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TPG reader Don sent me a message on Facebook to ask about Hilton HHonors:
“Should I redeem Hilton HHonors points for flights?”
These days, most loyalty programs offer a variety of ways to redeem your rewards. These extra redemption options can greatly enhance your points and miles — for example, the airline transfer options from Starwood Preferred Guest are a great alternative to booking award nights at Starwood properties. However, many redemption options (like gift cards and merchandise) give you a poor return, and don’t really add value to the program.
Hilton HHonors allows you to swap points for miles with almost all the major domestic airlines (excluding Southwest), and an assortment of international carriers such as Air Canada, British Airways and Singapore Airlines. Unfortunately, the exchange rate is downright miserable. You’ll need 10,000 HHonors points to get just 1,000 miles with most airlines (including Alaska, Delta, JetBlue, United and Virgin America). American, Virgin Atlantic and a few others get you 1,500 miles for 10,000 points, but it’s tough to find good value even at that more favorable rate.
I list Hilton HHonors points at 0.5 cents apiece in my most recent monthly valuations, which means you’d need to get around 3-5 cents per mile (depending on the airline) for converting your points to be worthwhile. Domestic economy flights are typically 25,000 miles round-trip, which equates to around 167,000 HHonors points on American or 250,000 points on other airlines. Your fare would have to be astronomical ($835 at the lower exchange rate or $1,250 at the higher rate) to get a return of 0.5 cents per point. That’s unlikely unless you’re traveling at the last minute, which wouldn’t be viable anyway since transfers can take up to 30 days.
You’re more likely to get decent value on premium awards like Emirates first class (booked through Alaska Mileage Plan) or Cathay Pacific first class (booked through American Airlines AAdvantage). However, you’d be shelling out a huge number of Hilton points, and there are more efficient ways to get those seats.
The only scenario where I think converting makes sense is if you’re simply drowning in HHonors points, you’re short on airline miles or transferable points and you’re getting a good redemption value. Keep in mind that 0.5 cents apiece is just an average; there are certainly more lucrative ways to redeem Hilton HHonors points. If you tend to get good value on Hilton award stays, then you have even more reason to stay away from the flight options.
Check out these posts for more on how to maximize Hilton HHonors:
- The Award Travelers Guide to Hilton HHonors
- 8 Hilton Properties that Make for Awesome Award Redemptions
- Planning a Hawaiian Vacation with Hilton HHonors Points
This card’s sign-up bonus of two free nights can be worth as much as 190,000 points if you redeem them at top-tier properties like the Conrad Maldives, and it also confers automatic Gold status and the ability to earn Diamond status through spending.