If you've been anywhere near the points and miles blogosphere this week, you no doubt have seen that there's one week left to earn 100,000 Hilton points by signing up for the Amex Hilton Surpass card. Because 100,000 of anything is an incredibly good deal, this is something you absolutely must not sleep on. It doesn't matter how worthless Hilton points are, since you're getting 100,000 of them. Stop reading this and go apply for the card. DO IT NOW! Lately I've been more immersed in Hilton-land than normal, because I'm trying to put together a nice redemption at a Waldorf Astoria. You need a metric ton of points to get a few nights at a Waldorf through Hilton's program, but it isn't hard to earn Hilton points by the truckload, so that's what I'm currently working on. Unlike most hotel programs, Hilton is served by both Citi and Amex, meaning that you can open up a bunch of cards at once and rake in the bonuses (although Citi recently restricted bonuses to one per card family, constraining the aggregate earning opportunity). Turns out I had decent timing, too, since Amex is offering elevated bonuses on both of their Hilton cards - 100K on the Surpass (the premium option) and 80K on the standard no-annual-fee version.
Most of the blogs have focused on the Surpass, which could be due to more affiliate links or better commissions.* In any case, I don't actually think the Surpass is the best option right now, assuming you only want to get one card. I'm mired in minimum spends as it is and also maxed out on Amex credit cards, so I had to choose one. I'd imagine a lot of other people are in the same boat, so here's why I think the regular Hilton card is the better play here. I'll preface this, however, by saying that overall the Surpass is the card to keep long-term. It gets you Gold status and comes with a free night every year, and the annual fee isn't bad. I do plan to get it eventually, but my focus right now is getting a lot of points quickly. To that end, there are a couple reasons why the regular card wins out. First, there's no annual fee vs $75 for the Surpass. 80k points for free or 100k for $75? Or more accurately, 20,000 points for $75, which comes out to .375 cents per point - pretty close to the actual value of the points in the first place. Second, the regular card has a $2000 minimum spend vs $3000 for the Surpass. That means you're earning 40 points per dollar on the regular card and 33.3 points per dollar on the Surpass. Also, assuming you're meeting the minimum spend through everyday spending, you're foregoing $1000 of spending in another program in order to earn that extra 20,000 points. Let's say that would normally have gone on an Amex Everyday Preferred - that's 1500 Amex points you aren't getting. If we're generous and give Hilton points a value of .5 cents per point, you're getting $100 in value from the 20k Hilton points you earned with the extra $1000 in spending. However, if you value Amex points at 1.5 cents per point, that's $22.50 that comes off - plus, you also paid $75 in fees, so again, you're really just breaking even.
In the end, while 100k is a nice, round sexy number, 80k for less money and less minimum spending works out to be way better. Oh, and there's one more thing: if you're really dead set on getting 100,000 points, you'll be excited to know that Amex is also offering a 20,000-point referral bonus on the basic Hilton card until May 31st. (That seems insanely high for a no annual fee card, but Chase and Amex have really been duking it out lately with these referral bonuses, so I suppose it isn't unexpected.) And, since Hilton just debuted free points pooling, you can double down by referring your life partner, hitting a second minimum spend, and combining all the points into one account. Now you've just earned 180,000 points for $4000 in spend and nary an annual fee in sight. Not bad, right?
*If you thought I was about to go into a screed against affiliate links, think again - there's very little that drives me crazier that blog commenters who leave snarky bullshit on Boarding Area blogs bemoaning the fact that bloggers earn commissions on credit card sign-ups. EVERYONE KNOWS THIS. THAT'S WHAT BOARDING AREA IS. Would you walk into a Nike store and bitch about how Adidas shoes are cheaper and why aren't the salespeople mentioning Adidas, and why is everyone so biased towards Nike, and it's such a disservice to the shoe shoppers to ONLY TALK ABOUT NIKE YARGLE BARGLE BRUMBLE GRUMBLE!!! So yeah, maybe the blogs are pushing the Surpass because those blogs are fronts for credit card sales - who gives a fuck, no one is forcing you to read them, and it's not like they don't have very prominent disclosures informing anyone who might not be aware in the first place. I guess it's stupid for me to defend blogs that sell credit cards, since I don't have any ads on this site. In fact, I should take up some big moralistic stand against affiliate bloggers, since I only get like 100 hits a day and no bank would touch this blog with a ten foot pole. That way, I could disguise my own lack of commercial viability behind an ironclad guarantee that I'LL NEVER SELL OUT TO THE MAN, MAN! But instead, I'm just annoyed at people on the internet who would never dream of paying for content but who then begrudge content creators for trying to find a way to earn money. We can't all be Doctor of Credit or Freequent Flyer after all.