Hilton Surpass American Express 80K Sign-Up Bonus Is Back

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Update: The below links for the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express are expired, but you can learn more about best available offers here.

Update: There’s an exciting Limited Time Offer for the Hilton American Express cards through 5/31/17! The links below are expired, but you can learn more about best offers we’ve seen on these cards!

The card has a $75 annual fee, which isn’t waived for the first year. This is the same as the promotion we saw earlier in the year. I’ve never seen a higher publicly available sign-up bonus on the card than this.

What makes this card so valuable is that it offers Hilton HHonors Gold status for as long as you have the card, which gets you free breakfast/lounge access (based on availability) and free wifi (though wifi will be free for all HHonors members as of August 2015) at Hilton properties. To me those are the two most valuable hotel elite perks. So I do think it’s worth having a co-branded Hilton credit card long term.

Conrad-HK-Breakfast
Complimentary Gold breakfast at the Conrad Hong Kong

Hilton’s credit card portfolio is especially unique because they have two co-branded credit card issuers — American Express and Citi. The co-branded Hilton card I have is the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card.

Amex vs. Citi Hilton cards

So what are the selling points of the Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express vs. the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card?

The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card offers:

  • A better sign-up bonus of two free weekend nights at any Hilton hotel, which has a value of up to 190,000 HHonors points
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • A free weekend night certificate when you spend $10,000 on the card per year
  • 5x points on airline and car rental purchases

The American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass Card offers:

  • 12x points per dollar spent at Hilton properties (vs. 10x points)
  • 6x points at US supermarkets, gas stations, and restaurants
  • Access to Hilton’s AXON awards, which aren’t nearly as useful as they used to be
  • The annual fee is $20 lower

And both cards offer:

  • Hilton HHonors Gold status just for having the card
  • Hilton HHonors Diamond status after spending $40,000 on the card in a year

Are two free weekend nights worth more than 80,000 points?

Hilton HHonors devalued their award chart early last year, whereby the cost of aspirational award stays went up by a lot.

On the low end HHonors points are still a great deal. For example, you can book the nice Doubletree Kuala Lumpur for 10,000 points per night, and get your fifth night free, bringing down the cost to 8,000 points per night. That means the Amex sign-up bonus could get you up to 10 free nights at this hotel.

Doubletree-HHonors

Conversely, the Conrad Koh Samui costs up to 95,000 points per night, so the Amex sign-up bonus wouldn’t even get you enough points for a one night stay. The Citi sign-up bonus, however, would get you two free nights.

Conrad-Koh-Samui

Bottom line

We’ve never seen a better sign-up bonus on the card than this, and I’d certainly consider it if you:

  • Already have the Citi Hilton Reserve Card
  • Prefer redeeming your points for non-aspirational properties, in which case 80,000 points will get you more value than two free weekend nights

Beyond the sign-up bonus, while the Amex has slightly better category bonuses and an annual fee that’s $20 lower, I do prefer the Citi Hilton Reserve Card for being able to earn a free weekend night at any property in the world after spending $10,000 on the card, and for the waived foreign transaction fees.

What’s your preferred co-branded Hilton credit card — the Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express or the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card?

Conrad-Koh-Samui
Conrad Koh Samui

(Tip of the hat to Running with Miles)

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Comments

  1. Application states “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.” I’ve had this card a few times and my last card account was closed 9/2013. Do you think I’d get the bonus or are they strict about their rules?

  2. that’s an insanely high min spend requirement for not even getting one night at a top property… plus there is the annual fee… absolutely not worth it.

  3. @Lucky continues to peddle this tired, worn out and discredited line: “Hilton HHonors devalued their award chart early last year, whereby the cost of aspirational award stays went up by a lot.”

