An attractive mid-range credit card for travelers who prefer Hilton-branded hotels, the Hilton Surpass offers many benefits at a modest annual fee. It is one of three Hilton-branded consumer credit cards offered by American Express.
Arguably the most compelling feature of the Hilton Surpass card is instant Hilton Gold status, which typically requires 40 nights or 20 stays (in 2021, Hilton has lowered this requirement to 20 nights or 10 stays). Gold membership benefits include daily dining credits at participating hotels, potential room upgrades, and a fifth consecutive free night award night.
While Surpass doesn’t offer annual free nights like other major hotel credit cards in this price range, you can earn bonus points for spending at U.S. supermarkets and gas stations. By spending $15,000 a year on a card, you can get free weekend nights redeemable at most Hilton hotels.
Spend a generous $40,000 a year on your Surpass Card to earn premium Hilton Diamond status. Diamond is the highest tier and includes all Gold benefits as well as Executive Lounge access and suite upgrades at the hotel’s discretion. In other words, if you’re looking for status, perks, free nights, don’t want to spend a lot on the annual fee, and have full access to the Hilton brand, it’s hard to beat Surpass.
At first glance
- Annual fee $95
- 130,000 Hilton Honors Rewards points plus free nights ($2,000 spent in the first 3 months of card membership)
- Free weekend nights with a $15,000 annual card purchase
- Automatic Gold Elite Status
- Includes 10 free one-time Priority Pass Select airport lounge access
- Authorized user cards can be added at no additional cost
Hilton Honors Surpass Card Earn 12 Hilton Honors Bonus Points for every $1 on qualifying purchases at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton Portfolio, and every $1 on qualifying purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations Earn 6 points and 3 points per dollar on other eligible purchases.
The card also comes with a welcome bonus of 130,000 Hilton Honors Rewards points and free nights upon spending $2,000 within the first 3 months of card membership.
Hilton hotel award redemption rates are dynamic and change based on demand and seasonality. Without a fixed reward schedule, it’s hard to predict how many points you’ll need to stay at a Hilton hotel. Dynamic pricing results in higher redemption rates in peak seasons and lower redemption rates in low seasons.
Hilton advertises rooms starting at 5,000 points per night, but those rooms are few and far between, with most nights priced between 20,000 and 95,000 points. Fortunately, there are no blackout dates for points redemption, which maximizes hotel availability. It can be expensive, but you’ll find rooms with points on sale. Hilton also offers premium rooms and suites with points, which is not the case at every hotel chain. However, the best value is usually found in standard rooms.
As a Hilton Gold member, you can get a fifth night free with your Rewards booking. So for a hotel with 30,000 points per night, you only need to redeem 120,000 points to stay for 5 nights, effectively reducing your nightly cost to 24,000 points.
Hilton Honors members also have the option to pay for hotel stays in a tiered tier using a combination of points and money. Value varies by reservation, but typically you get around 0.5 cents per point. If you don’t have points to redeem, this might be a good option.
Hilton offers a unique free option called Points Pooling that allows members to combine points with up to 10 other Hilton members. This is a great way to combine a small amount of points for redemption, or two spouses can each get their dream redemption welcome bonus.
You can also use Hilton Points in Amazon’s Shop with Points program. Note that the exchange rate is only 0.2 cents per point, so we do not recommend using your points in this way.
Let’s see how many Hilton Points a typical family can earn with the Hilton Value Card over the course of a year. To perform this analysis, our consultants used data from various government agencies to determine the basic income and average spending for each category.
70% of working families earn $100,172 a year and spend $5,687 on groceries, $2,687 on gas and $4,406 on restaurants, for a total of $12,780. If all of these charges are charged to the Surpass card, 76,680 Hilton Honors points will accrue at a rate of 6 points per dollar.
Our typical family’s annual hotel spending is $683. Earn an additional 8,196 points per dollar spent on all hotel stays at Hilton. If cardholders spend the remaining $12,947 on their credit card, they’ll earn $38,841 in addition to their first-year welcome bonus, for a total of 123,917 Honors points.
These points may be redeemed for five nights at a mid-range Hilton hotel (with a free fifth night) or one to three nights at a more luxurious hotel, depending on the time of year.
Spend $15,000 or more with the card and redeem a free weekend night at nearly all Hilton hotels, a potentially high-value benefit.
Keep in mind that consumption patterns are different for every household, this example is just to illustrate one possible scenario. Before applying for this or any other credit card, you should make calculations based on your personal spending habits.
More card benefits
- International Transaction Fees: There are no additional fees for shopping abroad.
- Warranty Extension: Extend the manufacturer’s warranty by one year.
- Buyer Protection: Covers damage or theft for the first 90 days of purchase, up to $1,000 per incident.
- Rental Vehicle Loss and Damage Insurance: Provides secondary insurance for eligible rental vehicles.
- Baggage Insurance: Covers lost, stolen or damaged checked and carry-on baggage during travel if the public ticket is charged to the card.
Global Helpline: Support before and during travel, e.g. lost passport, emergency services.
