other purchases

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card Benefits

The best reason to get this card and keep it long-term are the benefits and perks that come with it. Here is a rundown of the most valuable benefits.

Hilton Honors Diamond Status

The card comes with automatic Hilton Honors Diamond status. This is Hilton’s top-tier status that includes the following benefits:

  • Free breakfast and executive lounge access (or a food and beverage credit in lieu of free breakfast)
  • Room upgrades, including to standard suites (subject to availability)
  • Late check-out (subject to availability)
  • 100% points bonus on paid stays

Annual Free Weekend Night Reward

You get one weekend night award every year, including in the first year as a cardholder. The award certificate, valid for one year, is issued within eight to 12 weeks after opening the card account and then each account anniversary.

The free weekend night award can be used at almost any property (with a few exceptions), including some of the most expensive hotels and resorts in Hilton’s portfolio. The weekend includes Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The reward can be redeemed for one weekend night when standard rooms are available. You have to call Hilton to redeem the free night award certificates.

You can also earn an additional free weekend night award after you spend $60,000 on eligible purchases on the card in a calendar year.

$250 Resort Credit

During each year as a cardmember, you are eligible to receive statement credits of up to $250 on your Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card for any eligible purchases made directly at participating resorts. A statement credit is automatically applied about eight to 12 weeks after the charges are posted.

Some of the hotels that aren’t called “resorts,” such as the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Breckenridge or the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Park City – The Yarrow, are also eligible for the resort credit. So you don’t have to travel to far-flung destinations to take advantage of this great benefit.

$250 Annual Airline Fee Credit

Similar to other ultra premium Amex cards, the Hilton Aspire card also comes with the annual airline fee credit. The $250 credit is calculated based on the calendar year, not cardmember year.

Don’t forget to designate your preferred airline when you receive the card and then every year in January. The credit can be used for seat selection fees, change and bag fees, and other incidental fees made directly with the airline. The credit doesn’t include airfare purchases.

Complimentary Priority Pass Select Membership

The Priority Pass Select membership gives cardmembers and two guests access to more than 1,300 lounges worldwide. Participating Priority Pass restaurants are excluded. This benefit is especially valuable when traveling internationally or when you have long connections.

$100 Hilton On-Property Credit

Cardmembers get a $100 credit for qualifying charges at participating Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts on two-night minimum paid stays. The booking must be made through a specific site and doesn’t apply to award stays or discounted member rates.

Concierge

American Express Hilton Aspire cardholders get access to a concierge team* that can help with making dinner reservations at hard-to-book restaurants or help you purchase tickets to sought-after events.

Hilton Honors Points Pooling

Hilton allows its program members to combine Hilton Honors points with up to 10 friends or family members for free (for a total of 11 people).

Points & Money Rewards

In addition to using Hilton Honors points to book free nights, you can use a combination of points and cash to book your rooms. This is a great way to pay for rooms when you don’t have enough points to cover an entire stay.

No Foreign Transaction Fees

The card has no foreign transaction fees, so don’t forget to take the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card when traveling outside of the United States.

Amex Offers

Amex Offers can save you hundreds of dollars every year at various retailers, so check them often. From wine to gifts to everyday purchases, Amex Offers give cardmembers significant savings.

ShopRunner Membership

Cardmembers receive a ShopRunner membership, which gets free two-day shipping on eligible items at more than 100 online stores as well as free returns. Remember to enroll in your complimentary membership before shopping online.

Extended Warranty

American Express cardmembers are eligible for extended warranty* protection that provides up to one extra year added to the original manufacturer’s warranty. This applies to warranties of up to five years. Coverage is up to the actual amount charged to your card for the item (up to a maximum of $10,000 per covered purchase with a limit of $50,000 per cardholder per calendar year).

Purchase Protection

Items purchased with the Hilton Aspire card are eligible for the purchase protection* if they’re accidentally damaged, stolen or lost for up to 90 days from the covered purchase date.

Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance

Car rental insurance* provides coverage for damage or theft of a rental vehicle in a covered territory when you use your Aspire card to reserve and pay for the rental.

