Can you get the Hilton Ascend bonus if you’ve had the Surpass?

All four new Amex Hilton cards are now available with shiny new signup offers. And each offer says “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.”  With respect to the Ascend card, that surprises me.

For background, you can read about each of the cards here: Hilton Amex Cards. Everything you need to know.  The Hilton Aspire, Hilton Ascend, and Hilton business card each offer up to 100K bonus points (but each differs a bit with respect to the spend required).  The no-fee Hilton card offer is for 50K points after $1K spend in 3 months.

Amex has positioned the Ascend card as a “refreshed” version of the old Hilton Surpass card (no longer available).  Accordingly, a few blogs have gone out on a limb to assert that if you’ve ever had the Surpass before, you won’t be eligible for the Ascend signup bonus (here, and here, for example).  I get that.  Amex is definitely not advertising it as a new product, so it must be an evolution of the same product, right?  And that would mean that anyone who has had the Surpass before cannot get the bonus for the Ascend due to the language that states “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.”  Right?

Here’s the thing…  Not everyone in the US closely follows everything going on with Amex Hilton cards.  There must be thousands of people (tens of thousands?) who have had the Surpass card in the past who know nothing at all about the conversion of that card to the Ascend card.  And if they see an ad that tells them they can get a 100,000 point bonus with the Ascend card, they’ll have every reason in the world to believe that they’re qualified for it.  If they read the fine print and see “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product,” they will reasonably believe that they’ve never have “this product” (the Ascend card).  Even if they have the forethought to search the offer’s terms (found here) for the card they remember having had in the past (“Surpass”), they won’t find it.  It’s not there.

If Amex really wanted to disqualify previous Surpass cardholders from earning a bonus with the Ascend card, they should have made that explicit in the terms.  If that’s their intent, the bonus term should state: “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product or the Hilton Surpass Card.”  But the terms do not say that.

From all of this, I see two possibilities…

Possibility 1: Those who have had the Surpass card before are eligible for the Ascend bonus as long as they cancelled the Surpass before it was transitioned to Ascend.  Given that the terms do not explicitly disallow this, this would be the right thing for Amex to do and would result in the most happy customers.

Possibility 2: Those who have had the Surpass card before are not eligible for the Ascend bonus.  In this case, I guarantee that Amex will lose customers left and right when those customers find out that they aren’t eligible for a bonus.

Imagine this conversation:

Customer: I met the spend requirements, why didn’t I get the signup bonus?

Amex: You are not eligible for the bonus.  The terms state: “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.”

Customer: But I’ve never had the Ascend card!

Amex: Our records show that you have had the card. It was named the Surpass card at the time.

Customer: How the #$%$#!!! was I supposed to know that?!


At this point I think it would be completely idiotic for Amex to disallow Ascend signup bonuses for those who previously had Surpass cards.  But, I don’t think that Amex is idiotic.  My guess (and please understand that this is just a guess!) is that Amex will allow a new bonus, but that they do not want to advertise that fact.  They don’t want “churners” learning that they have another shot at a bonus here, so they’re staying quiet or even giving out false information about what would happen if a former Surpass cardholder signed up for the Ascend card.

Unfortunately, the only way to prove or disprove my theory is for a prior Surpass cardholder (who has not had the Ascend card) to sign up for the Ascend card and meet the minimum spend requirements.  Then we’ll see whether they get the signup bonus.  My wife and I are not in a position to test this out since we let our Citi Reserve cards transition to Ascend cards.  Plus, we’re each tight up against the Amex 5 credit card limit.  Any takers?

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. I had Surpass before but cancelled. I was approved for the Ascend card in the morning. Got the temporary card number and finished first 2k spending on it. Waiting to see if 75k posted (or if FR arrives earlier……).

  2. I like the way you think. Probably because that’s the way I think. I’m currently working on some bonus spending right now and will have to cancel an AMEX card to fit this new Hilton one in, but definitely going for this one in the next month or two. I’m sure I’ll hear one way or another on the bonus eligibility for previous Surpass card holders, but I’m thinking you’re right. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if they allowed early applications the bonus, but after getting inundated with repeaters eventually shutting it off? So I’m thinking the sooner the better on this one.

  3. *raises hand* i had Surpass before and just approved of Ascend today, so let’s see how it plays out. but i’ve already been trying to find an Amex card that is lower than the $195 annual fee i’m currently coughing for the Amex P.R. Gold has more benefits more orthogonal to the other ones in my wallet.

    The PRG was great when it had a major M.R. point bonus when you hit $30k spend, but yanking that made it a lot less attractive to me.

  4. @ Greg — Maybe I’m confused, but you seem to be mixing the names of the Aspire and Ascend cards in your article. I thought the Aspire card was definitely being treated as a new product, while the Ascend card was supposedly the same as the Surpass.

  5. I called Amex and they said I can sign up for the Ascend but since I had the Surpass in the past (two years ago) I will not get the sign-up bonus. Bummer

  6. Not really seeing option 2 playing out. The same people that do not follow what happens in the credit card world will not recall if they had the Surpass/Ascend/Aspire. all they will remember is they had some sort of AMEX hilton card that cost them about $100 a year. Heck some of them won’t even remember if it was a SPG or HH card they had.
    We are the only ones that know all this stuff.

