Update: The bonuses mentioned below are no longer available. See Best Hotel Points Sign-up Bonuses for the most current offers.
At the moment, I think the strongest Amex offers when it comes to sign-up bonus are Starwood Preferred Guest (Amex SPG for short) and Hilton Honors Surpass card. Sure, there are targeted offers floating in various corners of interwebs and mailboxes. But as far as public offers go, I believe most people in the hobby will agree with post’s first sentence. (Note: both cards pay us commission if you choose to apply through the site. Thanks in advance! Be assured that your support is what keeps the blog running.)
I’ve made my case on why Amex SPG is a good deal when I compared it to other offers on the market. Keep in mind that the sign-up bonus on CSR has been slashed in half since the post was published, and the possibility of getting a full bonus on Merrill + Visa is very iffy at the moment.
So, why rank Amex Hilton Surpass card so highly?
First, here are the details on the offer:
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months. Offer Ends 5/31/17.
- Earn a free weekend night on your anniversary date of Card approval. Some hotels may have mandatory services and resort charges. Terms Apply.
- Earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
- Earn 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
- Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card. Terms and limitations apply.
- As a Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card Member you’ll receive Hilton Honors Gold status.
- Annual fee of $75 is not waived.
There are a few reasons why I’m seriously considering applying for it (X2):
1) The changes Hilton made recently actually benefit many families who have some flexibility in their schedule. The fact that you can now combine the points for free, plus reduction in rates during off-peak season are all good news for folks like myself. I have no doubt that honeymoon period won’t last forever, but right now Hilton program is very appealing to me.
I’m thinking about bringing my parents to US next year and taking them to Daytona beach for five nights. I’m not yet sure on the dates. It’s either going to be next March or November (Thanksgiving holidays). The rates for those months are not yet loaded, but here is what beachfront hotels in Daytona run at in November of this year:
Both properties used to cost 30,000-40,000 points per night under the old program. You still get the fifth night free with elite status via Hilton co-branded credit cards like Surpass. So, let’s say I go with the one that costs 25,000 points. My 100,000 bonus points can easily cover five nights, and breakfast is included. Granted, hotels will probably cost more in March, but still.
The Hilton Gold status can potentially get us a suite upgrade, another plus. That alone would be worth $75 annual fee. Sure, both my husband and I would have to apply for Amex Surpass in order to get two rooms. But in my opinion, it’s still a pretty good deal. Two-bedroom Daytona oceanfront condos go for around $170 all-in per night during off-season, and breakfast for 6 people is worth at least $30 to me. And how can you put a price on privacy?
So, by that logic, I’ll be getting $425 in value per card (when you deduct $75 fee). But it gets better…
2) The sign-up bonus on Amex Surpass is the best ever. Sure, we’ve seen 100K points bonus before, so it’s not a “limited time offer! get it now! ends soon” type of deal. But it never came with free weekend night on your first anniversary. I have a feeling that the reason they’ve added this perk is due to all the program changes implemented recently. Hilton wants good PR to attract folks who are skeptical about the changes, and one way of getting it is through lucrative sign-up bonuses.
Will they make this feature permanent? Who knows. But I want in. Of course, the assumption is that you will pay $75 annual fee during second year. While you can technically receive the cert and then cancel the card, I don’t plan to do it. I think getting one night at any Hilton property (breakfast included) for $75 is a good deal. Plus, like I said before, I want to increase my chances at getting a suite upgrade. If approved, I plan to burn the cert at Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa
The rate at this hotel can be as high as $500/80,000 points per night during spring months. The resort has been on my radar for some time, and this might be my chance at last. Since I plan to apply for Surpass in my husband’s name, we should have two certificates, good for a weekend getaway. Marco Island is located 2.5 hours from our house, no airfare required. Weekend certificates can be used on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
3) We are planning on a road trip in 2018, visiting major parks in the West. If I don’t end up using Hilton points on hotels in Daytona, I’m pretty sure I’ll have no problem burning them on one-night stays during our adventure.
4) At the moment I’m very low on hotel points. I just burned the remainder of my IHG stash on a trip to New York, and used up Club Carlson points for my mom (a post coming up). For the first time in years, I’m down to almost nothing in my hotel points bank. This offer came just at the right time.
I do plan to wait till May 30th to apply because I’m currently working on my Wells Fargo Propel World card. Cash always comes first. You can see the details on Wells Fargo bonus and other offers in my Hot Deals page.
But what about Amex SPG?
There is a simple reason why I’m not applying for personal version. I’ve had it before. I don’t apply for business cards because you are technically supposed to use them for business expenses only. Would I choose Amex SPG offer over Amex Hilton Surpass if had the option? Probably.
Here is why:
1) With Amex SPG you are getting flexible points. That means you can transfer them to a number of partners (various airlines and Amtrak) and even redeem them on Amazon gift cards, though I don’t recommend it. And of course, you can burn them on SPG/Marriott hotels, sometimes paying only 2,000 points per night on weekends for category 1.
2) The offer on Amex SPG is normally 25,000 points, but is currently increased to 35,000 points. It’s set to expire on April 5th. Will this chance come around again? It might, but it’s not a certainty. Sure, Hilton may not bring back “free night” offer either. But I would rather have 10,000 SPG points than one Hilton night in exchange for paying $75 annual fee.
3) It’s very likely that Amex SPG will be discontinued due to Marriott takeover of the chain. Amex Hilton Surpass isn’t going anywhere (for now).
Who should consider Amex Surpass instead?
Well, assuming you currently qualify for a sign-up bonus on both. Here are few instances I can think of:
1) You have a lot of airline miles and have a hard time using them as is.
2) You have a large family and usually travel during holidays. And let’s be honest, 40,000 SPG points transferred to 50,000 traditional airline miles aren’t going to do much for a family anyway.
3) You never use Amtrak.
4) You can’t find even one SPG hotel/Marriott property that looks appealing.
5) You are a fan of Hilton brand and really enjoy their properties, especially those that provide free breakfast. With Gold status, who knows, you may even get upgraded to a suite.
6) You don’t like the fact that Amex SPG requires $5,000 in spending during the first 6 months. That’s quite a commitment, plus, the structure of the bonus is a bit confusing. With Amex Surpass, you have to spend $3,000 in 3 months, and you are all set.
7) You are fairly certain that the offer on Amex SPG will be increased again at some point. I’m not going to give my opinion because I honestly have no clue.
There is also another interesting development. DoC reports that many are seeing an upgrade offer of 100,000 Hilton points on their no-fee Amex Hilton card. If you can get it to come up, I would do that, even though the offer doesn’t come with free anniversary night. That way you’ll save a credit pull.
I don’t believe either offer is a no-brainer per se. However, under the right circumstances, both are very good deals. Overall, Amex SPG bonus is easier to recommend to most newbies in the hobby, but it comes with strings attached. Namely: more convoluted minimum spending requirements and potentially forgoing other lucrative offers down the road. So choose wisely between the two cards or choose something else entirely.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.