Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card Review: Worth the $95 Annual Fee?

Hilton enthusiasts might find the Hilton Honors Surpass Card to be a truly handy travel companion. Here are all the reasons why.
Last updated May 21, 2020 | By Jennifer Calonia

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If you typically book stays with a property from the Hilton Portfolio, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card could be a hotel credit card worth looking into. In this review, we'll take a look at the card's pros and cons to help you decide if it's right for you.

Robust Welcome Offer

Benefits

  • 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Point welcome offer
  • 12X points at participating Hilton hotels and resorts
  • Free weekend night reward stay after spending $15,000 in a calendar year
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Terms apply

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
  • No intro APR for either purchases or balance transfers
  • No free anniversary night

In this Hilton Honors Amex Surpass Card review

Who should get the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card ?

As a hotel-branded card, the Hilton Honors Amex Surpass Card is suited for avid travelers with a preference for staying at Hilton hotels or resorts. Specifically, travelers who might be new to the Hilton Honors program or haven’t reached Hilton Honors Gold status yet can receive the immediate benefit of ascending to a higher loyalty program tier by becoming a holder of this hotel card.

Card basics

Card type Travel
Card issuer American Express
Annual fee $95
Welcome bonus Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Reward rate 12X points when spending directly with an eligible Hilton hotel or resort; 6X points on purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations; and 3X points on all other eligible purchases
Recommended credit score Excellent, Good
Foreign transaction fee None

Hilton Honors Amex Surpass Card perks and benefits

  • Generous welcome offer: Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Rewards: Earn 12X points when spending directly with an eligible Hilton hotel or resort; 6X points on purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations; and 3X points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Complimentary Gold elite status: You’ll receive complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status through the card, which opens the door to an 80% bonus on all earned Hilton Honors base points, room upgrades when space is available, and free breakfast at all hotels. On top of that, if you spend $40,000 on eligible purchases in a calendar year, you can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status.
  • Weekend night reward: Earn a free Weekend Night Reward after spending a minimum $15,000 using your card within a calendar year.
  • 10 Priority Pass Select visits: If you want lounge access, but you don't need it for all your trips, then this card could be a good fit for you as it's one of the credit cards that give you free Priority Pass access. As a cardholder, you'll get 10 complimentary Priority Pass Select lounge visits after enrolling your card in the Priority Pass Select program. This will get you access and potential freebies at airport lounges around the world.

Drawbacks to this card

  • Annual fee: This card has an annual fee of $95. For a travel card, that's not too bad, but if you're not a regular Hilton visitor, the fee may not be worth it.
  • No anniversary award night: While the card can earn you a weekend night reward if you meet the annual spending requirement, it does not offer an automatic reward on your cardholder anniversary.
  • No intro APR: Since this is a travel rewards focused credit card, it does not offer any introductory interest rate on either balance transfers or purchases.

Earning & redeeming Hilton Honors points

Potential earnings in years one and two

Here's a look how your points can add up with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card. To calculate these values, we used a point valuation of 0.6 cents per point, based on the typical redemption values achieved by those in the points-and-miles community. 

Remember, this is an estimation. The actual value will be determined by how much you spend and in which categories you spend.

Year one earnings: $1,576.60

Year two earnings: $826.60

These values are based on the FinanceBuzz Credit Card Rewards Valuation Model which takes a look at points earned via spending, the welcome bonus, and the annual fee. For this particular card, the assumption is that the "travel" spending did not include any purchases within the Hilton portfolio. Of course, with this card you are likely to book Hilton stays. So your earnings in your first year and second year would potentially be much higher than what is projected here.

In addition to the value determined above, if you take advantage of the complimentary Priority Pass access and Gold status with the Hilton Honors loyalty program, you will get even more value out of this card.

Best ways to earn

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card gives cardholders a number of ways to earn points while traveling or through everyday spending.

Categories Rewards rate
Eligible purchases within the Hilton portfolio 12X
U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations 6X
Other eligible purchases 3X

If you plan on spending a lot at Hilton properties, you’ll have the greatest chance at earning points. Other earning accelerators, like the 6X points per dollar earned at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations, also help you earn Hilton Honors points faster.

However, the card only earns you 3X on all other eligible purchases. If a majority of your card spending is outside of the top aforementioned earning areas, you may want to find a better card option.

