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I will be the first to admit that usually I’m not a big fan of co-branded cards, but for every rule there is an exception, and that exception is the American Express Hilton Aspire card. It is flat out packed with perks that make spending a hefty $450 on an annual fee a no-brainer. In fact…through the rest 2020, Amex has made using those perks much easier to use. In fact, if you use the perks the right way, you’ll end up WAY ahead on value.
- 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after $4,000 in eligible purchases
- Free Weekend first year and after account anniversary
- 14X Hilton Bonus Points at Hilton properties
- 7X on flights directly with the airline, amextravel.com, car rentals, and restaurants
- 3X on all other purchases
- $250 in Hilton Resort Credits at Hilton Resorts each card year
- June through August 2020 this credit can be used at restaurants, including takeout and delivery
- Enjoy complimentary Diamond status with your Hilton Honors Aspire Card.
- Priority Pass select
- you + two guests
- $100 Hilton On property credit at select resorts ( booked via hiltonhonors.com/aspirecard
- $450 annual fee.
Analysis of these benefits
You can usually buy Hilton points for 1/2 cent throughout the year, and this will be the valuation we apply to them. At that valuation, I think it really only makes sense to use the card when staying at Hilton Resorts if you have other cards like the Amex Gold. A quick break down of my thinking
- Limited time 12x at Supermarkets
- This is effectively $0.06 back in the form of Hilton Points
- Amex Gold earns 4x and I value Amex points at $0.02 a piece, so 8 cents back
- 7x on Restaurants is effectively 3.5c back in Hilton Points
- Amex Gold earns 4x at $0.02 or 8 cents back
- 7x on Airlines and Amex Travel or 3.5c back in Hilton Points
- Amex Gold earns 3x back or 6c back
However…at Hilton Properties you’ll earn 24x back, or 12c in the form of Hilton Points
- 14x on the card
- Card also gives you Diamond status which earns 10x
Here’s a little tip: if you concurrently keep an Amex Platinum in your wallet you can book via Fine Hotels and Resorts, and pay with Aspire. That will max out your earn rates and benefits – it may also trigger the resort credit. Unreal stacking opportunity.
There are 5 specific perks of the card that make it totally worth the $450 fee. I’d like to break those down in greater detail.
1) A free Weekend Night Certificate
This can be used at pretty much any property in the world and is credited to your account within 8-14 weeks of account opening. You’ll get another certificate each and every year you keep your card. Whether you’re looking to add an extra night to a weekend trip, check out your local Hilton property and staycay, the certificate can add a lot of value to a stay. Especially when teamed with the aforementioned Diamond status – a free night with executive lounge access, an upgrade, and free breakfast? Yes, please.
2) 150k Hilton Honors Welcome Bonus
Amex is offering a welcome bonus of 150k bonus after $4k spend in 3 months. 150k points is an all-time high. We utilized just 56k a night to stay at the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok which was an incredible property in the heart of the city. Team this welcome bonus with the weekend night and you’ve almost got yourself a 4 night stay at an incredible 5 star hotel in one of the Asia’s coolest cities.
At a 1/2 cent valuation, you’re getting $750 worth of points.
3) Top Tier – Diamond Status
If you are a Hilton loyalist ( forget about the 30 stays/60 nights a year normally required ) this perk makes your life much easier and rewarding. But even if you’re just planning a week or two vacation in the next 12 months, having Top Tier status can save you more than the annual fee alone. With room upgrades, guaranteed executive lounge, and free breakfast – the $450 fee could be paid back to you in just a week’s vacation.
Don’t forget that Diamond status also means you get a 5th night free on award stays. This will come in very handy if you’re looking to take a relaxing beach holiday, or perhaps even cross the Maldives off your list.
4) – $250 Hilton Resort Credit.
The incredibly crazy thing about this credit – not only does it take care of incidentals charged to the room, it applies to the room rate itself. You can go here to search which hotels qualify for the resort credit and remember the credit is based on your “award year” which is determined by when you signed up for Hilton Honors.
One of my favorite hotels is the Hotel Del Coronado outside San Diego. It’s a legendary hotel and carries hefty charges per night ( $350+). It also just so happens to be a Hilton Resort ( part of the Curio Collection ) and I could use this resort credit to offset a weekend stay there. In fact, I could use my Free Weekend night and team it with this credit to get a huge savings ( plus free breakfast )
Also…as I mentioned in the benefits break down, you can use this credit toward restaurants and delivery service for a limited time.
5) $250 Annual Airline Incidental Fee Credit – per calendar year
Each year ( Jan 1st to Dec 31st ) you’ll get $250 back on purchases made with your selected airline that Amex codes as incidental.
Since we first recommended this card, the Amex Airline Incidental Fee Credit has gotten harder to trigger. It used to be that gift cards would suffice, but now Amex has tightened the classifications. With that said, for us, traveling frequently with a pet, eats up the incidental fees quite quickly.
If you were to apply now and get approved you’d actually get $250 between now and December 31st, and then a fresh $250 for 2019. That’s $500 right there in the first 12 months of card membership. $250 in 2019, another $250 in 2020.
As I said in the intro, I’m not a huge co-branded credit card advocate, but this is one of the very few exceptions, and personally I think it’s an outstanding card chalked full of benefits that will come in handy when you start to travel again.
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