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As I’ve mentioned on here a few times, I’m planning on visiting London. I plan on travel hacking the trip to help cut down on costs.
I already chose my American Airlines card to get the 60,000 miles I need for my flight to London. Next up is hotel cards. So over the course of a few weeks I’m looking at the contenders and evaluating them for my (and potentially your) purposes.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass card
- 130,000 bonus points plus one weekend night stay after spending $4,000 in four months
- Weekend reward night after spending $15,000 in one year
- 12 points per $1 at Hilton properties
- 6 points per $1 at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations
- 3 points per $1 on everything else
- $95 annual fee
The first good thing to note is the low spend for the welcome bonus. Most of us can charge $4,000 in four months without much effort. Also, that’s significantly less than the $6,000 you need to spend for Hyatt’s bonus.
Another benefit is that Hilton owns a lot of chains, so wherever you visit there are almost certainly going to be a lot of properties to choose from.
It’s also great that you earn six points for not just restaurants, but also supermarkets. Food is one of people’s biggest expenses, so that could really rack up the points.
But of course the biggest star is, as always, the welcome bonus. I was able to find some nice-looking 30,000-point properties in London, which means that you should be able to find 30,000-point properties — if not cheaper — in most major cities.
Assuming a 30,000-point property, the 130,000-point welcome bonus is four free nights plus your weekend rewards night. That’s five free nights, which is a pretty great welcome! And if you spend $15,000, then you’d get another weekend night for free. That’s six free nights!
Note that the rewards nights in the welcome bonus and $15,000-spending bonus are for weekends specifically. On the one hand, this is nice because weekends tend to be the most expensive. On the other hand, it means your stay has to include a weekend to take advantage of the free nights.
Also, don’t be fooled by the higher point payouts compared to the Hyatt. Hilton’s free nights are significantly more points.
Compare the London properties’ 30,000-point rate to Hyatt’s 8,000. That means that Hilton’s free nights cost almost four times the points compared to Hyatt’s. Which means that it matters less that the Surpass card earns three times the points compared to the World of Hyatt card.
Another detractor is the annual fee. While $95 is standard, most other hotel cards seem to offer an annual free night for staying a cardholder. That isn’t the case here. So you’re paying $95 just to keep earning points. Honestly, I don’t love that.
And finally, while you earn three points per $1, that still means spending around $10,000 to get enough for a 30,000-point property.
Comparatively, if you spend $10,000 points on the Citi Double Cash card, you’d get $200 cash back, which should more than pay for a night at most Hilton hotels.
Still, if you’re going for the $15,000-spend rewards night anyway, then it might be worth skipping the cash back card. As always, it’s up to you.
So, what’s my take on the card?
Well, taking the caveats into account, this is still a solid card. But. It doesn’t offer as good of benefits as some of the other hotel rewards credit cards I looked at. (Though six free nights by spending $15,000 is still pretty great and might be enough to warrant getting the card.)
Overall, if you prefer Hiltons or if there’s a Hilton hotel ideally situated for your next trip, then this card does have a lot of potential. Especially if you plan to stay over a weekend. You can click here to learn more about the card.
But how did this card stack up for my own purposes?
Unfortunately, the free nights’ point levels were an issue. The hotels in the more desirable spots were 70,000+ points (some were more than 100,000 points a night). That means my welcome bonus would be good for as little as one free night. Nope.
As mentioned before, I did find some hotels for a reasonable number of points (30,000ish), but they weren’t in convenient areas.
There was one hotel that I seriously considered for 41,000 points/night. The bonus would mean four free nights (three with points and one weekend night reward). If I spent that $15,000 in a year then I’d get another free weekend night and the spending would put me over the top for another free night. That’s once again six free nights total, which is pretty darn good.
But even that location wasn’t ideal. (You had to take a short ferry trip to get off the islet the hotel was on.) So I moved on… And (finally) found the card for me! Which I’ll reveal next week.
Still, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass card is another one I would consider for my next domestic (or otherwise “place with cheaper hotels than London”) trip.
Do you like Hilton hotels? What hotel cards have you tried in the past?