Crunching The Numbers On The Two Hilton Amex Cards

Update: This offer for The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN has expired. Learn more about the current offers here.

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.

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 ExpressThe Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPENThe 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:

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

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™ 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.


  1. Lucky,
    Please stop this. How many posts can you publish about this shitty card?
    Just tell us how much you need to stop this BS marketing content and publish something interesting instead.

  2. Pm: If you can’t write an appropriate comment please don’t write one at all. Also, if you don’t find the post useful move along. There are plenty of new people always coming in that can use this info.

  3. PM was unduly harsh, but even those of us who love this site can probably admit that the Amex-Hilton marketing campaign has been pretty extreme over the last couple weeks. Really good cards don’t need that much push. Amex should include an anniversary stay every year, not just first anniversary, if they want the card to be more competitive.

  4. No offense, Lucky, but I have to agree with Pm about this card and the amount of marketing that this blog does for it. I appreciate your transparency and honesty in most all of your posts, but it’s hard to think of these posts about the Hilton cards as anything other than fundraiser drives. You value Hilton points at 0.4 cents for a reason. Only those who stay at Hilton properties on paid stays with frequency or those looking for a quick hotel status boost should consider these cards relative to others. Yes the sign-up bonus for the Surpass can get you a night at a top-tier hotel like the Conrad Maldives, but that’s it. One night. How are the majority of your readers going to get to justify spending all of the points or money necessary to get to the Maldives for one night solely to maximize the value of one sign-up bonus. It’s easy to say “Just buy another night or two.” But how are your average readers going to get enough points to afford that? Spend $16,000 at restaurants just to get that second night? Aren’t there so many better cards for that kind of spending? And given that you value Hilton points so low, doesn’t that mean that there aren’t many attainable aspirational awards available with Hilton?

    What I think your readers would find more helpful is what the breakdown actually is on when collecting Hilton points is worth it over collecting cash back (or collecting points elsewhere). How do the Hilton cards really stack up against the competition? And that goes for other cards as well. For non-bonus spend, wouldn’t collecting cash using the Citi Double Cash card be a 66% improvement over the Surpass card? Wouldn’t the Chase Sapphire Reserve be a 50%+ improvement over the Surpass card for restaurant spend? Why or why not? These are the questions that your readers read your posts to find. Sure, I appreciate a good sign-up bonus like the next person, but 100,000 points that have a fair market valuation of $400 (or lots of additional costs to make an aspirational award available) just doesn’t cut it. If I wanted a $400 sign-up bonus I could sign up for the Venture card at any time.

  5. @Sam sez: And given that you value Hilton points so low…blah…blah…blah…”

    You are free to disagree with @Lucky for peddling this card, but please do not make one your reasons for disagreeing the universally misunderstood fact that a HH point is worth 0.4cent. You do not have a clue what means, nor do most self-anointed travel gurus who publish monthly Tables of Average Monetary Values of points currencies. Other than that, you may actually have a point when you say that this card is more valuable to those who earn points through paid stays at Hilton properties…


  6. The Gold status alone is worth more than the annual fee. Just a few weeks ago, we scored over $300 in free breakfast buffets for being gold. The high earn rates are offset by the low point value, about 1/3c for me, but even then you’re getting 2% on restaurants and groceries.

  7. And here we have yet another instance of DCS not allowing someone to have an opinion that differs from his own.

    Those of us who aren’t narcissists understand that value is subjective, and anyone is free to value their points (or anything else of value) as they see fit.

  8. I’m just getting started in the American Express points game so I value your tips and opinions. Keep on keeping on.

  9. People are getting ridiculous with their entitled behavior. You are not the center of the universe. If you don’t like the card don’t read articles about it. You behave like a child and only want people to write what you like. That’s dumb. What if someone loves hilton or have a favorite hotel that is hilton and they go there frequently. They would collect as much hh as they can regardless of how much more valuable another hotel chain may be. But that never occurred to you did it. Of course not because you think you are awesome.

  10. Thanks for the post! For those of us who have had a lot of cards, and are always looking for something new, its a good time to get it, even if we don’t keep it much past the first year. Yes, we all have our favorite cards, but the big bonuses are what makes the game fun! Keep up the good work!

  11. Lucky, I too agree you’ve been pushing this too hard BUT- that’s how you make a living so, fine.

    However, I notice you conveniently don’t mention the Forex fee in any of your posts, which seems like an intentional omission of a very prominent drawback to your particular readership, which would subtract from your transparency and impartiality in your reviews.

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