Amex Hilton Upgrade Offers: Should You Accept? (Hilton Honors, Ascend, Aspire)

American Express recently sent out targeted 100,000-150,000 point upgrade offers to Hilton cardholders. Although the offers are tempting, don’t jump to accept them yet. You could potentially miss out on a welcome offer if you accept. Consider the following scenarios in this post before upgrading your Amex card.

Welcome Offer Terms

The main reason why you should think twice before accepting an upgrade offer is that once you product change the card, you will no longer be eligible for the respective welcome offer.

“Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card.”

For example, if you currently have the no annual fee Hilton Honors American Express Card and you accept an upgrade offer to product change to the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card, you’ll automatically be disqualified for an Ascend welcome offer since you have the card (assuming you never had the card before).

One common misconception is that you can only get either an upgrade offer or a welcome offer, but not both. However, if you plan the applications correctly, you can earn both, resulting in double the amount of points.

Exceptions

Even though you can get both upgrade and welcome offers, there are a few exceptions for who shouldn’t do this.

  1. Someone who doesn’t want to add another credit card.

  2. People who are at the maximum credit card limit for American Express - could be 4,5, or 6 credit cards (not charge cards).

  3. Someone who has already have had the respective credit card, so they are not eligible for the welcome offer.

Hilton Honors American Express Card

 

Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card

Optimal Strategy

With American Express credit cards, the optimal strategy is to apply for the higher tier credit card first, and then accept the upgrade offer. If you’re someone who can handle the minimum spend requirements for both cards, you can accept the upgrade offer a few days after applying for the credit card.

The idea is that you apply for the credit card first, that way you can earn a welcome offer, in addition to the upgrade offer.

1) Simple Example (2 credit cards)

SITUATION 1: Hilton Honors + Hilton Ascend

Sunk:

  • 2018 = Apply for Hilton Honors (welcome offer)

Route 1: Upgrade

  • 2019 = Upgrade to Hilton Ascend (upgrade offer)

    • Result = 1 add’l bonus

Route 2: Apply + Upgrade

  • 2019.1 = Apply for Hilton Ascend (welcome offer)

  • 2019.2 = Upgrade to Hilton Ascend (upgrade offer)

    • Result = 2 add’l bonuses

In the situation above, you applied for the Hilton Honors card 12 months ago, and there’s an upgrade offer for the Hilton Ascend card.

There are 2 routes you can take, either take only the upgrade or apply for a new Hilton Ascend and then accept the upgrade offer later.

If you take the latter route, you’ll receive two bonuses: the welcome offer and the upgrade offer. Yes, you can have two of the same credit cards at the same time.

For people who don’t want two Hilton Ascend cards, you can always product change one the no annual fee Hilton Honors card after 12 months.

2) Complicated Example (3 cards)

SITUATION 1: Hilton Honors + Hilton Ascend + Hilton Aspire

Sunk:

  • 2018 = Apply for Hilton Honors (welcome offer)

Route 1: Upgrades

  • 2019 = Upgrade Hilton Honors to Hilton Ascend (upgrade offer)

  • 2020 = Upgrade Hilton Ascend to Hilton Aspire (upgrade offer) 

    • Result = 2 additional bonuses

In the first situation for the complicated example, if you want to stick with just one account/credit card, you can apply for the no annual fee Hilton Honors card and accept a new upgrade offer each year.

When you stick to one account, you’ll earn the welcome offer from the initial card, and then two additional bonuses for each Hilton tier you upgrade.

On the other hand, if you want to maximize the number of points potential, consider the plan below.

SITUATION 2: Hilton Honors + Hilton Ascend + Hilton Aspire

  •  2018 = Apply for Hilton Honors (A) (welcome offer)

Route 2: Apply + Upgrade

  •  2019 = Apply for Hilton Aspire (B) (welcome offer)

  • 2019 = Apply for Hilton Ascend (C) (welcome offer)

  • 2020 = Upgrade (C) to Hilton Aspire (#2) (upgrade offer)

  • 2019 = Upgrade (A) to Hilton Ascend (#2) (upgrade offer)

  • 2020 = Upgrade (A) to Hilton Aspire (#3) (upgrade offer)

    • Result = 5 additional bonuses

By adding the next tiered card before accepting the upgrade offer, you’ll earn the welcome offer for the respective card AND the upgrade offer, resulting in 5 additional bonuses.

The difference between the two scenarios above is two bonuses vs. five bonuses. If each bonus is about 100k to 125k Hilton Honors points, then you’re potentially missing out on an additional ~350,000 points by not playing your cards right.



Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, vendors or companies, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. 

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