Who Is This Credit Card Best For?
Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain See more cards
Hits the road often, whether for work or play See more cards
Loves to explore places and experience new things See more cards
Frequently shops with a particular merchant and wants to be rewarded for their loyalty See more cards
Surpass is Hilton’s middle-tier credit card and, as such, it can be worth getting even if you are only a fair-weather 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 generously.
Priority Pass Select airport lounge access
High rewards earning rate
Free weekend night reward
Complimentary Hilton Honors Gold Status upgrade
Low average point valuation
- 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 reward: If you spend at least $15,000 in a calendar year, you’ll earn a free weekend night to use at a Hilton property. That should be an easy-to-reach benefit if you charge $1,250 to this card each month, on average.
- 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 extra hotel perks such as room upgrades when available and free continental breakfast. Then, if you spend $40,000 on the card in a calendar year you’ll be upgraded to Diamond Status through the end of the next calendar year.
- Annual fee: The $95 annual fee is not out of line for a midlevel travel rewards credit card, and is an easily recouped cost if you enjoy what this card offers. 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 earn a free hotel night) would be better off with the no-annual-fee Hilton Honors American Express card.
- Low average point valuation: The Balance found the average value of Honors points is a low 0.45 cent each, while several major hotel rewards programs offer points worth at least 1 cent each. It’s great that you can earn so many extra points with this card, and that helps make up the value difference. Just be mindful of this when you see high numbers of bonus points or the cost of award nights.
If you spend $2,000 with this card in the first three months, you’ll earn 150,000 Hilton Honors points.
We calculate that this welcome offer may be worth about $675 when points are redeemed for hotel stays—maybe not as much as it might seem when you look only at the six-figure points bonus. That’s because Hilton points are not worth as much, on average, compared with other hotel loyalty rewards (more about this below).
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 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.
The Balance found Hilton points are most valuable when used to book standard hotel rooms in particular. It’ll cost about 63,000 points each night, on average, to make such an award night reservation, according to our research. To learn more about how this compares to other hotel program rewards, see "What Are Credit Card Points and Miles Worth?"
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
Hilton Honors points can be transferred to six U.S. airlines (American Airlines, Delta, United, Frontier, Alaska, and Hawaiian Airlines) and to more than 30 international airlines, but you’ll need an average of at least eight Hilton Honors points to get 1 point in the transfer airline 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 and free night. Strive to spend at least $15,000 in the first year to get a second 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 the redemption options outside of Hilton hotels are not of great value, we recommend pairing this card with a general travel, airline, or cash-back rewards card to maximize your rewards potential.
In addition to the top benefits we’ve already mentioned, this card also offers this standout travel card perk:
- Auto Rental Insurance: When paying with this card, you can decline the damage insurance for rental cards and be covered by Amex in eligible territories for damage and theft.
- Insurance for stolen or damaged purchases
- Extended warranties
- Free two-day shipping on select online purchases via ShopRunner
- Global travel assistance hotline
J.D. Power ranked American Express No. 1 for customer satisfaction among national credit card issuers. American Express scored 838 out of 1,000 points in the 2020 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study. The average score was 810, so Amex had a very strong showing.
Besides American Express’s excellent customer service, you can use a free tool called MyCreditGuide. It gives you access to your TransUnion VantageScore 3.0 and provides credit report monitoring tools.
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, including next-day free shipping.
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 of its 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.