Who is This Credit Card Best For?
Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain
Hits the road often, whether for work or play
Loves to explore places and experience new things
Frequently shops with a particular merchant and wants to be rewarded for their loyalty
Surpass is Hilton’s middle-tier credit card and as such, it can be worth getting even if you are only a fairweather Hilton fan because it gives you some airport lounge access. If you’re a semi-regular traveler who doesn’t want to pay for a premium airline credit card but likes airport lounges, this is a good deal.
If you stay at Hilton hotels regularly and like the Honors program’s benefits, you’ll find value in this card, too. New cardholders are automatically upgraded to Hilton Honors Member Gold status, which means more Hilton perks and a higher points earning rate. However, if you’re looking for a card that truly offers the best rewards for frequent travelers, consider a non-Hilton option that is more flexible and rewards both airline and hotel purchases heavily.
Priority Pass Select airport lounge access
High rewards earning rate
Free weekend night rewards
Complimentary Hilton Honors Gold Status upgrade
Lack of clear reward night costs
Lowest average point valuation than some other hotel programs
- Priority Pass Select airport lounge access: This isn’t an airline-branded credit card, but you can still enjoy airport lounges in the Priority Pass Select network for free 10 times each year. If you’re able to use that benefit, it’s a great offering, considering an annual Priority Pass membership with 10 visits a year costs $299 upfront.
- High rewards earning rate: The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass card earns significantly more points for Hilton spending than the basic Hilton Amex card, and still gives you bonus points for everyday gas, grocery, and restaurant purchases.
- Free weekend night rewards: You get one free weekend night when you spend at least $15,000 in a calendar year.
- Complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status upgrade: You’ll immediately be eligible for a higher points earning rate when you pay to stay at Hilton properties. Plus, the status gives you a few perks (more details below).
- Annual fee: The $95 annual fee is not out of line with other travel rewards credit cards. But those who don’t take advantage of the airport lounge access or spend at least $15,000 a year on the card (enough to another free hotel night) would be better off with the no-annual-fee Hilton Honors American Express card.
- Lack of clear reward night costs: Hilton changes the pricing of reward nights all the time depending on demand and other factors. So there’s no award-night chart for Honors points—you just have to check how many points a given hotel requires for the nights you want to stay there. That makes it harder to evaluate the value of the points and the card.
- Lowest average point valuation than some other hotel programs: Even taking into consideration the changing points-price of award nights, it’s clear that Hilton Honors points don’t get you free rooms as quickly as competing programs do. More on that in the Redeeming Rewards section below.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Welcome Offer
If you spend $2,000 with this card in the first three months, you’ll earn 125,000 Hilton Honors points. Now, 125,000 points sounds like a lot compared to travel rewards cards that are currently giving new cardholders 50,000-60,000 bonus points for a similar spend requirement, but Hilton points aren’t worth much (more on this below), so you’ll need more of them to earn free nights than you would with other rewards programs.
We calculate that this welcome offer may be worth about $537 when points are redeemed for hotel stays—which is still a good deal compared to the annual fee, but maybe not as much as it might seem when you just look at the six-figure points bonus.
The welcome offer is not available to new applicants who have or have had this card or the former Hilton Honors Ascend Card before. The number of other American Express cards you’ve previously opened and closed will also factor into your eligibility.
Earning Points & Rewards
If you stay at Hilton hotels often, you’ll rack up points really fast with this card. You’ll earn 12 points per $1 spent on Hilton purchases, and those points are on top of a base of points you’ll earn by staying as a Hilton Honors Gold Status member. The base point earning rate for Gold Status members is 18 points per $1 spent on Hilton stays (or 9 points per $1 at Tru and Home2). You’d only earn 10 points per $1 spent on Hilton stays if you didn’t have elite status.
This means if you book a $1,000 hotel stay using your Hilton Honors Surpass card, you’ll earn 30,000 points: 18,000 points for being a Gold Status Hilton Honors Member + 12,000 points by paying with this Amex card.
Book all reservations directly with the hotel. If you use your card through a third-party travel website or travel agency, the purchase won’t be eligible for the top Hilton Honors Bonus Points earnings rate.
Everyday purchases will earn a good number of points, too. You’ll get 6 points per $1 spent at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and then 3 points per $1 on everything else. There’s no limit on the number of points you can earn, no blackout dates, and points don’t expire.
