American Express Hilton HHonors Card and HHonors Surpass Card Review
Updated March 27, 2017.
Amex Hilton HHonors Card
Amex Hilton HHonors Surpass Card
- Best Use of Hilton HHonors points: Hilton HHonors points are best used for Hilton Worldwide hotels, including Conrad, Waldorf Astoria Collection, Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites.
- Other Benefits: (1) Amex Offers - you receive savings in form of statement credit or earn bonus MR points on select merchants when using your Amex card; you need to manually add an offer to your Amex card to be eligible for savings or bonus, and unlike other savings/bonus programs, you don't need to shop through a certain portal. (2) ShopRunner membership for free 2-day shipping with select merchants. (3) Entertainment Access including American Express Presale and Premium Access (Dining Access).
- Other Facts: American Express Hilton card holders can use AXON rates at Category 5-10 hotels when redeeming points for a stay of 4 nights. AXON used to be a great feature of these cards; however, after the HHonors' huge devaluation in 2013, AXON actually becomes more expensive than standard awards in regular seasons and only presents a discount in peak seasons. In May 2013, Amex also changed the bonus structures on these cards and if you want to compare them with the old structures you can visit our old review (not updated). In November 2013, Amex finally made Gold Status complimentary to Surpass Card instead of the $20K annual spending requirement to align with Citi Hilton Reserve's offer.
The value of Hilton HHonors points varies greatly and general consensus is that it will not exceed 1 cent/point . As analyzed in the our blog article, after the March 2013 devaluation, we are now valuing one HHonors point less than half cent. Thus, unless you are working on topping off your account for a certain redemption, we won't recommend these cards for general spending like we used to, since it will be a stretch to value points as high as 0.7 cent to be able to beat FIA Fidelity Amex's 2% cash back.
Amex HHonors vs. Amex HHonors Surpass: The Surpass card costs $75 more, but returns extra 5 points on Hilton, extra 1 point on gas/groceries/dining, and comes with complimentary Hilton Gold and the potential Hilton Diamond after $40K. For those who value Hilton Gold more than $75 or have big spending on Hilton (you do the math), upgrading to Surpass Card is a no-brainer.
Amex HHonors Surpass vs. Citi HHonors Reserve: With the introduction of the Reserve Card in 2012, Citi has Amex beaten in almost every respect. After March 2013 devaluation, the gap between the two grew even bigger. In November 2013, Amex finally made Hilton Gold complimentary so the gap became a little smaller, but we still think the Reserve is a better card in general. Yes, the Reserve Card costs an extra $20 in annual fee ($95 vs. $75). Yes, the Reserve Card has 2 less points for Hilton spending (Amex pumped Hilton bonus from 9x to 12x in November 2012) and it has 5x airfare and rentals cars while the Surpass Card has 6x gas, groceries, and dining. However, these are all minor differences, especially after the devaluation. The Reserve's signup bonus (two weekend nights) is much bigger than the Surpass's - 50,000 points now only means about "half night" at Category 10 hotels. In addition, the Reserve gives you a free weekend night after $10K spending, which can easily be worth hundreds of dollars; this feature becomes more attractive after the devaluation - think this as an extra 9.5x bonus since now a Category 10 hotels requires as much as 95,000 points a night. Finally, combining waived foreign transaction fees, embedded EVM chip, and wider acceptance abroad, the Reserve Visa simply edges out Amex Surpass when it comes to foreign spending.
After the March 2013 devaluation of HHonors program, we won't recommend these cards for general spending. While using these cards for bonus categories may still make sense for some, especially considering the potential Hilton Diamond status, we suggest consumers to take a look at Citi Hilton Reserve before making the decision.