Points and Miles

Why Hilton Loyalists Should Consider Adding the Surpass Card to Their Wallet

Automatic Gold status and a fast-track to earning points make this a great card for Hilton regulars.
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In 2019, with a trip to Europe on the horizon, I signed up for the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card—the second AmEx hotel co-branded card I’ve had in my wallet—to help lower travel costs to London. Since then, I’ve used it to earn enough points for free night redemptions in London, South Africa, and Colombia.

For those interested in applying for this hotel credit card, I've broken down everything you need to know about its annual fee, earning structure, and top benefits.

Is the Hilton Honors AmEx Surpass® Card worth the $150 annual fee?

Yes. The card pays for itself, as you can receive statement credits of up to $50 each quarter. Also, the points you receive per dollar spent at Hilton Hotels and Resorts and the bonus points you receive as a Gold member make the fee worth it. This card helps you achieve points fast to redeem for more stays.

However, the card provides a limited number of benefits outside of Hilton stays. The card previously included a Priority Pass membership, with 10 visits to a priority pass lounge allowed each year. If you enrolled in Priority Pass on or before January 31, 2023, this benefit ends on February 1, 2024. If you enroll between February 1, 2023, and January 31, 2024, your Priority Pass membership is valid until October 31, 2024 (terms apply). I enjoyed visiting various airport lounges regardless of the airline I was flying. Since I live near a Delta hub, I've since pivoted to the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card for Delta Sky Club access.

If you don't stay at Hilton hotels often, this card may not be for you. Other travel credit cards allow you to get more points and perks without committing to a specific hotel chain, or offer partnerships with brands you might book more often. For example, with my IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card, I receive a free night at an IHG hotel above the 40,000-point redemption level on my card's anniversary.

Hilton Honors Surpass Card benefits and perks

Hilton Honors Gold status: With this card, you will receive complimentary Hilton Gold status (terms apply). Gold status comes with an 80 percent points bonus on stays, which helps you earn points faster to redeem for free nights quicker. As a Hilton Honors member, you earn 10 Hilton Honors base points per US dollar spent on room rates and room service for every Hilton portfolio hotel or resort stay, except Home2 Suites by Hilton and Tru by Hilton properties. For instance, on a $500 charge, you'd earn 5,000 Hilton Honors base points. With Gold status, you get an additional 4,000 Hilton Honors bonus points (80 percent bonus on the initial 5,000 base points), bringing the total earned from a $500 stay to 9,000 points.

Additional Gold status benefits include room upgrades based on space availability. Also, the fifth night is free whenever you book a stay with points. One more perk: You'll get a free night at most Hilton hotels if you spend $15,000 on purchases with the Hilton Honors Surpass Card within one calendar year.

Rental car elite status: Enjoy complimentary National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive status when you enroll in the Emerald Club, helping you skip lines and get car upgrades.

Up to $200 in Hilton credits: These credits alone make this card worth it. You can earn up to $200 back, or $50 in statement credits per quarter, on eligible Hilton purchases like hotel stays and purchases made at spas and restaurants within the hotel property (terms apply). Bookings must be made directly through a Hilton reservation channel to be eligible.

No foreign transaction fees: If you travel internationally frequently, you can save money by avoiding transaction fees outside the United States.

Current welcome offer

If you're a new applicant for the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card, you could earn 170,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first six months of card membership. Most welcome bonuses offer fewer points and make you spend much more than this amount to become eligible, so now is a great time to apply.

How to earn points

With the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, you'll earn 12 points per dollar spent at Hilton Hotels and Resorts, 6 points per dollar spent at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) within the US, 4 points per dollar spent on online retail purchases within the US, and 3 points per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.

Outside of the card spend, you can earn additional points by linking your Lyft rides, joining the Hilton Honors Dining Program, and when booking Enterprise, Alamo, and National car rentals.

Aside from using the card for everyday spending and renting cars, I pay attention to the promotions and register for nearly all of them. I recently stayed at the Resorts World Las Vegas, a collection of three Hilton properties. I booked a promotional package that included food and beverage credits and a discount on the room, which I paid for on my Surpass card. I received about 15,000 points for a three-night stay. The 15,000 points included 6,000 base points (10x per dollar), an 80 percent point bonus of the base stay of 5,000, and 4,000 points due to completing a stay during a promotion. I earned an additional 7,000 (12x per dollar) points for paying for the room with the Surpass card.

How to redeem points

I've been able to redeem points for stays in London, South Africa, and Colombia from the points I've earned through the sign-up offer and points I've acquired through the card over the years. Recently, I used the points and cash payment method to book a hotel for my husband's birthday. I only used 30,000 points and paid the remainder for a standard room in cash. As a bonus, I put in the reservation notes that we were celebrating a birthday and asked for a complimentary upgrade due to our statuses. To my surprise, we were upgraded (the day of) to a two-room executive suite, including a wraparound balcony overlooking Centennial Park in Atlanta.

Using Hilton points on other partners likely won't give you the best bang for your buck, but redeeming points for airline miles is possible. Hilton has 26 airline partners, including Delta and United Airlines. Otherwise, the best (and only) way to use your points directly is on free nights at Hilton Hotels. Traveling with family or friends? You can pool points with up to 10 other Hilton Honors members to redeem for free nights.

What I wish I knew before signing up

I rarely receive upgrades with the Gold status that comes with this card—I can count on one hand the nu of upgrades I've received. The real value in the Gold status is the 80 percent bonus on base points you receive each stay.

I've noticed over the years that the per night redemption amount has increased. I usually use more points for free night redemptions at Hilton than with Marriott or IHG hotels. (To get an idea of how far your welcome offer points will go, search on Hilton's website for the city you want to visit and the timeframe.) Recently, I downgraded my card due to the removal of Priority Pass membership to focus on the other airlines and hotel branded cards in my wallet. However, for Hilton loyalists, it may still be a solid card to add to your travel roster.

Condé Nast Traveler has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Condé Nast Traveler and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card has been collected independently by Condé Nast Traveler. See rates and fees for the American Express cards listed: Hilton Honors Surpass, Delta SkyMiles Reserve