Playing the Hilton Amex to Amex Conversion

Amex and Hilton’s new credit card lineup will be live on January 18th 2018. The new lineup means an end to Hilton Amex foreign transaction fees, a first-ever business Hilton card, and more.  Full details can be found here: Hilton Amex Cards. Everything you need to know.  See also: 5 things you need to know about the new Hilton credit cards.

Everyone who currently has an Amex Hilton card should think through the pros and cons of keeping their cards through the transition.  Similarly, everyone who is thinking of getting an Amex Hilton card before the new cards are released should think through the pros and cons of doing so.  And those with Citi Hilton cards should think through the pros and cons of keeping those cards through the conversion to Amex cards.  In this post, I’ll tackle the questions around the Amex to Amex conversion.  I’ll cover the Citi to Amex conversion questions in a separate post.

Amex Hilton cardholders will be transitioned to new cards on January 18th 2018 as follows:

Current Card
New Card

Hilton Honors Card from American Express (no annual fee)

Earning Rate: 7X Hilton; 5X at U.S. grocery stores, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations; 3X everywhere else

Elite Status: Automatic Silver status. Gold status with $20K spend.

Foreign transaction fee: Yes

Hilton Honors American Express Card (no annual fee)

Earning Rate: 7X Hilton; 5X at U.S. grocery stores, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations; 3X everywhere else

Elite Status: Automatic Silver status. Gold status with $20K spend.

Foreign transaction feeNo

Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express ($75 annual fee)

Earning Rate: 12X Hilton, 6X at U.S. grocery stores, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations; 3X everywhere else

Elite Status: Automatic Gold status. Diamond status with $40K spend.

Foreign transaction fee: Yes

Spend Bonus: None

Other Perks: Priority Pass™ membership: $27 per person for each airport lounge visit.

Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card ($95 annual fee)

Earning Rate: 12X Hilton, 6X at U.S. grocery stores, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations; 3X everywhere else

Elite Status: Automatic Gold status. Diamond status with $40K spend.

Foreign transaction fee: No

Spend Bonus: Earn 1 weekend night certificate after spending $15,000 each year.

Other Perks10 free Priority Pass™ Lounge passes

Advantages to keeping your Amex Hilton card through the transition

Here are a number of advantages to keeping your Amex Hilton card rather than cancelling it before the transition:

  • Retention bonus possibility: Amex might offer attractive bonuses (such as for adding authorized users)
  • Upgrade bonus possibility: Amex might offer attractive upgrade offers.
  • No credit impact: If you want a Hilton card, there will be no new credit inquiry and no new account on your credit report as would happen if you cancelled your Amex card now and later applied for a new card.
  • Earn recent signup bonus: If you’ve had your Amex card for less than a year and haven’t yet earned the full signup bonus, then cancelling your card will endanger that bonus.  Recent signup bonus terms state “...if you cancel or downgrade your account within 12 months after acquiring it… we may not credit Bonus Points to your account...”  A good example is that there was a signup offer for the Surpass card early this year that included a free night upon the card’s anniversary.  If you cancel before earning that free night, then it’s gone.
  • Lower annual fee for a bit: The Surpass card’s current annual fee is $75, but the new Ascend card’s fee is $95.  If you allow your Surpass card to convert to the Ascend card, you’ll keep the $75 fee at least until the end of your membership year.

Advantages to cancelling your Amex Hilton card before the transition

  • Possible new signup bonus: It’s possible that Amex will treat the new cards as new products.  Since most Amex signup offers state that you are ineligible for the bonus if you’ve had this product before, the new products may introduce a loophole.  This is especially true with the Surpass / Ascend transition since the card will have a new name and annual fee.  That said, I think it is very likely that the new Ascend signup bonus will have language 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.”

Downgrading your Amex Hilton Surpass card before the transition

Another option for those with Hilton Surpass cards is to downgrade to a no fee Hilton card before the transition.

Advantages:

  • Keep account intact
  • Possibility of earning new signup bonus for the Ascend card if they do not rule out prior Surpass cardholders

Disadvantages:

  • If you’ve never had the no-fee Amex Hilton card, this will take away the option to get a bonus by signing up for it

Should you keep or cancel your Amex Hilton card?

I think that the advantages of keeping your card outweigh the advantages of cancelling.  The one disadvantage to keeping your card is that you’ll give up the chance of a new signup bonus.  In my opinion, though, the chance is very low that a past cardholder would be allowed to get a new signup bonus on the new cards that map from the old cards.

Recommendation: Keep

Should you downgrade your Hilton Surpass card?

