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Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card Review


Hulton Honors Surpass Card

Our rating

4.3/5

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

  • Welcome Offer: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Yearly Hilton Cash BackGet up to $200 back each year on eligible Hilton purchases after you use your Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.
  • Hilton Rewards: 12x Hilton Honors points on eligible Hilton purchases
  • Other Rewards: 6x points on eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations; 3 points per $1 on all other eligible  purchases
  • Gold Status Benefit: Complimentary Gold status with card membership — 25% points redemption boost, 5th night free free Wi-Fi and room upgrades
  • Status Upgrade With Qualifying Spend: Automatic upgrade to Honors Diamond status for 1 year when you spend $40,000 in purchases in a calendar year — 50% points redemption boost, guaranteed room availability with 48 hours notice
  • Annual Free Night Award: Free weekend night award when you spend at least $15,000 in purchases in a calendar year
  • Annual Fee: $150
  • Credit Needed: Excellent
  • Terms and conditions apply: see rates & fees

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card is a hotel rewards credit card with a $150 annual fee and a generous rewards program that favors frequent Hilton portfolio guests and people who spend heavily at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations in the United States.

You can redeem Honors points earned with this card for free nights or room upgrades at approximately 4,000 Hilton properties worldwide, convert them to American Express Membership Rewards points, transfer them to select frequent flyer programs, and more.

Hilton Honors Surpass automatically confers Hilton Honors Gold status, a potentially powerful benefit that accelerates points earned at Hilton hotels, allows for flexible check-out times, and gives you a 5th night free on stays of 5 nights or longer. Heavy spenders can move up to Hilton Honors Diamond status, which is even more generous, and even moderate spending ($15,000 per year) qualifies you for a complimentary weekend award night.

Curious about the Hilton Honors Surpass card? Let’s take a closer look at its features, advantages, disadvantages, and overall suitability for frequent and not-so-frequent travelers.


What Sets the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card Apart

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card has a few key selling points worth flagging right away:

  • Excellent Welcome Offer. This card’s limited-time welcome offer is one of the best I’ve seen in the hotel credit cards space. Terms apply — see details below.
  • Great Rewards on Eligible Hilton Purchases. This card earns 12x points on eligible Hilton purchases. That comes on top of the base rate and status-determined bonus rate you’ll also earn on eligible Hilton stays. And with award night redemptions beginning as low as 5,000 points for Category 1 properties, you’ll progress toward free or reduced-price stays faster than you can imagine.
  • Automatic Hilton Honors Gold Status. This card comes with automatic Hilton Honors Gold status as long as your account remains in good standing. See below for more details on Gold status benefits.
  • Transfer Points to Participating Airline Loyalty Programs. If you’re not planning a Hilton stay in the foreseeable future, you can transfer your points to select airline loyalty programs — though not at particularly favorable ratios. Still this is a benefit not afforded many hotel credit card users.
  • Convert Points to Amex Membership Rewards Points. You can also convert your points to American Express Membership Rewards points, which offer a wider range of redemption options (including gift cards) than Hilton Honors points.

Key Features of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card

These are the key features of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card. Note the extremely generous welcome offer, excellent rewards program, and complimentary status (with all the perks and benefits that entails).

Welcome Offer

Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 6 months of Card Membership.

Yearly Cash Back on Hilton Stays

Get up to $200 back each year on eligible Hilton purchases after you use your Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.

Earning Hilton Honors Points

This card has a three-tiered rewards program:

  • Earn 12 Honors points for every $1 you spend at hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Purchases made at gas stationsgrocery stores, and restaurants (all in the U.S. only) earn 6 points per $1 spent.
  • All other eligible purchases earn 3 points per $1 spent.

As long as you have some account activity (earning or redeeming points) within any given 12-month period, your points never expire.

Redeeming Hilton Honors Points

You can redeem your accumulated points for free hotel nights, with no blackout dates, at about 4,000 Hilton hotels worldwide. Point redemptions start at a minimum of 5,000 points for Category 1 hotels, which typically cost $100 per night or less.

You can also redeem using Hilton’s Points & Money Rewards feature, which allows you to combine points and cash. Points & Money Rewards redemptions start at 5,000 points and rise in 1,000-point increments.

