Your Hilton Surpass Card Will Be Converted To The Hilton Ascend Card In Two Weeks

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Around the middle of last year it was announced that Hilton is entering into an exclusive credit card agreement with American Express (while previously they also had credit cards issued by Citi), and then in November it was announced that Hilton is rebranding their American Express cards.

Personally the card I’m most excited about is the Hilton Aspire Card, which will have a $450 annual fee and will offer Honors Diamond status for as long as you have the card, a $250 annual airline incidental fee credit, a $250 Hilton annual resort credit, and an annual free weekend night certificate. In many ways this card seems too good to be true, and I can’t wait to apply for it.

That card will be a new product, and it’s expected to be introduced around January 18, 2018, which is two weeks from today. However, that’s not the only thing to be aware of, in anticipation of the Hilton card changes.

Hilton Surpass Card will be converted into Hilton Ascend Card

I know many of you have picked up the Hilton Honors™ Surpass Card from American Express over the past year thanks to the huge sign-up bonuses they’ve been offering on the cards.

On/around January 18, 2018, the Hilton Surpass Card will automatically be converted into the Hilton Ascend Card. There’s not just a name change here, but a few other implications:

  • The card’s annual fee will be increasing from $75 to $95, including for existing cardmembers with an annual fee due on/after February 2, 2018
  • The card will offer no foreign transaction fees, while the previous version of the card had fees for these transactions
  • The card will offer an annual free weekend night certificate when you spend $15,000 on purchases on the card in a calendar year (previously there was no option to earn an annual free weekend night certificate)
  • The card will offer 10 free Priority Pass lounge passes each year

This should continue to be a pretty compelling card. Whether the changes to this card are a positive or negative depends entirely on your situation. While Hilton Honors Gold status is worth $95, in my opinion, keep in mind you can also get Gold status just by having The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN, which I know is one way that many people earn that status.

We don’t know if the Ascend Card will be considered a new product

There’s one interesting nuance here to be aware of. Keep in mind that American Express typically has a “once in a lifetime” policy when it comes to receiving the welcome bonus on cards. The question is whether the Ascend Card is considered a new product for those purposes or not.

In other words, if you have a Surpass Card and you let it be converted into an Ascend Card in a couple of weeks, then you most definitely won’t be eligible for the sign-up bonus on the Ascend Card in the future. That’s because you’ll already be an existing cardmember for their purposes.

Meanwhile if you cancel a Surpass Card before it’s automatically converted into an Ascend Card, then you’d only be eligible for a bonus on the Ascend Card in the future if American Express considers this to be a new product.

Unfortunately we don’t know whether or not they’ll consider this to be a new product, and we may not know until the card is out. At that point we’ll only know based on what the terms state.

The added wrinkle

A couple of times in the past year the Hilton Surpass Card has offered a sign-up bonus that comes with a free night certificate on the card’s first anniversary without any spend requirement. That’s potentially worth up to 95,000 Honors points. I applied for the card around the middle of last year when there was such an offer, meaning if I canceled the card then I wouldn’t receive the free night certificate on the card’s first anniversary.

So there’s a cost to canceling the card for many of us.

My guess on the new product question

If I had to guess I’d say that the Ascend Card probably isn’t going to be considered a new product, though I most definitely could be wrong. For example, the press release stated that those with the Surpass Card will “automatically be upgraded to the new benefits launching January 2018.” I can’t say for sure that this is deliberate, but to me that phrasing is different than suggesting that people will be converted to a new card.

In many ways the changes being made to the card remind me of the changes that were made to the SPG Amex in 2015, where they slightly increased the annual fee, added some benefits, and eliminated foreign transaction fees, though the card wasn’t officially rebranded. When that change was made, the card wasn’t considered a new product.

In light of that — or at least since it’s not a sure bet that it will be considered a new product — I think it’s worth holding onto the card to get the free night certificate after the first anniversary, rather than gambling, assuming you’re in that position.

What do you guys think? Will the Hilton Ascend Card be considered a new product, and what approach are you taking in light of the card switchover in a couple of weeks?

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Comments

  1. If my “free” weekend night from the Citi Reserve card has posted, do you think it is safe to cancel the card? I also have the surpass so I’m already slated for an Ascend. Agree with you, definitely want the Aspire!

  2. I’d be surprised if it were considered a new card. I expect the bonus restriction language to specifically call out the Surpass card, like the new Delta Blue card calls out the Delta Gold as well. I avoided the 125k sign-up bonus on the Surpass last month because I’m hoping for a nice bonus offer on the Ascend at some point down the road, although I’m more interested in the Aspire in the immediate term.

