Is Earning Diamond Status With The Hilton Surpass Card Worth It?

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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.

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.

Waldorf-Amsterdam
Redeem your free weekend night at the Waldorf-Astoria Amsterdam

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

Hilton-Queenstown - 11
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.

Bottom line

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.


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Comments

  1. Wouldn’t it make more sense to spend it on the citi Reserve? You get everything that the Surpass gets, plus a free night.
    Seems odd to talk about earning diamond by spend without even mentioning that there is a better card.

  2. Aren’t there better CC to put the spend on, I look at it this, Breakfast is a great benefit to get I could care less about a suite upgrade.

  3. MS at grocery stores at $10 per 1k spent on VGC at 6x gets 240k points

    this is worth ~$960 to $1200 at 0.4 to 0.5 cpp valuation plus diamond status at around $400 in MS costs

  4. @Tony asks astutely: “Aren’t there better CC to put the spend on…”?

    It is called “opportunity cost” and it is prohibitive in this case, so, the answer is “Yes, there are better CCs to put $40K on”…

    The opportunity cost — i.e., the loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen — of putting $40K on either the AMEX Surpass or the Citi Reserve visa to earn HH Diamond seems prohibitive to me. Both are co-brand cards whose only real value is for maximizing the number of points earned on revenue stays. I do not view either card as being particularly rewarding for general spend, especially considering how easy it is to earn loads of HH points through revenue stays. It would be better to spend $40K on, say, the CSR, to earn points in a transferable currency. Therefore, a non-true Hilton loyalist would do better to just get the Surpass or the Citi Reserve for the free HH Gold status that comes with it. While differences between HH Gold and Diamond levels are significant, this should matter only to those who stay almost exclusively at Hilton properties and know the program inside and out and make the most of it. For everyone else, including travel bloggers who pontificate without knowing much about the program, HH Gold, the best second-tier status in the business, should be good enough.

    I earn HH Diamond the “hard way”, which is actually the easiest and cheapest way to earn it: by spending “just” $12K on revenue stays at Hilton properties and earning 120K base points, which are enough to make Diamond. After just 5 stays so far this year, I am more than halfway toward requalifying for HH Diamond. Translation: for a $40K spend I would earn enough base points to (re)qualify for HH Diamonds 3 years in row. Coupled with the prohibitive “opportunity cost”, I do not believe spending $40K on either of the two co-brand cards is the way to earn HH Diamond.

  5. @Lucky, question for you…
    I’ve had the Hilton Amex card (no annual fee) for almost 10 years, which gives complimentary Silver status. I only use it for gasoline purchases (with other cards for restaurant or general spend).

    I have an “upgrade” offer to convert my Hilton Amex to the Hilton Surpass for 100,000 bonus points. But apparently the upgrade offer doesn’t include a free weekend night on the anniversary date. I want to get back under 5/24, and a new application would yield a free weekend night at the cost of another credit pull (while an upgrade will not generate a credit pull), correct? I assume a new application/card counts against 5/24, but would an upgrade?

    P.S. Your pic above reminds me of the Doubletree Queenstown we stayed at last October.

  6. @ Luke Vader — Indeed, applying for the card would count as an inquiry towards 5/24, while upgrading shouldn’t. So it comes down to whether or not you find it worthwhile to get an inquiry for a free night, which is potentially worth up to 95,000 points. It’s worth considering, especially since the bonus on this card is “once in a lifetime.”

  7. @ Ben — This is a horrible deal, sorry. That spend is much bettet put on just about any other credit card.

  8. Hilton Diamond status also gives you free premium internet and guaranteed room availability (except under certain limited circumstances). I stay exclusively at Hilton, and these are important to me, in addition to the benefits you listed above (especially the guaranteed lounge access).

    For me, the opportunity cost is putting the $40K on a 2% cash back card ($800). I generate far more than 3 points per dollar spend using the Surpass card due to the bonus categories. Thus, in my situation the opportunity cost isn’t that great, and the spend is well worth it to achieve the Diamond status since I would never be able to do so otherwise.

    Finally, it’s particularly useful because Hilton works as a business and family vacation hotel chain. When I travel on business, I can ALWAYS find a Hilton wherever I go. When we travel as a family, we enjoy the flexibility of Embassy, Doubletree and even occasionally Hampton for the suites; plus with Diamond you get even more suite upgrades at other properties. It works for me, personally and professionally, and therefore the spend is an excellent deal.

  9. @farnorthtrader.

    Did you actually compare the benefits between the Hilton Surpass Card and the Citi Reserve card before you made your statement? Nope, you didn’t.

  10. @Bob — The key in your comment is this: “I stay exclusively at Hilton.” That being the case, I do agree that your opportunity cost is not as high as it would be for someone who is an occasional Hilton patron. It seems to me that you are making the most of your Diamond status, which is key to making the opportunity cost less important.

