Ultra Premium Hotel Cards: Hilton vs. SPG/Marriott

Hilton kicked off 2018 by introducing a new ultra-premium credit card: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.  And, in August, the newly combined Marriott / SPG (Starwood) program will offer their own ultra-premium card: Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card.  Since Marriott, Starwood, and Ritz will become one program in August, the Starwood card really represents all three brands despite its name.

What about the Ritz-Carlton Card?  The Ritz card is another $450 premium card, but it is no longer available to new applicants.  More details about the Ritz card can be found here.

Hilton Aspire vs. SPG Lux

We don’t yet know what kind of welcome bonus will be offered for the Starwood card, so we can’t yet compare cards in that way, but we do know enough about the card features to compare the Hilton Aspire and SPG Lux cards side by side. Which card is better?  Let’s take a look…

Annual Fee

No difference: $450 per year.

Rebates

Hilton Aspire SPG Lux
Hotel Spend Rebate

Up to $250 / Year

Pay room charges at hilton.com/resorts to receive automatic rebates.

Up to $300 / Year

Pay room charges at any Starwood / Marriott hotel worldwide to receive automatic rebates.

Airline Fee Rebate

Up to $250 / Year

After selecting preferred airline, incidental fees (checked bags, seat assignments, etc.) are automatically rebated. More here:  Amex airline fee reimbursements. What still works?

None
Global Entry Rebate

Up to $100 every 4 years

Receive automatic rebate when card is used to pay for TSA Pre check ($85) or Global Entry ($100)

Those who are certain to stay at a Hilton resort at least once per year and are certain to take advantage of the airline fee credits will come out ahead with the Hilton Aspire card.  If you maximize the credits, the combined $500 will more than offset the card’s $450 annual fee.

That said, the $300 in SPG stay credits are much easier to get since you’ll get reimbursed up to $300 per year for room charges at any Marriott or Starwood property worldwide.

Even though the Hilton card has a bigger upside, the SPG card’s credits are easier to get.

Verdict: Most will be better off with SPG Lux, but some will do much better with Hilton. SPG’s $300 in credits will be easier for most cardholders to max out than Hilton’s $250 resort credit and Hilton’s $250 airline fee credit. On the other hand, if you are able to max out the Hilton credits, the Hilton Aspire obviously is a much better deal.

Free Nights

Hilton Aspire SPG Lux
Annual free night

Free Weekend Night

Issued upon opening card and each year upon renewal.

Valid at any Hilton property Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, except those listed here: HiltonHonors.com/weekendreward. A standard room must be available in order to book the free night.

50K Free Night

Issued upon renewal.

Valid at any Marriott / SPG / Ritz property that would otherwise charge 50,000 points or less for the same night.

Free night from spend

Spend $60K within calendar year to earn a Free Weekend Night

Valid at any Hilton property Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, except those listed here: HiltonHonors.com/weekendreward. A standard room must be available in order to book the free night.

N/A

The Hilton Aspire’s free night is great because it can be used at nearly any Hilton worldwide. Plus, the free night award is offered when you first sign up for the card, and each year thereafter.  The SPG Lux card only begins to offer the free night upon renewal.  I don’t ascribe value to the Hilton Aspire’s extra free night with $60K spend because I believe there are many more rewarding options for your spend.

The SPG Lux free night is good any day of the week.  And while the 50K certificate won’t get you into the most expensive hotels worldwide, it will get you into some very nice properties.

VerdictI slightly prefer the SPG Lux, but some will do much better with Hilton. The Hilton free night is theoretically worth much more, but that’s contingent upon a travel schedule that places you in an otherwise very high end Hilton on a weekend night.  The SPG free night is more practical since it isn’t limited to a weekend.

Elite Status

Hilton Aspire: Automatic Hilton Diamond status (top tier): Lounge access, free breakfast, room upgrades, late checkout, etc.

SPG Lux:

  • Automatic Gold Elite status: 2pm late checkout, room upgrades, welcome gift (points only)
  • Platinum status with $75K calendar year spend: Lounge access, free breakfast, room upgrades, 4pm late checkout

Verdict: Hilton Aspire wins this one in a landslide.

Point Earning from Spend

Using our current Reasonable Redemption Values (RRVs), we can see which card is more rewarding for spend.  At the time of this writing, Hilton points are valued at 0.45 cents each, and Marriott points (the closest thing we have to future SPG rewards points) are valued at 0.72 cents each.