  3. Excellent article, many thanks Ben! I cancelled today as I found no clarification anywhere on the two letters Citi/Amex mailed in November/December as to whether Amex would honor the Citi free night certificate benefit. So my hunch in cancelling today was that a future sign-up bonus for the new Amex card or a different Amex Hilton card would outweigh keeping this card for a $95 fee. But I don’t know.

  4. For those of us who applied mid year 2017 for the Surpass, do we still get a free weekend night upon renewal? We’re grandfathered in, right?

  5. I’m just wondering about Diamond Status. I got the Surpass card only because, after spending $40k, I would automatically get Hilton Diamond Status. There’s nothing that says that benefit will be carried over to the Ascend card.

  6. I have the surpass card now and I have no obligations from recent sign-up bonuses since I have had the card for years. I want the Hilton Amex Aspire card instead. What should I do? Can I get the sign up benefit on the Aspire card and then cancel my Surpass? whats the strategy?

  7. @ Chris — Well last year the Surpass Card had a sign-up bonus offering a free night with no spend requirement on the first anniversary. Going forward you can earn a free night every year if you spend $15K on the card.

  8. @ jaymanlb — The Aspire is unrelated to the Surpass/Ascend, so you should be eligible for that bonus regardless of what you do with your current cards. I’d just apply for the Aspire directly when it comes out.

  9. This is exactly what I’m hoping to see happen with Amex spg clients. The option to upgrade to their super premium spg Amex. Especially when clients are also a platinum and reserve card holder.

  10. @Lucky re: Aspire (I am current Surpass of less than a year)…will the Aspire be subject to the current max Amex cards limits? In other words, if one is at the limits, will a card have to be canceled before being approved for Aspire? If so, will there be an option to convert Surpass/Ascend to Aspire?

  11. I question how AMEX can up the annual fee and add benefits and not consider it a new product. In the end, the Ascend will be a significantly different product than the current Surpass card. But am I willing to cancel the Surpass now and risk my free night certificate…and the sign-up bonus if it isn’t a new product??? That’s tough to justify. I’d say the certain costs outweigh the (potential) benefits.

  12. @ Tom — Yes, I imagine it will be subject to the current Amex Card limits, so you would likely have to cancel a card first. We don’t officially know, but my guess is that there will be an upgrade offer as well, though I imagine you’ll get more points applying outright.

  13. Hi. Quick question: I’m not sure what to do, I have both the surpass card and the current Hilton citi card. Does it make sense for me to cancel the citi card before it gets transferred over to a second Amex? Or will it not transfer if I already have one?

  14. Hi Lucky, please help me decide! Would You Rather 12 hours in Qatar J on A350 TYO-DOH + 8 hours in Qatar F DOH-CDG or 12 hours in JAL F from TYO to CDG?

  15. I was looking at my points history on my Hilton account, and it says something about activity posting due to spend on my Ascend card (really my Surpass). It’s a done deal. No new product. They’ve retroactivly changed the name of the product before it’s even active. Lame.

  16. Any idea whether spend on the Surpass before January 18 will, count towards the $15000 required for the free night? Or is it only spend after Surpass converts to Ascend?

  17. Cancel you Citi card IMMEDIATELY! You do not want it to convert or you will lose the sign up bonus on the Ascend guaranteed.

  18. I signed up AE Hilton Surpass Nov. 2017. I have recently receive the sign up point which call “ASCEND CARD WELCOME BONUS”. I guess I used up my once of life time already….

  19. Lucky any idea of the amount of HH pts that will be earned per $1, I would think it would be more then the Surpass/Asend just as Surpass was more then the no fee reg HH CC

  20. I’m confused. If we assume that the Ascend will be considered a new product (just go with me for now), how would the conversion disqualify me from a bonus later? I’d have the Ascend, but I wouldn’t have ever received a bonus for it. So IF it is a new product, couldn’t I later cancel and then reapply and get the bonus? Same scenario as if I applied for the Platinum, didn’t meet the spend so didn’t get the bonus, then cancelled and reapplied a year later.

  21. Lucky, do you think there will be an issue with the free night offered by the last Surpass sign-up deal? I was a little concerned when I got the email from Hilton and it mentioned the free night under the Ascend was after $15k of spend. Do you think its possible to get two free nights? I’m hoping the first will still be valid and am wondering if I can earn a second from the $15k of spend? Any ideas on how this might be honored or treated?

  22. Regarding the free weekend night after $15k of spend: is that something that will be available soon after meeting the $15k spend, or do we have to wait ’til the end of the calendar year to receive it?

  23. Maybe it’s just me, but I think the names are backward. To aspire means to optimistically look upward at a future goal, and to ascend indicates achieving that goal you aspired towards. I think ascend should be the name of the nicer card.