  11. To save everyone the time who is tempted to read DCS’s “analysis” of the C+P change, he has based his conclusions of a so-called net positive regarding this change on a total of seven hotels.

    Seven. Out of nearly 5,000 participating Honors properties.

    Whatever DCS does for a living, it definitely doesn’t involve statistical sampling, because no one is going to take that sort of sample size seriously in the real world. (In fact, in my job, if I tried to pass that kind of research off as legitimate work, I’d probably be fired.)

    What should also be pointed out about DCS’s defense of the latest Hilton changes? Pretty much no one agrees with him.

  12. I am not so sure this would count against 5/24 if it is an “upgrade” offer. I also have the upgrade offer and it does not include the free weekend night (maybe I need to call and see if I can get that too). When I read the terms of the 5/24 it says “accounts opened” so it’s not based on inquiry, it’s based on whether a new account is opened. If you are upgrading from the regular HHonors Amex, I presume you keep the same account# so it is not a new account for 5/24. What do y’all think?

  13. I called Amex (card services and application line) and they could not explain why there is a difference in the upgrade offer and new application offer or offer an upgrade with the weekend night.
    I am also concerned of pulling my next $3000 in spend away from Citi Prestige when I have a +1 pts on everything retention offer going on on that card right now.

  14. @”Mike” — As it turns out what I do for a living DOES involve statistics, lots of it, including inferential and quantum (as in quantum mechanics). This allows to me to tell you authoritatively that you should not comment on things that you are clearly not equipped to comment on. The piece I linked to discussed 3 “Lessons” or conclusions that could be reached from the analysis or modeling and did not depend on sample size; just common sense. When sample size was an issue, I clearly mentioned it.

    You’re out of your depth on this…so go back to the hole you’d crawled into after being thoroughly embarrassed for making similarly ludicrous claims on this very subject.

    G’day.

  15. As is typical of a DCS post, when anyone dare disagree with him, he resorts to insults rather than to actually defend his claims. His “analysis” (and the reactions to the criticisms of said “analysis” here) are yet another example of this.

    And where he actually tries to defend his claims, he actually fails:

    @DCS – “The piece I linked to discussed 3 “Lessons” or conclusions that could be reached from the analysis or modeling and did not depend on sample size; just common sense. When sample size was an issue, I clearly mentioned it.”

    Again, DCS used a total of seven hotels to reach the conclusion (USING HIS WORDS) that “suggest that on average, the new C+P awards “on steroids” are not statistically worse (an insignificant 3% difference) than the old-style C+P awards.” In other words, he cherry-picked seven hotels that would give him that result, and made a conclusion (that fits what he wants to believe and what he wants others to believe).

    His mention of sample size was admitting that the sample size was small, but suggested that his analysis becomes only “semi-quantitative” at that point. As an economist who does forecasting and modeling as part of his job, I can tell you that, in the real world, seven observations out of nearly five thousand will not result in anything statistically significant. The result that is obtained is going to be nothing more than a wild-ass guess.

    And, as I’ve pointed out already, it’s a wild-ass guess that can be easily manipulated based on the observations that are cherry-picked. This is the only common sense that one should glean from this, not the conclusions that are reached.

    What I’ve also pointed out here on numerous occasions is that DCS is the only person who agrees with DCS. Over and over again, people have pointed out real world examples of how the change to C+P has resulted in more expensive room rates (in either cash, or points, or both) than before the change. And the only rebuttal DCS has ever had is to insult the people who point that out, just as he is doing here.

    @DCS – “You’re out of your depth on this…so go back to the hole you’d crawled into after being thoroughly embarrassed for making similarly ludicrous claims on this very subject.”

    I’ve only done two things on this subject – point out real world examples of how this change is a devaluation, and point out how your defense of the C+P change has no scientific validity. As usual, the fact that you cannot handle those things is wholly a reflection of you, and no one else.

  16. I have earned diamond via this credit card for at least ten years. I would qualify for gold just on stays and this gives me the bump to the next level.

    In your calculation, you assume the base points – 3pts x $1 spend. I spend around $10,000 at Hilton and HGVC over the year which at 12pts x $1 alone is the 120,000 points. Plus the 6pts x $1 at grocery stores, I get a nice bump with them.

    I realize that HH might not be the most valuable points currency out there but via this card and stays, I have a huge balance that seems to not drop even with many redemptions throughout the year. It works for my family.

  17. @Borsht is the only one here who knows what/why/how to use the Surpass card. @DCS has no clue what he blathers about wrt to MSing HH.

    As for so-called opportunity cost, why is this even an issue? Is there somehow a limit on MS I haven’t heard about? Just max out everything. Do your 5%/5x options first. Then work your way down the line of most lucrative cards. Surpass is effectively a 2.4-2.7% card at gas/grocery/pharmacy (6x at 0.4-0.45cpp value plus value of Diamond perks), so it’s near the top of valuable cards in the travel hacking universe.

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