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Last week Amex unveiled their new lineup of Hilton credit cards with the following welcome offers:
- Hilton Aspire: 100K after $4K spend in 3 months
- Hilton Ascend: 100K after $3K spend (75K after $2K in 3 months + 25K after additional $1K in first 6 months)
- Hilton business card: 100K after $4K spend (75K after $3K in 3 months + 25K after additional $1K in first 6 months)
- No-fee Hilton card: 50K after $1K spend in 3 months
Good offers, but not amazing
Three 100K offers sounds impressive, but keep in mind that the median redemption value of Hilton points is only .45 cents per point at the time of this writing [see: Reasonable Redemption Values (RRVs)]. If you get similar value, then 100K points will get you $450 in hotel stays. That’s good for a welcome offer, but not great.
Due to the low value of Hilton points compared to many other reward currencies, plus the fact that annual fees are not waived the first year, none of these Hilton cards currently appear in the top 25 of our automated Top 10+ list which is sorted by estimated first year value.
The fact that many other offers have better estimated first year value does not mean that it’s a bad idea to apply for these cards. Most of us are not limited to just one welcome offer altogether, so it makes sense to look at all offers the provide substantial value. Plus, your expected travel patterns may make these offers more or less valuable than our estimates. For example, if you know that you’ll have opportunity to stay at a number of Hilton properties in the coming year, then the elite status alone that you get from these cards may make them more valuable to you. Elite status benefits are not included in our estimates of first year value. And, of course, depending upon your situation, the card’s benefits may be worth paying for regardless of the it’s first year value.
Are you eligible for the bonus?
Amex infamously has a once in a lifetime bonus rule. Each application states: “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.” So, if you’ve had Amex Hilton cards before, you need to be careful…
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: This is a brand new card, so anyone who can get approved for this card should be eligible for the bonus.
- Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card: If you’ve had the Hilton Surpass card before, you might not be eligible for the bonus on this card (but the jury is still out on this one). See: Can you get the Hilton Ascend bonus if you’ve had the Surpass?
- Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: This is a brand new card, so anyone who can get approved for this card should be eligible for the bonus.
- Hilton Honors Card from American Express: I’m 99% sure that the no-fee Hilton card is considered the same product as the older no-fee Amex Hilton card. If you’ve had the older one before, then you can’t get the bonus on this one now.
The 5 Credit Card Rule
Amex limits cardholders to having 5 primary account credit cards. Charge cards (most of Amex Platinum and Gold cards are charge cards) are not counted towards that limit. And authorized user cards are not counted. All of the Hilton cards are credit cards. So if you currently have 5 or more credit cards, you won’t be approved for a new one. You’ll have to close cards first to make sure that you have 4 or fewer Amex credit cards.
Wondering which cards are credit cards vs charge cards? This page has the answer.
Are the offers as good as they’ll get?
A major thing to keep in mind before applying for an Amex card is to guess whether or not the current offer is the best that will be available. After all, unless you get targeted with an offer that doesn’t have the lifetime exclusion language, you only get one chance at a bonus with these cards.
Here are my guesses as to the likelihood of better offers within the next year or so for each card:
- Hilton Aspire Card. Chance of better offer: Low. Between the 100K point bonus after $4K spend and free weekend night upon approval, this card already has an excellent welcome offer. Plus, it has several super-valuable perks such as automatic Diamond status, $250 in resort credits annually, and $250 in airline incidental fee credits annually. I don’t think that Amex is going to have to offer more than that to get people to apply for this card.
- Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card. Chance of better offer: Medium. For quite a long time, the high water mark welcome offer for the previous version of this card (the Surpass) was 100K points. More recently, Amex has had short term better offers: One was 100K + a free weekend night upon renewal; and another was 125K without a free night. Given the fact that Amex has experimented with better than 100K offers with the Surpass card, it seems likely to me that they’ll try out better offers with the Ascend card.
- Hilton Honors American Express Business Card. Chance of better offer: Medium. This business card is very similar to the consumer Ascend card. It’s likely that if the Ascend has a better offer, the business card will too.
- Hilton Honors Card from American Express. Chance of better offer: High. With the old version of the no-fee card, the welcome offer occasionally popped up to 75K or 80K. I’d be willing to bet that we’ll see similar bonuses with this card going forward.
Other factors to consider
One major consideration is how likely you are to get good value this year from the card’s welcome offer and perks. For example, if you have a trip coming up where you know that Gold status would be valuable (for free breakfast, for example), it would be worth applying for the Ascend or Business card in advance so that you’ll get that benefit in time for your trip.
Similarly, if you know that you’ll be staying at a Hilton resort, it would probably make sense to apply for the Aspire card in order to make use of the card’s $250 in resort credits.
Another question is whether you are trying to get or stay under 5/24 in preparation for future Chase card signups. If so, the business card won’t add to your 5/24 status, but the other cards will.
|Chase's 5/24 Rule: With most Chase credit cards, Chase will not approve your application if you have opened 5 or more cards with any bank in the past 24 months. Some exceptions that are NOT subject to the 5/24 rule include: British Airways, Hyatt, IHG, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Marriott Business, and Ritz Carlton.
To determine your 5/24 status, see: 3 Easy Ways to Count Your 5/24 Status.
Finally, if you’ve never had the no-fee card before, but you have plans to downgrade from the Ascend to the no-fee card, you should consider applying up new for the no-fee card instead. This way you’ll get a bonus, albeit a small 50K bonus, rather than none at all.
Assuming you are eligible for these offers (see the relevant sections above), here’s my advice for whether or not yofu should apply for each:
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Go for it now if you have upcoming travel in which you’ll benefit from Diamond status and the card’s annual perks, including: $250 resort credit, $250 airline incidental fee credit, free weekend night.
- Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card: Wait for a better offer unless you need the points and/or Gold status soon. Even then, I’d argue that the business card is a better bet for many since that one won’t hurt your 5/24 status.
- Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: As with the Ascend card, it makes sense to wait for a better offer for the business card unless you have need for the 100K points and/or Hilton Gold status.
- Hilton Honors Card from American Express: Wait for a better offer.