The number of points required for redemption increases with hotel category, as well as overall room demand, seasonality, individual property, and other factors. For instance, Category 10 hotels (the highest tier) require at least 70,000 points to redeem, and sometimes as much as 95,000.

Point values vary depending on how they’re redeemed, but are generally worth $0.005 to $0.01 at redemption (sometimes more or less). Hilton also allows you to use points for room upgrades, subject to availability, at roughly the same point-to-dollar conversion rate. These terms are all subject to change, so check the Hilton Honors program’s terms and conditions for up-to-date information.

Convert Honors Points to Frequent Flyer Miles

Hilton partners with a limited number of airline frequent flyer programs, including American Airlines AAdvantage and United MileagePlus. You can convert your accumulated Honors points into frequent flyer miles, usually at a rate of 10,000 Honors points to 1,000 or 1,500 miles.

It’s worth noting upfront that this is a far lower rate than some competing hotel loyalty and general-purpose travel rewards credit card programs, some of which offer 1-to-1 transfers.

Convert to Honors Points to American Express Membership Rewards Points

Hilton also allows you to convert your accumulated Honors points to Membership Rewards points, American Express’ in-house loyalty currency.

The minimum conversion amount is 1,500 Honors points, which earns 1,000 Membership Rewards points. This is clearly a better deal than frequent flyer mile conversions.

Automatic Hilton Honors Gold Status

As long as you remain a cardholder in good standing, you’re automatically granted Gold status in Hilton’s loyalty program. Gold status boosts your point earnings on Hilton and partner property stays by 25%, earns you a 5th night free on stays of 5 nights or longer, and permits flexible check-out times.

Upgrade to Diamond Status With $40,000 Annual Spend

When you spend at least $40,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year, you earn an automatic upgrade to Diamond status. Diamond status comes with all the benefits of Gold status, plus a point earnings boost of 50% for all Hilton and partner stays and guaranteed room availability when you book at least 48 hours in advance.

Complimentary Award Night With $15,000 Annual Spend

When you spend at least $15,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year, you get a complimentary award night at any participating Hilton property. Terms apply.

Complimentary Priority Pass Select Membership

When you open your account and enroll in Priority Pass Select, an airport lounge membership, you’ll enjoy discounted access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide. You get 10 complimentary lounge visits per year. The annual membership fee is waived as long as your card account remains open and in good standing.

Lounge visits above the annual complimentary allowance cost $27 apiece. That typically equates to a discount of 50% or more. The payment is automatically charged to your credit card account at entry. Terms apply.

Important Fees

This card comes with a $150 annual fee. There is no foreign transaction fee.

Credit Required

This card requires good to excellent credit.


Advantages of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card

Here’s why you should seriously consider applying for the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card.

  • Excellent Point Earning Rate on Hilton Stays. Hilton Honors Surpass earns a very impressive 12 points per $1 spent at Hilton portfolio properties. If you spend heavily within the Hilton portfolio, Surpass is probably your fastest ticket to award night redemptions.
  • Broad 6x Categories. This card’s 6x categories are very broad, creating a potentially lucrative opportunity for people who use it outside the Hilton universe. If you spend heavily on gas (definitely a possibility for Hilton-loyal road warriors), restaurants (also a traveler-friendly category), or supermarkets, Surpass is worth a closer look.
  • Excellent Welcome Offer. This card has an excellent welcome offer worth up to 26 award nights at the lowest-tier Hilton properties. That’s one of the industry’s better welcome offers, period.
  • Automatic Hilton Honors Gold Status. As long as your Hilton Honors Surpass account remains open and in good standing, you automatically enjoy Gold status. That’s good for a 25% boost in your base point earnings at Hilton hotels, as well as a free 5th night on stays of 5 nights or longer (a huge perk on longer vacations). Some competing cards don’t confer frequent guest or loyalty status, while others require you to spend a certain amount (often in excess of $10,000 per year) before you qualify.
  • Priority Pass Is Great for Frequent Flyers. If you’re a frequent Hilton guest, there’s a good chance you also fly regularly. By offering 10 complimentary entries annually to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide, this card’s Priority Pass Select benefit makes traveling by air a little more pleasant. Though many airline cards offer airport lounge benefits, comparatively few hotel rewards cards do. Note that enrollment is required to enjoy this benefit.
  • Complimentary Weekend Award Night for Moderate to Heavy Spenders. If you can spend at least $15,000 in a calendar year, you’ll earn a complimentary weekend award night at any participating Hilton property. It’s hard to put a value on this benefit, but it’s safe to say it’s worth at least $100 per occurrence – and possibly much more if you’re able to convert at a pricier Hilton hotel or resort.
  • Good Deal on Membership Rewards Conversions. Hilton Honors Surpass allows you to convert your Honors points to Membership Rewards points at a 1.5-to-1 ratio. If you rack up points on this card faster than you can redeem them at Hilton properties, this is a great way to use them up. Plus, individual Honors points aren’t worth as much as some competing loyalty currencies  – the redemption value is typically well below $0.01 per point. In some circumstances, redeeming for cash or merchandise via Membership Rewards may actually be a better deal.
  • Solid Baseline Earning Rate. This card’s baseline earning rate – unlimited 3 Honors points per $1 spent on everything – is better than many travel rewards cards, whose baseline rates top out at 1 to 2 points per $1 spent. In light of Hilton’s low minimum redemption threshold of 5,000 Honors points for Category 1 hotels, this earning floor is appealing for frugal travelers looking to minimize time to redemption.
  • Great Hotel Selection. The Hilton portfolio has nearly 4,000 hotels and resorts around the world – an incredible variety that some competing brands can’t match.
  • Points Don’t Expire. As long as you have some account activity within any rolling 12-month period, your Honors points never expire. This is great news for cardholders who go months without using their cards or staying at Hilton properties.

