Unless you've been living under a rock that blocks your wifi signal, you know that Amex is aiming to make a big splash when their new lineup of Hilton cards debuts next week. New Amex cards usually mean new sign-up bonuses, so it's always exciting when they come out with new products (even though it's pretty likely that some existing Hilton cards will preclude cardholders from getting bonuses on the new ones).
Personally, I'm most excited about the Aspire card, despite its $450 annual fee. In fact, I'm so excited that I would get the card even if it didn't offer a sign-up bonus, since the benefits are just that good. Off the top of my head, you get a free weekend night, a $250 credit at a Hilton Resort, and a $250 incidental airline fee credit, plus Diamond status in the Hilton Honors program. The fee credits risk sucking us all into a vortex in which people debate whether those credits offset the annual fee until we all run out of oxygen and die, but I'm looking past all that to the Diamond status perk.
Part of it is emotional (read: dumb), in that I've never had top-tier status in anything, due to the fact that I don't spend months out of the year on the road. That said, I have always been a fan of IHG's poorly-named Ambassador program, since it basically lets you buy upper-tier status at Intercontinental hotels no matter how little you stay. I view the Aspire as offering the same thing - for $450, you too can be a Hilton Diamond member, which on its own seems like a great deal. (Can you imagine what would happen to the blogosphere if Hyatt offered people Globalist status for $450?)
If I were already a Hilton Diamond, I'd be furious, since this will add tens of thousands of Diamonds to the ranks, making upgrades (which aren't guaranteed in the first place) that much harder to come by. As a non-Diamond, however, I'm excited to be one of those people pushing Mr. or Mrs. OG Diamond out of their suite. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Hilton created a super-diamond tier for really loyal members to keep them from decamping to another chain.
My experience with Hilton Gold status (earned through my Amex Platinum card) is pretty good so far, although with a small sample size. I was upgraded to a room on the executive floor at the Hilton CPH Airport (no longer a Hilton), and from a junior suite to a full suite at the LondonHouse Chicago. In various Hilton Garden Inn stays, I'm always at least on the top floor, although no one chooses to stay at a Garden Inn because of the upgrade potential.
However, next year I have a bunch of Hilton stays on deck, and I'm excited to jump up the upgrade priority ladder with Diamond status. I don't know if it will end up doing anything for me, since it's still up to the individual hotel, but I guess I'm willing to float $450 to see. My year with Hilton will start at the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam next month, then the Conrad Chicago, followed by the Wit (Doubletree) Chicago, and ending the year at the Aleph Hotel (Curio) Rome and finally the Hilton in Venice. I'll probably have some HGI/Hampton stays sprinkled throughout there as well. Overall I'm going to be spending around 20 nights in Hiltons next year, so I'll have plenty of opportunity to see whether Diamond status is worth it.
There's a guy who comments on various blogs (DCG or DCS or something) who insists that Hilton will washcloth your balls upon check-in if you have Diamond status, although it kinda seems like he might be exaggerating. Others seem to think that Diamond isn't worth all that much more than Gold, save for the marginal points earning bonus and guaranteed executive lounge access. So, in the words of my favorite pop star, "Let's say mixed reviews."
Regardless, I'm looking forward to getting a taste of top-tier hotel status, and I'm sure my annoying reviews will now include all the status-specific stuff that drives me crazy when I read about the resplendent breakfast buffet at the Park Hyatt Wherever.
And not for nothing, the other benefits on the card do look fantastic. If the airline credit works like the Amex Platinum, that's $250 in American Airlines gift cards I can add to the pile. The $250 resort credit isn't a huge draw for me since I don't plan to stay at any Hilton resorts anytime soon, although if I ever do, I'm sure I'll appreciate it. And the free weekend night speaks for itself. The only thing that's slightly underwhelming is the points earning. 14 points per dollar at Hilton hotels seems like a lot (since, coupled with Diamond status, you'd earn 34 points per dollar at Hilton), but Hilton points themselves are so weak, that's not that much better than Hyatt's credit card (just over 8 points per dollar). Aside from SPG, though, no one gets hotel cards for the points earning, so that doesn't bum me out too bad.
In the end, I give this card a rating of 97 breakfast buffets out of 114 (in other words, 41 diamonds out of 55). It's probably useless to review a card before it has been released, but I'm going to stand by my rating. Who else is ASPIRING to get the Aspire card? Is anyone else drooling diamonds at the thought of Diamond status, or are you just waiting around to delight in my eventual disappointment?
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