How Gold Status With The Hilton Surpass Card Works

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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.

While I have my preferred hotel chains with which I have top tier status, for many people I think the best strategy is to just get mid-tier status with one or more hotel chains using credit cards, which can be quite easy. That way you can always choose the hotel that’s best for you in a given city, rather than being blindly loyal.

The way I see it, the easiest to earn and most useful mid-tier status is Hilton Honors Gold status. The lowest annual fee credit card that offers Hilton Honors Gold status without any sort of spend requirement is the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express, which has a $75 annual fee, and offers Gold status for as long as you have the card. That annual fee should more than pay for itself after just one or two stays per year.

At the moment the card has a huge limited time sign-up bonus of 100,000 Honors points after completing minimum spend, plus a free weekend night certificate on the card’s first account anniversary. This is a huge sign-up bonus, and I’ve shared 10 reasons you should apply for this card under the current offer.

If you don’t want to apply for that card, The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN both offer Hilton Honors Gold status for as long as you have the card. You have to manually renew the status each year, but there are no other strings attached — as long as you have one of the above cards you can constantly renew Hilton Honors Gold status.

Hilton-Gold-Amex-Plat-1

As a point of comparison, earning Hilton Honors Gold status would ordinarily require 20 stays, 40 nights, or 75,000 Honors base points per year (which is the equivalent of $7,500 worth of spend at most Hilton brands).

What benefits does Hilton Honors Gold status offer?

How much value should you realistically expect to get out of Hilton Honors Gold status? Below are what I consider the main benefits to be, ranked in the order in which I value them (from most important to least important):

Free breakfast

The most basic and valuable benefit of Hilton Honors Gold status is that you get free breakfast at many Hilton family brands. I find it slightly annoying that this benefit doesn’t apply at all brands, though both Hilton and Marriott are pretty inconsistent in this regard (unlike Hyatt and Starwood).

At Conrad, Curio, DoubleTree, Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, and Tapestry Collection properties, you receive complimentary continental breakfast for you and up to one additional guest registered to the same room every morning of your stay. Technically the breakfast benefit is for continental breakfast, though in practice many hotels will offer Gold members a hot/full breakfast, especially at properties outside the US.


At most properties in Asia you’ll get the full breakfast buffet as a Gold member

In lieu of free breakfast, you could instead select 750-1,000 Honors bonus points per stay if you prefer.

At other Hilton brands you don’t get free breakfast as an elite benefit. At some brands this is because they offer free breakfast to all guests (ie, Hampton), while at other brands it’s just because they’re not as generous with elite benefits (ie, Waldorf Astoria).

Executive lounge access

There’s a further wrinkle to the free breakfast benefit, as if it wasn’t complicated enough already. At Conrad, Curio, DoubleTree, Hilton, and Tapestry Collection properties, you will receive access to the executive lounge, but only if you also get an upgrade to an executive level room.

In other words, you may be assigned a club room pending availability, in which case you get breakfast and evening drinks in the lounge, rather than in the restaurant. However, in the event that you’re not upgraded to the executive level, then you just get the standard restaurant breakfast.

In practice I’ve had pretty good luck being upgraded to the executive level as an Honors Gold member.


A Hilton club lounge

Preferred rooms

At Canopy, Conrad, Curio, DoubleTree, Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Tapestry Collection, and Waldorf Astoria properties, you receive an upgrade to a preferred room. Don’t expect an upgrade to a suite, though it may happen sometimes. Per the terms, preferred rooms may include upgrades up to an executive floor room, or otherwise the next best available room type, including rooms with desirable views or amenities. As you can see, that’s not a very specific benefit, but usually you do get somewhat of an upgrade.


Once in a while I receive a suite upgrade as an Honors Gold member

25% bonus on base points

As an Honors Gold member you receive a 25% points bonus for Hilton stays. The bonus is based on the base points you usually earn. At most Hilton properties you earn 10 base points per dollar spent, meaning you’d earn an extra 2.5 points per dollar spent. That’s not a huge bonus, but it does add up.

In general Hilton is among the best hotel chains when it comes to the ability to earn points for stays, given their excellent promotions.

