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As one of the largest hospitality companies in the world, Hilton spans over 120 countries with more than 7,100 properties. Its 19 brands cover travelers from casual and contemporary to resorts and luxury. With over 100 years of history, Hilton carries global recognition and with that, has a generous loyalty program known as Hilton Honors. With multiple ways to earn and redeem points, we will take an in-depth look into their program to see if this program is a good fit for your travel and hospitality needs.
Hilton Hotels & Resorts, formerly known as Hilton Hotels, was founded in 1919 by Conrad Hilton. His first property, the Mobley Hotel, was located in Cisco, Texas and almost never came to be. Prior to purchasing the hotel, Hilton was originally going to pursue buying a bank. You could argue he ultimately made the right choice as Hilton has since flourished into a staple in the hospitality industry.
While the Mobley Hotel was the first Hilton property, the first Hilton-branded hotel was the Dallas Hilton, which opened six years later in 1925. As growth continues to this day, the Hilton brand seeks to cover a variety of housing options, ranging from luxurious full service hotels to extended stay suites. From that original hotel purchase in 1919 Hilton’s expansion has been vast, spanning six continents and over 6,000-plus properties.
Its loyalty program, Hilton Honors, was started in 1987. Since its creation, Hilton has evolved and created multiple ways to earn and spend reward points. Notably, American Express and Hilton Honors introduced their first co-branded credit card in 1995, which allowed cardholders to earn Hilton Honors points on everyday purchases.
Hilton covers the full gamut of travel needs for its customers. Its brands include:
Hilton Member and Elite Benefits
The Hilton Honors program is easy and free to join on its website, Hilton.com. As a base member of Hilton Honors, you get the following benefits:
- Guaranteed Hilton Honors Discount rate on paid stays
- Points-earning ability which can be used toward free nights, travel partners and more
- No resort fees on reward stays
- Digital check-in
- Choose your room (as available at check-in)
- Digital Key with your smart device
- Free WiFi, where applicable
- Access to exclusive Hilton Honors Experiences
Hilton Honors has three additional tiers offering more perks and benefits. Along with the base member benefits, higher tier members receive the following:
You can earn status with Hilton in multiple ways. Silver tier can be earned with 10 nights, 4 stays or 25,000 base points earned in a calendar year. Gold tier can be entered with 40 nights, 20 stays or 75,000 base points earned. Finally, Diamond tier can be earned with 60 nights, 30 1 stays or 120,000 base points earned.
If you have status with another hotel brand, you can fast track your Hilton status by using their status match program. Hilton doesn’t explicitly state which competing hotel status qualifies but if you want to earn Hilton status quickly, it’s worth applying for the status match.
To apply, send the required status documentation with another hotel loyalty program. If you’re accepted for the status match,you will be immediately upgraded to Hilton Gold status for 90 days. You can keep your Gold status for the remainder of the membership year by staying eight nights within your 90 day trial period. Stay an additional six nights within the 90 day trial period and you’ll earn Diamond status for the rest of the membership year.
Under the current status match promotion, status will be maintained through March 31, 2024. The Hilton status match offer can only be used once during the lifetime of your Hilton membership so be sure to use the status match when it would be of most use to you.
Earning Hilton Honors Points
To earn Hilton Honors points, having a Hilton Honors account is required. There are varying ways to earn points, and we’ll touch on the primary ways to earn.
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The most traditional way to earn hotel points is to stay with Hilton when you travel. You can earn 10 base Hilton Honors points per dollar spent with the Hilton portfolio on your room rate and other eligible charges, such as telephone calls and room service. There are a couple of exceptions: At Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites by Hilton, you only earn on the room rate. At Home2 Suites by Hilton and Tru by Hilton, you earn 5 base points per dollar on the room rate.
Having status will also grant you bonus points on your stay. Silver members earn a 20% bonus while Gold and Diamond members earn 80% and 100% bonus points respectively. Some stays do not earn points, including third- party bookings, reward stays and group rate packages. Third party bookings would include reservations made through online travel agencies, such as Expedia or Priceline. In short, if you book on Hilton.com, by calling Hilton or on their mobile app, your booking qualifies to earn points.