  7. Hi Greg, I closed my Citi Hilton cards, but still got the new Amex cards in the mail to activate on the 31st. What are my options so i can get the bonus later? Do I call them up and complain that i don’t want my Citi cards converted and i don’t want it to show that I have ever had these cards?

    • I closed my Citi Hilton card (the one that will transfer to the base Hilton card) in early December because I already had the basic no-fee Hilton Amex.
      I received a new Hilton Amex in the mail two days ago, so I called Amex. They said that they started the conversion in September (!) and if I had closed my Citi account so recently, then my new Amex wouldn’t really be active and I could just destroy the card. I did not bother to try to activate it – just put it in the shredder.
      Last month I was notified that an account was cancelled on my credit report, which would correspond to closing the Citi card. So I am not expecting to see a new account added. Better not happen!

  8. I called AMX about another card -CSR told he I AM ELIGIBLE for an upgrade to Ascend — 75k if spend $2k in 3 months–I asked about if spend additional $1k do I get 25k — told no-all other ben’s same as new offer
    I was surprised by the offer as I have upgraded and downgraded many times over the years and always recvd the bonus “EXCEPT” — last time and that was in Jan. 2017

    because of this I had myself transferred to two different supervisor – EACH TOLD ME – you will get the bonus

    I still have doubts!! —-I will call today and see if my account is noted -if it is I will do the spendd–if not will down grade

    • Very interesting. Would you see if that upgrade offer shows when you are logged in to your current hilton card, and check out the product online?

      Thanks, and good luck. I’m in a similar situation, and would take the same deal.

  9. When in the Amex portal, I clicked on “request for upgrade” to Aspire, I was prompted with two option. Upgrade my basic Hilton or Ascend card – most of the benefits for the Aspire will apply within the upgrade like airline credit, hotel credit, Priority Pass. However, there is no indication of any bonus points for the upgrade.

    Safe to say, I didn’t continue at all.

  10. A very peculiar set of data points to share. We’ve upgraded and downgraded between the old no AF and Surpass cards, and as of last week we each had one in the very same downgraded no AF state. However…oddly enough…my wife’s is now showing as a new Ascend while mine is showing as the new no AF version.

    Shouldn’t these have both converted to no AF versions? And perhaps product that was *originally* applied for is what was used for the conversion, not the card’s pre-conversion state?

    I finally got what seems like an ironclad answer (spoiler alert: bummer dude):

    “Your Hilton Honors card has been changed to the new Hilton Honors card however earlier this same account used to be Hilton Surpass which you downgraded to Hilton Honors in 2016. Since the Hilton Ascend card is the new name for Hilton Surpass and you have had the same card before,so like all our cards if you have had the same card before, the welcome offer will not eligible for the same card if you apply.”

    So it looks like they know the provenance of the card, and we’re both shut out of the new Ascend offer as of now. Perhaps another upgrade will come for me down the line, no clue what we’ll do fo the wife’s no AF-to-Ascend conversion gone awry. For now, Aspire and Business cards here we come.

    • On the bright side, we all know how dependable your avg. customer service rep is when it comes to having correct information on things like this.

  11. Greg-

    A similar situation that a couple of readers have already commented on: moving form Ascend to Aspire. Because it is a new card, one can officially apply for it and get the 100K sign up bonus. You then will of course have 2 cards/accounts open, with one not necessary anymore (with a $95 annual fee), which you can ‘transfer over’ vs. close. Or you can just upgrade your card without getting the sign up bonus, keeping your existing account number. As a current Surpass/Ascend cardholder, both options were available to me.

    • Yep, I didn’t intend to cover all options in this post: just the question of whether one can get the Ascend card bonus if they’ve previously had the Surpass. We’re still waiting on the answer to that.

      Everyone should be eligible for the Aspire signup bonus since there was no previous card that matched it. Same is true for the new Hilton business card.

      I wouldn’t recommend upgrading from Ascend to Aspire unless you are offered a very nice upgrade bonus (at least 75K IMO)

      • I am both a Hilton Surpass and Citi Hilton card holder… my Surpass is already upgraded to an Ascend on my Account page, but they are telling me that there are no offers for upgrades to Aspire, however I should call back on January 30 and they might have something then (which is when my transferred card will be active and I’ll have two Ascend cards.)

  12. I had the Surpass… now when I login to my account AMEX calls it a Ascend card with the same card # (though they didn’t send me a refreshed card.) Since I also had the Citi Hilton, I did get a new AMEX Hilton Ascend card with a new number and instructions not to activate it until 1/30/18. Will be interested to see what happens at that time … I end up with two Ascend cards???

    • That’s great news, Bill. Yours is the only sucessful UG data point I’ve seen.

      I’d like to UG my no-fee card to either Ascend or Aspire to harvest the bonus. I’ve had Surpass in the past 10 months though, so it seems like Aspire would be safer.

  13. Updated DP:
    (Background: previous Surpass cardholder, cancelled more than 1 year ago).

    1/18: Applied for Ascend. Instant approval with temporary card number. Finished 3k+ spending on it (NO MS, normal online purchase).
    1/19: 3k+ posted.
    1/23: Still NO BONUS.

    <10% chance a bonus will be posted.

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