Downgrading the Surpass card could be a great alternative to cancelling it.  It has the advantage of keeping your account alive and makes it possible to get a new signup bonus for the Ascend card if Amex doesn’t rule out those who had the Surpass card before.  The only downside I see is that it would take away your ability to get the signup bonus for a new no-fee Hilton card if you’ve never had that card before.

Recommendation: Downgrade if you’ve had the no-fee card before

Advantages to signing up for Amex Hilton cards before the transition

Both the no-fee Amex Hilton card and the Amex Hilton Surpass have excellent current signup offers.  If you have an open Amex credit card slot (Amex allows each person to have up to 5 credit cards and any number of charge cards) and have never had the card before, you could signup now for the bonus.

Advantages:

  • Excellent signup offers: We don’t know yet what the new signup offers will be for the equivalent cards next year. The current offers might be better (but personally, I wouldn’t bet on that).
  • Point based bonus preferred over free night offers: There’s a chance that the signup offers for the new cards will involve earning free weekend nights rather than points.  To me, free night offers are far worse than free point offers.  Points can be kept alive forever through occasional account activity whereas free nights usually expire one year from issue.
  • Lower first year annual fee on Surpass card: The Surpass card has a $75 annual fee. When it is converted to the Ascend card it will then have a $95 annual fee.  Theoretically you’ll keep the $75 annual fee at least until your first membership year is over.

Disadvantages to signing up for Amex Hilton cards before the transition

  • Amex War on Gaming: If you cancel before January 18th in order to possibly be eligible for signup bonuses on the new cards, you’ll likely be put on Amex’s naughty list.  See: The Amex war on gaming heats up.
  • Miss out on attractive new signup bonus: It’s possible/likely that the new cards will have especially attractive bonuses upon launch.

Should you sign up for an Amex Hilton card before the transition?

With the current huge Hilton Surpass offer it’s possible to pickup a ton of Hilton points quickly.  I think it is very likely that the Ascend card will also have a great signup offer, but it might be an offer for free nights rather than points.  If you prefer points (like I do) and you’re willing to bet that the new offer won’t be better, then go for the Surpass card now.  I definitely do not recommend cancelling the card before January 18th though.  The no-fee Hilton card currently has a good offer (75K points), but we’ve seen better in the past.  For that card, I’d wait for the new cards to be introduced.

Summary of Recommendations

  • If you currently have an Amex Hilton card, keep it.
  • If you have the Amex Hilton Surpass card, consider downgrading it to the no-fee card (as long as you’ve already earned the full signup bonus for the Surpass card, including the end of membership year free night)
  • If you’ve never had the Hilton Surpass card and you prefer points over free nights, then consider going for the 125K offer.
  • If you have never had the no-fee Hilton card before, there’s no reason to hurry to get it.  I recommend waiting to see what Amex offers when they introduce the new cards.
  • If you sign up for an Amex card now, do not cancel the card before January 18th.  Instead, wait until you’ve had the card a year to decide whether it is worth keeping or cancelling.

As a reminder, I’m planning to cover the Citi to Amex conversion questions in a separate post.

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. Some other points to consider:

    I will presume that if keep the Citi Hilton and let it roll over to AMEX, then that will now take up one of the 5 slots AMEX allows.

    Also, if I have 5 AMEX cards, rolling the Citi Hilton card over will make it 6 now.

    Also, you can still get your free weekend night with the Reserve card for 10K spend. Want that go to 15K with AMEX?

    Also, get another 10k Hilton Points by a certain spend before end of the year.

    I think maximizing current Hilton benefits would be smart.

    However, AMEX is not very MS friendly and Citi is a bit better. It may be the Hilton points become harder to get in the future.

    Finally, I would imagine Citi will replace the Hilton cards with something else that might work better for them.

  2. Why do you think Amex will exclude, say, previous Surpass card holders from applying for the Aspire? It seems like a new product in several ways. Is there precedent for Amex to include language about a similar (not same) product exclusion?

    • Ironically, I could see them doing so just to avoid the ambiguity. Doctor of Credit has argued that the Ascend won’t be a new product, but just a name change and (a few other changes) to the existing product. I’m not sure I buy that, but I do think that it’s very confusing and that Amex will save themselves a lot of trouble if they’ll be explicit with the signup bonus as to whether or not having had the Surpass in the past matters.

      The one case I can think of where they did something similar goes even beyond what I’m suggesting. The new Delta Blue card has the following signup bonus terms:

      Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who:
      • Have or have had this product or the Delta SkyMiles® Options Credit Card, or
      • Currently have or have had one of the following products in the last 90 days: Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, or Delta Reserve® Credit Card.