Late check-out subject to availability

Hilton Honors Gold members receive complimentary late check-out, though it’s subject to availability. This unfortunately isn’t as good as the guaranteed late check-out offered with other hotel groups. As a Gold member I’ve had decent luck requesting 1-2PM check-out, but even that’s sometimes denied, and anything beyond that is pretty unlikely, in my experience.

As they say, “your mileage may vary.”

5th night free award stays

This benefit isn’t specific to Gold status, but rather is available to all Hilton Honors elite members. Elite members receive a fifth night free on award stays, the value of which can add up pretty quickly. This is an especially good value for aspirational hotels, where a free night would usually cost 95,000 points per night.

Using the fifth night free, you’d pay just 76,000 points per night, which is an excellent deal for a property like the Conrad Maldives.

Bottom line

While there are some other benefits to Hilton Honors Gold status, the above are what I consider to be the most valuable. Given how easy it is to earn Honors Gold status (just by having the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American ExpressThe Platinum Card® from American ExpressThe Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN, etc.), I think this is an extremely useful mid tier status that a lot of people would get value out of.

While there’s potentially some value in Hilton Diamond status, for someone who just occasionally stays at Hilton properties, it’s tough to beat the value you get out of Gold status, given how easy it is to earn. The way I see it, breakfast and/or lounge access as well as preferred rooms are the best benefits of hotel elite status, and you get that with Honors Gold status.

If you’re a Hilton Gold member, what has your experience been like?

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Comments

  1. I got approved for and have the HH visa from Citi since February. Being that Hilton is with Amex going forward, would it be worthwhile to apply for Hilton Surpass? (Prefer Hilton b/c of my frequent cities I travel to) Also, should I cancel the Citi HH card or wait to see what Citi changes it into, then cancel? Thanks for all that you do and all the insight!

  2. I love my Hilton Gold status from my Amex Business Plat, though the benefits can be somewhat inconsistent. I have about 10 stays per year, and I’ve never been upgraded to a suite. And I just left a DoubleTree in North Carolina where I was not given free full breakfast (though it was discounted by 50% via an “upgrade coupon”). However, I got free full breakfast at a DoubleTree in Colorado, and have always gotten it at Hilton Garden Inns.

    As to late checkout, I’ve never gotten it past 2pm, and 90% of the time can’t get past 1:00.

    All in all, my favorite thing about Hilton is the fact that they run promotions basically non-stop. The hotels are not as cool as other chains, though (like Starwood).

  3. @Miguel – The notion that Hilton Honors elite benefits are more inconsistent than any other program’s is simply blogosphere bunk, which I have thoroughly debunked. You are a HH gold and the T&C clearly state that golds do not get suite upgrades. Occasionally, especially outside the US, they may get a suite upgrade at the discretion of a property; there is inconsistency there. The circumstances dictate individual properties’ variations on the rules, so that one must set one’s level of expectation accordingly. The same thing applies to other perks. Just read the T&C. What self-anointed travel gurus claim or what individual members may wish they could get is not a substitute for understanding what the rules are. In other words, be real.

    I am a Diamond and I almost always get suite upgrades. We heard how so-called “confirmed” suite upgrades (aka DSUs), which now-defunct HGP Diamonds used to get JUSTt 4 of, were more valuable than HH-style unlimited complimentary suite upgrades. However, now that WOH Globalists are also getting unlimited complimentary suite upgrades, what we are hearing is how valuable such upgrades are. Imagine that. Lastly, I have never be been denied a late checkout in 7 straight years as a HH Diamond, and, in fact, I have even gotten approved for checkouts as late as 6pm.

    Bottom line: You have good reasons to be happy with your Hilton Honors Gold status. Just focused on those reasons and you’ll have a wonderful and rewarding time playing the loyalty game.

    G’day!

  4. Anyone know if the Surpass card is available in Australia, I cannot complete the online application form ( I dont think they believe I live at the White House)

  5. This may be a silly question, but here it goes: The 100,000 points promotion is valid until 04 Oct 2017. Is that based on the date I apply for the card, or on the date on which the card is approved? The reason I’m asking is that I might not be able to meet the $3,000 spending requirement unless I wait to apply until the last moment (I have some big travel spending coming up in December for hotel stays).

