Best Ways to Use Hilton Honors Rewards
For nearly 100 years, the Hilton brand has been a leader in the hotel industry. Today it operates over 5,000 properties around the world under its 14 brands including DoubleTree, Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites, and the Waldorf Astoria. Hilton also offers its Honors (formerly HHonors) rewards program that lets you earn points towards free night stays and other rewards.
You can earn Honors points by staying at one of their brands, buy using a co-branded credit card, or by transferring your Citi ThankYou points. But once you have these points, what's the best way to redeem them?
Using Points for Free Night Stays
Like most hotel loyalty programs, Hilton used to have an award chart that listed the number of points required for a free night. This chart had 10 categories of hotels, each with a minimum and a maximum number of points required for a free night stay. But in early 2017, Hilton scraped its award chart and moved to a dynamic pricing structure. Now, the number of points needed will vary based on the demand for the hotel, but Hilton promised that it wouldn't exceed the maximum number of points required under the old award chart.
In general, points are usually worth about 0.4 - 0.6 cents each towards free night stays at hotels. You can also buy down the number of points needed for an award night by choosing the Points & Money option. With this option, you'll also get about 0.4 - 0.6 cents in discount per point used. Hilton also has a policy of offering any standard room available for awards nights, with no blackout dates or capacity controls.
Finally, those who hold Silver, Gold or Diamond elite status in the Honors program will receive a fifth night free when they redeem four consecutive award nights.
How to Get the Most Value from Free Night Stays
1. Use points instead of cash for the most expensive, peak season stays. Are you looking to stay in New York's Times Square during New Year's Eve, or some other period during extremely high demand? This is when Hilton's policy of having no blackout dates or capacity controls can increase the value of your Honors points relative the cash price of the hotel. For example, a hotel may dramatically increase its rates when a special event is occurring or just when it expects its rooms to be sold out due to a big convention. Yet the amount of points required for a free night stay has a ceiling.
However, just be aware some individual properties may attempt to circumvent this rule by labeling most of its rooms "upgraded" in some trivial fashion. Since only "standard" rooms must be made available as awards, a room at a resort property with a "garden view" might be available for cash but not for a standard points award. If you find a hotel with plenty of otherwise standard rooms available for sale but not for points, try contacting the Hilton Honors program and asking for the award to be made available.
2. Use points for five-night stays. When you're able to get a fifth night free from your award nights, your points automatically become 25 percent more valuable. To get this benefit, you must have some kind of elite status. Entry-level Silver status is granted when you complete four hotel stays or 10 nights in a calendar year.
You can also earn Silver status just by having a Hilton Honors American Express Card from American Express, a Credit Cards House advertiser. Gold status is given to anyone who has a Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card or a the Platinum Card® from American Express, however, Platinum cardmembers have to request their status upgrade. Diamond status is given to Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express cardholders.
Editorial Note: The information related to Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express has been collected by Credit Cards House and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.
3. Use points where taxes are high. There are many places that impose very high taxes on hotel stays, sometimes approaching 20 percent. These taxes are popular because they are paid by visitors from other places, not by locals. Since these taxes are usually imposed as a percentage of the price paid, award stays are typically exempt from these taxes. As a result, you can save as much as another 20% by using your points for free night stays in high-tax areas rather than low-tax locations. In fact, this tip applies to the free nights offered by any hotel loyalty program, not just Hilton Honors.
4. Pool your points. One of the positive changes made to the Hilton Honors program in 2017 was the ability to combine points together for an award. And unlike some other hotel programs, this feature is not just limited to family or household members. A member and up to 10 others can combine their points for an award. So, if several members of your family have points in this program and want to take a vacation together, you can do so. This will even work for a group of friends. Pooled points can even be used for Points & Money awards.
5. Consider all-inclusive properties. Hilton has eight all-inclusive resorts including five in Egypt and one each in Mexico, Jamaica, and Turkey. In terms of cents per point, you won't get much more value from these than you would from other types of hotel awards. However, you will be paying for all your meals with points, and not incurring taxes on your food expenses.
Using Points for Other Rewards
In addition to award night stays, the Hilton Honors program offers a variety of other rewards. However, these options rarely return 0.5 cents per point in value, which is the least that you can expect from award nights.
The Honors program offers a variety of experience awards including VIP access to concerts, sporting events, and festivals. To claim many of these awards, you must bid points in an auction. Others are available for a fixed number of points. Depending on how you value a VIP experience, this can be a good use of your Honors points.
You can redeem your Honors points for airline and rail miles but the exchange rates are extremely unfavorable, often 10:1. Therefore, you are much better off redeeming your points for free night awards. The same is true for car rental rewards and cruise rewards, worth 0.2 cents each.
Hilton now allows purchases on Amazon.com using Honors points. 500 Honors points convert to 1 dollar, making this option worth 0.2 cents per point. Not worth considering compared to award nights at that value.
It's hard to receive exceptionally high value from your Hilton Honors points but you can receive consistently good value. By focusing on the best free night awards and largely ignoring other ways to redeem points, you can enjoy some valuable free nights as a reward for your loyalty.
Note: This content is not provided by American Express. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express.
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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.