Hilton, AmEx boost loyalty offering

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Hilton HHonors, the loyalty program for Hilton hotels, is offering a new co-branded card with partner American Express.

The Hilton HHonors Surpass Card joins the existing HHonors card from American Express in Hilton's growing CRM toolkit. The difference between the two cards is that Surpass charges an annual fee of $75 for more premium member experiences, including the hotel's best points return — nine points per dollar spent — at participating Hilton hotels, and complimentary memberships to Priority Pass, which allows access to more than 500 airport lounges. The original HHonors card is free, though it also has beefed up its rewards system to allow for faster points earning and other goodies.

“We recognized that there are customers out there who really want the convenience and value of a no-annual-fee product, so our goal was to enhance our base proposition,” said Adam Burke, SVP of customer loyalty for Hilton Hotels Corp. “Then we added the annual fee card because there are customers out there that are looking for additional levels of benefit. That's why we have two tiers.”

A representative from American Express could not be reached for comment.

The new card offers are designed to appeal to Hilton's core group of loyalists, feeding their demands for faster, easier ways to accumulate and spend points, Burke said. He believes the upgraded earnings and rewards will cement existing loyalties, while also moving Hilton and American Express top-of-mind for occasional customers.

All communications going out to existing members, including direct mail, e-mail and transaction statements, will promote the new cards. Non-members also will get the pitch on the Hilton site and when checking into Hilton rooms.

American Express and Hilton have been offering their basic co-branded card for about a decade.

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