5 things you need to know about the new Hilton credit cards

Wow.  Amex and Hilton just announced their new credit card lineup, and it looks good.  Very good (especially the new Aspire card).  I’ve created a new resource page with all of the details: Hilton Amex Cards. Everything you need to know. I’m still wrapping my head around some of this, so I expect to update that page frequently.  I also plan to analyze the heck out of the new lineup, look into “transition planning” for those of us with existing Amex or Citi Hilton cards, look for short-term transition opportunities, and review the new cards in depth.

In the meantime, here are five things you need to know…

#1: The New Card Lineup Begins January 18th 2018

All four cards have no foreign transaction fees and earn Hilton Honors points for spend:

  • Amex Hilton Aspire: $450 annual fee, Automatic Hilton Diamond status, $250 automatic resort statement credit each membership year, $250 airline incidental fee credit each calendar year, free weekend night each year, free Priority Pass.
  • Amex Hilton Ascend: $95 annual fee, Automatic Hilton Gold status, free weekend night with $15K spend, 10 free Priority Pass™ Lounge passes
  • Amex Hilton Business: $95 annual fee, Automatic Hilton Gold status, free weekend night with $15K spend and another at $60K spend, 10 free Priority Pass™ Lounge passes
  • Amex Hilton No Fee: Automatic Silver status, Gold status after $20K spend

Full details about each card (including point earning rates) can be found here: Hilton Amex Cards. Everything you need to know.

#2: Citi Hilton cardholders will become Amex Hilton Cardholders

Existing Citi Hilton cardholders will be transitioned by January 30th 2018 as follows:

Current Card
New Card
Citi Hilton Honors (no annual fee) Hilton Honors American Express Card (no annual fee)
Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card ($95 annual fee) Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card ($95 annual fee)

#3 Citi Hilton Honors Reserve cardholders can still earn their free weekend night with $10K spend

If you were putting spend on the card to earn a weekend night award after $10K membership year spend, your spend to-date will transition to Amex and they will honor the free night after $10K spend.  Previously, with Citi, you didn’t get your free night certificate until the end of your membership year.  With Amex I think (but I’m not sure) that we have a one-time opportunity to earn the free night certificate within 8 weeks of achieving $10K spend.

#4: Amex Hilton cardholders will get new cards

Existing Amex Hilton cardholders will be transitioned to new cards as follows:

Current Card
New Card
Hilton Honors Card from American Express (no annual fee) Hilton Honors American Express Card (no annual fee)
Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express ($75 annual fee) Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card ($95 annual fee)

Unlike the current Hilton cards, the new Amex Hilton cards have no foreign transaction fees.

#5 We will have new signup bonus opportunities

Almost all Amex cards signup offers include the terms: “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.”  Since at least two of the new cards are brand new, everyone should have a chance to earn new signup bonuses with them.  At the very least, we should be able to get a signup bonus with the new business card.  There is no word yet on what those signup bonuses will be.

I think that all four cards will be technically considered new products, but I’m unsure of the no-fee card since it hasn’t changed much.  Amex could also argue that the Ascend card is the same product as the Surpass card, but I think that’s a huge stretch.  I’m 99% sure that the Ascend card will be considered a new product.  That said, there is also some chance that Amex will include offer terms that state something like this: “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product or the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express.”  I don’t think that Amex will do this, but you should be on the lookout for it, just in case.

In order to have the chance of getting a signup bonus for the no fee card or the Ascend card, you’ll have to make sure that your current cards aren’t transitioned to those cards.  I’ll followup with another post on the pros and cons of cancelling existing cards for that purpose.

Bonus #6: It looks like the new cards will support contactless payments

I don’t know if this is a mistake or real, but current card images show wifi symbols that indicate that they support contactless payments (e.g. wave your card over the payment terminal to pay).  This is common in other countries, but not common today in the US:

Read on and stay tuned

I will be following up with more analysis soon.  In the meantime, please take a look at this resource page: Hilton Amex Cards. Everything you need to know.

Information in this post was derived mostly from these external resources:

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. […] Wow. Amex and Hilton just announced their new credit card lineup, and it looks good. Very good (especially the new Aspire card). I’ve created a new resource page with all of the details: Hilton Amex Cards. Everything you need to know. I’m still wrapping my head around some of this, so I expect to update that page frequently. I also plan to analyze the heck out of the new lineup, look into “transition planning” for those of us with existing Amex or Citi Hilton cards, look for short-term transition opportunities, and review the new cards in depth. LEARN MORE! […]

Comments

  1. The info which i need is , what to do with the current amex hilton cards ? I just opened the surpass card , and working on the requirement spend.

