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Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card review
Kevin Joey Chen is a credit cards writer at finder.com. He's passionate about helping you get your finances in order and travel the world like a pro. He's taken an extended trip around Europe as a digital nomad, gaining firsthand experience with exchange rates, ideal (and not-so-ideal) credit and debit cards, foreign transactions and budgeting strategies. He earned his BA from UC Davis and has written across many niches at Finder, including cryptocurrency, personal loans, car insurance, real estate and money transfers.
American Express offers three Hilton Honors™ cards, with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card as the mid-tier option. If you’re willing to pay the $95 annual fee (see rates & fees), 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 Surpass® Card
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 $1,300. But Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points tend to be worth much less than that — 0.5 cents a point on average according to our valuation based on the provider site. Given that rate, 125,000 points are worth around $650 — still a good welcome offer.
How good is the welcome offer for the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® 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 at the time of writing:
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.
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.
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card has a $95 annual fee. To see whether that’s worth paying, consider the value you’ll receive from the card.
Think about the rewards you’ll earn
To break even on the annual fee with rewards alone, you’ll need 19,000points.That sounds like a lot, but you could get there relatively quickly with the card’s generous point multiples.
Here’s how much you’d need to spend in various categories:
$1,584 at eligible Hilton Portfolio properties.
$3,167 at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations.
Or, $6,334 on other eligible purchases.
Consider the welcome offer
According to our valuation, 125,000 Hilton Honors points are worth $625. That’s a great value, although it’s less than what you could earn from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
Other valuable benefits
You can get more value out of the card depending on your spending and travel frequency:
10 free visits to Priority Pass lounges each year. A Priority Pass Standard Plus membership, which comes with 10 complimentary lounge visits, normally goes for $299 a year.
Gold status in Hilton Honors. Space-available room upgrades, complimentary breakfast and more can heighten each stay.
Weekend Night Reward (upon reaching spend requirement). This could be worth hundreds of dollars if redeemed for a stay at a top-tier Hilton property.
Purchase protection and travel insurance. Don’t overlook the card’s secondary benefits, which could save you money when you least expect it.
Put all these features to good use, and your card could be much more valuable than its cost.
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 Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, which might cost $725 on a weekend night. If you use your Weekend Night Reward there, you’ve essentially spent $15,000 for a $725 reward. That’s a 4.8% 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 Surpass® 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.
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 Surpass® Card and decline the collision damage waiver, the vehicle is covered against damage or theft.
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.
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.
As a cardholder, you’ll have access to select events and ticket presales.
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.
Unlike other travel cards, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® 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 Surpass® 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.
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.
To apply for the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® 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 Surpass® Card if you apply with a good to excellent credit score of 680 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 Surpass® 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 Surpass® Card
Complete the application with details like your name, address, annual income, and Social Security number.
Review and submit your application.
How long will it take to get my Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® 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 $39.
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.
Travel and transportation (car rentals, airline and rail miles).
Shopping and dining.
Pool, transfer and exchange points.
Hotel stays often give you the best value. According to our valuations, hotel redemptions give you a 0.5-cent-per-point value on average.
If you’re willing to pay a $95 annual fee, you’ll find the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card offers solid rewards not offered by the Hilton Honors American Express 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’ll receive the points in your Hilton Honors™ account six to eight weeks after you reach the spending requirement.
The penalty APR will apply for at least six months. If you pay your balances on time and have no returned payments within that period, American Express may lower your APR.
Yes. You’ll need to visit the ShopRunner site and complete a one-time enrollment with your card.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to know your APR until your application is approved. Of course, the higher your credit score, the better your chances of receiving a favorable interest rate.
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.
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