Photographer: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg

AmEx Debuts a Sapphire Competitor in Retooled Hilton Cards

Updated on
  • New Hilton Aspire card is the hotel chain’s richest ever
  • AmEx has been revamping its own premium cards and rewards

American Express Co. just showed how far it’s willing to go to keep a co-brand partner happy.

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is set for release in January, offering 14 points per dollar spent at the hotel chain’s properties, New York-based AmEx said in a statement Wednesday. That’s on top of the 7 points per dollar on select flights, car rentals and U.S. restaurants and three points per dollar on other purchases. AmEx said the Aspire will offer more rewards than any other Hilton card, and will come with a $450 annual fee.

“This premium space for us has been a focus of our business for a long time,” Eva Reda, executive vice president of co-brand partnerships at American Express, said in a phone interview. When the card issuer realized Hilton was interested in expanding its portfolio, “it was an opportunity we really couldn’t pass up.”

AmEx revamped its own Platinum portfolio and debuted additional premium rewards after JPMorgan Chase & Co. introduced the popular Sapphire Reserve credit-card last year. The card caused a temporary increase in attrition at AmEx, which won the exclusive rights to issue credit cards for Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. this year.

AmEx shares rose 0.6 percent to a record $96.10 at 11 a.m. in New York. The stock has climbed 29 percent this year, outpacing the 15 percent advance of the S&P 500 Financials Index.

AmEx will acquire Citigroup Inc.’s $1.2 billion portfolio of the hotel chain’s cards in January as part of the agreement. Citigroup said in a filing Tuesday that it expected a pretax gain of $150 million from the sale, approximating one year’s revenue from the portfolio.

AmEx will also debut a small-business card as part of the expanded deal with Hilton. The card comes with a $95 annual fee and will give customers 12 points per dollar at Hilton properties and 6 points per dollar spent on gas, shipping costs, select flights and wireless phone services.

A Hilton Honors bonus point is valued at 0.6 cents per point, according to a monthly valuation by The Points Guy.

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