Hilton Honors Ascend Card: Is it worth $95 a year? | finder.com

Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card review – December 2018

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This mid-tiered American Express card offers solid perks and rewards.

30-second take

  • Get this card if you stay at Hilton Portfolio properties and want more perks than the basic Hilton Honors American Express Card.
  • Pick something else if you want a card with general travel rewards.
  • Apply with a good to excellent credit score of 670 or higher.
Product NameHilton Honors American Express Ascend Card
Card TypeAmerican Express
Annual Fee$95
APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases17.74% to 26.74% variable
Balance Transfer APR17.74% to 26.74% variable
Balance Transfer Fee$5 or 3% of the transaction, whichever is greater
Cash Advance Rate27.24% variable
Foreign Transaction FeeNone
Cash Advance Fee$3 or 5% of the cash advance amount, whichever is greater
Interest Free PeriodUp to 25 days
Late Payment FeeUp to $38
Returned Payment FeeUp to $38
Additional Cardholder Fee$0
Rates & FeesRates & Fees
Minimum Age18 years of age
Welcome Offer125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card after you use your new card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of card membership.
Reward Value per Dollar3x points
Apply now on American Express's website

The basics

American Express offers three Hilton Honors™ cards, with the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card as the mid-tier option. If you’re willing to pay the $95 annual fee, you’ll find it’s a solid step up from the basic card. You’ll receive benefits like a larger welcome offer, more points on eligible spending, a better status upgrade in the Hilton Honors™ program and limited complimentary access to Priority Pass™ airport lounges.

Hilton Honors American Express Card vs. Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card

Hilton Honors American Express Card Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card
Annual fee None $95
Welcome offer 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Card after you use your new card to make $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of card membership. 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card after you use your new card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of card membership.
Points: Hilton Portfolio spending 7x 12x
Points: US restaurants, US supermarkets, US gas stations 5x 6x
Points: All other eligible purchases 3x 3x
Status upgrade in Hilton Honors™ Silver Gold
Priority Pass™ entries None 10 entries
Weekend Night Reward None Spend $15,000 in a calendar year

The perks

  • Welcome offer: 125,000 Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points.

    After you spend $2,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of your account opening, you’ll earn 125,000 Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points. Redeem points for hotel stays and rewards in travel, dining, shopping and more.

    Using the industry’s standard redemption value of 1 cent for every point, 125,000 points are typically worth $1,250. But Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points tend to be worth much less than that — often around 0.5 cents a point. Given that rate, 125,000 points are worth around $625 — still a good welcome offer.

  • Rewards: Earn up to 12x Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points

    Earn 12x points on eligible purchases within Hilton Portfolio hotels and resorts.

    Earn 6x points when you spend at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations. You’ll also earn 3x points on all other eligible purchases.

  • 10 complimentary Priority Pass™ lounge visits.

    Each calendar year, you’ll receive 10 complimentary visits to Priority Pass™ airport lounges. There are over 1,200 lounges around the world in the Priority Pass™ collection.

How good is the welcome offer for the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card?

For an idea of how far your points will go, here are a few Hilton properties and their point equivalents, based on the Hilton Honors Member Benefits site as of October 2018:

  • Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo, DoubleTree by Hilton $193 a night or 40,000 points.
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Los Angeles Downtown $228 a night or 50,000 points.
  • Hampton Inn & Suites Denver Downtown $260 a night or 50,000 points.
  • The London NYC $350 a night or 95,000 points.

You’ll also like

  • Weekend Night Reward.

    When you spend $15,000 on purchases in a calendar year, you’ll earn a Weekend Night Reward. This is a certificate valid for one weekend night standard accommodation at a property in the Hilton Portfolio.

    If you’re willing to search for the right property, this certificate could be valuable. Consider a property like the Hilton Garden Inn New York, which could cost $436 a night. If you use your Weekend Night Reward there, you’ve essentially spent $15,000 for a $436 reward. That’s a 2.9% rewards rate.

  • Complimentary upgrade to Hilton Honors™ Gold status.

    Normally, you’d need to accrue 20 stays, 40 nights or 75,000 Hilton Honors Base Points in a calendar year to achieve Hilton Honors™ Gold status. With the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card, you’ll reach Gold without having to meet those requirements.

    The Hilton Honors™ program offers robust perks even for basic members, such as digital check-in, complimentary in-room Wi-Fi and late checkout. Still, there are benefits to earning Gold. You’ll receive an 80% bonus on the Hilton Honors™ Base Points you earn, as well as a complimentary fifth night when you book a reward stay of five nights or more with all points. You’ll also receive gifts at select properties, such as complimentary refreshments and room upgrades.

    If you spend $40,000 on eligible purchases in a calendar year, you’ll earn Hilton Honors™ Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.

  • No foreign transaction fees.

    You won’t incur fees when you use your card abroad or on foreign websites. Typically, providers charge a 3% fee each time you use your card for an international transaction. It doesn’t sound like much, but it can add up over a trip spanning several days.

  • Travel benefits.

    Access the Global Assist Hotline when you’re more than 100 miles from home. This provides medical, financial, legal and other emergency assistance.

    You’re covered by Travel Accident Insurance, which provides accidental death and dismemberment coverage on eligible transportation. And when you pay for a car rental with your Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card and decline the collision damage waiver, the vehicle is covered against damage or theft.

  • Purchase benefits.

    On eligible items you buy with your card, you’ll receive extended warranties. You may receive Purchase Protection, which covers your items against damage or theft. And if you return an eligible item within 90 days and the merchant won’t accept it, you may qualify for a refund through Return Protection.

