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The Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express has its best ever sign-up bonus at the moment, offering 100,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 within three months, plus a free weekend night on your card’s first anniversary.
The card offers Honors Gold status for as long as you have the card, plus you can also earn Diamond status by spending $40,000 on the card in a year. I figured I’d talk a bit about the details of the opportunity to earn Diamond status with the card.
Earning Diamond status with the Hilton Surpass Card
You can earn Hilton Honors’ top tier Diamond status by spending $40,000 in a calendar year on the Hilton Surpass Card. While that’s a significant amount of spend, it’s by far the lowest spend requirement of any card for earning top tier hotel status. So for someone who stays at Hilton properties with any frequency, it may be worthwhile.
How long is Diamond status earned through credit card spend valid?
If you earn Diamond status through spend on the Hilton Surpass Card, it’s valid for the entire calendar year in which you complete the spend requirement, plus the following calendar year, and will finally expire on March 31 of the year after that.
In other words:
- If you spend $40,000 on the Surpass Card in January 2017, the status would be valid through March 2019
- You could continuously earn Diamond status by spending $40,000 on the card every other year; using the above example, if you spent $40,000 between January 1 and March 31, 2019, you’d then get your Diamond renewed, through March 31, 2021
Once you’ve completed the $40,000 spend requirement, it can take up to 10-12 weeks for status to post. However, in practice it will usually post faster than that.
So while $40,000 is a sizable amount of spend, it’s not bad for top tier status, especially when you consider that status can be valid for over two years, if you spend at the right time.
Is Diamond status even worth it?
The Hilton Surpass Card gives you Gold status for as long as you have the card, and for most people Gold status is enough, since it gets you perks like free breakfast, room upgrades, late check-out subject to availability, etc.
What are the incremental benefits of Diamond status over Gold status?
- You get a 50% points bonus as a Diamond member, rather than a 25% points bonus as a Gold member
- You get guaranteed executive lounge access as a Diamond member, while as a Gold member you only get executive lounge access if you’re also upgraded to an executive room (however, if you’re not upgraded to an executive room then you get free breakfast at most brands, which many value just as much)
- As a Gold member you have to choose between a welcome amenity of points and breakfast at many brands, while as a Diamond member you get both
- Honors terms state that room upgrades, for Diamond members only, may also include suites (that’s not to say that Diamond members will get suite upgrades as long as they’re available, but rather at the discretion of the hotel they may); meanwhile Gold upgrades don’t include the possibility of suites, per the terms
I got a suite upgrade at the Hilton Queenstown as a Diamond member
So ultimately the differences are fairly minor, especially for someone who only makes a few Hilton stays per year. However, if you’re someone who stays at Hilton properties a lot, but not enough to earn Diamond status through stays, you may find the incremental benefits to be worthwhile.
What’s the opportunity cost of $40,000 of spend?
Let me start by saying that obviously everyone has different limits on how much they can spend with credit cards, and it’s not necessarily tied to how well off you are. I know some “average” people who still spend millions of dollars per year on credit cards because they have a low margin business that involves a lot of material costs, etc. So this analysis obviously won’t apply for everyone.
I like to think of the cost of generating credit card spend as being around 1.9%. That’s because you can pay your taxes by credit card at that cost (I realize not everyone pays taxes directly, but rather many have taxes withheld, etc.). However, I think it’s a fair number when considering the cost of “generating” credit card spend.
So if you spend $40,000 on the Hilton Surpass Card that will cost you $760, and you’d earn 120,000 Hilton points, which I value at $480 (0.4 cents each). So that means the real “out of pocket” cost for earning Diamond status is $280.
However, let’s look at the opportunity cost of that spend. You could instead use a card like The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express or the Chase Freedom® Unlimited, which earn up to 1.5 points per dollar spent. I value those points at 1.7 cents each, so it’s the equivalent of a 2.55% return. So on $40,000 of spend, that return would be worth $1,020. So that’s the equivalent of spending $540 on Diamond status, when you compare the return to what you’d get on the Surpass Card, minus the $480 worth of Honors points you’re acquiring.
There’s no perfect way to do this math, but that’s just one example.
I know that many people find it worthwhile to spend $40,000 on the Hilton Surpass Card in order to earn Diamond status. If you put the spend on the card at the right time, you can potentially get about two years of status out of it. While the differences between Diamond and Gold aren’t huge, if you stay at Hiltons enough the incremental benefits will probably add up.
So if you’re someone who spends a lot of credit cards, this might be worth considering as a way to earn Diamond status.