In addition to status bonus multipliers, Hilton often offers limited-time promotions where staying a designated number of nights can yield additional points. These promotions often require registration before any nights are counted, so keep an eye on your inbox for these offers.
Milestone Bonuses allow Gold and Diamond members to earn extra Hilton Honors points by staying a certain number of eligible nights.
After 40 nights, members get a bonus of 10,000 Hilton Honors points. From that point on, members earn an extra 10,000 points after every 10 nights with no cap during 2023. After staying 60 nights total, members receive an extra 30,000 Hilton Honors points on top of the Milestone Bonus 10,000 points.
Award stays and points and cash stays are considered eligible stays and count towards the Milestone Bonuses promotion.
Credit Card Spending
An easy way to earn Hilton Honors points is to use one of its co-branded credit cards. American Express issues four Hilton credit cards, three personal and one business. Hilton’s co-branded credit cards also are a great way to quickly obtain status. Top-tier Diamond status is a benefit of the Hilton Honors Aspire Card, while cardholders of the Hilton Surpass Card and the Hilton Honors Business Card get automatic Gold status.
Link your Hilton Honors account to Lyft and you can earn 2 or 3 points per dollar depending on ride type. Or if ride-sharing isn’t for you, qualifying car rentals with Alamo, Enterprise and National earn Hilton points.
Hilton’s partnership with Virgin Atlantic allows you to convert Virgin points into Hilton Honors points. Virgin points can be transferred to Hilton at a 2:3 ratio with a minimum 10,000 point transfer. That means a transfer of 10,000 Virgin points will result in 15,000 Hilton Honors points. In general, this is not a great point value and only make sense to top off your account for an award.
Membership Rewards Transfer
American Express Membership Rewards partners with Hilton Honors. You can exchange your Membership Rewards for Hilton Honors points at a 1:2 ratio.
While American Express will offer transfer bonuses periodically, it’s generally not a good choice to transfer your more flexible Membership Rewards for Hilton Honors points unless you have an immediate, specific and valuable Hilton redemption in mind.
Hilton Honors Dining
Hilton Honors Dining gives you the opportunity to earn additional Hilton Honors points at select dining partners. It is completely free to join and it is as easy as signing up, linking a debit or credit card and using that card at participating dining partners.
For earning rates, Basic members earn 2 Hilton Honors points per dollar spent if you opt out of email communications from Hilton Honors Dining. Opting in automatically bumps you to Select member status, earning 5 points per dollar spent. Having 11 qualified transactions (and opting into email communication) bump you to VIP status, earning 8 points per dollar.
Buying Hilton Points
Hilton sells points at a rate of 1 cent per point with an annual maximum purchase of 80,000 Hilton Honors points. The minimum purchase is 1,000 Hilton Honors points. Periodically, Hilton has promotions where you receive bonus points when you purchase points, e.g. 80% or 100% in additional points.
Redeeming Hilton Honors Points
The most rewarding part of earning miles and points is the ability to redeem them for dream trips. Hilton’s points are not regarded as carrying a high per point “value”, but with a multitude of ways of accumulating points, being able to get a good return is not uncommon. Beyond free hotel nights, Hilton Honors points can be used towards other travel costs, such as car rentals, experiences and even Amazon.com purchases. We’ll touch on many and determine if they’re a good use of your points.
Before diving into how to book award stays, it’s important to have a base understanding of what a good “value” is for each point. This may be referred to as ‘cpp’, or cents per point. In other words, cpp is the cash cost of the hotel divided by the number of award points needed to book that hotel. For example, if a room costs $150 per night or 30,000 Hilton Honors points, we would calculate:
This is placing a value of your points used as 1 point = $0.005, or 0.5 cents per point. Generally speaking, the higher the cpp, the better the value. Obtaining a cpp of at least 0.5 for each Hilton Honors point would be ideal, though not always possible. At the end of the day, the valuation of your points is up to you. With that said, let’s book an award night.
