Should You Consider Amex Hilton HHonors Surpass?

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 MembershipIf 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.

Bottom line

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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12 thoughts on “Should You Consider Amex Hilton HHonors Surpass?

  1. I’ve been trying to pull together a Hawaii trip for the wife and me. This might get us into the grand wailea. It’s hard to find standard award nights there but might be worth a shot for those focused on an aspirational trip to Hawaii. Hilton is just such a weirdo when it comes to points. Like, seriously, get at my level, Hilton.

    The grand wailea may be worth the risk tho. If one had time to grind it out and amass a horde of Hilton points and the free weekend night certificates.

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    • @Cheapblackdad It’s definitely an option, but it would cost a fortune in points. Ouch! I would be too cheap to drop such an amount on just one night, but I suppose, it could make sense if you don’t want to switch hotels. I strongly recommend you have a back-up plan, though. Fortunately, Hilton has a terrific footprint so it shouldn’t be too difficult to use up the points or certs. And yes, “weirdo” is a good way to describe HHonors program. When it’s good (like 5,000 points I paid for hotel in Minsk), it’s really good. But when it’s bad, it’s REALLY bad. Like charging 200K points for a suite in Clearwater, Fl. Umm, no thanks.
      I do recommend you look into Fairmont card. One of my readers just came back from Maui and stayed in that property. He absolutely loved it, plus, you get a suite with your sign-up certs and free breakfast. Can’t beat that. Not to mention, Fairmont card will probably be discontinued at some point. Even though it’s issued by Chase, this would be my top pick if I was planning a trip to Maui. But I’m not, sniff sniff…

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  2. Post-devaluation, it’s difficult to get good value/availability using Hilton points in Hawaii. You’ll do much better with SPG points but, of course, these are harder to accumulate. They have one cat 4, four cat 5, five cat 6, and one cat 7 property in Hawaii With the “stay 4 nights, get the 5th free” feature, you can get 5 nights for 40K (cat 4), 48K (cat 5), 80K (cat 6), and 120K (cat 7). For even more value, they have a “nights & flights” award that will get you 5 nights at the cat4 Sheraton Kona Resort on the Big Island plus 50K airline miles for 70K SPG points (normally these two rewards would cost 80K SPG points total but they are giving you a discount of 10K doing it as a package). Personally speaking, I would spend my 48K SPG points for 5 nights at the Westin Maui resort (cat 5). It’s a very nice property, well-located, and with a good luau show on-site (which is extra $ and not included in your rate).

    If you’re willing to spend money, Costco often has good package deals for several popular resorts like the Hilton Hawaiian Village. I’d also suggest expressing interest in the Hilton Grand Vacation Club (Hilton’s timeshare system). Fill out the form at http://www.hiltongrandvacations.com/discover and it is likely that you will receive a very nice offer within a few weeks to “tour” their property (just have the willpower NOT to fall for their timeshare pitch). We took them up on an excellent offer a few years ago for 6 nights in a 1 bedroom villa at Hilton Kings Land in Waikoloa, plus 7 days rental car, plus a luau and sunset dinner cruise for something like $1060.00 That may not sound cheap, but the value of that package is conservatively in the range of $2200-2500+. And with a 1 bedroom villa, you have a full kitchen, washer/dryer, living space etc. so you can save money by eating some meals (like breakfast) in your villa.

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    • Helpful perspective, Erik and Mrs. Milesforfamily.
      1. I think we could find our way to some impressive points totals in Hilton. Not enough for a week but several days for sure. We are thinking a trip in the latter half of next year. The issue is I can’t even find availability at the Wailea. Hilton makes no sense to me. So Ieana you are right about how hard it is to book…
      2. Just filled out the form for the Hilton grand vacation club per your suggestion, Erik.
      3. SPG is not likely for me. Already got the personal cards and sitting at a beast 12k points. If I get a business up and running this year I may go for to business cards. I got burnt on biz cards denials with Chase 2 years ago and am still licking my wounds.
      4. Per leanas feedback and mto An research, Hyatt seems like my best bet for nice resorts in Hawaii on points. 4 free nights are in our future this year. Erik, any thoughts on Hyatt properties or Marriott?

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      • @Cheapblackdad Mrs. Milesforfamily: it has a nice ring to it! I honestly don’t think Hilton program is the way to go for Hawaii. The properties are way too popular and standard rooms sell out months in advance. Some report issues with finding availability at Andaz Maui, but there are other Hyatt properties to serve as a back-up.

        I really think Fairmont card is your best bet, followed by Chase Hyatt Visa. I would definitely go with the first one for Maui and get Hyatt card for Kauai. I do recommend you split your stay and visit both islands. Of course, if you plan on going in the second half of next year, you’ll have to wait a bit because the certs usually expire 12 months after the date of issue. To recap: I recommend you get Fairmont card X 2 in a few months, followed by Hyatt card (X 2 if you want 4 nights in Kauai) after that.

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      • In Maui, the Hyatt Regency and Westin Maui are on Ka’anapali Beach within walking distance of shops and restaurants at Whaler’s Village. I don’t think you can go wrong with either. We stayed at the Westin Ocean Resort Villas (a timeshare property not to be confused with the Westin Maui hotel) that is located is on the north end of that strip. The beach in this area of Maui is really fantastic, because you don’t have to swim very far (25-50 feet?) to find good, easy snorkeling and the water is very clear. My daughters were 3 and 5 at the time and had a blast looking at the fish and coral. Marriott has a vacation club timeshare property in the same area that you can sometimes book cheaply at certain times of the year (on points or cash) as a Marriott Rewards member. Just login to your Marriott Rewards account, click on promotions, and check the Marriott Rewards Exclusive offers.

        On the Big Island, there is a Marriott in Waikoloa. Although I haven’t stayed there, I have been to that property many times because it has a great beach that is publicly accessible. The location is excellent and you can walk to many shops and restaurants. If you want upscale seclusion and have a bunch of Marriott points, I’d go for the Mauna Kea Beach hotel on the Big Island which is now part of the Autograph collection.

        Not sure if I mentioned it previously, but for a cool experience on Maui, take surfing lessons from http://www.mauiwaveriders.com. No previous experience required and they will make sure you get up on the board. Even my 3 and 5-year old daughters did it. You’ll leave with some great pictures and memories.

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    • @Erik Utilizing SPG points for Hawaii could make a lot of sense for those who have a decent amount of that currency. But as you correctly pointed out, those points are precious and hard to accumulate! I transferred some of mine to AA miles when they had the bonus going, but hanging on to the rest waiting for a spectacular redemption. I just don’t know what to do with them but hopefully, an opportunity will present itself eventually.
      Paying $1060 for that vacation package is a spectacular deal for those who don’t want to mess with points or certs. Oh, and I wouldn’t worry about Cheapblackdad falling for the sales pitch. He is too cheap for that, I’m sure!

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  3. I’ve actually had my eye on that 10K Hampton Inn in Cornelia for a while since it’s a stone’s throw away from Helen, GA.

    And gold status at a Hilton can be a tremendous value for families with kids. On our recent two-week trip to Managua we had breakfast (and occasionally dinner) covered on account of the executive lounge.

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    • @Nick I absolutely love Helen, GA! It’s a poor man’s Bavaria. 🙂 My son enjoyed the train museum there which I’m guessing you’ve been to as well. I think this Hampton Inn is a tremendous deal, especially during the summer or when the leaves change. We have too much planned for the next year, otherwise, I probably would consider a trip to Georgia. Oh, and free food via Gold status is a great perk for family, no question. It’s definitely a decent offer for some.

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