    Should i quickly complete the spend , get the bonus and close the card ? and wait for the ascend card on jan 18 to apply again ?

    • I think Greg is likely going to post again about options for what to do with the current Hilton cards — this post is just an introduction. Thankfully, we’ve got a lot of time before the change to find out all the details and make the best decisions we can.

      The risk you run in quickly meeting the spend, getting the bonus, and closing the card is running afoul of the new tightened up terms aimed at discouraging people from doing that kind of thing (not specifically with the Hilton cards).

      But more to come on this topic for sure.

      • Will be looking forward, since I can’t get squared away with some of the stuff under point #3: If we hit the $10K spend before the Citi-to- Amex changeover date, but before the weekend hotel certificate has shown up in our Hilton account, do we have to keep the card open (which in my case means paying $95 for a card I don’t especially want and foregoing any future bonus should it turn out that I decide I want it).

        Matters to me now because if the news is bad, I don’t want to waste the last $4K spend on this card. 12,000 Hilton points is not much solace. Althought that Aspire card could drown my sorrows.

        • If your card anniversary hits before the changeover, then Citi will (theoretically) honor the free night, otherwise Amex will. If the free night doesn’t post before the changeover then I’d assume you would have to keep the card open (but that’s just an assumption).

  2. I have 2 questions–

    First, I have the free Citi Hilton card that is supposed to convert to the free AMEX card. But I already have the free AMEX card. And I also have 5 AMEX credit cards (plus 2 charge cards). Will AMEX still give me a 2nd Hilton card?

    Second, a few of my family members applied for the AMEX Surpass when it offered a free night after 1st anniversary. The Surpass will convert to Ascend before that anniversary. Do you think it’s likely AMEX will “forget”‘about that free night in the conversion?

    • Question #1) I think nobody knows for sure at this point, but since it seems they’re buying the accts from Citi, I would imagine they will still give it to you. I find that a very interesting part of all of this. We’ll see….

      Question #2) I don’t think Amex will “forget” about the benefit — I doubt the who-knows-how-many people are in your same boat on that will let them forget :-). Will it post instantly or require a few phone calls? Hard to say, but I imagine Amex has that part of it worked out since both cards are on their side.

  3. You can request a contactless card for many of AMEX’s cards. It doesn’t look like this list has been updated since June (the last time I looked). I have a SPG personal card with contactless to use for the London Underground.

    Contactless chip is currently available on the majority of Consumer products and the following Small Business Cards: Blue for Business® Credit Card and Starwood Guest® Business Credit Card.

  4. I think the question most of us have to figure out the answer to is: In terms of being eligible for new sign up bonus, what happens when your current AMEX HH card converts into one of the new ones? Does the ‘conversion’ mean you’re no longer eligible for a sign up bonus on that new card that the old card was converted to?

    • There’s no doubt in my mind that if you allow the conversion you will then be ineligible for a signup bonus for that card. Amex prohibits getting a signup bonus if you have or have had a card before. The restriction is not dependent upon how you got the card.

      • I thought you’re ineligible for a signup bonus if you’ve ever had a signup bonus before. So if I have the Surpass card and it converts to Ascend, I won’t be able to get the Ascend bonus in the future? My family members have the Surpass and are waiting for the free night at the anniversary next year.

        • No, you’re ineligible for a signup bonus if you’ve ever had a card before — it doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve ever gotten a signup bonus. The terms typically exclude anyone “who has or has had this card before”, so if the conversion happens, you’ll be someone who has had the Ascend and won’t be eligible for it in the future.

        • Nick and Greg are right. Look at any Amex application and you will see the terms state “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.” It does not matter if you had received a bonus or not.

          However, Amex often offers targeted upgrades between card products where the welcome bonuses do not have the exclusion (not always so check the terms!). Upgrade bonuses are usually a bit less lucrative than new card bonuses, but avoid the associated credit pull and new account on your credit reports. This is great when you have already had the upgraded card before and can no longer get a new card welcome bonus — but you can get an upgrade bonus.

          If you later have the no-fee Amex Hilton card (whether it is a new card, a transferred card from Citi or a downgraded card), then most likely Amex will offer you a bonus in the future to upgrade it to an Ascend. We’ve done it more than a few times with the Surpass for up to 100k points per conversion.

          Just be careful, since the RAT team has recently added the “if you cancel or downgrade your account within 12 months after acquiring it” abuse language to card upgrades as well.

