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Earlier this year we saw American Express and Hilton transform their card portfolio, with the introduction of a new super premium card, as well as two new mid-range cards. In this post I wanted to look at a specific benefit offered by two of these cards, both of which offer welcome bonuses of up to 100,000 points upon completing minimum spend:
- The Hilton Honors Ascend Card offers 75,000 Honors points after spending $2,000 within the first three months, plus an additional 25,000 points after spending an additional $1,000 within the first six months
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card offers 75,000 Honors points after spending $3,000 within the first three months, plus an additional 25,000 points after spending an additional $1,000 within the first six months
These two cards also have potentially great benefits, including Hilton Honors Gold status for as long as you have the card, 10 Priority Pass visits per year, Honors Diamond spend when you spend $40,000 on the card in a calendar year, a weekend night reward when you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year, and more. In this post I wanted to focus specifically on one benefit of these two cards, which reader Anthony brought up on a recent post.
How the Hilton weekend night reward works
The Hilton Honors Ascend Card and Hilton Honors American Express Business Card each offer a weekend night reward after you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year. This certificate can be redeemed at a vast majority of Hilton properties, and there’s only a very small list of excluded hotels.
The certificate is valid for a year from when it’s issued, and as long as a standard room is available on a weekend night (in most parts of the world that includes Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights), you should be able to redeem it. Hilton standard rooms cost as much as 95,000 points per night, so that’s potentially the maximum value you could get from this.
Is it worth spending $15,000 on these cards to earn a weekend night reward?
To decide whether it’s worth actually spending $15,000 on these cards in a year to earn these certificates, you have to look at the return on spend that you’re ordinarily getting. The exact bonus categories on the cards vary a bit, as follows:
- The Hilton Honors Ascend Card offers 12x points per dollar spent with Hilton, 6x points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations, and 3x points per dollar spent on everything else
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card offers 12x points per dollar spent with Hilton, 6x points per dollar spent at U.S. gas stations, on wireless phone services with US service providers, on U.S. shipping purchases, at U.S. restaurants, on flights booked directly with airlines or with amextravel.com, and on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies, and 3x points per dollar spent on everything else
For non-bonused spend, you’re earning 3x points per dollar spent on both cards. For all practical purposes let’s assume that you’re spending in non-bonused categories. While there’s a chance you use some of the bonus categories, the reality is that there are other cards offering great bonus categories as well.
So if you spent $15,000 on either of these cards you’d receive 45,000 Honors points, plus you’d get a weekend night reward, valid at a hotel retailing for up to 95,000 points per night. That’s potentially a return worth up to the equivalent of 140,000 Honors points, or ~9.3 Honors points per dollar spent.
It’s important to be clear that this is the absolute maximum value you’re getting. In reality you shouldn’t value that reward at 95,000 points because:
- It expires after a year, so you have a limited window in which you can use it
- In order to maximize this certificate you’d have to redeem at the most expensive hotels, which greatly reduces the flexibility in terms of where you can redeem
- You can only redeem for weekend stays
At most you’re earning the equivalent of 140,000 Honors points worth of value for that $15,000 of spend. That’s not a fair objective valuation, though it is possible you’ll get that much value. Perhaps more realistic would be to apply some sort of discount to that certificate, due to the restrictions. To keep things simple, maybe we should instead say that certificate is worth 75,000 points, meaning your total return is 120,000 points on $15,000 of spend, which is about eight Honors points per dollar. I value Honors points at ~0.4 cents each, so that’s the equivalent of a ~3.2% return.
You also have to factor in the cost of the annual fee
Both of these cards have $95 annual fees, so you have to decide how much of that annual fee you want to allocate to the ability to earn a weekend night certificate. For example, in my situation:
- I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which offers me a Priority Pass membership with unlimited guesting privileges, so I don’t value the 10 Priority Pass visits
- I earn Hilton Honors Gold status for having The Platinum Card® from American Express, so I don’t value the Gold status offered with the card
So the truth is that in my particular situation, having this card might not otherwise make sense. As a result, when I decide on whether or not it would make sense to put $15,000 of spend on the card, I’d allocate the entire $95 annual fee to that reward, because it would be the primary reason I have the card.
So… is it worth spending $15,000 on the card?
While I’d love to provide a direct answer of whether or not it’s worth spending money on one of the $95 annual fee Hilton cards to earn the weekend night reward, I’m afraid the math is too subjective to give a “one size fits all” answer. Instead I’d encourage everyone to do the math based on the following:
- How much you value Hilton Honors points at
- How much you value the weekend night reward at, taking into account the expiration date and day of week restrictions
- Whether you’d otherwise have the card or not; if you’d have the card even without this, then you don’t have to factor in the $95 annual fee with the math, while otherwise you’d have to subtract the annual fee from what you perceive the value to be
I do think this is a spend bonus that’s worthwhile for many, and that’s worth considering.
In my particular case I’m not sure the math works out as favorably. I value Honors points at 0.4 cents each, and let’s say I value the certificate at 75,000 points, and that I wouldn’t otherwise have the card. When you add all of that up, I’m earning the equivalent of 120,000 points of value for spending $15,000, which I value at $480 (0.4 cents per point). When you subtract the $95 annual fee from that, that brings us to $385 of value on $15,000 of spend, which ends up being a return of ~2.55%.
On business cards, I tend to think I can achieve a better return on that with The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express, which has no annual fee and offers up to 2x Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 spent annually. For personal cards, I can do just about as well by using The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, which offers 1.5x points per dollar spent when you make 30 transactions per billing cycle.
The math could work out radically different for others.