If you are a member of the Hilton Honors program, American Express offers multiple co-branded cards that can help you earn more rewards towards eligible Hilton purchases. The Hilton Honors American Express Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card are travel credit cards that could help you rack up more bonus points and more award accommodations for Hilton stays.

Basically, the Amex Hilton Honors is an entry-level rewards card with no annual fee—but not as many benefits and perks. If you don’t travel as much but still want to take advantage of award nights on a budget, this card would be your choice.

The Amex Surpass is targeted towards a similar type of cardholder but carries a nominal $95 annual fee (compared to the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Credit Card’s $495 annual fee.) If you don’t mind paying a little more for a co-branded hotel card, you can still get a tad more in terms of a welcome bonus, plus the chance to earn more rewards for eligible Hilton purchases.

If you’re not sure which card might be best for you, here’s everything you should know about which card might work better for you and why.

Main details

Rewards rate Earn 7X points on eligible Hilton purchases

Earn 5X points at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and U.S. restaurants

Earn 3X points on all other purchases

12X points on Hilton hotels and resorts

6X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations

3X points on other eligible purchases

Welcome bonus Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Card in the first 3 months of card membership

Earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend a total of $5,000 in purchases on the card in the first 6 months

Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card in the first 3 months of card membership.

Earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend a total of $10,000 in purchases on the card in the first 6 months.

Annual fee $0 $95

Hilton Honors American Express Card vs. Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Credit Card

When comparing these cards, it’s best to look at the features that are most important to you. For some people, a welcome bonus may be more important while others will be more interested in the rewards they could earn based on their spending. Either way, take a look at the difference in the cards below to choose the one that best matches your needs.

Welcome bonus winner: Amex Surpass Card

Earning 130,000 bonus Hilton Honors points after spending $4,000 in your first three months is already a generous welcome bonus. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 points after you spend a total of $10,000 in purchases on the card in the first six months, which brings you to a potential 180,000 in bonus points.

However, Hilton Honors points are only worth around 0.6 cents each, so this bonus would be worth around $1,080. But there are some circumstances where you can get great value from your points with award bookings—even more than the 0.6 cent average.

Even with the annual fee of $95, you still come out way ahead by earning the maximum welcome bonus alone with the Amex Surpass. When you add some of the other card features and perks, you’ll get even more value out of this card.

Rewards rate winner: Amex Surpass Card

This card offers a great rewards rate on eligible Hilton purchases, U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and gas station purchases. The rate on all other purchases is also pretty high:

  • Earn 12X Hilton Honors points on eligible Hilton purchases
  • Earn 6X at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations
  • Earn 3X on all other purchases

The Surpass card comes out on top here because of the high rewards rate on common categories many families use like restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations. Using this card for all of these spending categories can help you earn award nights at Hilton properties pretty quickly.

The Hilton Honors Amex also offers bonus points at U.S. restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets, but at a slightly lower 5-point-per-dollar rate. And when it comes to earning on Hilton purchases, the Hilton Honors Amex brings in a much more modest 7X points.

Annual fee winner: Hilton Honors Amex

This entry-level travel credit card has no annual fee.

Even as a no-annual-fee travel card, the Hilton Honors Amex still offers significant rewards rates for many common spending categories:

  • 7X Hilton Honors points on eligible Hilton purchases
  • 5X points at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and U.S. restaurants
  • 3X points on all other purchases

Without an annual fee, you are poised to net quite a bit of value with the welcome bonus and ongoing rewards, especially since it has the potential to be an everyday spending card with the common bonus categories.

Which card earns the most?

Hilton Honors American Express vs. Hilton Honors American Express Surpass spending example

If you travel a fair amount and put a lot of your travel and personal expenses on a credit card, here’s what your monthly spending could look like for either of these cards:

  • $700 per month for supermarket spending
  • $300 gas stations
  • $200 restaurants
  • $300 on Hilton hotel stays
  • $400 on airfare (booked directly or via Amextravel.com)
  • $500 on other spending

With the Hilton Honors card, you’d earn 129,600 bonus points annually, while you’d earn 154,800 bonus points with the Hilton Honors Surpass card each year. If you factor in the welcome bonus for these cards, you could earn 209,600 and 292,000 with the Hilton Honors and the Hilton Surpass card, respectively.

If you use the 0.6 cents valuation for Hilton Honors bonus points, the welcome bonus value is roughly equivalent to $1,250 and $1,750 towards Hilton stays, respectively. Although you’d get up to $1,750 with the Hilton Surpass card, the $95 annual fee takes you down to $1,655 in first-year value based on the points alone. So with this spending example, the Surpass card will definitely help you earn more rewards.

Why should you get the Hilton Honors American Express Card?

Additional benefits

The Hilton Honors American Express card doesn’t have many extras, but it does carry some additional benefits like automatic Hilton Honors Silver elite status. Silver elite status comes with perks like digital check-in, free internet access, a fifth night free on award stays, two free bottles of water per stay and more.

If you spend $20,000 on your card within a calendar year, you can move up to Gold status through the end of the next calendar year without ever staying in a Hilton property.

Cardholders also receive secondary car rental insurance along with access to a Global Assist hotline that can help with lost passports, medical referrals, legal referrals and more when you’re far from home. This card doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees, either.

Redemption options

When it comes to redeeming points earned in the Hilton Honors program, the most popular redemption option is award nights at Hilton properties. Also, if you’re a Silver elite member or better, your fifth night is free when you book at least five consecutive nights with points.

Recommended credit score

You will need to have good to excellent credit (670 to 850) for this card.

Why should you get the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Credit Card?

Additional benefits

Since this card has an annual fee, you should expect a few extra perks and benefits:

  • Access to Priority Pass Select, which gives cardholders 10 free airport lounge visits each year once enrolled
  • Access to the Premium Global Assist Hotline
  • Access to members-only Amex experiences like sporting events, Broadway shows and more
  • Yearly award night benefit (by spending at least $15,000 on eligible purchases in one calendar year, you earn a “free weekend night reward”)
  • Car rental loss and damage insurance
  • No foreign transaction fees

Redemption options

Here’s how your Hilton Honors bonus points can be redeemed with this card:

  • Reward nights at Hilton properties: Hilton properties range from 5,000 to 95,000 points per night, depending on the property.
  • Transfers to 30+ partner travel loyalty programs
  • Rental cars with Alamo, National and Enterprise
  • Exclusive experiences in dining, concerts, sports and more
  • Lyft rides
  • Shopping on Amazon.com or with Hilton’s merchandise portal

Recommended credit score

You will need to have good to excellent credit (670 to 850) for this card.

The bottom line

If you are a frequent traveler and like the Hilton brand, either one of these cards could work well for you.

Those who don’t travel as much may opt for the Hilton Honors American Express Card, while more frequent travelers would get the Surpass Card. Either way, earning and redeeming rewards with one of these credit cards could help you reach your discount travel goals.

All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Credit Card and Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.