        • Elizabeth makes a good point about the fact that targeted offers sometimes do not have the once-in-a-lifetime language. She’s also correct that there are sometimes targeted upgrade offers.

          One small note to include — Elizabeth mentions that the upgrade offers allow you to “avoid the associated credit pull” (and new account on your reports). The new account on your report is definitely something to consider as it will affect your average age of account. On the other hand, it’s worth noting that Amex doesn’t always hard pull for new account openings. There’s no guarantee that they won’t, but I didn’t receive a hard pull on the last account I opened over the summer and my wife didn’t receive a hard pull on a new account she opened today. Others have had the same experience over the past year or two (though I did get hard pulls for new accounts last year). That’s a definite YMMV (though they are known for not making a hard pull if you’re going to be denied).

  5. amex will use this opportunity to screw the customer and “gamers” by adding restrictive T&C’s…I will be surprised if anyone gets anything worthwhile from the conversions, besides “sorry you have this card, your ineligible for any signup bonus.” Those that cancel in preparation of the new product could be construed as “gaming” the system for a new signup offer, which will no doubt be very large for the aspire card…and this gives Amex a chance to say your required spend is manufactured and claw back points, or wait until you cancel to avoid the AF and say your “gaming” them, then shut down all your cards and clawback the ARV of the points…IMO Amex has led the pack with ways to screw customers out of signup bonuses (ever try to get one matched?)….so before all the bloggers jump up and down and start spewing about how awesome these are, we need to more info.
    …also to play devils advocate Hilton has devalued their program by doing away with hotel categories and using variable demand pricing for awards. This was less evident right after the fact, but now that not many are scrutinizing award rates, award costs have soared. A all inclusive resort that was 50k most of the year and 60k during 2 months of high season, is now 80-90K (sometimes more) most of the year and never less than 60K even during low season…this has ruined my main use of these points. The only way to beat the points+cash price on points for awards was the Surpass card and its 6X grocery category….but with rising award costs it wont be long before the point cost= retail value….also without categories I wonder what the certs will be good for, as they will likely be the first perk to disappear….more bad news from evil amex….blah

    • Just to answer your last question (“Without categories, I wonder what the certs will be good for?”) — the Citi Hilton Surpass 2-free night certs and annual $10K spend cert had no category restriction. As long as there is a “standard room” award available (they’re labeled that way when you’re on the rates page), you can book it with the cert. I obviously don’t know how it will work with these new cards, but if it works the same way, the lack of categories won’t make a difference — the difference is in properties gaming the system by having an extremely limited number of “standard” rooms (though I’ve noticed that less with Hilton than with Hyatt).

      • I just got the surpass death e-mail..it explains annual free cert as weekend cert.. which was all that Hilton ever offered without cat 1-5 restrictions, as far as I can remember. the only weekend certs were from reserve signup and some properties were not included…The new e-mail explains new perk cert users are on the hook for resort fees and i’m sure there will be other limitations, will have to wait for benefit e-mail to see what is included. PP is an ok perk if you don’t have it from elsewhere, but having more cards offering this perk is causing more denials to lounge based on occupancy.
        I already cancelled my citi HH cards and am going to do the same with the others before the conversion, unless they keep the 6X multiplier.

        • You’re right that there has always been a handful of properties where you couldn’t use the free certs (I recall the list being pretty small compared to the footprint, but you’re right that there were some exclusions) . I don’t remember a Cat 1-5 restriction in the past several years (going back to 2015 anyway, I remember being able to use my 2 weekend certs signup bonus from the Reserve to stay at the Conrad Tokyo).

          As for the 6X multiplier, they are keeping that (see the link at the bottom to “Hilton Amex cards, everything you need to know” for all of the earning details on the new cards.

  6. The new Delta Blue card has a signup bonus restriction that specifically mentions having either the Delta Gold or Delta Platinum card as well as the Blue. I wouldn’t be surprised if something like that found its way into the terms for the new cards, since there’s already precedent for it.

  7. Even if I get no signup bonus at all for that Aspire, as I now have the Surpass, it would still be worth $450 a year. Wow, great benefits.

    And I have a wife and son…

    Maybe proactively cancelling the Surpass now is the way to go.

  8. The new AMEX Hilton cards look good at first, but as you lean in to take a closer look at their new T&C ‘s you will smell the odor of la rata maloliente!