  • ShopRunner benefits.

    Get a complimentary ShopRunner membership and enjoy free two-day shipping and returns on purchases from more than 140 online stores in ShopRunner’s network, including Eddie Bauer, Express, Harry & David, Kay Jewelers, NBA Store and Neiman Marcus.

  • Cardholder-only entertainment.

    As a cardholder, you’ll have access to select events and ticket presales.

Apply now on American Express's website

What are Hilton Honors™ Base Points?

Of the two kinds of Hilton Honors™ points, Base Points are what you earn when staying at Hilton properties. They help you reach higher tiers in the Hilton Honors™ program. For example, to reach Gold, you need 75,000 Hilton Honors™ Base Points.

Currently, you’ll earn 10 Base Points per dollar you spend on Hilton Portfolio rooms and eligible room charges, like room service.

On the other hand, you earn Bonus Points through promotions and by using your Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card from American Express. Redeem your Bonus Points for nights at Hilton Portfolio properties and rewards with Hilton’s travel, dining, shopping and entertainment partners.

What to watch out for

  • $95 annual fee.

    Unlike other travel cards, the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card doesn’t offer a $0 intro annual fee for the first year. A $95 annual fee is standard for a mid-tiered travel card.

  • Not as widely accepted overseas.

    Because the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card is an American Express card, you might not have as many opportunities to use it overseas as you would with a Visa or Mastercard.

  • Penalty APR.

    If you make a late or returned payment, American Express may apply a 29.99% variable APR to all of your balances. This is known as a penalty APR, and it could apply to your account for six months or more.

Consider other cards if …

Compare The Platinum Card® from American Express vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Compare travel credit cards

Name Product Welcome Offer Reward Value per Dollar APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases Annual Fee
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
1x points
17.99% to 24.99% variable
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening - that's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
1x points
17.99% to 24.99% variable
$450
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new card within your first 3 months.
1x miles
17.74% to 26.74% variable
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
30,000 bonus miles after you use your new card to make $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Card after you use your new card to make $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of card membership.
3x points
17.74% to 26.74% variable
$0
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & Fees
50,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first 3 months
1x points
See Rates & Fees
$250
50,000 bonus Membership Rewards® Points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months Rates & Fees

Compare up to 4 providers

What should I know before I apply?

To apply for the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card, you must be:

  • At least 18 years old.
  • A US resident.

Information you’ll need

To complete the application, you’ll need to provide information that includes:

  • Your name and residential address.
  • Your Social Security number.
  • Your email address, phone number and date of birth.
  • Financial information like your annual income and income source.

What credit score do I need?

You’ll have a better chance of being approved for the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card if you apply with a good to excellent credit score of 670 or higher. If you have a high income and excellent credit, your likelihood of approval is strong.

Here are a few other factors that might affect your odds of approval:

  • Hard pulls on your credit report. If you have several inquiries — or hard pulls — on your report, it could imply you’re having trouble managing your debt. American Express might think you’re desperate for credit and may be less likely to take you on as a customer.
  • Factors that tie into your credit score. Your credit utilization is a major factor American Express considers. The bank prefers a customer with low balances relative to their credit limit. Also, having many new card accounts may be a red flag, as it could indicate you’re desperate for credit. It may also give the impression that you’re a flighty customer who’s just hunting for welcome offers.

What do customers say about the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card?

American Express Company has been accredited with the Better Business Bureau since 1948 and earns an overall A+ rating. However, as of July 2018, 90% of its reviews are negative with nearly 3,000 customer complaints. Amex cardholders in general complain of rude customer service reps, missing statement credit and issues disputing charges.

The company earns a Trustpilot score of 3 out of 10. Many negative reviews cite unhelpful customer service and inflexible company policies. Positive reviews say the company employs pleasant customer service representatives. Overall, your mileage may vary with American Express customer support.

How to apply for the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card?

  1. Click apply now.
  2. Complete the application with details like your name, address, annual income, and Social Security number.
  3. Review and submit your application.

How long will it take to get my Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card?

Because conditional credit card approval is automated on the website, you may get a decision on your application within 30 seconds. If there are issues with your application, it may take a few business days to a few weeks to hear back.

After you’re approved, you’ll typically receive your card within 7 to 10 business days.

I got the card. Now what?

  • Make payments on time. Register an account on the American Express site to pay your balance online. You can also enroll in autopay.
  • Avoid interest. After the close of each billing cycle, you have a grace period of at least 25 days to pay your balance. If you do, you won’t pay interest on your purchases.
  • Avoid fees. Late and returned payments come with hefty fees of up to $38.
  • Contact customer service. Help documents aren’t easily accessible on the American Express site, but you can call 800-528-4800 for customer service. According to market research company J.D. Power, cardholders give American Express high marks in customer interaction.

How to choose Amex hotel cards

Bottom line

If you’re willing to pay a $95 annual fee, you’ll find the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card offers solid rewards not offered by the Hilton Honors™ Card. It’s a good choice whether you’re a Hilton regular or simply want to save for a few reward nights a year.

You’re not limited to just Hilton rewards when it comes to travel credit cards. Take your time and compare other options to find the right fit for your travel lifestyle.
Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card vs Hilton Honors American Express Card

Frequently asked questions

Disclaimer

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

Images: AmericanExpress.com

Kevin Joey Chen

Kevin Chen is a world-travelin', copy-writin', Game of Thrones-watchin' credit cards writer for finder.com. When he's not crunching the numbers on bonus points and comparing APRs, you can find him flying around the world in search of the perfect beer.

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