    I’m still getting the Aspire though. The benefits on it are ridiculous. I stay at enough hotels during the year to get mid-tier status and don’t have enough brand loyalty to stick to one thanks to complimentary mid-tier status from credit cards. This would likely make me more brand loyal to Hilton. I’m sure I’ll get over the name, with all of those benefits.

  24. I spoke with someone at Amex about one month ago regarding the issue of the free night after the first year anniversary of my Surpass which I also got mid 2017. Their response was “we have not decided whether they would honor it since I wouldn’t have the “Surpass” card active for the full year.

  25. I have a Surpass that had been upgraded from a no fee card. I had no free night to worry about. I also have a no fee Citi Hilton that appears to have an Amex number already based on postal mail I received on the sale of the portfolio.

    I downgraded the Surpass today to gamble on “lifetime” language applications next year.

    I am now most curious to see what happens to my Citi card conversion. I’ll be slightly surprised if they leave me with two no fee Hilton Amex cards but it would be great to have another card for Amex Offers.

  26. As Taryn said above, I noticed last month that my HH statement, that previously mentioned points accrued from spend on my Surpass, now said points accrued from my “Ascend” card. So they have already done the transfer on their end, and it’s too late to cancel and reapply for a “new product”, even if they do consider it a new product.

    If you have an open Surpass, they will consider that you have already had an Ascend. AMEX is obviously doing this to prevent us from going the cancel/apply route for another sign up bonus.

    However, if all you have is the HH Res card, cancel/apply MAY still work, IDK…

  27. I am pretty confident that cancelling it before the 18th will result in you being able to get the sign up bonus in the future. If it was going to be considered the same card why not just announce it beforehand to prevent people from cancelling it? I am guessing that they want it to be a new card to encourage any people who switched from AMEX to the Reserve to come back. But they are waiting until the 18th to announce it in order to prevent lots of people from cancelling the card.

    I too signed up this past year and received the free night at the end of the first year perk. That is smart on their part, and because of that I am keeping the card. But again, why have that perk if the new card won’t be considered separate?

  28. Hilton Aspire AmEx: $250 Hilton annual resort credit, does this have to be applied towards a Hilton Resort, or can it be applied towards any Hilton hotel stay?

  29. I spoke with the Executive Office. The Ascend card is not considered a new product so if I cancel and apply; I would be ineligible for the sign-up bonus. The free anniversary night is not an on-going benefit on the card at this time. Was anyone told something different then I was?

  30. I cancelled my Surpass earlier this week and specifically asked about sign up bonus eligibility for a newly applied for ‘Ascend’ card. She confirmed it would be considered a new product, and eligible for any sign up bonuses. So I guess we’ll see. Definitely not the official word, but a data point.

  31. SteveH: I got my Amex Surpass in May 2017. I just spoke to an Amex representative a couple of nights ago, and he assured me that I will get my free weekend night in May 2018.

  32. Ben- Re. the changes to the Hilton Honors Surpass/Ascend card on the Priority Pass lounge access, do you know if the 10 free visits count as well to say a spouse who has a (2nd) card in her own name with a different card number but same account? Is that considered an authorized user…or just ME, the person who opened the account? I’m trying to see if when they swipe her card it will be recorded as another free visit of the allotted 10, or as a guest with a $27 fee.

  33. This could help or maybe not, or perhaps it could just add to the confusion. I closed my Hilton Honors (the first card) back in 2012 or 2013 after the amex once in a lifetime “bonus rule” went into effect. Middle last year I applied for the surpass card from hilton amex and I received the 120,000 point bonus. Weird because my card says I have been a member since 2002, which was when I had originally signed up for the old Hilton honors amex. As many of you know the surpass card was the replacement for the old Hilton honors card. Keeping hope alive!

  34. Although I canceled my Citi Hilton card in December, 2017 (tried to avoid the conversion), I still got the new converted Amx Hilton card today in the mail! Don’t know what I should do with it. I worry I can’t have sigh up bonus if I apply the card later.

  35. I also signed up for the Hilton Surpass in September with the free night upon 1 year anniversary. The Amex rep said that offer was rescinded and replaced with the new Ascend terms of 15k spend for a free night. Pretty unfair.

  36. Lucky, any confirmation on what happens to the 1st anniversary free night that many of us got when applying for the Surpass last year? In reading through the comments above, there is definitely conflicting information being given to cardholders. (I was told by Amex that it won’t be honored, then when I pressed for more info they put me on hold, came back and said it was up to Hilton…which sounds like total bs.) Any clarification you can get from the honchos at AmEx would be much appreciated by your humble followers. Thank you!

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