I finally let Amex "Surpass" my hesitancy

Discussion in 'Hilton | HHonors' started by kansaskeith, Jan 1, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. kansaskeith

    kansaskeith Gold Member

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    It took me two-years-plus to "bite the bullet," but I finally gave in today and upgraded my no-fee Hilton HHonors American Express card to a "Surpass card" with $75 fee. I had analyzed this monthly for a couple of years and just didn't think it was worth it to spend $75 just to get 9X points instead of 6X for Hilton stays. (I was already getting "Gold" every year for spending $20K on the card per calendar year.) I am intrigued by the "Diamond" lure for $40K annual spend, which would not be a problem for me with MC or Visa, but since not all companies I deal with take Amex, it is going to be close.

    However, I finally "gave in" today, was quickly approved, and am going to try for the $40K annual spend. What finally motivated me was: (a) 50,000 HH points for a $3 K spend in the first 90 days, which is sweeter than they used to offer for upgrading from a no-fee Hilton card, I think; (b) Citi dropping the debit card program, which for me carried a $65 annual fee -- now the $75 Surpass fee will really only cost me an extra 10 bucks beyond what I had been spending; (c) and them making it clear one keeps his current Amex card number.

    They really had to work -- and wait -- to get $75 out of me, but they finally did! :)
     
  2. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    I am currently Gold and have the regular Amex card. I don't think I want to necessarily put $20k on the HHonors Amex this year (I do use it for 6x categories most of the time), and the way travel plans seem to develop, I may not be able to renew Gold status without some MR-ing. So I thought about biting the bullet and paying the $75 for the upgrade and collect the 50k points and Gold for a year. But what I am not clear about is whether it's Gold for 12 months from the day of card the card or whether it's essentially the same as reaching Gold that day via stays, i.e., for the rest of the year and all of next year.
     
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  3. kansaskeith

    kansaskeith Gold Member

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    They may be more liberal in applying it, as they have been with other things, but as I read it, it's automatic "Gold" from the day you are approved for "Surpass", for one year. Since I did this today, my "Gold" will last all of 2012, probably up through April of next year, their usual cutover month. To quote their offer, "You will receive complimentary Gold Status for one year." (Kind of a waste for me since I already hit $20K on the no-fee card in 2011, but c'est la vie.)

    Then, it goes on to say "After your first year, when your total eligible purchases reach US$20,000 in any calendar year of Cardmembership, you will be upgraded to Hilton HHonors ™ Gold status for a one-year period." That tells me that if I spend $20K on the card this year, I would then get "Gold" for all of 2013, maybe up to April 2014. I know they may have a history of going beyond that still, but officially that's not what it says.

    For hitting $40K and "Diamond," it is a little more clear: "If in any calendar year of Cardmembership your total eligible purchases reach US$40,000, you will be upgraded to Hilton HHonors™ Diamond status for the calendar year in which such status was earned through the end of the next calendar year."

    You've probably read these same rules and I don't blame you for being confused.

    As a retired writer and journalist, I would agree these folks could work on the clarity of their written product. But that's how I interpret it. :)
     
  4. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Yeah, so for me it probably boils down to buying 50k points for $75. $40k is a greater percentage of my annual credit card spend than I would want to dedicate to this card just for the sake of Diamond status. I think I'll wait and see if this upgrade offer continues to be available in about a year.
     
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  5. kansaskeith

    kansaskeith Gold Member

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    Yeah as I sat here thinking about your situation as you " 'splained it," I concluded that's what I probably would do in your shoes.

    If you don't hit "Gold" with your 2012 stays in their beds (is that called "BIB" points like "BIS miles? :) ), then a year from today you could go Surpass and get your 2013 "Gold" that way.

    That assumes that Amex will offer the same terms a year from now, but, gosh, we can't worry about everything. First, the Mayans say, we've got to get past the end of the world. :)
     
  6. kyunbit
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    kyunbit Silver Member

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    The problem is for normal personal spend, it is very difficult to spend more than $1000 a month on the 6X categories; so $40K on this card has to be with other kind of spending where I could have got a better return if I used a different card.
     
  7. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Right. I spent about $12k on the HHonors card in 2011, but I only earned about 4.7 miles/$. Right now I can get 2.5 miles/$ on my Chase BA card, so I am not that excited about 3 HHonors points for the same $.
     
  8. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    I just bit on it. At the moment I have a bunch of bills that I can charge to a credit card, so it's easy to meet the annual spend. I think if I read the rules that you posted above, if I put $40K on it, then that will buy Diamond for this year and next.

    While Diamond isn't a lot better than Gold, it should be good for some upgrades and better treatment, esp. at Asian properties
     
  9. Toula
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    Toula Gold Member

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    We are probably going to go the other way. Have had the Surpass card for 15 months and before it renews next time will downgrade as don't think it is worth us paying the fee.

    We direct the majority of our spend to the AMEX Gold card with the Chase Sapphire being the secondary. What I am feeling with all these credit cards is I think it is a better deal to have a general card that lets you direct the points to multiple channels, either hotel or airline.

