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This is the easiest way to earn Hilton Gold elite status

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The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card provides solid earnings at Hilton properties and Gold elite status. Gold status gets you complimentary breakfast, increased earnings and space-available upgrades when you stay at Hilton properties, which may mean that you’ll quickly be able to justify the card’s modest $95 annual fee (see rates and fees).

As I’ve learned in my travels, Hilton Gold status is one of the best mid-tier hotel loyalty statuses you can obtain. As a Hilton Gold elite, you’ll get complimentary breakfast, space-available room upgrades up to executive rooms and improved earnings, just to name a few of my favorite benefits. One of the easiest (and least expensive) ways to get Hilton Gold status is by becoming a cardholder of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card.

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This mid-tier credit card, previously known as the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card, re-adopted the Surpass name in June 2019. Despite the name change, most of the card’s benefits remained the same. So the Hilton Surpass is still an ideal choice for Hilton loyalists in need of a cobranded credit card with a modest annual fee. In this guide, I’ll present all the relevant information about the card and its closest competitors so you can decide for yourself if the Hilton Surpass is right for you.

Who is this card for?

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card is a great option for semi-frequent guests of Hilton properties who don’t typically travel enough to reach Gold (or Diamond) status organically. Since you’re locked into earning (and then redeeming) points through the Hilton Honors program, a baseline requirement for this card is that you recognize the value of the Hilton Honors program. The Hilton Surpass carries a $95 annual fee (see rates and fees) but provides some nice perks when you hit the road, both at Hilton properties and at the airport.

Welcome bonus: As much as $750 in value

Source: The Points Guy

The Hilton Surpass currently offers a welcome offer of 125,000 bonus points after you use your new card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership. The welcome offer points equate to $750 in value based on TPG’s most recent valuations.

Here’s how the Hilton Surpass welcome bonus compares to the other three Hilton Amex cards:

Each card states the following regarding your ability to receive the welcome offer:

Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card. We may also consider the number of American Express Cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility.

Main benefits and perks

The Hilton Surpass’ welcome offer is attractive, but the long-term value for semi-regular Hilton guests comes in the card’s added perks. In particular, four of the cards benefits really stand out:

Hilton Honors status

(Photo by Katie Genter / The Points Guy)

Source: The Points Guy

The Hilton Surpass provides cardholders with automatic Gold status in the Hilton Honors program, which TPG Points Lab Editor Nick Ewen values at $1,260. Gold status includes perks such as bonus points on stays, space-available room upgrades up to executive rooms and complimentary breakfast at all hotels.

If you’re a big spender and plan on charging more than $40,000 on the card in a calendar year, you’ll be bumped to top-tier Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year. Depending on how frequently you stay at Hilton properties (and how much you value the given perks of the applicable status), this can add quite a bit of value to the card.

Keep in mind that Hilton Honors Gold status is also an automatic benefit on The Platinum Card® from American Express ($550 annual fee, see rates & fees) So if you already carry that card in your wallet, this particular perk drops in value quite a bit. Likewise, if you want to jump straight to Diamond status, you’ll want to consider the $450 annual fee (see rates and feesHilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express.

Priority Pass access

Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.

Source: The Points Guy

The Hilton Surpass comes with a Priority Pass Select membership, although it won’t allow you unlimited access to Priority Pass lounges. Instead, you’ll receive 10 lounge visits every year once enrolled. You can pay for additional visits. As I mentioned above, if you’re a semi-frequent traveler who goes through an airport with a Priority Pass lounge a handful of times a year, this is a great perk that won’t break the bank like similar benefits on premium travel rewards credit cards.

Weekend night reward

Another nice perk on the card is another complimentary weekend night reward after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year. You can use this free night at almost any Hilton property worldwide as long as your stay is on a weekend night, which is defined as a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night in most of the world.

Shopping protections

(Photo by Nick Jio via Unsplash)

Source: The Points Guy

While other cards have cut shopping protections, the Hilton Surpass offers three important types of protection. The card’s extended-warranty protection may add up to two years to the manufacturer’s original warranty; the card’s return protection may reimburse you when you attempt to return a recently purchased item but the merchant won’t accept it, and the card’s purchase protection covers recent purchases against theft and accidental damage.

Other benefits

The Hilton Surpass offers a variety of other benefits including secondary car rental loss and damage insurance and no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees).

Currently, the Hilton Surpass is also offering a number of temporary benefits to help cardholders maximize their card while spending habits and travel plans have shifted during the coronavirus pandemic.

