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Last month, I wrote a post on how I made out like a bandit on my upgrade from no-fee Hilton card to Aspire version Ironically, when I accepted the offer, I did it because at the time I didn’t have any better options. Plus, the fact that there would be no credit inquiry was extremely appealing to me. Generally, I’m leery of cards with a huge annual fee unless I’m fairly certain that I can make a profit or at least break even.
Yes, its tempting to assign astronomical value to those “free” nights, but most of us already have more renewal certificates than we know what to do with. Hotel points are also nice, but once again, how much are they truly worth? As this year of Covid-19 has proven, less than many of us originally thought.
But I applied for the card, and I’m happy to say, it paid off handsomely. I’ll let you read the linked post if you want the details. Ironically, Covid-19 was actually one of the reasons. Something I wanted to try was prepaying a resort credit for a future stay so I could take advantage of this perk again before canceling the card. I didn’t come up with this idea on my own, and I first saw it last year on Miles to Memories
I’m happy to say the trick worked, though I did run into some difficulties. Here is my experience.
After chatting with Amex rep, I knew that my $250 resort credit was due to reset on September 2nd. The annual fee, on the other hand, wasn’t supposed to hit the account until September 30th. So, in theory, I had four weeks to wrap up my Hilton Aspire adventure on a high note. The terms on the account say that the credit on Hilton stays will get reimbursed within 4-6 weeks, though in practice it usually shows up within few days.
So, on September 4th I contacted the Hilton resort in Florida Keys where we have a reservation next winter. I fully expected the manager to email me a form to sign and fax back. In reality, the process was much simpler. The lady at the resort asked me how much I wanted to charge and I said $250 (obviously). Then she emailed me a link to a form where I put in the credit card info, then submitted it and voila, it was set. She then emailed me back a confirmation that I have a $250 resort credit waiting for us during the actual stay.
I did ask her what would happen if we postponed the stay due to Covid-19 or any other reason. She said to contact the resort and the credit would simply be transferred to the new reservation. I didn’t ask her about a potential refund, but I imagine there would not be an issue either.
The resort would probably attempt to refund it to the original credit card, and if it’s closed at the time, Amex would send a check to a consumer. At least that’s my assumption. I absolutely plan to stay at this resort, and since it’s located only 4.5 hours from our house, I have every idea that we will at some point.
I was hoping that the charge would automatically get reimbursed after few days, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. Since I was on a deadline, I contacted Amex via chat and the rep told me to get back to them two weeks after the charge officially hit the account. Then they could manually apply it. That’s what I did, and on September 21st, I finally got the credit. After that, I cancelled the card via chat.
Was the ordeal worth it? You bet! It was a bit of a hassle, but getting $250 off my future Hilton bill will be a sweet reward. Speaking of, I could have made this whole deal even sweeter. Last year I got my free weekend night on October 3rd. So, in theory, I could have waited to cancel the card until October 3rd because I would still be eligible for a refund of an annual fee. I decided not to go this route since it felt too obnoxious. But you can, and you will be within your rights to do so. Generally, if I get a renewal benefit (points or free night), I don’t apply for a refund of an annual fee.
Plus, in this case, I already felt like I made out like a bandit with my Amex Hilton Aspire.
Update: several of our readers have pointed out some potential caveats, so make sure to read the comments. Also, don’t forget to wait to cancel an Amex card until you have had it at least 12 months.
Should you apply for Amex Hilton Aspire now?
Maybe. There are many compelling reasons not to. After all, there are other cards on the market that offer far more valuable rewards. As Nancy wrote a week ago, Chase Sapphire Preferred currently offers a sign-up offer of 80,000 points. That’s a spectacular deal and if you are eligible, by all means, go for it.
If you aren’t eligible for Chase cards now, but haven’t ventured into Amex “territory” yet, I strongly recommend Amex Gold. If you apply via someone’s referral link, it currently offers 60k MR points after spending $4k in 6 months. I don’t remember it ever being higher, though the annual fee of $250 is also not waived. Still, this is a fantastic deal and I can wholeheartedly recommend it. Here is my personal referral link if you are interested in applying.
That said, I don’t think you should ignore cards like Amex Hilton Aspire either. Yes, travel is iffy right now due to Covid-19 situation and general economic uncertainty. Still, if you apply now, you will have two years to use the “free” weekend night, and it’s not limited to just weekends.
Plus, Hilton has a huge footprint, so even occasional travelers probably won’t have that much difficulty putting the points to good use. Sure, the $450 annual fee stinks. However, you can potentially get two $250 resort credits and a medley of other benefits. I got about $1000 in value out of my $450 fee due to a series of unfortunate events.
I can’t wait to sip my margarita at the Hilton resort in Florida Keys knowing that the charge is covered. That’s half of the fun of this hobby, isn’t it?
Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
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.