American Express Credit Cards

New Amex Hilton Cards Arriving Sooner Than Expected

Back in November, I wrote about the new Amex Hilton Credit Cards. In addition to introducing three brand new cards, American Express announced the acquisition of Citi Hilton card accounts. At the time, it was reported that existing Citi Hilton Honors cards would transfer to American Express on January 30, 2018. A few readers recently commented that they heard the account transfers would take place on January 15. Well, both reports sort of right. My dad, a Citi Hilton Honors Reserve cardholder, just received his brand new Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card. The catch? He can’t activate it until January 30.

Amex Hilton Ascend Card Arrived January 15
The new Amex Hilton Ascend Card

While American Express is shipping out new cards now, they can’t be activated until the end of the month. The Amex Hilton Ascend card is pretty much the same as the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve. Cardholders get free Hilton Gold status and the ability to spend their way to Diamond status by completing $40,000 worth of spending. There’s also an annual weekend night certificate for cardholders who spend $15,000 in a calendar year. That’s higher than the $10,000 spending requirement on the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve, but not a big deal. The card also comes with the following category bonuses:

    • 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
    • 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at U.S. grocery stores, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations
    • 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on all other eligible purchases
    • 10 free Priority Pass Lounge passes to ease the airport experience
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • $95 annual fee

The Ascend card is essentially an updated version of the Amex Hilton Surpass Card. The category bonuses are actually better than those issued by the Cit Hilton Honors Reserve Card. Overall, this is a solid card…except for one jarring exception: The sign-up bonus. That’s right – nowhere in the pretty packet they sent does it mention a welcome bonus of any kind for transferred accounts. While we don’t know how many points (or free nights) the new card will offer, chances are it will be more than the $0 American Express is offering to Citi cardholders.

American Express is probably counting on convenience generating conversions. It’s certainly nice to get one of these cards (which, by the way, look similar to the SPG card with the purple hues) two weeks before the Citi Hilton Reserve Card goes bust. And I think the average consumer will probably just think, “Oh how nice! The card is already here, so I might as well.” Or perhaps the American Express logo will seem like an upgrade over Citi (which, to be fair, it is in many ways). But I’m having my dad call Citi first thing Monday morning to cancel his Citi card. Once the Amex Hilton card applications actually go live, I’ll get him a new card. Jury’s still out, since it will largely depend on the sign-up bonus.

As for my personal preference, I’m looking forward to picking up the Hilton Aspire Card. The category bonuses are incredibly generous and I love that you get Hilton Diamond status right out of the gate. That’s not to say they’ve eliminated the incentive to put lots of spend on the card: Every year, cardholders can earn a free weekend night reward after spending $60,000. “Why waste $60,000 on a Hilton card?” Because you already get a free weekend night for renewing the card. Stack those two nights together with the minimum 180,000 points earned from the $60,000 spending requirement and you can piece together a 4-night stay at a top-tier hotel like the Conrad Koh Samui.

The card’s $250 airline fee credit on top of a $250 Hilton resort credit is also a nice perk. If you’ve ever been frustrated with the lack of elite benefits at Waldorf Astoria hotels, you’ll appreciate the $100 on-property credit when you book an Aspire Card package. Conrad Hotels are also eligible for this credit. I imagine American Express is working in their Fine Hotels & Resorts and Hotel Collection benefits, since I’ve seen similar credits listed for Conrad Hotels on AmexTravel. All of these perks more than off-set the $450 annual fee. In fact, just getting top-tier hotel elite status for $450 is a total bargain.

Anyway, now that I’ve harped enough about the above credit cards, I want to hear from you. Have you gotten your new Amex Hilton credit card in the mail? Do you plan on applying for a new account to secure a sign-up bonus or will you activate the transferred account?

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23 Comments

  1. At least with Citi I could MS on these Hilton cards. I am worried about that with AMEX. Does anyone else feel the same?

  2. My Hilton Amex was the 1st to go as I pruned my wallet. Hilton is a crappy brand for loyalty. Just had to focus on other brands. Category bonuses are good but the point cost for a single night at a Hilton was always astronimical, and though you pick up points quickly, not nearly enough.

    • I’ve only had a positive experience with Hilton. It’s actually one of the best hotel programs for earning free nights via paid stays and credit card spending. The cost of a free night is high, but not when you compare it to the rate at which points can be accrued.

  3. Julia Carminati

    My husband and both I canceled my Citi Hilton card back in December and both received the new Amex card in the mail yesterday.

  4. I canceled my Citi Reserve card over the weekend thinking I was beating the 1/18 Amex transition, making myself eligible for new signup bonuses. However, I also received the new card in the mail yesterday. Does this mean that I won’t be eligible for any new Amex Hilton signup bonuses?

    • I don’t think so. I think this is just giving Citi cardholders (even those who have cancelled) an opportunity to convert to the new card. However, you’re not obligated to activate the card they send you. Only when you activate it will you become ineligible for the sign-up bonus.

  5. I, too, want the Aspire card and wonder if I should cancel the Surpass to make room for it under the four credit card limit. Do you have the Surpass and are you going to keep it? Thanks for all the great posts, BTW.

  6. Traveller Tom

    Similar question on the 4 AMEX card limit. If I cancel my Citi Hilton, will I even be able to get the Hilton Ascend card. I have over 4 Amex cards currently. Are hotel cards included in the 4 card limit?

    Second dumb question, do I even want it! I already have the Hilton Surpass card and I do use it for Groceries and Gas and sometimes restaurants. I suppose I could cancel my Surpass and keep the Ascend for the 10 free Priority pass certificates.

    I may consider even keeping both if I can get enough Amex offers to offset the $95 fee on both of these.

    Your thoughts?

    • @Traveller Tom – the Amex cards are all going to be cancelled and replaced with these new ones as well, so in effect you would have two Ascend cards. It will be interesting to see how they’re going to handle this especially if a customer already has 4 or 5 credit cards with Amex.

      • Traveller Tom

        Well that will be interesting! I will give you a data point when I see what I get in the mail.

      • Traveller Tom

        It looks like they sent me the no fee version of the card. I guess I will just have to keep it for the Amex offers! Add it to the pile! 1 business and 4 personal Amex cards.

    • I’ve actually heard of cases where that rule wasn’t enforced. Depending on the sign-up bonus, it might be worth applying (or waiting for reports from other applicants). I personally wouldn’t get the card for the Priority Pass alone. But you make a good point RE Amex Offers – I get more than the annual fees on my Amex cards back through it. Make your decision based on how valuable each card is and how often you think you’ll utilize its benefits.

  7. I have the no annual fee Citi Hilton Visa Signature card – do you think I should cancel this card so I can get a bonus for an Amex Hilton? I never really use the card for anything, just basically sits in my drawer as part of my unused credit card utilization overall.

  8. Nothing showed up yesterday.

  9. I canceled my Citi Hilton card last month but Amex still sent me the Ascend. I’m concerned that this may show up as a new cc on my report and affect my 5/24 status with Chase.

  10. Canceled my Hilton City card in Dec. Received my Hilton Amex on the 15th. Have no intention of activating it as 1) I already have an Amex, 2) I’m not paying an annual fee (there was none on the Cities Hilton card and 3) I had the Visa because there are many vendors that don’t take Amex. Why would I carry 2 cards not taken every where? All I can say is this swap had better not impact my (excellent ) credit score.

    • Traveller Tom

      Amex Offers would be the only reason to keep it. You may even be able to downgrade it to the no fee version. Every once in a while a great Amex offer pops up (like the Sam’s clubs one last year or the Cable/phone one) where you can churn it multiple times if the offer pops up on multiple Amex cards.

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