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

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All four new Amex Hilton cards are now available with shiny new welcome 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 welcome offer (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 welcome offer?

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?!

Conclusion

At this point I think it would be completely idiotic for Amex to disallow Ascend welcome offers 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 applied 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 apply for the Ascend card and meet the minimum spend requirements.  Then we’ll see whether they get the welcome offer.  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?

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