What's The Best Hilton Honors Credit Card For Me?

What's The Best Hilton Honors Credit Card For Me?

We've written dozens of articles on the Hilton Honors program, including where the cheapest Hilton redemptions in the world are, how to earn elite status for life, and more. If you're a frequent Hilton guest, you may be thinking of getting a Hilton credit card to earn more Hilton Honors points, receive complimentary elite status, or other benefits. But, which one is right for you? We'll compare all four Hilton credit cards in this handy guide.

What's The Best Hilton Honors Credit Card For Me?

As mentioned, there are four Hilton Honors cards; three personal cards and one business card. Personal cards include the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American ExpressHilton Honors American Express Surpass Card, and Hilton Honors American Express Card. American Express also issues the Amex Hilton Honors Business Card.

Let's compare each card by major category to see which card wins out!

Sign Up Bonus

I used my sign up bonus from my Aspire card at the Wadorf Astoria in Maui!

I used my sign up bonus from my Aspire card at the Wadorf Astoria in Maui!

A big sign up bonus is a major reason why someone would want to open a new credit card (I know from experience,) but you must weigh the sign-up bonus with the other benefits of the card, more specifically, the spend requirement to get that bonus, in order to make the right decision for your family.

  • The Aspire card features a 150,000 Hilton Honors point bonus for spending $4,000 in 3 months. That's a $750 value based on our research.
  • The Surpass card earns 125,000 Hilton Honors points when you spend $2,000 in 3 months, worth $625.
  • The Hilton Honors American Express card earns 75,000 points for spending $1,000 in 3 months, worth $375 by our valuation.
  • The Amex Hilton Honors Business Card also features a 125,000 point bonus when you spend $3,000 in 3 months, worth $525.

Winner: The Aspire card, which has the highest overall sign up bonus of 150,000 points. However, it also has the highest required spending to meet the bonus requirements. If we were going for best overall per $1,000 in spending threshold, the Hilton Honors American Express card wins, with only $1,000 in spending to earn 75,000 points.

Annual Fee

My Aspire's annual fee got me a free weekend night certificate, which I used in Mexico at Waldorf-Astoria El Pedregal in Cabo!

My Aspire's annual fee got me a free weekend night certificate, which I used in Mexico at Waldorf-Astoria El Pedregal in Cabo!

The annual fee is an important consideration when deciding which Hilton credit card is right for you. Since, ideally, you'd want to keep the credit card year after year for the benefits the card provides, a low annual fee is best for budget reasons. However, as you'll see in later categories, a high annual fee may provide you with more benefits than what you pay.

  • The Aspire card has the highest annual fee, at $450 a year. That's among the highest annual fees out there, but I love all the added benefits that come with the price.
  • The Surpass and Business cards have a $95 annual fee.
  • The Amex Hilton Honors Business Card has no annual fee.

Winner: The Amex Hilton Honors Business Card with no annual fee is the clear winner in this category. However, each of the cards that do have an annual fee also have added benefits that may make the annual fee make sense for your family's travels.

Earning Hilton Points

You can earn up to 14x on Hilton purchases with these credit cards.

You can earn up to 14x on Hilton purchases with these credit cards.

When it comes time to use the card, you'll obviously want to rack up as many Hilton Honors points as possible.

  • The Aspire card earns 14x on Hilton spend, 7x on airline spend, rental car spend, and U.S. restaurants, and 3x on everything else. That's up to 7% back on spending, based on our valuation of Hilton points of .5 cents per point.
  • The Surpass card earns 12x on Hilton purchases, 6x on U.S. restaurants, U.S. grocery stores, and U.S. gas stations, and 3x on everything else. That's up to 6% back on spending.
  • The Business card also earns 12x on Hilton purchases, earns 6x at U.S. restaurants, airline spend, rental car spend, wireless telephone services, and shipping, and 3x on everything else. That's up to 6% back on spending, as well.
  • The no annual fee Hilton card offers 7x on Hilton purchases, 5x at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, and U.S. grocery stores, and 3x on everything else. That's up to 3.5% back on purchases.

Winner: For pure earning, the Aspire card earns the most, but I really like the Surpass and Business cards' return on spending relative to their annual fees. The no-annual-fee card also returns a lot back to cardholders for no annual fee. 

Hilton Elite Status

Diamond Status got me an upgrade in Hawaii to this view!

Diamond Status got me an upgrade in Hawaii to this view!

One major reason for applying for a Hilton credit card is that many of them offer elite status with Hilton just for having the credit card. We detailed Diamond status in its own detailed post, but Gold status comes with many benefits as well, including free breakfast for you and a guest.

  • The Aspire credit card offers free Diamond status for cardmembers, which is the top tier Hilton offers.
  • The Surpass and Business credit cards both offer free Gold status.
  • The no-annual-fee card offers free Silver status.

Winner: The Aspire card. Diamond status has proven to be very useful for my travels, but Gold status from the Surpass/Business cards is great for the free breakfast benefit. Silver status isn't very useful, in my opinion.

Travel Benefits

This is where the Aspire card really excels compared to the other Hilton cards.

  • There's a free weekend night certificate when you are approved for the card, plus every cardmember year afterward.
  • There's a $250 Hilton resort credit every cardmember year, as well as a $250 airline fee credit.
  • There's secondary rental car insurance, baggage loss and damage insurance, and travel insurance (new for 2020!) Plus, the card features Priority Pass membership, so you can access lounges when you travel.
  • The Aspire card also boasts no foreign transaction fees.

The Surpass and Business versions of the card offer some of same benefits as the Aspire card, but they can take some extra effort to earn.

  • Weekend certificates are earned after spending $15,000 in purchases on the card (Business allows you to earn another after an additional $45,000 as well.)
  • Both the Surpass and Business cards feature secondary rental car insurance and no foreign transaction fees.
  • Both cards feature 10 Priority pass lounge visits a year.

The no-fee Hilton card features no foreign transaction fees.

Winner: Aspire, by a mile.

So, Who Wins?

Well, it depends. For me, who stays at least 10 nights a year at Hilton properties, many of them paid for by certificates or points, the Aspire card makes a lot of sense for me. Others that travel less frequently, or don't want a large annual fee, may consider the Surpass or Business versions of the cards. The no-fee Hilton card is hard to recommend beyond the initial sign up bonus. What's your pick? Let us know in the comments!