      • I asked AMEX about the change coming in 2018 and they told me that my Surpass card was getting “refreshed.” I think that is probably code for not a new product. It is very similar to what they did to the SPG card a few years ago and that is not considered a new product.

  3. Do you recommending removing the authorized users for now and then add after the Surpass card transfroms into Ascend card for better bonuses ?

  4. I’m still confused as to what happens with the annual free night. I just signed up for the Surpass 100k plus annual free night. Switching me up to the Ascend seems like a bait and switch. Your post seems to suggest the free night will stay? Or did I misunderstand?

    • The Surpass never had an annual free night. Instead, there was a signup bonus which included just one free night upon renewal (e.g. 12 months after opening the card). If you signed up with that offer, you’ll still get that one free night as promised. There won’t be any more free nights in following years, but that would have been true with the Surpass card too.

  5. How do you know the conversion won’t count as a new card for 5/24 purposes?

    Chase looks at accounts opened for this vs. hard pulls.

    We’re talking about a card that is not only changing issuers, but also going from a MC/Visa to an Amex format. I don’t trust Amex to not necessarily do something that triggers a “new account” on credit reports and thus take a 5/24 slot. Not worth the risk in my case.

    • I think that the Citi to Amex conversion WILL add to your 5/24 count unless the account is older than 24 months AND Amex back-dates the new account (which is not at all certain). This post is about Amex to Amex conversions, though. In those cases (Surpass to Ascend, for example), my bet is that Amex will not report it as a new account to the credit bureaus.

  6. Hi Greg, i got an email last week from Hilton aboout my Surpass card transformation to the new Ascend card. I am happy personally for this because of the 10 free Priority Passes. however looks like the passes are only for the main card member and not applicable for the authorized users. Do you think the new business card will also have the same rule or can the PP that comes with business card be share with AUs as well ?

  7. when amex declares a war on “gaming” their cards, you should not have a blog title on how to “play” them….also avoid phrases like “the smart play”, suggestions on how they could write exclusions into their fine print, as well as wild speculation on what they can and will do.
    Personally I am cancelling all cards after securing enough HH points for my next vacation. I can then wait to see if new signup bonuses are available, if so great, If not I can just sign up for the ascend to replace my surpass and forget the others…..both Citi and Amex suck, it takes a massive signup offer to get me to apply for their cards. If they won’t provide that, they can keep their crappy products, bad customer service, and limits on bonuses.

  8. Hi Greg, thanks for the detailed breakdown! I’m in a unique situation and wonder if you could help. I had the Amex Hilton no fee card, and saw an offer in May to upgrade to Surpass for 100k points after meeting minimum spend. I took the offer and met the spend but never got the points. I called twice now and the reps say they are looking into it but also don’t see any record of the offer to upgrade on my account. I unfortunately didn’t take a screen grab of the upgrade offer form I filled out, so I’ve just been waiting for Amex to hopefully contact me with a verdict. Now that there are these new Amex Hilton products coming, should I downgrade and hope I can apply for the Aspire and get a bonus, since I’ve technically never received a bonus on the Surpass? should I just outright cancel? or keep calling Amex for a verdict on my missing upgrade bonus?

    Thanks in advance!
    Jamil

    • I am in the same boat too, Apparently AMEX system screwed up the bonus points in July / August and many new customers haven’t got thier share of bonus points, AMEX is in the process of correcting them on a case to case basis. Keep calling them and as Greg mentioned, speak to thier supervisor to expedite this

  9. on a side note, the citi HH reserve I closed a month ago is still sending me notices…I got a letter stating that if your account is closed by Jan 26, 2018 it will not be transferred to Amex

  10. I’m curious about this statement – “The no-fee Hilton card currently has a good offer (75K points), but we’ve seen better in the past.” I only see a 50K point signup bonus right now on the no AF AmEx Hilton card. Am I missing something?

  11. I recently got upgrade offer on my two Hilton Honors card(no-annual fee) to Hilton Surpass Card for 75K points, which expires on Jan. 17th. Should I take the upgrade offer before it expire?

    Thanks!

    • Same here, both wife and I got offers. Is this a good deal? Also, for DP, we’ve had the Surpass in the past and cancelled spring of this year.

    • If you’ve had the Surpass card before and if the upgrade offer doesn’t have a rule against getting the bonus if you’ve had the Surpass before, then YES.

      If you haven’t had the Surpass before, you’d be better off going for the 125K Hilton Surpass offer

      • Have got the Surpass sign-up bonus before. Just wondering if the upgrade offer will impact the potential new sign-up bonus for the new Ascend card.

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