    I do recall that we applied in August 2010, got approved and got the Gold immediately and that is still good as at 1 Jan 2012. We did very few Hilton stays in 2011 so did not requalify for Gold under our own steam. Due to the changes in their points redemption Hilton has probably slipped into 3rd place in our household behind SPG and Hyatt.
     
  10. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    The only thing that would make sense is if the regular rules apply, otherwise there would be two HH programs: Hilton's and AMEX's. But because this cannot be the case, Hilton's rules must apply meaning that the Gold status via Surpass is awarded the same way as for achieving it through stays: for the rest of the year and all of next year to end of March of following year.

    As for the value of making Diamond via a $40k spend on the Surpass, I have never been able to see any. I always make Diamond on base points, which means that I make Diamond by spending "only" $10,000/yr (= 100,000 base points) using any combination of cards (usually AMEX) for stays at Hilton properties worldwide. With the equivalent of a single year spend on the Surpass to qualify for Diamond ($40k/yr), I can requalify Diamond for 4 years on base points by just spending $10k/yr at Hilton properties, which with my travel pattern is easy to do....
     
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  11. gemac
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    gemac Silver Member

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    I upgraded my regular Amex to Surpass in December. I took the card out in June, 2010, and it was obvious that I wasn't going to get to $40K spend in 2010, so I opened the regular card instead. In December, 2011 I crossed the $40K plateau, so I called in and upgraded the card to Surpass. Within 2 days, I was Diamond. Also within 2 days the 50K bonus points had posted, as I had over $3K charged in that billing period (all of it before I converted the card).
     
  12. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    Agree with you on the membership year calculus.

    If I have a lot of credit card spend I can direct, it means I can be HH top tier without having to do any mattress running and with directing stays where all brands are reasonable toward Hyatt & SPG to requalify for their top tiers, since there is no credit card alternative for qualifying (SPG Amex gets 2 stay credit, so you still need 23 stays, Hyatt has nothing.)

    How many points does general spedning get you on Surpass? I think it is 3 points, and they are worth around 1/2 cent, so it's not a great return.

    What I haven't decided is whether Diamond is worth much. The benefits don't seem much better than Gold (Gold is strong with breakfast & Internet) and there isn't really a promise of upgrades. Maybe I'll requal this year on spend which guarantees me 2013, too, and then let it lapse before renewal time...
     
  13. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    Ok lets put the status thingy to rest:). I have two relatives and two close friends who have gotten Surpass cards (at my prodding) in addition to separate cards for both my wife and myself.
    The status period bestowed by the card is identical to that of a regular qualification (ie it runs the remainder of the year of approval, all the subsequent year until the end of MARCH of the third year (not April as stated above)

    In addition for the first two years of its existence qualification via spend was granting holders two years of status.
    ie anyone who spent $40k in 2009 got Diamond status for the remainder of 2009, all 20!0, all 2011 until march 2012.
    There Is some confusion as to whether this "loophole" as it was suggested by some, has been closed for 2011.

    IMHO people seem to overthink the value of the card ... fair enough. But there are a few examples where it is quite valuable assuming of course you make at least at few stays at HH properties.
    1) 2500 point bonus for the first 8 stays in the first 18 months almost covers the $75 second year anuall fee (Ist year is free right?)
    2) Some doubt their ability to spend to $40 annually but additional cards to your wife ( my mom buys her groceries and gas with my Surpass :)) but theres more. Since my wife and I have a HH mutual account by using cards linked to one surpass account we qualify to be both be HH diamonds by spend quite easily.
    3) If you do stay at Hiltons you get an additional 3 points/dollar on the Surpass ... so that $10k spend qualification yields 30K points ... 30k HH is worth more to me than the annual fee.

    Finally I will not get into the all too common ( mostly rationalization if you ask me :D) "Gold is a good as Diamond" discussion I will most gladly leave that for the generally quite verbose experts on FT:) but I will say as a longtime Diamond who has consistently received some wonderful upgrades at HH hotels nobody in their right mind is going to convince me that I would have gotten the very same if I was Gold.
     
  14. kansaskeith

    kansaskeith Gold Member

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    Just checked my ("Gold") HHonors card. Yes, through March. My earlier reference "through April" incorrect, although in a second place I had written "to" April. Privileges with HH traditionally run the first three months into whatever year.
     
  15. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    Not a big deal... HH status did expire at the end of April for a very long time (certainly since 1988). The March end of year was put in place at the termination of the rolling tier ... 2007 or 2008??
     
  16. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    There was a "rolling tier" system before, where tier status ended a year from which ever date it was earned + a couple of months for "soft landing" if one did not requalify....The was not a single date on which status expired for everyone. It was set by when one qualified during the year...
     
  17. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    OK.. to be completely accurate previous to the Rolling Tier..... which actually only existed for about an 18 month period
    ( and which was in fact quite an inventive facet of the HH program ...it was really a shame they aparently mis-calculated the ability of their members to grasp what was really quite a simple concept :rolleyes:) and I believe starting from the inception of the program ..... HH status expired annually at the end of April.
     
