Hey, Hilton, I’m looking at you!
Let’s be honest, or shall I be honest?
The merger with SPG & Marriott hasn’t been great, in fact, it’s gone as bad as a merger can, IMHO.
As most readers know, we LOVE Marriott & SPG. In fact, this year I’ll earn my Marriott Plt for Life status. While I’m excited to reach that milestone, I feel ready to move on. Let me explain why…
Everyone has their accommodation preferences. Some like AirBNB, others like to find boutique hotels and then there are the chain hotels.
I can say I’ve been VERY loyal to Marriott over the past 9 years. I’ve gone out of my way to stay at one of their properties, regardless of price and location bringing me to my current crossroad.
Should I continue on with Marriott now that I’ll be Platinum for life, or is it time to test the waters elsewhere?
There have been many “dropped the ball” moments from the Marriott & SPG merger. Annual certificates not working at SPG properties, points going missing, travel packages increase in points cost, a devalue and “oh look, it’s now cheaper” of points and MANY other issues I won’t bore you with…
I get it, mergers aren’t easy. Especially one of this size. At the end of the day Marriott (SPG) will be the largest hotel chain with properties EVERYWHERE in the world. Their footprint is huge. Let’s also not forget why Marriott wanted this merger as well, to drive traffic to their website and capture MORE direct bookings and paying less for online travel agent commissions (Priceline, Expedia, etc).
Now that I’m Lifetime Platinum Elite, what does that get me?
All I’ve ever really cared about was free breakfast, lounge access and an occasional upgrade when staying at a Marriott/SPG property. I now get that with my lifetime benefits. That’s it, done! WhooHoo!
Marriott Lifetime Plt Status, end of the line?
Now, if you check the benefits of lifetime status, the only REAL reason I’d want to hit the thresholds of 50 or 75 nights a year are the 5 suite night awards and free night. Let’s be honest, that “reward” is not worth going out of my way to get to 75 nights a year at Marriott anymore. I’ll take my lifetime benefits and call it good.
I’ve never been a HUGE fan of Hilton for a few reasons. Over the past few years they’ve REALLY devalued their points program, making reward nights more expensive for redemption, removing benefits and a few other items.
HOWEVER, it seems that Hilton is on the attack now with the mess Marriott has made of the merger. Also, Hilton appears ready to offer some of those benefits back that they took away.
I’ll be very honest, the last thing I need is ANOTHER $450 annual fee credit card, like I need a hole in my head. BUT, let’s take a look at what Hilton and AmEx are offering me.
When I look at hotel chains and planning my stays the first thing I look at is, what am I getting? Breakfast, lounge, upgrade? These are all things that are important to me. After all, it’s about the stay/experience. Points and rewards are important, but come in second to my priority.
Last week, Hilton and American Express upped the signup offer for their top of the line Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.
Remember my number one rule when it comes to Credit Cards, if you look at the annual fee and say no, you aren’t doing it right!
Let’s take a deeper look at this card and what I get for my annual fee of $450.
- Annual fee of $450
- Sign up bonus of 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after I spend $4,000 within the first three months (plans on using those later)
- The card earns Hilton Honors points at the following rates:
14X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants
3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on all other purchases
- Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status for as long as you hold the card
(WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT)
Remember what’s important to me at chain hotels? Breakfast, lounge? This card gives me the status to get those things. This is their top tier status. When you review the benefits of Diamond Status at Hilton, you can see you get that and much more!
- One weekend night at any hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio (on account opening and on every account anniversary)
This card gives you one free weekend night at any hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio with your new card and each year of card membership. You can also receive a second free night certificate if you spend $60,000 or more on the card in a calendar year.
- You can get a second weekend night at any hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio after spending $60,000 on the card within a calendar year
- Priority Pass membership (unlimited access for you and up to two guests) click here for more
(great, but I already get this with other cards I have, like my Chase Sapphire Reserve or AmEx Platinum Card)
- $250 airline incidental fee statement credit every CALENDAR year
- $250 Hilton resort statement credit every CARD MEMBER year
You will receive up to $250 in statement credits for eligible purchases made directly at participating Hilton Resorts. Purchases made by both the primary cardholder and authorized users count towards this $250 total. Eligible purchases must be made directly with participating Hilton Resorts and charged to your Aspire card. Incidental charges (including charges made at restaurants, spas, and other establishments within the hotel property) must be charged to your room and paid for with your Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card at checkout in order for them to be recognized as Hilton Resort purchases. You can also use the $250 for the room rate as well!
- $100 on property credit at Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts when booking the exclusive Aspire Card package
- Authorized users can be added for no additional charge but don’t receive any of the benefits the primary cardholder does (they can use the $250 credits, but it’s a total of $250 in credits across all cards. They can also get access to the Waldorf Astoria/Conrad $100 benefit).
So, when I recap and just look at everything I’m getting in the first year I hold the card, it looks like this:
- 1 Free weekend night
- Up to 1-5 or more free nights with the Sign Up Bonus (depending on how you use the points and where)
- $500 in Airline Credit (I get this twice since it’s calendar year), used just like the AmEx Platinum Card (see post here)
- A $250 credit at Hilton for stay or other charges at Hilton (I get this once as it’s CARD HOLDER year)
- Diamond status which gets me breakfast and lounge (high priority for me)
For the first year of this card, with my $450 fee investment, as you can see if I use my card right, I’ll get back $750 in credits, a free weekend night (value TBD) and free breakfast and lounge access. And these are just the benefits I care about. There’s much more for others in earning rates, Priority Pass, etc.
In my second year of holding the card, I’ll get back $500 ($250 travel credit and $250 Hilton credit) and a free weekend night (value TBD).
As you can see, this card will be a long term keeper for me, especially now since I’ve hit my lifetime status with Marriott. For an investment of $450 a year, I’ll get that back plus more for simply using the benefits of the card.
I get it, $450 annual fee cards are scary and make you run the other way, but when you take a moment to really look at the benefits and how you can use them, all of a sudden that $450 doesn’t look bad at all!
And when I look at the ENTIRE Credit Card line up for Marriott Hotels, NONE of them (AmEx or Chase) come CLOSE to offering what Hilton and AmEx have offered with the Aspire.
Here’s my referral link for the Hilton Aspire AmEx, I’d appreciate it if you use it.
We’ve got plans to use our weekend certificates at the Conrad Hilton Maldives, who’s going with us?!
Maybe “DIVORCE” from Marriott is a bit drastic, let’s call it a separation for now….
Do you enjoy hotel elite status? What do you think about the AmEx and Hilton Aspire card?
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