The Amex Hilton Aspire card has a lot of great bennies, but the $100 Waldorf/Conrad credit ain’t one of ’em.

Hooray! It’s new Amex Hilton day! I’ve been excited about this day for a while, since I can’t wait to start diamonding my diamonds all over the place. (For those that have no idea what I’m talking about, one of the key benefits of the card is Diamond status in the Hilton Honors program for as long as you have the card.) There are a host of other great benefits too: airline credits, free nights, good earning rates, yadda yadda yadda.

One of the benefits that has been talked about a lot in the pre-release hype is the $100 on-property credit (dining, spa, etc) offered at Conrad and Waldorf Astoria hotels. The thinking was that this gave Hilton a way to offer a little something extra at these high-end properties, since Diamond status isn’t generally as rewarding as top-level status in programs like SPG and Hyatt.

I started poking around as soon as I got my card, and I found that booking is thankfully really easy. You just go to the designated website (www.hiltonhonorsaspirecard.com) and enter your credit card to be verified. That takes you to a modified version of Hilton’s booking page that lists only WA/Conrad properties in a dropdown:

aspire search

Once you pick your location and dates (don’t forget that the calendar enforces the two-night minimum stay required for the $100 credit), you’ll see the hotel you want, with only one rate type displayed:

aspire search results

If you want to change your search, as long as you don’t uncheck the Aspire card benefit box, you’ll continue to only see Waldorfs and Conrads.

aspire change search

That’s it! The “Aspire_Card_Benefit” rate type is hard-coded into the booking, so assuming everything goes as planned on their end with the implementation of the new rate type, the credit will be applied automatically. Yay, you’re saving $100!

But are you really? Here’s the problem with the Aspire rate: it doesn’t stack with any Hilton discounts or promotions, so it’s always equivalent to the best flexible rate. Since Hilton almost always offers a discounted flexible rate to Honors members, you may not come out ahead. I did some random searches on random dates, and here’s what I found:

Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills
– Daily total (incl tax) for Aspire: $840; total for Honors discount: $815
Aspire is a better deal for stays up to 3 nights

Conrad Chicago
– Daily total for Aspire: $405; total for Honors: $392
Aspire is a better deal for stays up to 7 nights

Waldorf Astoria Chicago
– Daily total for Aspire: $605; total for Honors: $586
Aspire is a better deal for stays up to 5 nights

Hilton also offers special rates at certain hotels, like their “Long Weekender” promotion in which you save 50% on Sunday night if you stay on Friday and Saturday. Let’s look at a 3-day stay at the Conrad Chicago while factoring in the weekender rate. (This is also a flexible rate, so it’s a fair 1:1 comparison.)
– Daily total for Aspire: $463; total for weekender: $386
Aspire is a better deal only for stays of 1 night… and since Aspire has a 2-night minimum, it’s clearly a worse deal here.

And what if you don’t care about having a flexible reservation? For me, as long as I know that I’m going to travel, I’m okay booking non-refundable rates and saving money. It’s hard to justify paying 20-30% more per night just so I can cancel down the road. Here are some scenarios comparing the Aspire rate to the Honors discount non-refundable rate:

Conrad Chicago
– Daily total for non-refundable rate: $349
Aspire is a worse deal, given the two night minimum

Waldorf Astoria Chicago
– Daily total for non-refundable rate: $521
Aspire is a worse deal, given the two night minimum

Conrad Koh Samui
– Daily total for Aspire: $689; daily total for non-refundable rate: $540
Wow, here the Aspire rate loses you money even on a 1-night stay!

So, whatever you do, check the Hilton Honors rate for the hotel you’re looking at before you book the Aspire rate. If you need a flexible rate (or they aren’t offering a non-refundable rate), you may still come out ahead. However, it probably won’t be by much… and it should definitely be mentioned that cash saved vs. credits at the overpriced restaurant or spa aren’t exactly equivalent.

I still love this card, because I’m going to get a ton of value out of having Diamond status this year (I hope), and the airline fee credits will help offset the annual fee somewhat. Plus, now that Waldorf Astoria hotels are offering free breakfast to elites, the $100 credit is less important, since that’s probably would I would have ended up using it on. Just beware of any blog that factors the credit into the calculation of whether the annual fee makes sense, since it really doesn’t offset the fee at all. Everyone is talking about how the benefits are too good to be true out of the gate and that a devaluation may be coming, so let’s all keep our fingers crossed that this one is the first on the chopping block.

Since you read this far, maybe you want to consider supporting this blog? I’m committed to keeping it ad-free, so reader support makes a huge difference!