  18. PedroNY
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    PedroNY Silver Member

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    I just wanted to add a bit of information to this discussion, as some may consider doing this as well. I originally signed up for Hilton card back in 2006 and upgraded it to Surpass in February of 2009 (when it first appeared). I hit $40,000 spend, received the status based on that spend through March 2012 (yes, that "loophole" of an additional year was extended to me). Then I downgraded that card in 2010, as I didn't see a reason to pay $75 and wanted to direct my spend to another card. This December, I received the same promotion 50,000 Hilton points if I upgrade my Hilton Card to Surpass and spend $3,000. It was a no brainer, I upgraded again, spent $3,000 and received 50,000 HH points. I now plan to spend $40,000 in 2012 to get the Diamond status through March 31, 2014.

    Here is a strategy you may want to employ:
    Year 1: spend $40,000 get Diamond through end of that year, through Year 2, and through March 31 of Year 3.
    Year 2: downgrade to regular Hilton, save $75, use your spend on other things if you wish, keep on spending in 6x categories.
    Year 3: upgrade to Surpass, spend $40k in Q1 and have Diamond again for rest of Year 3, Year 4, and March 31 of Year 5
    Repeat...

    Also, if you get a promo from AMEX for additional points for an upgrade, well that is just wonderful enjoy those additional free points!

    I think you can even downgrade in Year 1 after you get your Diamond status, as AMEX will not take it back from Hilton, so if you are a heavy spender it may make sense. You will be missing out 3pt/$1 at Hilton properties, but that is the extent of it.

    Cheers,

    PedroNY
     
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  19. particlemn

    particlemn Silver Member

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    Has onyone elase had trouble getting bonus points for upgrading to surpass? I upgraded at beginning of October 2011, had the 300 spent before end of october. never got points, never got priority club membership, i was already gold so i dont know if they did anything here but my expiration date for gold has not changed from March 2013 as it was before. i have called amex multiple times they kept sayingi had to wait at least 8 weeks. Called again this week and they opened a complain file said i should have goten points and will resolve in 3 weeks. this is customer disscrive, I have been a loyal amex card holder since 2001 but 2012 might be the leaving year.
     
  20. gemac
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    gemac Silver Member

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    No. I upgraded from regular to Surpass in December, when I crossed 40K spend. I already had more than $3K spent on my current statement, so I got my 50K points the next day. I was Diamond within a day or two. I found it very impressive. Sorry your experience was so bad. If you stick with it they should make it right.
     
  21. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    In which year do I have to win the lottery to enable me to spend $40k in Q1 on the Hilton CC? ;)

    Jokes aside, for people who have that kind of spend naturally this may be a good strategy, but really it just saves $75 every other year, so I am not sure I personally would be bothering with the switcheroo
     
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  22. kansaskeith

    kansaskeith Gold Member

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    Well, did you see the article this week that if you prepaid $50,000 with DL for private flights and DL-at-large over a two-year period, you get instant 'Diamond Medallion?' So, put that on your Hilton CC in Q1 every two years. I'll see you at the local pay-day loan office. Don't forget to bring your (and your wife's, and your cousins') vehicle titles :)

    Sent from my iPhone using milepoint
     
  23. PedroNY
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    PedroNY Silver Member

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    That's funny, agreed it just saves $75, well actually closer to $120 as you get a refund back from unused fee portion prorated across the year, AMEX is pretty good about that. Aside from $75, you also have an opportunity to be solicited to be upgraded to Surpass (as I did last December) and after spending $3,000 in 4 months, you get additional 50,000 Hilton points. So if you time it right, you get Diamond, you save ~ $120 + 50,000 Hilton pionts, I think that is worth the downgrade and upgrade calls once a year, IMHO.

    Cheers,

    PedroNY
     
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  24. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    You seem to making the assumption (mistakenly IMHO) that you are able to churn the Amex promo on a regular basis.

    I put to you that Amex in general has been pretty stringent in that area and generally will only give bonuses (usually the difference between the two) if the current promo exceeds the one you received the past ... so count yor self fortunate that you were able to get two 50k bonus and keep your fingers crossed that they do not take it back as has happened in not too dissimilar situations in the past.
    Soooo after all that we are now back to a pretty convoluted process just to save the annual fee:rolleyes:.
    For those of us who actually use the Surpass card when we stay at Hiltons the extra 3 points earned pretty much wipes that pittance out. :)
     
  25. kansaskeith

    kansaskeith Gold Member

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    I just noticed that the 50,000 HHonors bonus points for spending $3,000 on the "Surpass" card (in the first three months) posted to my Hilton account on Sunday, Jan. 15, three days after the three-thousanth dollar of charges had posted to Amex. Didn't even wait for my monthly Amex statement to close, which won't happen until this coming week. That fast action seems to be in synch with other experiences of Milepoint "Surpass" members, and is, pardon my French, damned impressive. Wish all loyalty programs and their promotions were even close to that prompt!

    And yes, good little boy that I am, even without the statement closing I have already paid the Amex bill online. Took the money out of the Citibank accounts I was closing after Citi discontinued the AAdvantage Debit card!
     
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