Revamped AmEx Hilton Offerings

The news has been making its way around the blogosphere this morning that American Express is going to be reworking their Hilton-branded credit cards. While a lot of these changes were not surprising, they are all most definitely welcome.

No Annual Fee

The no-fee card is finally free of foreign transaction fees! No other changes, but this has been long overdue.

Earning Structure
  • 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
  • 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations
  • 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on all other eligible purchases

Surpass → Ascend

While there was a $20 increase in annual fee ($75 to $95), you get a free Weekend Night after spending $15,000 on the card in a calendar year. As with the no-fee card, this card had its foreign transaction fees removed. You also get 10 free Priority Pass visits. The Priority Pass perk isn’t too special since so many cards offer it, these days, but it isn’t bad to have. The earning rates don’t seem to have changed, so nothing new there, either.

Earning Structure
  • 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
  • 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations
  • 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on all other eligible purchases


In hindsight, I have no idea why this wasn’t offered before given the presence of both Delta and Starwood co-branded cards having both personal and business variants. As milestomemories points out, it might have been because Citi also had a contract with Hilton. This card is virtually identical to the Ascend card with the option of a second Weekend Night after spending $60,000 in a calendar year. There are some changes to the earning structure from the Ascend card, however, which should appeal to small businesses.

Earning Structure
  • 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
  • 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service producers and U.S. purchases for shipping
  • 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on U.S. restaurants, flights booked directly with airlines or, and car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies
  • 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on all other eligible purchases


This is the really interesting one… for an annual fee of $450, you get quite a few perks.

First off, you receive Diamond status as long as you hold the card. This is probably going to be the most appealing and most controversial perk offered by the card. While it definitely offsets the annual fee for frequent guests that can’t attain the status organically (or even occasional guests, for that matter), I can see it leading to frustrating more frequent travelers who attain the status by spending nights at hotels. I don’t know if Hilton will add a new top tier, similarly to what IHG did with Spire vs. Platinum, to offset this. We’ll have to wait and see on that…

Similar to the Business card, you receive a Weekend Night when you spend $60,000 a calendar year, but the first Weekend Night is complimentary instead of having a $15,000 price-tag associated with it.

As with other premium offerings, you receive quite a few credits:

  • $250 airline incidental fee statement credit (the way the Platinum card credit works)
  • $250 Hilton resort statement credit
  • $100 on property credit at Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts when booking the exclusive Aspire Card package

You also receive a Priority Pass membership on top of it all, and naturally there are no foreign transaction fees.


Earning Structure
  • 14X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
  • 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on flights booked directly with airlines or, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants
  • 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on other purchases

Final Thoughts

I am really impressed with the Aspire offering, and while the airline incidental fee isn’t the easiest to use (if it is implemented the same as with the Platinum card), it does help make that $450 annual fee easier to swallow. As I already hold the Citi Prestige and AmEx Platinum, I am not sure I will pursue the Aspire, but it is very tempting… What about you?

A tip of the hat to Doctor of Credit, milestomemories, and pointswithacrew.

Lovely Surprise from @BarclaycardUS

Oooh… surprises!

Last week I received a surprising email from Barclaycard – they were sending me a luggage tag! I had no idea what to expect, and I hadn’t heard of others receiving similar tags, so when it arrived just a couple of days later I was even more surprised.

Who doesn’t like getting things?
The tag!

The tag itself is very solidly built and comes with a nice metal cable to affix it to your luggage. It also has places for your name and contact information, as well as a QR barcode to register the tag.

Tag instructions

The package also came with a nice card from the CEO of Barclaycard.

The card
Card Interior

While certainly not an expensive gift, like the Amazon Echos that American Express sent to some cardholders, it’s a lovely gesture nonetheless and certainly appreciated! Little things like this go a long way in making people happy.

Thanks, Barclaycard!

Bulk Fares on @Delta, @United, and @American

Earlier this week Enoch of PointMeToThePlane shared the results of an experiment where he used the Citi ThankYou points portal to pay for part of an American Airlines ticket. While not something unusual at first glance, Enoch pointed out that the earning was based on the distance flown instead of the amount spent. Interestingly enough, the qualifying spend was also based on the distance flown. The reason for this is that the ticket is a special fare.

American is by no means unique in offering special fares. In fact, United and Delta also have these fares. The frustrating thing is that it isn’t always clear what kind of fare you are buying, particularly with Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), because the fare type is different from the fare code. Bulk fares like this will still have the same letters you are used to seeing when purchasing tickets directly from the airline.