- ShopRunner Membership: Free two-day shipping and returns at select retailers.
- American Express Advance Purchase and Preferred Seat: Provides the ability to purchase tickets for specific events before the general public and receive preferred seats.
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- Regular APR: 15.99% – 24.99% variable
- Purchase introductory APR: Not applicable
- Introduction to Balance Transfer APR: N/A
- Annual fee: $95
- Balance transfer fee: $5 or 3% of each transfer amount, whichever is greater.
- Cash Advances: $10 or 5% of the amount of each cash advance, whichever is greater.
- Foreign purchase transaction fee: none.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card* and World of Hyatt Credit Card
The World of Hyatt credit card charges the same $95 annual fee as the Hilton Surpass, but includes a free night at a Category 4 hotel, up to 15,000 points, and an additional night of Value spend every year after the cardmember’s anniversary $15,000. Spend $15,000 on a Hyatt card and you’ll get two free nights a year instead of using the Hilton Surpass.
The Hyatt Card earns 9 points per USD 1 at Hyatt hotels – 4 points per USD 1 spent at Hyatt hotels and Hyatt as a World of Hyatt member per USD 1 Earn 5 base points. Earn 2 Bonus Points for every $1 spent on restaurants, direct airline tickets, local transportation and commuting, and health club and gym memberships, and 1 on all other eligible purchases Dollars earn 1 point, so earning points per purchase is slower on this card than on the Hilton Surpass. However, Hyatt Rewards prices are significantly lower than Hilton, with many awards ranging from 5,000 to 8,000 points per night and as low as 40,000 per night at upscale hotels. This means that Hyatt points are often more valuable than Hilton points.
The card has Hyatt Explorer status and is of limited use. The most valuable benefits are preferred room upgrades and late check-out at 2:00pm. In particular, it does not include food and beverage credits. Cardholders earn Elite Night Points five times a year, providing a head start on membership. The Hyatt Card offers a unique opportunity to earn additional qualifying nights through purchase. For every $5,000 you spend, you’ll earn two Elite Night Credits, which can be helpful in situations where you barely qualify for a higher status level.
One of the downsides of the Hyatt is its limited floor space. Overall, there are far fewer Hyatts than Hiltons. While free Anniversary Night is a nice perk on this card, it’s not worth much if your likely travel destination doesn’t have a Hyatt Regency.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card* and Marriott Bonvoy® Boundless® Credit Card*
Another mid-market co-branded hotel card option worth considering is the Marriott Bonvoy® Unbounded® Credit Card*. Marriott’s hotel portfolio is one of the most extensive in the world, which means that wherever you travel, you’re likely to find one of their properties. The Boundless Card comes with a $95 annual fee and free nights worth up to 35,000 Bonvoy points, making it a great option for category 5 hotels after your card’s anniversary.
Each year, the Boundless Card earns 3 points per $1 on combined grocery, gas, and restaurant purchases (up to $6,000), and 2 points per $1 on all other purchases Points, earn 17 points per dollar at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties. It also has Marriott Silver membership with few perks and no breakfast included.
With the Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card, you’ll automatically earn 15 Elite Nights, giving you a head start on the 25 nights required to earn Gold status. Alternatively, spend $35,000 on the card to earn Marriott Gold status. But Gold isn’t much use because the most valuable perks, like free breakfast, are only available with Platinum status and take 50 nights to earn.
Choosing this card may not quickly elevate the leisure traveler to elite status, but you’re more likely to find the free night vouchers that automatically come with the card useful.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card* and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
If your primary goal is a card for free nights, and you’re not sure what brand or elite status to get in exchange for your loyalty, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card may be a better option than a co-branded card.
Like the others, it has an annual fee of $95, but it does accrue Ultimate Rewards points, which are flexible enough to be taken back at a penny per cent, or redeemed for almost any type of travel (e.g. flights, hotels, etc.) , 1.25 cents per point when booking through Chase’s Travel Center or using Chase’s Pay Yourself Back tool on eligible purchases.
This type of flexibility may be more useful for those who travel occasionally and don’t want to be locked into one hotel brand or even one hotel when it comes to using their rewards. The rewards rate for the Sapphire Preferred Card is 5 points per dollar on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3 points per dollar on dining, select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and Wholesale Club), 2 points per dollar all other 1 point per dollar per dollar for travel purchases and 1 point per dollar for all other purchases. But keep in mind that when you book travel through Chase, each point is worth 1.25 cents, which can end up giving you more value than a hotel card.
Is this card right for you?
Hilton Surpass is a profitable option for travelers who are loyal to Hilton and value Hilton Gold status. Otherwise, opt for a more generic rewards card. For those who prefer Hilton and usually stay at one of the higher-end hotels like the Waldorf Astoria or Conrad, Gold status is more valuable thanks to food and beverage credits and possible room upgrades. If your tastes are more budget conscious and include places like the Hampton Inn or Hilton Tru where breakfast is always included in the room rate and the hotel only has standard rooms, the gold status that comes with the card may not be much use to you in the case, But you can still benefit from the fifth free night of your Reward Night.