Hilton Aspire SPG Lux
Base spend 3X
1.35%
2X
1.44%
Flights booked directly with airline 7X
3.15%
3X
2.16%
Select car rental companies 7X
3.15%
2X
1.44%
US restaurants 7X
3.15%
3X
2.16%

Hotel spend within brand*

* e.g. the Hilton card offers bonus points at Hilton properties and the SPG card offers bonus points at SPG, Marriott, and Ritz properties.

14X
6.3%
6X
4.32%

The SPG card has a very small edge on base spend, but neither card is very good for this.  For all category bonus spend, though, the Hilton card is much better than the SPG card.  That said, other than spend at Hilton properties, you can do better with other cards.

Verdict: Hilton Aspire wins again, but neither card is particularly compelling for spend other than at hotel properties.

Perks

Hilton Aspire SPG Lux
Airport Lounge Access Priority Pass Select with 2 free guests Priority Pass Select with 2 free guests
Foreign Transaction Fees None None
Internet / Wifi Premium On-Property Internet
(a Hilton Diamond perk)
Premium On-Property Internet, Worldwide Boingo Wifi
Property credit $100. Book min 2 nights at Waldorf Astoria® Hotels & Resorts or Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, through HiltonHonors.com/aspirecard to get a $100 credit to be used during the stay. N/A
Roadside assistance Up to 4 times per year N/A

The perks offered by these cards are quite similar.  They offer the same lounge access, and both have no foreign transaction fees.  The Hilton Aspire additionally offers a way to get a $100 stay credit at Waldorf and Conrad hotels, and roadside assistance.  And the SPG Lux card throws in Boingo Wifi.

Verdict: Hilton Aspire by a nose.  I don’t think the differences between the card perks ought to be enough to sway anyone one way or another.

Big picture

Pound for pound the Hilton Aspire appears to be the better card.  It offers up to $500 in statement credits per year, top-tier Diamond status, and a free weekend night valid for almost any Hilton property worldwide.  The problem is that only those with specific travel habits can fully maximize these perks.  You must have the opportunity to use your free night on a weekend.  And, you must stay every year at a Hilton resort to make use of the $250 in resort credits.

The SPG Lux card has lesser benefits, but they’re easier to use.  The Lux card’s free night is good any day of the week.  And the card’s $300 rebate can be triggered with spend at any SPG or Marriott hotel, not just resort properties.  The Achilles heel of this card, in my mind, is the fact that only Gold status is automatic, and that level of status doesn’t get you much.  You need to spend $75K each year with the card in order to get hotel lounge access, for example.

Verdict: Hilton Aspire is, in my opinion, the better all-around ultra-premium hotel card.

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.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

12
Leave a Reply

avatar
7 Comment threads
5 Thread replies
6 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
7 Comment authors
Greg The Frequent Mileralan zuckerNickP-nopeAnastasia Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
Notify of
WR2
Guest
WR2

I love the Aspire, it is the only premium card I’m actually considering renewing, aside from my Prestige with $350 AF. I am SPG plat, but after I got Aspire, I shifted to 90% Hilton stays. I’ve heard that Diamond doesn’t get you that much more in the US, but when in Asia I can tell you that it makes a big difference. I felt like I received more upgrades and better treatment as Hilton Diamond vs. SPG Plat. What’s more, since the Aspire card is US only, Asia Hiltons are unlikely to be watered down with a flood of Diamonds.

Can you remind me, when does the resort credit and airline credits reset? If I recall airline credits reset calendar year, and resort credit/free weekend night reset member year?

Mark P
Guest
Mark P

You are correct on the credit renewals. Airline credit is calendar year, Hilton resort credit is cardmember year. Just looked it up after reading this article.

Anastasia
Guest
Anastasia

I can see how, all things being equal, the Hilton card works out to be better. However, I’ve found that since Hilton doesn’t have very many aspirational properties compared to Starwood and Marriott, I’d lean towards the SPG card because the only slightly lesser benefits are made up for in the properties you can use many of those benefits at. At least, those are my two cents.

P-nope
Guest
P-nope

There’s nothing very Lux about the SPG Lux card IMO. If you’re going to call a card with “Luxury” in it’s name, at least make it so.

trackback

[…] new SPG luxury card is coming soon by the way. Comparing the Ultra Premium Hotel Cards: Hilton vs. SPG/Marriott. For some reason, this Hilton card has not been available with my links. But the other three Hilton […]

trackback

[…] Ultra Premium Hotel Cards: Hilton vs. SPG/Marriott […]

Nick
Guest
Nick

Do you think we will see higher than 125k bonus for the SPG Luxury card or is 125k likely the highest we will probably see for sign up bonus?

alan zucker
Guest
alan zucker

Will you get credit toward the 75k spend requirement for Platinum for ytd purchases on the Starwood Amex?