Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express – Review

Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express – Review

Learn more about this card and find out how you can apply here.

The Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express is a hotel rewards credit card with a $95 annual fee and a generous rewards program that favors frequent Hilton portfolio guests and people who spend heavily at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations in the United States.

You can redeem Honors points earned with this card for free nights or room upgrades at approximately 4,000 Hilton properties worldwide. Hilton also offers a host of other redemption methods, including general merchandise, gift cards, and transfers to frequent flyer programs. However, these redemption methods all tend to devalue accumulated points, so it’s usually best to stick with free nights or upgrades.

Hilton Honors Ascend automatically confers Hilton Honors Gold status, a potentially powerful benefit that accelerates points earned at Hilton hotels, allows for flexible check-out times, and gives you a 5th night free on stays of 5 nights or longer. Heavy spenders can move up to Hilton Honors Diamond status, which is even more generous, and even moderate spending ($15,000 per year) qualifies you for a complimentary weekend award night.

Curious about the Hilton Honors Ascend card? Let’s take a closer look at its features, advantages, disadvantages, and overall suitability for frequent and not-so-frequent travelers.

When you spend at least $2,000 in eligible net purchases within the first 3 months of your account opening date, you get 100,000 bonus Hilton Honors points. That’s worth up to 20 free nights at Category 1 properties.

Hilton Honors Ascend earns unlimited 12 Honors points for every $1 you spend at hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio.

Purchases made at gas stationsgrocery stores, and restaurants (all in the U.S. only) earn an unlimited 6 points per $1 spent.

All other purchases earn an unlimited 3 points per $1 spent. As long as you have some account activity (earning or redeeming points) within any given 12-month period, your points never expire.

You can redeem your accumulated points for free hotel nights, with no blackout dates, at about 4,000 Hilton hotels worldwide. Point redemptions start at a minimum of 5,000 points for Category 1 hotels, which typically cost less than $100 per night.

You can also redeem using Hilton’s Points & Money Rewards feature, which allows you to combine points and cash. Points & Money Rewards redemptions start at 5,000 points and rise in 1,000-point increments.

The number of points required for redemption increases with hotel category, as well as overall room demand, seasonality, individual property, and other factors. For instance, Category 10 hotels (the highest tier) require at least 70,000 points to redeem, and sometimes as much as 95,000.

Point values vary depending on how they’re redeemed, but are generally worth $0.005 to $0.01 at redemption (sometimes more or less). Hilton also allows you to use points for room upgrades, subject to availability, at roughly the same point-to-dollar conversion rate. These terms are all subject to change, so check the Hilton Honors program’s terms and conditions for up-to-date information.

Hilton partners with a limited number of airline frequent flyer programs, including American Airlines AAdvantage and United MileagePlus. You can convert your accumulated Honors points into frequent flyer miles, usually at a rate of 10,000 Honors points to 1,000 or 1,500 miles.

It’s worth noting up front that this is a far lower rate than some competing hotel loyalty and general-purpose travel rewards credit card programs, some of which offer 1-to-1 transfers.

Hilton also allows you to convert your accumulated Honors points to Membership Rewards points, American Express’ in-house loyalty currency.

The minimum conversion amount is 1,500 Honors points, which earns 1,000 Membership Rewards points. This is clearly a better deal than frequent flyer mile conversions.

As long as you remain a cardholder in good standing, you’re automatically granted Gold status in Hilton’s loyalty program. Gold status boosts your point earnings on Hilton and partner property stays by 25%, earns you a 5th night free on stays of 5 nights or longer, and permits flexible check-out times.

When you spend at least $40,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year, you earn an automatic upgrade to Diamond status. Diamond status comes with all the benefits of Gold status, plus a point earnings boost of 50% for all Hilton and partner stays and guaranteed room availability when you book at least 48 hours in advance.

When you spend at least $15,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year, you get a complimentary award night at any participating Hilton property.

When you open your account, you’re automatically enrolled in Priority Pass Select, an airport lounge membership that gives you discounted access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide. You get 10 complimentary lounge visits per year. The annual membership fee is waived as long as your card account remains open and in good standing.

Lounge visits above the annual complimentary allowance cost $27 apiece. That typically equates to a discount of 50% or more. The payment is automatically charged to your credit card account at entry.

This card comes with a $95 annual fee. There is no foreign transaction fee. Cash advances cost the greater of $5 or 3%. Late and returned payments both cost up to $38.

The Hilton Honors Ascend Card has a host of travel-related benefits underwritten by American Express. These include:

This card also has some useful shopping benefits underwritten by American Express:

This card requires excellent credit.

At first glance, the Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express offers earning potential like almost no other hotel credit card: 12x points at Hilton properties, 6x points in three super common spending categories, and 3x points on everything else. If you’re able to consistently redeem at lower-tier Hilton properties, this card is very valuable indeed.

However, it’s important to recognize that Hilton Honors points’ value varies sharply, depending on how and where they’re redeemed. Generally speaking, they’re worth less than some other loyalty programs’ points, including the Starwood hotel group’s. If you’re not especially loyal to Hilton and are looking instead for a branded hotel card that offers the most value for your money, the Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express could be a better choice.

Learn more about this card and find out how you can apply here.

The Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express is ideal for loyal Hilton guests who frequently stay at Hilton portfolio properties and spend heavily at U.S. gas stations, restaurants, or supermarkets. It’s not as useful for folks who aren’t loyal to Hilton, those who seek good value for non-award night redemptions (including frequent flyer transfers), and people who don’t spend enough to offset the $95 annual fee.

Key benefits include excellent earning rates, automatic Gold status, Priority Pass Select benefit, free weekend night for big spenders, Diamond status upgrade for even bigger spenders, great hotel selection, and uber-generous welcome bonus.

Big drawbacks include the annual fee, poor frequent flyer transfers, penalty interest charges, and relatively low point values at redemption.

Overall, a great card for frequent Hilton guests who spend heavily in the 6x categories.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Categories: American Express, Credit and Debt, Credit Cards, Reviews

Brian Martucci writes about frugal living, entrepreneurship, and innovative ideas. When he’s not interviewing small business owners or investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, he’s probably out exploring a new trail or sampling a novel cuisine. Find him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

Comments Disclosure: The below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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