I review the American Express Hilton Surpass credit card and discuss my approval for the card.
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You’re listening to the Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast. I’m your host, Justin Vacula, here to help you travel the world at next to no cost through credit card points, miles, benefits, and rewards. Make money, save money, and take advantage of great deals!
Visit my website at HurdyGurdyTravel.com to contact me, find me on social media, and read episode transcripts. Support the show through Patreon, SubscribeStar, and referral links! More information at the end of the show…
Thanks for joining me for episode 43 – American Express Hilton Surpass card approval and review.
Welcome to those of you on YouTube – please like, subscribe, share, and comment! I’m now adding a video component to my episodes following requests. I’ll continue uploading episodes, audio only of course, on podcast platforms, so feel free to join me wherever you’d like either with video or audio.
Another credit card approval and application – always something exciting especially when approved! August is a month of multiple applications for me following my US Bank Altitude Reserve approval at the end of July – listen to episode 40 for more information.
I’ve given up on waiting until April of 2021 to once again be eligible for Chase cards for many reasons I mentioned in episode 35…and the Chase situation has gotten worse in recent weeks with many people being declined due to ‘too many recent accounts.’ Days ago, I received a personalized mail offer for the Hilton Surpass card that factored into me abandoning hopes and dreams for new Chase cards – a 175,000 Hilton point bonus offer is a great incentive!
Typically, Hilton Surpass offers 125,000 points as a welcome offer, so an increased personalized offer of 175,000 points for $4000 spending in 90 days provides $150 in additional value when considering Hilton points to be worth a half a cent per point. As is usually the case with my credit card applications, welcome offers or signup bonuses are a huge draw often providing most of the value which could be had from a credit card. The signup bonus alone is worth more than $850 in value! Even when considering the very reasonable $95 annual fee, well worth it, you’re easily ahead more than $750 in year one with this card.
Hilton points go a long way with hotel stays starting around 20k or 25k points per night. When booking with points, one also gets a fifth night free, so points can be worth more than a half cent per point…and more value can be had through Hilton Gold status which also comes with this card.
Hilton Gold status grants bonus points for paid stays, complimentary breakfast for you and a guest, and possible room upgrades depending on availability. I’ve enjoyed great breakfasts ranging from great buffets to restaurant-prepared meals at Hilton properties I visited in Hawaii, Athens, Greece; and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Maybe you’d pay about $10-15 for breakfast, so Gold status has good value especially since you don’t need to leave the hotel to find food.
The Surpass card has some decent earning categories with 12x points on Hilton spending and 6x on grocery store purchases, gas, and dining. The card earns 3x points on all other purchases. The categories aren’t too bad here although other cards like the American Express personal Gold Card give 4x Membership Rewards points on grocery and dining spend. One can also get 4x Membership Rewards points on gas spend from the American Express Business Gold Card or 3% cashback with the Amex Blue Cash Preferred card.
Membership Rewards are worth 1.25 cents when cashed out through the American Express Platinum Card with Charles Schwab and can have more value when used for flights especially internationally. Membership Rewards points can also, at least for me, transfer to Hilton with 1000 points worth 2800 Hilton points….1 for 2.8, America loves math. In the past, I also transferred 1 for 3 or 1000 for 3000.
I wouldn’t recommend focusing much on return from category spend especially when selecting a credit card – the main win here and with many other cards is from the signup bonus. However, those with just some cards may primarily use Surpass for grocery, dining, and gas spend. High spenders may use Surpass for grocery purchases if reaching $25,000 of spending on the Amex Gold Card and/or as a volume play to not put too much spend or too many transactions on one card in a short time.
Speaking of high spenders, the Surpass card awards a Hilton free night certificate for $15,000 in spending for a calendar year. This is an especially good proposition in the first calendar year with this card because you’ll only have to spend an additional $11,000 since you’re spending $4000 to reach the signup bonus. If you value a free night certificate at about $200, you’re gaining about 1.8% value atop points you’ll earn from regular spending. For the second calendar year, spending $15,000, that’s about 1.3% more value. Nice bonus! I’ve used my free night certificates in Hawaii for weekend nights priced well over $200 at the time.
$40,000 in spend on the Surpass card also grants Diamond status until the end of the next calendar year, but that might not be worth it unless you’ll get there with spend in bonused categories. Most listeners, though, would likely be better off working on spend placed on other cards.
How about some math on value from Diamond status? In my experience, as a semi-frequent traveler, at least before the pandemic, I used Diamond status for hotel lounge entry at two properties for free dinners and snacks. My stay in Greece also came with a bottle of wine. Surely Diamond status will be worth more for frequent travelers. If you would pay $250 for Diamond status until the end of the next calendar year, you’ll gain 1% more value from the $25,000 spend you’d have to engage in following the $15,000 for the free night. Embrace the math!
Thanks for listening so far around the halfway point of the video! Please subscribe, like, share, and comment below especially if you’re listening on YouTube. If you’re not on YouTube, find my channel at Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast! Now, back to the Surpass card.
The Surpass card also comes with Priority Pass Select membership, has no foreign transactions fees, and some other perks like progress towards lifetime Hilton Diamond status…and since it’s a credit card, you can only have three other American Express credit cards at this time in most cases.
Some currently have five American Express credit cards, grandfathered in when the recent change from five to four maximum credit cards occurred. I think this is very much worth a credit card slot and may also be a long-term keeper card especially for those spending $15,000 a year for the free night certificate engaging in a good deal of grocery spend. Lacking the high spend, Hilton Gold status and some category bonuses may offset the $95 annual fee and American Express may also provide a retention offer offsetting the second year annual fee.
Some Surpass cardholders, after the first year with this card, are also invited to upgrade to the Aspire card which comes with another high signup bonus. I’ve had the Aspire card in the past and may once again be eligible for its signup bonus and benefits after one year with Surpass…so there’s some fun strategy here to play a sign up, cancel, upgrade type of game.
Finally – some data on my Surpass card approval. For me, American Express applications are soft credit pulls and I haven’t been denied for American Express credit cards as long as my card balances were mostly paid down and I was staying within their rule of two credit cards in a rolling 90 day period. My credit scores are all in the mid to high 700s and even after multiple inquiries this month I was still approved. I really like American Express – much more than any other issuer – since they are so lenient with approvals and have great offers.
There you have it – that’s my take on the Hilton Surpass card and it’s even more valuable with a special 175,000 point offer. I think this is a great card for many who are finished with Chase cards especially if they have other American Express cards. Those who have the mail offer for 175k points may use the offer or, instead, may use a referral link from a friend or family member especially if referrals are giving a high amount of Membership Reward points.
If you have any questions about this card, feel free to leave questions in the comments or contact me. I’m happy to work with you to recommend credit cards based on your personal situation. Simply complete my free credit card questionnaire and sign up for a free 15-minute call through the credit card questionnaire at hurdygurdytravel.com! If Surpass is a good card for you, please use my Amex referral link on my website!
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