Which Hilton Amex Sign-Up Bonus Is Best?

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.

Update: There’s an exciting Limited Time Offer for the Hilton American Express cards through 5/31/17! The links below are expired, but you can learn more about best offers we’ve seen on these cards!

As I first wrote about a couple of weeks ago, American Express is offering increased sign-up bonuses on their two co-branded Hilton credit cards. These increased offers are valid through May 4, 2016. The details of these offers are as follows:

These are both good offers — the one on the Hilton HHonors Card is great because it’s a no annual fee credit card with a very nice sign-up bonus, while the one on the Hilton HHonors Surpass Card offers an even bigger bonus. While it has a $75 annual fee, it also comes with a better return on everyday spend, and also Gold status for as long as you have the card, plus Diamond status when you spend $40,000 on the card in a year.

Reader Mike emailed the following question regarding these bonuses:

Ben, I am considering applying for one of the increased Hilton offers. I already have Hilton Gold status through the Platinum Amex Card, so am wondering which card I should apply for?

In theory you could be approved for both sign-up bonuses, for a total of 175,000 bonus HHonors points. But assuming you just wanted to apply for one card, here are my general thoughts:

Are 25,000 Hilton points worth $75?

Personally I value Hilton points at ~0.4 cents each. They can be redeemed for much more than that in some cases, though I consider that to be a fair valuation.

That means I value 100,000 Hilton points at ~$400, while I value 75,000 Hilton points at $300.

At the margins, that means it’s worth applying for the Hilton HHonors Surpass Card over the Hilton HHonors Card, assuming the sign-up bonus is the metric you’re using.

Book the DoubleTree Beijing for just 10,000 HHonors points per night

But there are other considerations…

Of course card perks should also factor into which card you apply for, in which case I’d keep in mind the following things:

Receive club lounge access on a space available basis as a Hilton HHonors Gold member

Bottom line

These increased sign-up bonuses on the Hilton HHonors Card and the Hilton HHonors Surpass Card are the best we’ve ever seen, and are only available for a couple more weeks. Both bonuses are worth considering. While I don’t consider Hilton properties to be especially aspirational, there’s no denying that there are plenty of practical uses for these points.

If you’re going to pick up just one card I’d recommend the Hilton HHonors Surpass Card, unless you want a card you plan on holding onto for a very long time, in which case the no annual fee Hilton HHonors Card might be the better option.


  1. You mentioned picking up “both cards”. What would be the best process for doing this? I’m guessing applying for both in one day would be a mistake. Should I wait 24 hours? Or a week?

    Additionally, no clue if there are “business versions”, but if there are could a person theoretically get 4 cards?

  2. @ Jeff — With Amex the restrictions can be a bit inconsistent. Generally you can have at most four charge cards and four credit cards at once (regardless of whether they’re personal or business). As far as application timing goes, you’ll usually only want to apply for one personal card in a day. Some report being approved for multiple personal cards in a day, but I might space them out by two days, if I were you. Don’t believe there are business versions of the cards.

    Let me know if you have any other questions!

  3. Ben, Last year you wrote that you have a multitude of credit cards that you add, cancel as needed. I don’t remember the exact report from you, but you wrote that doping so doesn’t effect your credit score. Now you write “Holding onto a credit card long term is good for your credit score, given that average age of your accounts is an important metric of your credit score” So what is correct?

  4. @ Endre — I certainly apply for new cards fairly often, and also cancel old ones. It’s all about finding a balance. By holding onto some cards long term (like the SPG Amex, CSP, PRG, etc.) I can keep my average age of accounts high. So my strategy is to apply for cards which I like, cancel cards I’m not getting value out of, and holding onto some cards long term, which can add value while helping my credit score. Hope that makes sense. 🙂

  5. I got the surpass recently but I’m contemplating getting the regular HHonors Amex too. I’ll have to MS it tho which will probably cost me $30 for the 75k bonus. Plus another hard pull. Wondering if it’ll be worth it (I don’t have a specific redemption in mind/planned for quite a while)…

  6. @ JL — It all depends what other cards you haven’t applied for. I certainly think it’s worth the inquiry unless you have another card with a better bonus for which you haven’t yet applied.

  7. @ Gary — All things considered I’d say the IHG offer is probably more compelling since it’s a card worth holding onto long term, due to the annual free night certificate.

  8. I recently cancelled my AMEX Surpass card believing the Citibank Hilton Visa to be a better long term card to hold/use particularly if you frequently stay at Hiltons. In my mind .4 cents a point is the absolute minimum value. If you stay at Hilton’s international properties the value can be much higher.

  9. Hey lucky .. i know this isn’t too relevant but…. I just noticed that the AA website is no longer displaying lifetime miles used. Only million miiller balance. Sad day… I liked to show off and know how many miles I’ved previously burned on AA. Anyway perhaps you want to reach out and ask if this is just a temporary glitch?

  10. Why would anyone honestly do the stays for Diamond in a barely mediocre program when $89 gets you most of the same benefits?

  11. So I looked at the AMEX page to “upgrade” to Surpass. My offer is only 50K in points. Is this usual?

  12. @ RJT — Yep, that’s the upgrade offer, but if you apply for a new card then you can get the full 100K bonus, assuming you haven’t had that card before.

  13. Hmmm…OK…Every time I go to that page though it says “upgrade”…Sorry to sound uninformed–how do I get to apply for a “new” card?

  14. @Lucky continues to be confused: “That means I value 100,000 Hilton points at ~$400, while I value 75,000 Hilton points at $300.”

    You will never get 100,000 HHonors points for $400 anywhere, so please stop writing about things that you are clearly confused about. The earn and redemption values of loyalty points cannot be used interchangeably!

    What’s more, the redemption value of HH points can be (for me they usually are) much higher than the AVERAGE value of 0.4 cent that you keep throwing around. Supposed I went for the HH AMEX Surpass offer and got the 100,000 HH bonus. I could decide to book one award night for 95K HH points at Conrad Koh Samui, which can cost up to $1,000/night in hard cash. The value? $1,000/95,000 = 1.05 cents/point. I got a redemption value that is 2.5x more than 0.4 cent/point that you keep using. Those 100K points would be worth $1,000 in that redemption…

    The value of loyalty points on the EARN side is whatever you would have had to pay to earn an equivalent number of points. The value of points on the redemption side depends on the cash value of what you redeem the points for. In general points are worth (cost) a lot more when they are earned than when they are redeemed, ergo do not use redemption value to imply earn value!

  15. @Lucky – I see this message below when I click on your 100k offer link and it shows the 50k upgrade offer. I currently hold the no fee HHonors card and have never had the surpass.

    “You have been identified as a current American Express Card Member. The welcome offer below may not be the same as the offer you saw advertised previously because the offer you saw advertised previously is not available to current American Express Card Members. This offer is also not available to applicants who have had a Hilton HHonors™ Surpass® Card from American Express account.”

  16. Interesting, the upgrade offers seem to be targeted. When I log into my AmEx account as a current holder of the base Hilton card, I get a banner with a 100K upgrade offer!

  17. I have two AMEX cards already; one business because of my employer and one personal (Blue that I used to use for the cash back but currently hardly use it anymore). I wanted both of these for 175,000 Hilton points for $75. I applied for the HH Surpass first which is my preferred card (the extra 25,000 is worth the $75 for me) and got approved immediately. I then applied for the HH one and got a notice to call them. I was told they will decide in 5 days and get back to me (or I can call). So it would make sense if you want both to wait a few days in between to potentially avoid having to call them and just get approved online. I don’t foresee a problem getting approved but doing it back to back must have triggered an alert in their automated system.

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