  6. Is there anything that I need to do to activate gold status or will it go happen automatically? How long does it take after the card is approved?

  7. “The notion that Hilton Honors elite benefits are more inconsistent than any other program’s is simply blogosphere bunk, which I have thoroughly debunked.”

    I am gold and in my experience (been in 21 countries thus far in 2017) I’ve found the “upgrades” by Hilton to be more inconsistent. Plus two of the “upgrades” in my view were rooms of lesser quality than the ones I’d chosen myself. And three of the properties wouldn’t let me into the executive lounge (one suddenly didn’t have its lounge any longer but the website said it did). This is just one guy’s view, but in 2017 I’ve found more consistency with gold status Marriott/Starwood properties — especially for early check-in and late check-outs!!

  8. @Steven M — Once and for all, please get real. Do you truly believe it makes sense to talk about the “consistency” of something whose main feature is that it is utterly unpredictable? COMPLIMENTARY upgrades are exactly that, COMPLIMENTARY, which means that you are not owed or guaranteed anything. In fact, for any type of room upgrade (complimentary or otherwise), there first must be AVAILABILITY, which is UNPREDICTABLE, and then, as is true in every program, each property has the final word on whether or not to upgrade. Given those factual uncertainties, it is mindless to claim that upgrades of any hotel loyalty program are more consistent than another’s. It is pure travel blogopshere bunk, now debunked ad nauseam.

    I am a Marriott Gold and SPG Gold, so I can provide an informed perspective about each mid-tier status. SPG Gold is a joke and Marriott Gold, while not as bad as SPG Gold, is inferior to Hilton Honors Gold, which is overwhelmingly the consensus best mid-tier elite status out there.

    G’day.

  9. @Miguel / Steven M – ignore the cranky ranting old man in the corner…anyone who quotes himself as “evidence” isn’t worth paying any attention to.

    Both your very valid posts illustrate the benefits of “guarantees” of a program. Something Hilton is very short of.

  10. I will say as a Hilton Diamond, Marriott and SPG Platinum, and a Hyatt Globalist, that I find Marriott to have the better chance at an upgrade as a Platinum or Gold. At the mid tier level, Marriott Gold is the best status to have. It takes 50 nights to get it or have the Amex Plat, but who knows when that will end. The point is that all of the loyalty programs have their perks and flaws. I don’t know how DCS, gets as many upgrades as he does at Hiltons, maybe I’m just staying at the wrong ones, but I get tons more upgrades as a Marriott Plat than I do as a Diamond. I just made Globalist so I can’t comment on how that will go, but being an Explorist was about as useful as being a Discoverist.

  11. @Brad – most of his examples are in Asia (where upgrades for every chain are plentiful). He has also admitted to carrying a laminated copy of the HH T&Cs with him, and will argue to the death with FDCs to get what he wants.

    Definitely not representative 😉 but of course he’ll insult the intelligence of any Hilton Gold/Diamond who puts down the program & compares it negatively to the better benefits of other chains.

  12. @DCS: “Given those factual uncertainties, it is mindless to claim that upgrades of any hotel loyalty program are more consistent than another’s.”

    And yet again, DCS shows up and proclaims that no one is permitted to disagree with him.

  13. @Mike — How stupid are you anyway? What difference does make even if I proclaimed that no one is permitted to disagree with me, when the proclamation won’t deter anyone from disagreeing with me?

    Now, just f@$# off.

  14. @DCS: “How stupid are you anyway? What difference does make even if I proclaimed that no one is permitted to disagree with me, when the proclamation won’t deter anyone from disagreeing with me?

    Now, just f@$# off.”

    Thank you for proving my point.

  15. @Brad sez: “I don’t know how DCS, gets as many upgrades as he does at Hiltons, maybe I’m just staying at the wrong ones, but I get tons more upgrades as a Marriott Plat than I do as a Diamond.”

    Well, I will let in on the secret, which I’d described in a post on an online travel discussion board, where (a) I’d provided objective evidence of clearing 14 of 14 (100%) suite upgrades in 2014 [see here: https://goo.gl/ZWv8at. Everything after that post is also worth reading], and (b) I’d described how I did it [see the bottom half of this post: https://goo.gl/6tQJGh%5D (BTW, the host of OMAAT also did do a post of my approach to clearing suite upgrades, which is sort similar to his own).