You’ll probably get the most value from your points by using them for hotel stays, which cost 5,000 to 95,000 points per night. The final cost of a standard or premium room reservation will vary based on seasonality, location, and availability at each hotel. You can also book a hotel reservation with a combination of reward points and money in 1,000 point increments, starting at 5,000 points.
Keep in mind that Hilton Honors points are not as valuable as points in other hotel programs. The Balance found the average value of Honors points is a meager 0.43 cents apiece, the lowest value among all the hotel loyalty programs we evaluate. Several other major hotel rewards programs offer points worth at least 1 cent each.
Hilton Honors points can also pay for:
- Experiences (i.e.concerts, sporting events, historic tours, travel excursions, and unique activities)
- Hilton resort activities (i.e. dinners, spa treatments, and golf reservations)
- Shopping on Amazon.com
- Rental cars with partner companies Alamo, Enterprise, or National
- Charity donations
Transferring Points to Travel Partners
Hilton Honors points can be transferred to six U.S. airlines (American Airlines, Delta, United, Frontier, Alaska, and Hawaiian Airlines) and to 32 international airlines, but you’ll need an average of at least 8 Honors points to get 1 point in the transfer partner’s program. This is clearly not a good use of your points, but it’s good to know your options.
How to Get the Most Out of This Card
Spend $2,000 as soon as you can to lock in those welcome offer bonus points. Strive to spend at least $15,000 in the first year to get a free weekend reward night, too. Use all 10 free airport lounge passes throughout the year, too, as that benefit makes up for this card’s annual fee.
Above all, only redeem your points for hotel stays. Because of the low points valuation and the fact that most of the redemption options outside of Hilton hotels are not great value, we recommend pairing this card with another general travel, airline, or cash-back card to maximize your rewards potential.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card’s Excellent Perks
This card has the following benefits that we’ve have deemed superior to the standard benefits typically offered by travel rewards cards.
- Hilton Honors complimentary Gold status: Cardholders are automatically upgraded to this status, which receives more points when you pay for a Hilton stay and offers a fifth night free when you book a stay of five nights or more using points.
- Free weekend night rewards: In addition to the welcome offer, if you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases in a calendar year, you can receive a Free Weekend Night Reward that can be redeemed for one standard, double-occupancy room at a Hilton property.
- Priority Pass Select: Enroll your card in the Priority Pass Select program and get 10 complimentary visits each year to participating airport lounges.
- Baggage insurance plan: You’re covered for replacement costs up to $1,250 per covered individual, per trip for a lost checked or carry-on bag when trip transportation was paid in full with this card.
- Travel accident insurance: Get accidental death and dismemberment coverage up to $100,000 for you and your family while traveling on a plane, train, ship, or bus when the entire fare has been charged to this card. Terms vary by state.
- Insurance for stolen or damaged purchases
- Extended warranty
- Purchase return protection
- Rental car collision insurance (secondary to your own policy)
- Free two-day shipping on select online purchases via ShopRunner
- 24/7 roadside assistance hotline
- Global travel assistance hotline
According to J.D. Power, American Express ranks No. 2 for customer satisfaction among credit card issuers, scoring 838 out of 1,000 points in the 2019 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study. The company’s mobile app and online experience also rank No. 2 in another J.D. Power 2019 study.
Besides American Express’s excellent customer service, you get a free tool called MyCreditGuide. It gives you access to your TransUnion VantageScore 3.0 and provides credit report monitoring tools.
The MyCreditGuide tool can help you spot fraud. For instance, if you get a notification that your credit report has changed and you know you haven’t recently opened any new accounts yourself, you can take that as a signal to check your report for fraudulent activity.
If your Hilton Honors American Express Surpass card has been compromised, or your card is lost, instantly lock your account via your online cardholder account. The freeze will automatically lift after seven days unless you remove it first. Lost or stolen cards will be replaced for free.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass’s Fees
This card charges a standard array of transaction and penalty fees, plus a $95 annual fee. The annual fee is worth the value of many benefits, but only if you use them. If you don’t think you will, but you’d still like to earn Hilton Honors points, you might be better off with the Hilton Honors American Express card, which doesn’t charge an annual fee.