Updated 1/1/2019

Back in November 2017, there was news that the Citi Hilton cards will become Amex branded cards.   There were talks about new product offerings, but no one knew what – or if – there would be any associated signup offers.  Well, we know now.  There is new newly branded mid-tier Ascend card, and the premium Aspire card.

I am excited about these new options since I am quite fond of the Hilton properties.  I’ve had my share of stays at the Hiltons and the Conrads, and I most recently stayed at Hilton Tokyo when I visited Japan.  Of course, I also had the unique experience of being denied access to the Executive Lounge.  Side Note: Amex has a once-in-a-lifetime restriction, so you won’t qualify for a bonus offer if you had the product before.  In other words, you want to make sure you’re applying for the best offer.

Application Link:  Referral link

I think of the 3 product offerings this way:

1. Basic (no-annual fee) Hilton Card

The basic no annual fee Hilton card comes with a Silver status at Hilton.  It’s free, and it comes with 100,000 bonus offer.  If you just want a basic Hilton card, this is an option to consider. It’s a good offer for no-annual fee card, but there aren’t benefits (that I’m interested in) to write home about.

2. The Hilton ASCEND Card (comes with a $95 annual fee)

The Hilton Ascend card is considered a mid-tier premium travel card.  It is the equivalent to the Hilton Surpass card.  In fact, Hilton Surpass cardholders are not eligible for the Ascend card.  It’s considered a name change.

There are the key benefits of the Ascend Card:

I’m going to ignore the x per dollar spend since I like to focus on the concrete benefits.

  • Complimentary Hilton Gold Status:  This is a nice perk.  Gold Status comes with complimentary breakfast at certain properties, which makes it worthwhile. Free food is always a nice perk.
  • Weekend Night Reward:  Available only after $15,000 in a calendar year.  It would be nice if a free night is a benefit of the card.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fee:  A fairly standard benefit of most travel card these days.
  • Priority Pass Select – 10 Free Visits: “Get 10 free lounge visits every year once enrolled. Additional passes are $27 per person per visit.” – not bad.  I like Priority Pass program.
  • 150,000 Hilton points sign up offer:  $3000 spend within first 3 months. This should get you 2-3 nights at mid to higher end property.

Overal, this is a standard mid-tier premium travel card.  If you want to have a card with lower annual fee, Hilton Gold status, and 150,000 Hilton points, this is a decent offer.

2. The Hilton ASPIRE Card  ($450 annual fee)

Then, there is the new Aspire card, branded as the premium travel card.  As a premium card, it comes with more benefits and a higher $450 annual fee. These are the benefits:

You actually have to look at fine prints to see the details of some additional benefits:














Just like the Ascend card, I will ignore the x per dollar spend, focusing instead on the practical benefits.

  • Complimentary Hilton Diamond Status:  This is the top elite status at Hilton.  Frankly, I am happy with the complimentary breakfast benefit that comes with Hilton Gold, but perks like guaranteed access to the executive lounge is a plus. (No more denied access)
  • Weekend Night Reward:  Amex advertised it as two weekend nights, which is a little deceiving.  It’s one free weekend night, and the second night is only available after you meet a particular – and not an insubstantial – spend requirement.  A free night can be worth hundreds of dollars depending on where you stay.
  • Up to $250 Hilton Resort Statement Credit:  This could be handy if you plans to stay at a Hilton Resort.
  • 150,000 Hilton Points sign up offer:  $4000 spend within first 3 months.  Same as the Ascend offer. Given the annual fee, I’m surprised that this isn’t higher.
  • $250 Airline Fee Credit:  Incidental fees charged by airlines
  • Priority Pass Select Membership: “Relax with unlimited lounge visits for you and up to 2 guests per visit once enrolled in complimentary Priority Pass”.  This benefit is fairly standard among the premium travel cards.


Which Card Did I Decide On?

I decided to go for the Aspire card myself. Since I travel often, the $250 airline incidental credit and the free weekend night easily covers the $450 annual fee.  All the other benefits are icing on the cake.  I was pre-approved and promptly got this message when I submitted my application.  I can’t wait to get it in the mail!


What are your thoughts on the these new cards?  If you are planning to apply for a Hilton card, which one are you going for?