Maximizing your redemptions

Although you can use points toward non-Hilton purchases, the best redemption option by far for your Hilton Honors points is hotel stays at Hilton properties. If you don’t have enough points to fully cover a free rewards stay or if you’d prefer to save your points toward a future trip, you can use Hilton Honors’ Points & Money option, which allows you to use a mix of rewards points and cash toward your booking.

The Hilton Honors program allows you to transfer your points to a friend or family member or to pool them with up to 10 other members at a time. There’s no charge to transfer or pool points. 

Like many hotel credit cards, the Hilton Honors Amex Surpass Card does not have the option to redeem for statement credits or cash. But you wouldn't get the best value for your rewards that way anyway.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card transfer partners

You can transfer your points to any of the many Hilton travel partners. The list of partners includes more than 30 airline, rail, and mileage rewards programs. Among these hospitality companies are Amtrak, Hawaiian Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic.

You can also add to your Hilton Honors points with rewards from both American Express and Diners Club. For American Express cardholders in the U.S., you will receive 2,000 Hilton Honors points for every 1,000 Amex Membership Rewards points that you transfer into your Hilton account.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card FAQs

What are Hilton Honors points worth?

The value of Hilton Honors points is about 0.6 cents per point, depending on how you redeem them. The value per point might differ when redeeming points toward merchandise, shopping, or transferring Hilton Honors points to another airline loyalty program.

How many Hilton points do you need to earn a free night?

The amount of points you need may differ depending on your hotel, room tier, and booking details, but rewards stays start at 5,000 points. And with the complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status, when you book Standard Reward Stays of at least five consecutive nights, your fifth night is free.

Is the Hilton Honors Amex Surpass worth the annual fee?

If you’re already a Hilton aficionado and regular guest, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card is worth the $95 annual fee.

Without Priority Pass Select membership through the card, becoming a Priority Pass Standard member costs $99, plus $32 per visit. If you plan on maximizing the available Priority Pass Select benefit through this card, the value easily makes up the cost of the annual fee.

What are some lesser known benefits offered by the Hilton Honors Amex Surpass Card?

Outside of the key features listed above, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card offers helpful travel benefits, like no foreign transaction fees, car rental insurance (secondary coverage), and a 24/7 Global Assist Hotline, if you come across emergencies on your trip.

It also provides useful shopping protections, like additional warranty coverage on eligible purchases, return protection, and purchase protection for theft or damage.

Which Hilton card is best?

Other than the Hilton Honors Surpass Card, the two Hilton cards to consider are the Hilton Honors American Express Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.

The Hilton Honors card had a $0 annual fee and gets you Silver elite status. It has a decent earning rate when it comes to bonus points. 

The Aspire Card earns far more rewards (14X points on eligible purchases within the Hilton portfolio, 7X points on qualifying travel purchases made directly with airlines/select car rental companies or Amextravel.com, 7X points at U.S. restaurants, and 3X points on all other purchases) and the welcome bonus is twice the size at 150,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months after account opening. The Aspire card also offers an Amex airline fee credit of $250, but it does have a $450 annual fee, though.

Basically, if you travel a lot, then the Aspire and all its benefits will be hugely beneficial. If you don't use Hilton properties much, then the Hilton Honors or Hilton Honors Surpass cards will probably be a better fit.


Other cards to consider

If you’re on the fence about whether the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card is the right new card for you, you’ll find other credit card offers on the market that offer similar hotel rewards and benefits.

If you're looking to earn rewards for Hilton stays, but you don't travel as often and would prefer not to pay an annual fee, then the Hilton Honors American Express Card could be a better fit for you. This card offers points toward the same spending categories as the Hilton Surpass but at a slightly lower rate. You'll still get a healthy welcome bonus, though. You can earn 75,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first first 3 months of card membership.

If you’re not loyal to the Hilton brand, you may want to consider the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, which offers cardholders many travel perks that frequent travelers expect and enjoy. The Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program is quite robust, and you can earn a lot of points right out of the gate with this card. The welcome bonus lets you earn 100,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.

Robust Welcome Offer

Special Offer

Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

See how these cards compare:

Hilton Honors American Express Card
Hilton Honors American Express Card
  • 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Point welcome offer
  • High rewards rates
  • Complimentary Silver status
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
  • Terms apply
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
  • Limited time offer: 100,000 point sign-up offer
  • 6X points at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy
  • One free night each year
  • No foreign transaction fee