    The primary difference between my approach and others’ is that I am good-natured about it all. That is in contrast to SPG or HGP/WoH elites who’d set truly unhinged levels of expectations for themselves because they’d bought self-anointed travel gurus’ bogus claim that they were “entitled” to suite upgrades. The resulting sense of “entitlement” led to really weird shit, as I documented here: https://goo.gl/3wH5oj. I urge you to follow that last link to see why everyone should just chill…really.

    BTW, I am also Marriott Gold, and I have cleared most of suite upgrades (mostly in Asia, but also in the US), despite staying sparingly with the chain. As a SPG Gold through the AMEX Biz Plat, I have not scored a single upgrade, which it the stingiest (worst) program because I’d scored upgrades even as HGP Platinum!

    G’day!

  16. @DCS do you get suite upgrades often the the US with Hilton. I really would want to get more out of my Diamond status, but every time I feel like it’s a fight. Marriott has been less of a hassle, in my experience. So is there a better way to approach the staff at a Hilton? I want to get the most out of all the statuses that I worked hard to achieve.

    And thanks @UA-NYC for the reply

  17. @Brad — Yes, I do get suite upgrades in the US, but, by professional necessity and design, most of stays are overseas…

    I’d like to clean this up from above:

    As a SPG Gold through the AMEX Biz Plat, I have not scored a single upgrade, which MAKES it the stingiest (worst) program because I’d scored upgrades even as a HGP Platinum!

  18. @DCS: “As a SPG Gold through the AMEX Biz Plat, I have not scored a single upgrade, which MAKES it the stingiest (worst) program because I’d scored upgrades even as a HGP Platinum!”

    Translated, this essentially means that DCS thinks that it’s mindless to claim that upgrades at one chain are more or less consistent than at another chain, unless he’s the one making the claim.

    This, once again, proves my point.

  19. @DCS: And yet again, you not only prove that no one is allowed to disagree with you in your mind, you even more firmly establish that you are a narcissist who needs professional help.

  20. @Mike – and of course, even though DCS will scream “all the programs are the same!!!” until he’s blue in the face, he will never, ever acknowledge that the SPG site is the only one (maybe WOH now added in) that actively touts suite upgrades as a Plat benefit (and not buried somewhere deep in the T&Cs).

    SPG: An upgrade to best available room at check-in — including a Standard Suite.

    Hilton: (crickets chirping, as the words “suite” and “upgrade” are nowhere to be found on the Diamond landing page)

    This of course makes his 20,000 word rant factually irrelevant

  21. @The Village Idiot sez: “he will never, ever acknowledge that the SPG site is the only one (maybe WOH now added in) that actively touts suite upgrades as a Plat benefit (and not buried somewhere deep in the T&Cs).

    SPG: An upgrade to best available room at check-in — including a Standard Suite.”

    Anyone who wishes to have a laugh about those truly ludicrous statements needs to follow the third link in my previous, if you haven’t already. Go on, take a look 😉

    To keep going on and on and on about programs (yes, SPG and HGP/WoH) that went belly up precisely because they were weak and never deserved the pedestals on which they were placed by self-anointed “travel gurus”, is to be truly and hopelessly clueless.

    There are simply no signs of intelligent lifeforms here, so this is were I bail out. Scottie, please beam me up or out or wherever!

    G’day!

  22. OK, guys, chill. First of all this is mid-level we are talking about, suite upgrade in my impression is not a usual mid-level perk. Hilton gold is one of the easiest mid-level status to get and you complain you cannot get upgrade to suites?

    Is there any other mid-level status include free breakfast? for a cheap leisure traveler this is most valuable perk I really care and I get it from Hilton effortlessly. I am happy.

  23. Anyone in CANADA.
    Hilton really don’t care about Canadian customers as we cannot get their surpass credit card. No chance to earn the 100,000 points. No chance to get instant gold status. How can this be allowed…. Hilton >>> give your Canadian members a fair deal!!!

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