Trip Delay Insurance

If you purchase round-trip travel entirely with your Hilton Aspire card and encounter delays longer than six hours, the trip delay insurance* will cover eligible additional expenses purchased with your Hilton Aspire card (up to $500 per trip, maximum of two claims per 12 consecutive months).

Trip Cancellation and Interruption Insurance

If you use your Hilton Aspire card to pay for the entire trip, and a covered reason cancels or interrupts the trip, trip cancellation and interruption insurance* will help reimburse the non-refundable expenses purchased with the same card (up to $10,000 per trip and up to $20,000 per card per 12 consecutive months).

Baggage Insurance Plan

The baggage insurance* provides coverage for lost, damaged or stolen baggage when traveling on a common carrier (for example, planes, trains, ships or buses) when the entire fare has been charged to your card.

The card provides coverage for up to $2,000 for checked bags up to a combined maximum of $3,000 for checked and carry-on luggage, in addition to the coverage provided by the common carrier.

There is a $3,000 aggregate limit per trip. New York State residents get a limit of $2,000 per bag for each covered person with a $10,000 aggregate maximum for all covered persons per covered trip.

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Annual Fee

The annual fee is $450, and it’s not waived the first year.

How to Optimize Your Hilton Aspire Card

Why do we call the American Express Hilton Aspire card the champion of credit cards? If you think about all the value this card provides and all the perks that come with it, the value is enormous.

First, let’s talk about the Hilton Honors Diamond status that you’ll enjoy as long you have the card.

The most valuable benefits of the Diamond status include free breakfast, executive lounge access (where available) and room upgrades at check-in. Although an upgrade is not guaranteed, the free breakfast is. The value of the free breakfast varies by location, but if you are staying at some of the higher-end properties, the breakfast can cost more than $50 per person per day.

The annual free weekend night award is uncapped and can be used virtually anywhere in the world, with just a few exceptions. That means that you can use the free night certificate at some of the most expensive properties in the world, where the daily rates far exceed the annual fee of $450, including hotels and resorts in the Maldives, Bora Bora, Tokyo or London.

The $250 annual resort credit will help you cover any on-property charges when staying at a resort, such as resort fees on paid stays (waived on award stays), food and drink and spa charges.

The $250 annual airline fee credit can help you cover seat assignment fees, on-board refreshments and checked bags fees.

Putting aside other benefits, just these two annual credits are worth more than the annual fee of $450.

Priority Pass Select membership can certainly make travel easier and much more pleasant. And the ShopRunner membership provides free shipping at many online retailers. Make sure to enroll in both benefits as soon as you get your Hilton Aspire card in the mail.

Eligibility For Welcome Bonus American Express Application Restrictions

The welcome offer of 150,000 Hilton Honors points is not available to those who currently have or have had the Hilton Aspire Card in the past.

However, it is possible to hold more than one co-branded Hilton card. So you are eligible for the bonus if you’ve had any of the other co-branded Hilton cards, including the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card.

Keep in mind general American Express card application rules. Amex can approve you for no more than two credit cards in a 90-day period, and you can’t hold more than five American Express credit cards at once.

Final Thoughts

Hotel credit cards are often overlooked or are an afterthought. However, if you are ready to get a hotel credit card, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card should be a top contender as it is one of the most rewarding cards currently on the market.

The card’s generous benefits, including the annual credits and the Hilton Honors Diamond status, make it a long-term keeper. You don’t have to be a hardcore Hilton loyalist to get great value from the card. Even if you stay at Hilton properties just a few times a year, a combination of resort credits and the automatic Diamond status can provide lots of value.

*Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions, and limitations apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details.

Extended warranty, purchase protection, and baggage insurance is underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

Trip delay insurance, trip cancellation, trip interruption and cell phone insurance insurance is underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company. Cardholders are responsible for for the costs charged by third party providers when utilizing concierge services.

Car rental loss and damage insurance is underwritten by Amex Assurance Company. Car rental loss and damage insurance is offered through American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc.