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Yesterday American Express unveiled two fantastic, “best ever” sign-up bonuses on their co-branded Hilton cards.
The Hilton Honors™ Card from American Express is offering 80,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after spending $2,000 in purchases within the first three months, and has no annual fee.
Meanwhile the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express is offering 100,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first three months. You also get a free weekend night valid at any Hilton Honors hotel on your first cardmember anniversary. The card has a $75 annual fee.
While you could get approved for both of these cards, Amex will typically let you have at most five credit cards and four charge cards at a time, so I know a lot of people are trying to decide which of these sign-up bonuses is more compelling. Both of these are great bonuses, especially when you consider that the 80,000 point sign-up bonus on the Hilton Honors™ Card from American Express has no annual fee. Typically no annual fee cards don’t have substantial bonuses, but this bonus is excellent.
Comparing the sign-up bonuses
Personally I conservatively value Hilton Honors points at 0.4 cents each. That means:
- The sign-up bonus on the Hilton Honors™ Card from American Express is worth $320
- The sign-up bonus on the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express is worth $400, plus the free night certificate you get on your first anniversary
For anyone who is curious about that free night anniversary certificate, here are the basic things you need to know:
- It will be emailed to you within 6-8 weeks of your first anniversary date
- It must be redeemed for stays within 12 months of when the certificate is issued
- The free night certificate should work very similarly to the one offered by the Citi® Hilton Honors™ Reserve Card, which is straightforward; it’s valid at all properties with standard rooms, and as long as there’s a standard room for sale, you should be able to redeem the certificate for it
While that certificate could be redeemed for a stay that costs up to 95,000 points per night (given that Hilton’s most expensive properties cost that much), in practice you should apply a discount to its valuation, given the day of week restrictions, and also given that most people won’t redeem it for the optimal property. So while 95,000 points would be worth $380, I’d say a fairer valuation of the certificate is $250. You can get a lot more value out of it than that, like at the Conrad Hong Kong, where rates can be $600+ per night.
Or at the Conrad Maldives, where rates can be $700+ per night.
However, I’m all for conservative valuations, given that most people aren’t going to be redeeming their certificates that way.
In other words, I value the sign-up bonus on the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express at $650. Even without factoring in the free night certificate on the card, the marginal 20,000 points earned on the Surpass over the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express justify the $75 annual fee, in my opinion. As long as you value that free night certificate at $75 or more, you’ll come out ahead the second year as well.
Keep in mind that down the road you can typically downgrade the Surpass to the no annual fee version of the card, if you so desire.
On top of that, with the Surpass you’ll get:
- Hilton Honors Gold status for as long as you have the card
- Diamond status if you spend $40,000 on the card in a year
- A better return on spend — 12x points on Hilton purchases, 6x points at US restaurants, US supermarkets, and US gas stations, and 3x points on other purchases
The sign-up bonuses on both the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express and Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express are excellent, and the best we’ve ever seen. Both are worth considering. However, if you’d only like to pick up one card, and if you haven’t had either card before, I think the bonus on the Surpass Card is more compelling. The 100,000 points more than justify the $75 annual fee over the 80,000 point bonus on the no annual fee card. Furthermore, as long as you value the free night certificate at $75 or more, you’ll come out ahead the second year as well.
Long term you can downgrade the card to the no annual fee version if you so desire. However, for many, the perks offered by this card make it a keeper long term.