Maximizing Hilton HHonors Points And Money Redemptions
We asked TPG contributor and resident Hilton guru Nick to demystify Hilton HHonors’ complicated Points + Money Rewards to see how they stack up against other programs like Starwood's Cash & Points, as well as when they can save you points...and money.
In one of my recent posts, I took a close look at two of the newest programs in available to Hilton HHonors members: Premium Room Rewards and Room Upgrade Rewards. Those two new options were accompanied by a third pilot program that has also expanded, though it is still far from being universally offered across the Hilton portfolio. In this post, I'll take a look at this final new program, Points + Money Rewards, that can help you use your hard-earned Hilton HHonors points for free nights.
Points + Money Rewards
This option, similar to Starwood’s Cash & Points awards, allows you to book a free night reward for half of the points normally needed for a free night plus a cash co-pay at Category 2-7 and Waldorf Astoria hotels. Unfortunately, it’s currently only available at certain properties. To add even more confusion (and in sharp contrast to Starwood), there is no master list of Hilton properties that offer this redemption option, so you’re on your own to find them using the regular search online. Fortunately, you can easily tell from a search which properties in a certain city offer this option on your preferred travel dates. Just make sure to check the box for “Use Hilton HHonors Points” when searching, and if a room is available for Points + Money, it’ll be there!
Here’s a screenshot of this in action when searching for a room in Chicago:
Notice that only the standard redemption rate is listed for the Embassy Suites, but the Hilton (Category 7) and the DoubleTree (Category 6), have both the standard rate and the Points + Money rate.
Points + Money awards are capacity controlled (like Starwoods Cash & Points awards), so you might assume that if a standard room is available, it can be booked using either a standard reward or the Points + Money rate. Unfortunately, nothing with Hilton HHonors is ever that easy. Here’s a screenshot of the same three hotels on a different date:
Nothing changes with the reward options at the Embassy or the DoubleTree. However, even though the Hilton Chicago does have standard rooms at 50,000 points, they do not offer any rooms bookable with Points + Money.
Not surprisingly, this all comes down to revenue. When the program first started, the rates were consistent:
6,250 points + $30
12,500 points + $40
15,000 points + $50
17,500 points + $60
20,000 points + $70
25,000 points + $85
30,000 points + $100
I’m sure that hotels began to realize that higher revenue rates = more valuable Points + Money redemptions on those dates. Since Hilton HHonors’ policy of “no blackout dates” doesn’t apply to these new reward options, hotels have been given the freedom to set availability as they see fit. As a result, it won’t be rocket science to guess which two dates below have Points + Money availability at the Hilton Chicago:
Yep, you guessed it! The night of Halloween and November 1 (the two at $161 a night) are the only ones in this date range with Points + Money availability, though many of the other dates nonetheless have standard rooms available for the normal redemption rate of 50,000 points/night.
Of course, the above chart isn’t available online, and to make things even more confusing, it’s not always accurate! Various bloggers and FlyerTalkers have noticed that certain hotels charge a higher co-pay than others in the same category, another marked difference between Hilton and Starwood. For example, a “regular” Category 5 property like the DoubleTree near SeaWorld in Orlando has very good Points + Money availability at the “standard” rate below:
However, try to use the same award at the Conrad Bali:
The co-pay, at $90, is 50% higher! Once again, I’m guessing this comes down to revenue. Since the Conrad Bali has higher paid room rates in general (rightfully so, I might add), they have begun charging higher co-pays for their Points + Money rewards. However, one could argue that this still offers a great value, especially when compared to the standard room rate:
Points Per Night
Points & Money Reward
$268 - $90 = $178
Standard Room Reward
It’s also important to note here that the cash portion of the Points + Money Reward does not count as an eligible expense for earning purposes, but the stay does count toward elite qualification. Both of those are in line with Starwood’s Cash & Points policy.
Just like the Premium Room Rewards discussed in my last post, Points + Money Rewards do not offer GLON discounts for longer stays by Hilton HHonors elite members. As a result, the general consensus is that these rewards are most valuable on stays of three nights or less at hotels with high revenue rates. At the end of the day, however, the decision on what type of reward to use (or whether to even use points at all!) is an individual one. As usual, you must do the math yourself and figure out if you're squeezing enough value out of each point to make the redemption worth it for you.
However, to offer some guidance for those new to Hilton HHonors, I have once again created an Excel spreadsheet that offers one way of valuing the two different options. By following the instructions at the top, you can get an estimate for how “valuable” each option is and a recommendation for which one is best. The example in the spreadsheet shows the same calculations for the Conrad Bali above. A one-night stay at $268/night is “worth” 0.77 cents/point when booked using a standard reward of 35,000 points, but that same stay booked with a Points + Money Reward (17,500 points + $90) is “worth” 1.02 cents/point.
Note that this recommendation is based solely on the best cents/point ratio given the available rates at the hotel. In other words, which option will offer the best discount for the fewest number of points? Everyone has their own inputs for valuing points, so it’s important to use this spreadsheet as one tool to guide your decision-making process.
You can download it here: HHonors Points and Money Spreadsheet
Has anyone utilized this new option and gotten great value out of it? Feel free to comment below!