Disadvantages of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card

  • Charges an Annual Fee. This card comes with a $150 annual fee. That’s not ideal for frugal travelers, particularly when the Hilton Honors Card from American Express offers comparable (though somewhat less generous) benefits with no annual fee. If you don’t stay at Hilton properties very often, that card – or a general-purpose annual-fee-free travel card – is a better deal.
  • Poor Frequent Flyer Transfer Options. This card’s frequent flyer transfers offer a uniformly poor value. You generally need to exchange 10 Honors points to get 1 partner mile, with a 10,000-point minimum. Needless to say, this is a much worse deal than competing cards, such as Chase Sapphire Preferred, which offers 1-to-1 point-to-mile transfers with select partner airlines.
  • Relatively Low Redemption Values. This card’s rapid point-earning rate is partially offset by the relatively low value of individual Honors points. Though redemption values depend on many factors, including property quality, demand, and seasonality, it’s common for points to clock in well under $0.01 apiece when redeemed for award nights. That’s a much lower rate than some competing hotel loyalty programs, including Marriott Bonvoy.
  • Charges Penalty Interest. This card charges a high penalty interest rate. That’s problematic for cardholders who occasionally fall behind on payments, especially considering penalty interest can remain in effect indefinitely.

How the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card Stacks Up

Before you go ahead and apply for the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card, see how it stacks up against its less generous junior cousin: the Hilton Honors American Express Card. You might decide that Surpass is “too much card” for you — or that it’s just right.

Hilton Honors Amex SurpassHilton Honors Amex
Hilton Rewards12x on all eligible purchases7x on all eligible purchases
Other Bonus Rewards6x on U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, U.S. supermarkets5x on U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, U.S. supermarkets
Base Rewards3x on other eligible purchases3x on other eligible purchases
Convert to Membership Rewards?YesNo
Transfer to Frequent Flyer Programs?YesNo
Elite Status BenefitComplimentary Gold statusComplimentary Silver status
Elite Status UpgradeDiamond status with $40,000 in qualifying annual spendGold status with $20,000 in qualifying annual spend
Airport Lounge Benefit10 complimentary visits per year at Priority Pass loungesNone
Annual Free NightYes, with $15,000 in qualifying annual spendNo
Annual Fee$150$0 

Final Word

At first glance, the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express offers earning potential like almost no other hotel credit card: 12x points at Hilton properties, 6x points in three super common spending categories, and 3x points on everything else. If you’re able to consistently redeem at lower-tier Hilton properties, this card is very valuable indeed.

However, it’s important to recognize that Hilton Honors points’ value varies sharply, depending on how and where they’re redeemed. Generally speaking, they’re worth less than some other loyalty programs’ points, including Marriott’s. If you’re not especially loyal to Hilton and are looking instead for a branded hotel card that offers the most value for your money, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card could be a better choice.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express, please visit this rates and fees page.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he's not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.