Julian over at FrequentMiler expanded on this information in the blog’s Devil’s Advocate column. You can see charts for the fares discussed on each airline’s website. These charts are also below, and each is accompanied by a link to the exception fare page for the respective airline.

American Airlines Exception Fares
American Airlines Exception Fares


United Airlines Exception Fares
United Airlines Exception Fares


Delta Airlines Exception Fares
Delta Airlines Exception Fares

While this might seem appealing, especially to earn more miles on cheap fares, be very careful with these bookings. As you might notice with the links above, the spend earning rate is sometimes 0% of the miles flown (as with United for non premium fares).

Another dangerous thing is that when you book using an OTA, you might wind up buying a ‘basic’ fare. Rene at RenesPoints detailed his experience comparing the prices at OTAs with what is offered from the airline, you sometimes don’t receive any warning in your booking. Like Citi, Chase allows you to spend their rewards points to buy tickets through their online portal. Rene pointed out that when booking this way, you don’t receive any warning that the ticket you are buying is Basic Economy.

@United – Last Seat Availability

Greg over at FrequentMiler recently shared his experience with United’s Last Seat Availability guarantee that he received thanks to his Marriott status (Marriott’s Platinum status grants you Silver with United, once you link the accounts), and that reminded me that since the acquisition of SPG by Marriott went through on Friday, those who had SPG Platinum would also have this once they linked their accounts!

United Benefits
United Benefits

If you don’t have status with United (or SPG/Marriott), don’t worry – you can still get access to this feature with United’s credit card through Chase. In fact, Greg goes on to detail a few other very helpful perks offered by a variety of credit cards that cardholders might not know to take advantage of. Though some of them won’t apply in the near future, such as Citi Prestige’s golf, the list is a good resource for those wanting to make the most of their cards.

Don’t forget to link your accounts – you never know when you will need to buy a last minute ticket!

Increased Signup on @Barclaycard Arrival+

Application Link [not an affiliate link]: Here

For the longest time, the signup bonus for the Arrival+ was 40,000 points for $3,000 spend, but today it was increased to 50,000 points. This can be redeemed for $500 of statement credit for travel purchases. The nice thing about the Arrival+ card is that it gives you 5% back when you redeem your points in this manner, so you actually get $525 (ish).

Though there is an annual fee of $89, it is waived for the first year. You incur no foreign transaction fees and have access to the MasterCard network for purchases, so your card will be accepted in most places.

First increase I can remember!
First increase I can remember!

My favorite thing about this card is that it is a Chip+PIN card, not just Chip+Signature. There are many automated systems across the world that require use of a PIN, that you wouldn’t be able to use with a Chip+Signature card. Most cards offered to US are Chip+Signature, so if you are planning international travel, it might be worth looking into!

Tip of the hat to DoctorOfCredit!

Visa Signature – Free Nights and Gift Cards via @Drofcredit

Update: Some additional information has been made available thanks to PointMetoThePlane on BoardingArea. Looks like you can use them together!

DoctorOfCredit, one of my favorite sites for impartial deals and financial advice in general, recently posted about a deal offered by Visa Signature for certain members of the Hilton family of hotels. It is the combination of two offers from Visa that might stack for some pretty awesome results!


The details can be found at the Visa Signature landing page for the deal, but at a high level, you receive a free night for a stay of two or more consecutive nights at a participating hotel (Waldorf Astoria, Hilton Conrad, or Curio – a full list can be found on the DoctorOfCredit website and the Visa Signature page). Additionally, you receive Hilton-lite benefits which are quite nice:

  • Room Upgrade, if available
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Complimentary continental breakfast daily
  • Late check-out, if available
  • Daily $25 food-and-beverage credit


The part where it gets kind of silly is when you combine it with a second offer from Visa Signature where you receive a $75 gift card! Granted, they might not let you apply both deals (they link to one another on Visa’s website, but they both say can’t be combined – only way to know for sure is to call and try), but a free night with premium perks is hard to beat. On top of this, the current Hilton promotion is for double points, which means faster free nights down the road. Be sure to add your number to the reservation when making the booking.

HotelStorm and Virgin Atlantic @AmericanExpress Offers

American Express offers are one of my favorite perks for having one of their credit cards. Two very handy offers showed up for me today – be sure to check your cards to see if they are available for you as well!



I’ve also received offers to Asics ($20 back for a purchase of $100 or more), Dropbox ($25 back of a purchase of $50 or more), Hulu ($25 back after spending $25), and more.

If you have any travel coming up – save some money! 😉