Which Limited Time Hilton Honors Amex Bonus Is Best?

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Update: The below links for the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express and Hilton Honors™ Card from American Express are expired, but you can learn more about best available offers here.

Yesterday American Express unveiled two fantastic, “best ever” sign-up bonuses on their co-branded Hilton cards.

The Hilton Honors™ Card from American Express is offering 80,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after spending $2,000 in purchases within the first three months, and has no annual fee.

Meanwhile the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express is offering 100,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first three months. You also get a free weekend night valid at any Hilton Honors hotel on your first cardmember anniversary. The card has a $75 annual fee.

While you could get approved for both of these cards, Amex will typically let you have at most five credit cards and four charge cards at a time, so I know a lot of 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 80,000 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:

For anyone who is curious about that free night anniversary certificate, here are the basic things you need to know:

  • It will be emailed to you within 6-8 weeks of your first anniversary date
  • It must be redeemed for stays within 12 months of when the certificate is issued
  • The free night certificate should work very similarly to the one offered by the Citi® Hilton Honors™ Reserve Card, which is straightforward; it’s valid at all properties with standard rooms, and as long as there’s a standard room for sale, you should be able to redeem the certificate for it

Redeem your free weekend night certificate at the Conrad Koh Samui

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 20,000 points earned on the Surpass over the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express justify the $75 annual fee, 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

Receive free breakfast as a Hilton Honors Gold member

Bottom line

The sign-up bonuses on both the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express and Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express are excellent, and the best we’ve ever seen. 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 justify the $75 annual fee over the 80,000 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.

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  1. I am all for getting the most value from a certificate by visiting Hong Kong or malives for a night.

  2. Ah Ben, this is exactly the compare-and-contrast analysis I was looking for! I’m halfway through the spend on the no-annual-fee Citi Honors 75k offer card, so was trying to figure out last night which of these two Amex cards would be better. Gold status + better return on spend were the final selling points.

    Re: “I am all for getting the most value from a certificate by visiting Hong Kong or malives for a night.”

    Are the transfers included? Those transfers in the Maldives can cost hundreds of dollars. I’d opt use the certificate elsewhere in any case. Had a great time in Maldives last year but not sure this is the best use of the certificate.

  3. @ Steven M. — Happy to hear, thanks. 🙂 Transfers aren’t included, and wasn’t suggesting going there for a night. For example, I’d use this free night certificate in conjunction with a longer stay. That’s one of the reasons I apply such a discount to the value of the certificate. However, I think there are lots of great city hotels where this certificate could easily be used.

  4. It is still unclear for me if the anniversary night is a one time thing or like Citi reserve card that give you anniversary if you met the annual spending. Per the terms it seems one time thing but can someone confirm?

  5. @ Zoe — It is in fact a one time thing, that’s correct. Long term you’re better off getting the Citi Hilton Reserve if you plan to spend $10,000 on the card per year, since you get a free weekend night certificate every year.

  6. While I really like the points earning rate and the bonus categories on the Surpass card, I really wish AmEx would get rid of that pesky foreign transaction fee!

    I’d happily forego the Priority Pass membership that comes with the Surpass card and would even be okay with an increase in the annual fee if that 2.7% fee were to become a thing of the past.

  7. Hey Ben, little typo at the end. You say you value the sign-up bonus on the Hilton Honors Surpass card from American Express over the Hilton Honors Surpass card from American Express. Surely you mean over the Hilton Honors (not Surpass) card. Same thing in the Bottom Line section

  8. Damn, I signed up for the Hilton surpass three weeks ago when it was at 75K bonus and no 1st year free certificate… still, with home much I stay in Hilton properties, 12x points*0.6(my Hilton points valuation) brings me to a 7.2% return which is great! Bummed about the extra benefits, but honestly it was just gravy to the already great perks.

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