The sign-up bonus on Amex Hilton HHonors Surpass was recently raised to 85,000 points. This is as high as it gets for this particular offer. So, the question is: should you jump on it? Maybe, maybe not. Amex only allows one bonus per lifetime, so if you have been thinking about picking up this card, now is definitely the time to pull the trigger. If not, should this offer be on your radar?
First, the specifics of the bonus, which does not pay me referral:
Hilton HHonorsTM Surpass® Credit Card from American Express
Earn 85,000 Hilton HHonors™Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. If approved for an instant account number, you will receive a temporary line of credit in the amount of $1,000 for purchases at Hilton HHonors™ brand websites.
Once you receive and activate your card, you will have access to your full line of credit for use anywhere the Card is accepted.Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product. Annual Membership Fee: $75, not waived.
And here is the direct application link
It is a very good deal for Hilton lovers and possibly a “keeper,” meaning it could makes sense to renew it and pay $75 annual fee. How come? As a cardholder, you are automatically upgraded to Gold Hilton status, which comes with potential upgrades and free breakfast at most Hilton properties.
Stretching the bonus points
This is a decent bonus, especially if you plan on staying in category 1 or 2 Hilton properties (costing 5,000 and 10,000 points respectively). Since you get every 5th night redemption free, you could stretch these points in order to get two 5-night vacations or one long 10-night getaway.
Check out this Hampton Inn Cornelia, which is located at the foothills of Georgia mountains, and less than 2 hours away from Smoky Mountains National park. It costs 10,000 points per night, can fit 5 people (2 adults+3 kids) and includes free hot breakfast. This could present an excellent opportunity for a large family because even if you redeem the points for two rooms, you are still getting an outsized value. Read my posts for more on this subject here and here
Yay or nay for everyday spending?
You may consider using this card past the sign-up bonus for some of your everyday purchases if you are a fan of the Hilton brand and spend a lot on groceries, gas and restaurants. That’s because you can get 6 HHonors points per dollar in those categories.
Naturally, if you get 3% or 5% cash back through another card (look into Amex Blue Cash Preferred and Amex Everyday Preferred), you would probably want to stick with those. Otherwise, Amex Surpass card may be a winner for you. As long as you plan to redeem for category 1 or 2, value proposition is very strong. But let’s take category 3, which goes for 20,000 points per night. You would need to spend $3,333 on bonus categories to get your “free” night.
If you used a 2% cash back card, you would get $67. That’s not a bad price for a Hilton property. If you collect points for a category 2 hotel, you would be giving up only $33.50 in rewards. See this map on Travel is Free that will show you all category 1 and 2 Hilton brand hotels. As I’ve said earlier, the card comes with a $75 annual fee, but you will most likely make up for it through various Amex promotions.
Important! Categories can change without notice, so have a plan B (and C) in mind.
Why I won’t be getting Amex Hilton HHonors Surpass
While there is no question that this particular offer is very lucrative, I simply don’t have any specific plans for Hilton points. Not to mention, I still need to use up my existing IHG stash that I actually paid for with real cash via various promos.
I don’t believe in speculative hoarding of hotel points, so will pass on this bonus. I can always apply for Surpass in the future. The bonus is regularly raised to 80,000 points, so I’m not concerned if I miss out on 5,000 points. For now, I’m focusing on cash, currency I can definitely use in a near future.
Your situation may be different, though. If you have a huge amount of miles but no hotel points, it could makes sense to adjust your strategy. In fact, sometimes it might even pay to forego cash bonuses in favor of hotel points.
Let’s say you have a vacation coming up but don’t have lodging reserved yet. And there happens to be a Hilton property in the area that costs 20,000 points per night. While it’s not a bargain per se, you can get a 5-night trip taken care of which includes breakfast each morning. Let’s say you focus on $200 cash bonus instead. Even if you add $75 (annual fee on Surpass), it’s highly unlikely that $275 will pay for 5 hotel nights and include food.
This is a good bonus, but only if you have specific plans to stay in Hilton properties or/and are looking to use this card for everyday spending.
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