The most valuable use of your points will be redeeming them for free nights. While Hilton doesn’t publish an award chart, it does offer a Points Explorer tool. On this tool’s web interface, use the slider to designate a maximum number of points you’d like to use per night and enter where you’d like to book.
From there, you can check availability. This tool is especially useful if you don’t know your specific dates and would like to get a general idea of how far your points can get you.
If you have a particular property in mind but are flexible about dates, you can search individual hotels by flexible dates using the monthly calendar. If you’re fixed on your dates but not the property, you can opt to search in the top search bar at hilton.com and select “Use Points” under the Special Rate tab.
Select a property to see available rooms and their associated cost.
In this example, a Superior Two Queen Room with Terrace is 120,000 points per night, or $965 per night for the Hilton member rate ($1,166.49 after taxes and fees). To calculate the cents per point on this redemption, divide the cost (in cents) by the total points (1166.49/120000) which comes out to 0.97 cents per point, an excellent redemption for Hilton.
You can use a mix of points and money if you don’t have enough points or simply want to save some of your points for another redemption.
Hilton also allows you to book premium rooms using Hilton Honors points. These rates are typically exorbitant and represent terrible value. In the example above, the premium room with a view charges so many Hilton Honors points that the redemption value works out to 0.34 cents per point.
It’s important to note that while there are no resort fees on award stays, you’re on the hook for them if you use cash + points.
Fifth Night Free
As a bonus, Hilton offers a fifth night free on award stays if you have Silver status or higher. Booking four nights with points costs the same as booking five nights on points and applies on stays of up to 20 nights. That means you can get a maximum of four nights free on a 20 night stay.
Hilton has over 30 travel partners including Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic that allow you to exchange your Hilton Honors points for their respective miles. In most cases, this is not a good use of your Hilton points due to the low conversion rate. For example, 10,000 Hilton points would transfer to 1,000 Delta SkyMiles. We estimate that 10,000 Hilton Honors points are worth $50 while the 1,000 Delta Skymiles would only be worth around $12. Unless you have a very specific use for the Delta Skymiles, such as topping up your account in order to make an award redemption, transferring is a bad idea.
Transfers can be initiated online. You will need to add your frequent flyer information on Hilton to complete the transfer.
Hilton Honors Experiences offers unique opportunities to use your points in fixed-rate redemptions and bidding options. Experiences include sporting events, concerts, spa and massage sessions and restaurant tastings.. They are truly global experiences with activities worldwide. Most experiences will require you to secure your own travel to the location, but it is explicitly noted on each experience’s landing page what you’re responsible for.
Pay with Points at Amazon
Linking your Hilton Honors account to Amazon will give you the ability to use your points to cover your Amazon purchases. At checkout, you will be informed how many points are needed to cover the purchase and you can opt to partially or fully cover the purchase.
While it is nice to have the added flexibility of using points beyond travel, this option should be avoided if possible. Hilton Honors points are redeemed at 500 Hilton Honors points per dollar or 0.2 cpp on Amazon purchases, which isn’t an ideal use of points compared to hotel night redemptions where you can get many times this value.
Hilton has a feature unique among hotel programs: the ability to pool your points with up to ten friends and family members in order to save up for a giant redemption. This is especially useful if you and your “Player 2” each get a new credit card’s welcome bonus.
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Hilton carries a strong global recognition with a multitude of brands under its umbrella to give its guests options. With the ability to quickly obtain status, it’s easy to get added perks and benefits to your hotel stays whether it’s an overnight stay or week-long vacation. Hilton’s broad range of co-branded credit cards helps accelerate points accumulation. These features combine to make Hilton Honors a powerhouse among hotel points programs.
To view rates and fees for The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card please visit this page.
To view rates and fees for Hilton Honors American Express Card please visit this page.