    The only reason for anyone to continue peddling that discredited line is to reinforce the already false narrative about how the 2013 Hilton “devaluation” busted their award chart. If that line were true, what are we do say of Hyatt’s devaluation that was even worse…by a factor of 2 for standard awards? The math is quite simply:

    Hilton increased their top standard award rate from 80K to 95K – an increase of 18.8%
    Hyatt increased their top standard award rate from 22K to 30K – an increase of 36.4%

    In addition Hyatt started charging for upgrades per night rather than per stay — a devaluation of more than 300%

    Please just get another line because the purported cataclysmic Hilton “devaluation” was a myth created and perpetuated by bloggers based on nothing but the large “raw” numbers that are characteristic. Virtually everyone who has modeled and compared the award charts since the wave of devaluation that hit all the major hotel loyalty programs has reached the same conclusion:

    “…Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott all have award charts that are similarly priced. The fact that Hilton may sometimes charge up to 95,000 points for an award night is compensated for the fact that it can offer 15 points per dollar, while Hyatt offers only 5 points per dollar. Starwood, however, has some incredibly high-priced awards among its top tiers, while IHG Rewards and Club Carlson may offer significant value even after Club Carlson’s recent devaluation.”

    As bad as the Hilton “devaluation” appeared to be at first, all they did was to adjust their rates so that they caught up with their competitors. Translation: at the time of their last “devaluation”, redeeming award stays at Hilton got ridiculously cheap [especially with bonus points from CCs like the HH AMEX Surpass featured here], so they made a “course correction” that simply made them competitive again. That the “course correction” appeared drastic simply emphasized just how much cheaper Hilton got compared to their competitors… 😉

  4. Gold does not have lounge access any more 🙁 I tried a few months back at the riverside Hilton in nawlins and they said that they removed that perk a while ago.

  5. I had both the HH AMEX Surpass and Citi Reserve visa but I got rid of the latter because Citi simply does not take this card seriously and won’t devote the resources necessary to ensure that they consistently award the promised benefits.

    One is supposed to get 10 points/$ for HHonors-related purchases, except that Citi never seems to know which purchases are Hilton-related and which are not, so they consistently awarded me 3 points/$ rather than 10/$ for stays at properties named CONRAD Hong Kong or HILTON Milan because they did not know that these were Hilton family properties!

    A full year had elapsed when I first noticed that they were not awarding me all the points that they owed me for Hilton stays. Checking back over the prior year, I discovered that they owed me nearly 50K HH points in retro-credit because they’d credited my Hilton stays as if they were for general spend. I brought it to their attention and, after an internal “investigation”, they retro-credited me all points + 5K extra points for their mistake and my trouble. You would think that a “mistake” of that magnitude would be a wake up call for them to start taking their awarding of bonus points seriously, but you’d be wrong. The problem persisted, especially since I knew to look for it. Tired of chasing my legitimately earned points after almost every stay, I canceled the Citi Reserve card last October. Since then I have been using the HH AMEX Surpass exclusively even with the foreign transaction fee because I figured that the lower annual fee and the higher points/$ of the Surpass almost fully covered forex fee. If not, well so be it, but not once has AMEX failed for credit me the points correctly, so I am happy to pay a little extra for the better service.

    If you are going to get the HH Citi Reserve visa just for the sign up bonus, then you are fine. If you intend to keep it, then you may want to check out this thread: https://milepoint.com/forums/threads/alert-citi-reserve-not-awarding-the-correct-number-of-bonus-points.81593/

    On the day I canceled it, the Supervisor who heard my complaint told me bluntly that the Citi Reserve card was a very tiny program in the Citi portfolio, meaning that in the scheme of things, they won’t devote the necessary resources to provide high-quality customer support for such a small part of the gigantic Citi operation…

  6. My churn notes indicate it is possible to re qualify 12 months after cancellation of a previous card.

  7. @ Carlos — Under the current terms that doesn’t seem to be the case, unless your recent experience says otherwise?

  8. @ JD — I believe they’re strict. Don’t think it’s possible to earn the bonus if you’ve had the card before, but I could be wrong.

  9. Lucky,
    Thanks for all that you do. quick question. i currently have the citi Hilton card? if i cancel it and replace it with the Amex, when can I reapply for the Citi Hilton to get the the 2 free nights bonus? Also, i was just charged the annual fee on the citi hilton? can that be prorated?

  10. Travelling Rabbit says: “Seems worthless unless you stay at really low end Hiltons.”

    Hello! One can say the same thing about almost all the loyalty CC sign up bonuses.