Through the end of July 2020, you’ll earn 12x Hilton Honors points at U.S. supermarkets. And any bonus points earned through eligible purchases that post to your Hilton account between May 1 and Dec. 31 will be base points and will count towards elite tier qualification and lifetime Diamond status.

Finally, unexpired free weekend nights and any free night awards earned through the end of the year can be used on any night — not just weekend nights. Nights issued between May 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, are also valid for an additional 12 months (24 months total).

How to earn points

(Photo by Katie Genter / The Points Guy)

Source: The Points Guy

As a cobranded hotel card, you’d expect the Hilton Surpass to offer a solid bonus on purchases at Hilton properties worldwide and you’d be right. As a cardholder, you’ll earn 12 points per dollar of spending on these stays (in addition to the normal points you’d earn through the Hilton Honors program). This is a solid return of 7.2% on these purchases, based on TPG’s valuations, and more than you would get with other popular cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve (6%).

Typically, you’ll also take home 6 points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, giving you a solid return of 3.6% on these purchases (though keep in mind that you’ll temporarily get 12x at U.S. supermarkets through July 2020). Finally, you’ll get 3 points per dollar spent on all other purchases, equating to a return of 1.8%. Neither of these rates is spectacular, but it’s still a decent return for purchases away from the main program with which the card is aligned.

How to redeem points

When it comes to the Hilton Honors program, your best bet is to redeem your points for free stays. Unfortunately, in 2017, Hilton pulled its full award charts and instead added the following language:

“The amount of Hilton Honors points required to redeem hotel rewards varies by hotel, room, booking date and length of stay.”

This makes it difficult to determine how many points you’ll need for a stay until you actually book the stay.

Home2 Suites by Hilton Long Island City

Source: The Points Guy

To alleviate this uncertainty, Hilton added a Points Explorer tool to its website. The tool allows you to check the maximum number of points required to book a standard room at a particular property or for multiple properties in a specific area. While the tool also shows the least number of points required to book a room at the property recently, in many cases this information is missing or simply the same as the maximum number of points required. In the end, it’s best to assume your stay will cost the maximum number of points — and then you have points to spare if the cost happens to be less.

Alternatively, you can book stays using Hilton’s Points & Money option. As the name suggests, this option allows you to decrease the number of points and increase the amount of cash you pay when booking a stay. The premise is simple: You can redeem points to cover an entire stay, pay cash for the entire stay or adjust these amounts to use a combination of the two. This provides valuable flexibility for your Hilton Honors points, since you’re in charge of how many (or few) points to use on a given redemption.

Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.

Source: The Points Guy

Like most other programs, Hilton Honors also allows members to redeem points for various non-hotel rewards. Most of these options provide relatively low value for your points and should be avoided. Here are three guides that will help you get solid value from your Hilton points:

Which cards compete with the Hilton Surpass?

The other personal cobranded Hilton credit cards — the Hilton Honors American Express Card and the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express — are certainly competitors of the Hilton Surpass. The Hilton Honors American Express Card offers weaker benefits and lower earning, but it charges no annual fee (see rates and fees). The Hilton Aspire Card has a $450 annual fee (see rates and fees) but offers stronger benefits including Diamond status, a $250 resort credit each year of card membership, 14x earning at Hilton properties, a $250 airline fee credit each year of card membership and a Priority Pass Select membership that provides unlimited visits.

Reading reading: How to choose the best Hilton credit card for you

Mid-tier cobranded hotel credit cards from other major brands also compete with the Hilton Surpass. The choice of which card(s) are a good fit for you will depend on how much you can utilize the benefits and earning offered by each card. Here are some cobranded hotel credit cards that compete with the Hilton Surpass:

If you’re not looking to be locked into a single program, another competing product is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which also carries a $95 annual fee. The bonus (60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening) can be used in a variety of ways, including transferring to Hyatt, Marriott or IHG for hotel stays. You’ll earn double points on all travel and dining purchases, including a variety of merchants. You’re covered with trip delay and trip cancellation insurance plus primary car rental coverage, and like the others above, it also waives foreign transaction fees.

Bottom line

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card is competitive in the crowded mid-tier category of cobranded hotel credit cards. With a lucrative welcome bonus, solid earning rates, complimentary Gold elite status and an array of valuable perks, the Hilton Surpass is a great option for those who visit Hilton properties semi-frequently. It doesn’t offer the flexibility of a card like the Sapphire Preferred, but it could be just what you need to make your next stay with the Hilton Honors program even more rewarding.

Apply here for the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card

For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass Card, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex card, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click****here****.

Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor.

Featured photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy.

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