5 thoughts on “The Amex Hilton Aspire card has a lot of great bennies, but the $100 Waldorf/Conrad credit ain’t one of ’em.”

  1. Thanks for getting the card and checking this out. I have been curious about this. (And while you are clearing the minefield for me, could you please go ahead and buy some AA gift cards with it, and report back?)

    I’ve posted about this elsewhere, but for me one of the sweetspots of this benefit — even if not a full $100 — is in conjunction with using it with the $250 resort stay credit, i.e., there are some WAs that show up on the resort list, like Trianon Versailles outside Paris, or Boca Raton Resort or Beach Club. Getting the card would commit me to doing one of these annually. While some people say that that’s the cart (hey, unintended pun — cart/card, get it?) driving the horse, I seem to be that kind of horse.

    The other interesting thing I am reading is that you book pre-paid hotel stays. I never do. Maybe I should. I always pre-pay airfares (like everyone else). With airplane tickets, rationale is that since I travel a fair amount, my worst-case loss is the change fee, not the whole ticket price. And, if I choose my credit card wisely (usually Prestige or RC Visa), I ought to be able to recover the $200 or $300 (international), too.

    Which swings me back to hotels and the Aspire. When I look at, say, the Ritz-Carlton card, I see:

    Trip Cancellation / Trip Interruption Insurance
    If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels.

    I guess I could start reading the T&C in detail, but what governs the hotel insurance? The card you buy the plane ticket with? Or the card you book the hotel with? Which in this case would have to be the Amex Aspire, and if Amex offers anything good by way of trip cancellation or trip delay or trip interruption service, I am not aware of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just booked a 3-day non-refundable stay last night, and here’s my thinking there… I look at it like paying insurance to protect an investment. I’m not making a speculative booking – I have a bunch of other travel arrangements, so having to cancel this trip would require a serious disruption in my life. If I weren’t sure about the dates or whatever, I’d absolutely not book prepaid. But given that the trip was already pretty well-established, I see it as paying $234 (the total rate difference over three nights) to insure an $800 investment. In most cases, I wouldn’t take that deal. It’s the same reason I declined dental insurance at my last job (which offered shitty dental insurance). It was around $350 a year and provided up to $1200 in coverage, and even though I had enormous dental bills one year, I still came out ahead over the five years I worked there.

      Like

      1. Sorry, but I have been ruminating a while about your advice regarding the pre-paid hotels. Your advice is good, so I did not want to reject it willy-nilly. It led me, for example, to some inquiries on FT regarding what gets covered under whose credit card insurance — with respect to nonrefundable hotels — under the usual stipulated conditions. It seems more complicated than most of the blogs make it out to me — and most of the T&Cs read as though there is a single “trip,” like one purchased as a tour — but it did seem to mitigate some of the risk. And your points about self-insurance are good ones, notwithstanding that this is turning into a bad dental year for me as well.

        But then (off of teeth, back to travel), this happened: A week-long trip to Ireland booked — J tickets, upscale hotel. All vacation. Have you seen the weather they are having over there? Honestly, looking at the weather reports a few days back, we lost our taste for the trip. If it were somewhere like Paris, where I know the place (and they drive on the correct side of the road, and they have excellent croissants, and the Eric Kayser boulangeries are better than those in the U.S.), I would have gone. Hey, Paris in the snow. But, for us, a new place where snow and ice are not part of their usual social and transport environment? Anyhow, at the last minute our flights did get canceled, so we got all the miles back with no re-deposit penalties. But it was the last minute (how many sentences can you start with “But” in one paragraph, house rules?) and I had had to make a call on the hotels before the flight cancellations. The hotels were not prepaid, so cancelling was just a few clicks. Yeah, I might have been able to argue “severe weather,” but would Chase’s insurance company have paid off the hotels based on $5.60 in taxes on four discrete airline tickets? Was that a trip? What if the planes had flown — not every flight for 24 hours has been cancelled into DUB.

        Obviously (I hate it when people write that word — if it’s obvious, why say it?), each trip will vary in risks and rewards, but (again!) I find myself still lodged in the nonrefundable-hotels-not-worth-the-risk camp. Still open to persuasion, not because I am open-minded, but because I love not spending money I don’t have to. More fun than spending the money itself.

        Like

  2. Appreciate the leg work on this to confirm that $100 over 2 nights is:
    a) not exciting
    b) may actually be a bad deal!

    I appreciate that Hilton made the benefit extremely clear and easy to use though!

    Now to figure out what is up with the resort credit…

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s