For the past couple of weeks American Express has been offering increased sign-up bonuses on their two Hilton Honors cards. Both of these increased offers are valid for applications through October 4, 2017. The detaIls of these two offers are as follows:
- The no annual fee Hilton Honors™ Card from American Express is offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $1,000 within the first three months, plus a further 25,000 Hilton Honors points after spending another $1,000 within the first six months
- The $75 annual fee Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express is offering a sign-up bonus of 100,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after spending $3,000 within the first three months, plus a free weekend night certificate on the card’s first anniversary
While you could get approved for both of these cards, Amex will typically let you have at most five credit cards (this doesn’t include charge cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN, The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, and The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN), so I know some 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 75,000 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 $300
- 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
If you’re curious about the details of the free weekend night certificate, see this post.
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 25,000 points earned on the Surpass over the Hilton Honors™ Card from American Express justifies the $75 annual fee (I value the points at $100), 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™ Card from American Express are excellent. 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 justifies the $75 annual fee over the 75,000 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.