  9. So after looking everywhere to confirm what you wrote in #3 I finally found it on a link after logging into my Citi Hilton accounts. This Citi FAQ is a bit different from the Amex FAQ:

    https://online.citi.com/JRS/portal.c?ID=HiltonFAQPage

    “16. I am a Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card holder. I am supposed to have a full “card year” of 12 months to spend $10,000 to receive an anniversary bonus from Hilton Honors. What if I haven’t met the $10,000 spending requirement before my Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card becomes a Hilton Honors American Express Card?

    Up until your account’s first renewal with American Express, American Express will include the spending on your Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card to calculate when you reach the $10,000 spending requirement. If you meet the spending requirement, you will receive an anniversary bonus certificate from Hilton Honors according to the program’s terms and conditions.”

    Now the interesting thing is that the Reserve requirement was cardmember year while the Ascend requirement is calendar year. So technically any spend made in 2018 before the end of your cardmember year should simultaneously count towards both requirements.

    • I’ve updated the bottom of this post to list the external resources I used. They were (and still are) available at the top of the everything you need to know post too.

      Yes, I agree it looks like it is theoretically possible to earn 2 free nights with $15K spend in 2018 if you do at least $10K of the spend between Jan 1 and whenever your Citi Reserve anniversary date is.

  10. I hope you are right about #3, as the wife and I have 4 reserve cards between us with anniversary dates between February and June that all have the $10,000 already spent on them. Getting the 4 free nights all at once and close to the beginning of the year would be a sweet result, although I don’t really know if we are even going to get moved over to AMEX, as that would put each of us at 8 Amex credit cards (plus one charge card each) and would more than double AMEX exposure to us because of the much higher limits that Citi gave us.

  11. I hate the free weekend night. If they make it free night any time then it’s all good. Or just give them to me in points.

    Also, thanks for including that Amex might add if the Ascend if a new product – “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product or the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express.” I was reading other blogs and they didn’t mention that the Ascend $95 annual might be a new product. I’m thinking it’s going to be a new product – new name, higher annual fee, different bonus.

  12. Really waffling… I’ve hit the $10k spend on my Citi Hilton Reserve and won’t get the cert until summer. I’ve had the surpass before. If it weren’t for the new cards, I’d obviously just let the conversion happen.

    With the transition to the Ascend, I’d lose the chance at a sign up bonus but I’m also trying to stay under 5/24 so it’d have to be a very good sign up bonus for me to think the card is worthwhile. The Surpass never got better than 1 free weekend night + 100k. I value that around $850. Just barely enough for me to burn a 5/24 slot.

    I think that in my marginal analysis approach, I’m going to reluctantly let the conversion to Ascend happen.

    The conditions under which I’ll regret the letting the conversion go would have to be $850+ in sign up bonus with no restriction referencing prior Surpass account at a time where I have an open slot (I rarely do at Amex) and where there’s an sustained absence of cards offering $850+ in value.

  13. Omg we have like 20 of those dang Citi Hilton cards from back in the day. The paperwork/Mail alone I’m going to get for the conversion!!! I’m already getting a bunch of emails about it.

    I opened a Citi checking account in branch a few years ago and the managers like this can’t be right you have like 10 Hilton cards?!? I didn’t even say a word

  14. Doesn’t Amex limit you to having four(or maybe five) credit cards? I already have four Amex credit cards, and I have two citi hilton reserve cards Do you think Amex will allow me to have six credit cards after the conversion?

  15. Hi, I don’t have any Hilton cards yet and missed out on the 100k+night bonus on account of my own poor timing and not wanting extra MS while working on other cards, yet I was still looking at getting a Hilton card soon. Do you think it’s worth it to go for one of the existing cards before Jan 18th? Thanks!

  16. Greg, are the 10x free PP lounge admissions to be used just for the primary Amex account holder? Anyone who is an authorized card-holder (I.e. spouse who is on the account but card has a different number)? Or can the account holder ‘share’ one of the admissions with a child for example? So instead of coming in 10x for free, it’s 5x with a guest for 5x?

    I’ve had the surpass card for years and have only used it once during a long layover in a South American city where there wasn’t an alliance lounge for me to use, so the benefit is not so great if I have to pay an additional fee for my wife and son to enter with me. Thanks.

    • I don’t know whether the 10X free priority passes will allow free guests. I’d assume not. There’s not much info about them out there. My *guess* is that if you wanted to bring guests, you could use 1 free pass for each person in your party.

  17. Does anyone know if the 10 priority pass with the new Hilton Ascend will be the same as Chase Sapphire reserve. In another word with each pass you can bring X number of guest?or each pass is for one person like United pass

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