    In my view, one should get co-branded loyalty CCs, not for the sign up bonuses but for their long-term value because one would not be playing the mile/point game with a “full deck” if one does not have in their arsenal a co-branded CC like the HH AMEX Surpass that earns a HUGE number of points on revenue stays. Non-hotel spend earns at most 6 points/$. Through revenue stays, a HH Diamond can earn up to 32 points/$ – a factor of 5. Couple that with targeted and/or ‘global’ promos and one can earn up to 50 points/$ — a factor of 8 — as I will be until the end of April. That is how one fights “devaluation” to remain competitive in this game and make it fun and worth playing!

  11. With 6 x points per dollar on groceries, gas, and restaurants I’m surprised more people aren’t talking about this card for everyday spend. Seems like twice as many points than any other card for spending in those categories.

  12. Lucky, I have an email invitation for a regular Hilton HHonors™ Card from American Express, which offers 60,000 bonus points after a measly $750 in purchases, no annual fee or any other outstanding benefit. Can I get both AmEx cards? I don’t have experience with AmEx credit cards, so your advice is appreciated.

  13. @Lucky: You may be right. That information was from a few “FT reports”…. but over 1 year ago (not sure when changes happened).

  14. @DCS

    Hilton went from 50K to 80-95K for their top tier hotels. NOT 80k to 95k as you stated.

  15. @Scott — Unless your claim is that the Waldorf=Astoria Collection, with some of the most ‘aspirational’ of Hilton hotels, should be excluded…

  16. @Diana – I had the no-fee HH AMEX you just mentioned, but then when I applied and was approved for the HH AMEX Surpass the latter automatically replaced the no-fee card. By that I mean that the card number and all the information (e.g., “member since” date) that was previously associated with my no-fee account became associated with the Surpass. It was like the same card except with a $75 annual fee. I did receive 50K for the “upgrade” from the no-fee to the Surpass, which was the sign up bonus for the surpass at the time. From the preceding, I presume that one can have one or the other and not both, but I could be wrong. In any case, there is no practical reason to have the no-fee card if one gets the Surpass…

  17. If you don’t have either card, would you be able to apply to both and get both sets of bonuses? Or are you limited to one bonus?

  18. @DCS – Thanks for the reply, I agree there is no practical reason to have the no-fee card, I was trying to get both sign-up bonuses. I suppose I could get the HH Amex first, get the bonus and then still have time to apply for the Surpass and its bonus.

  19. @Diana — I see. I think that applying for both at the same time might not work out well. You’d be approved for just one of the cards. So, yes, applying first for the no-fee followed by the Surpass might get you both sign up bonuses. The move from the no-fee to the Surpass will be considered an “upgrade” but I think that upgrades do earn whatever sign up bonus is in effect at the time. What is unclear is how long is long enough before applying to upgrade…

  20. My vote goes to the Reserve. Having been to both properties (and many similar cases), I can safely say two nights at the Conrad Koh Samui is worth more to me than eight (or twenty) at the DoubleTree Kuala Lumpur.

  21. Actually I just saw that there are a total of 4 Hilton HHonors cards, each with their own bonus. Are you eligible for all of the bonus if you apply to all 4 cards or just 1 bonus?

  22. @ Diana — Unless the applications explicitly state otherwise, you should be able to get the bonus on both cards, since they’re different products.

  23. @ ddrabk — I believe you have some amount of time with Citi to get the annual fee back if you want to cancel, so it can’t hurt to try. That being said, I’m not sure you could get the bonus again.

  24. @Lucky sez: ” Unless the applications explicitly state otherwise, you should be able to get the bonus on both cards, since they’re different products.”

    Are you sure about that? I would like to hear of instances of people being approved for both the no-fee HH AMEX AND the Surpass. From personal experience, KNOW that People with the no-fee AMEX who apply for the Surpass automatically lose the former card, with that account being automatically replaced by the Surpass; even the account number remains absolutely the same. If they were “different products” that can be held simultaneously, one would think that at least the account numbers would be different between the two cards…

  25. DCS… please explain how you are able to get up to 50 points/Dollar with Hillton Hhonors. Please break it down so we can do the same. Thanks.

  26. i’m a bit late to this conversation, but came upon this page just now while doing some research.

    @diana and @dcs, i can confirm that you can hold BOTH amex hhonors cards at the same time. i’ve had the no-fee version for years, but just applied for the surpass to help replenish my hhonors bank. i just activated the surpass and still have the no-fee version listed in my account and the card numbers are NOT the same.

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