The award traveler’s guide to Hilton Honors
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With more than 6,100 hotels in 118 countries across 18 brands, Hilton likely has a property to suit your needs when you hit the road. And, when you combine this large global footprint with a strong portfolio of Hilton Honors credit cards and points that are relatively easy to earn and redeem, Hilton Honors makes a strong case for being the best hotel rewards program out there.
Here is an in-depth look into the Hilton Honors program for award travelers.
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Elite status levels
Hilton offers four tiers within its Hilton Honors loyalty program. You’ll become a member just for signing up for the program. Plus, there are three elevated Hilton Honors elite status tiers: Silver, Gold and Diamond.
Hilton Honors Member
Anyone who signs up for the Hilton Honors program is automatically given Hilton Honors Member tier status. Member tier guests get the following benefits:
- Free standard internet in your room and the lobby during stays
- No resort fees on reward stays
- Ability to request a late checkout
- A second guest can stay in your room for free at hotels that charge extra for double occupancy
- Access to the Hilton Honors Member discount rate
- Choose your room from available rooms up to 24 hours in advance
- Use digital check-in and digital key
On top of these benefits, Hilton Honors Members earn five base points per dollar spent at Tru and Home2 brands and 10 base points per dollar spent at all other Hilton properties. TPG’s valuations peg the value of Hilton Honors points at 0.6 cents each. So, just by signing up for the Hilton Honors program, you’ll get a 3% return at Tru and Home2 brands and a 6% return at other Hilton brands as a Hilton Honors Member.
Hilton Honors Silver
You can earn Hilton Honors Silver status after four stays, 10 nights or 25,000 base points in a calendar year. On top of the benefits available to all Hilton Honors members, Hilton Honors Silver members also get the following perks:
- Fifth night free on award stays booked solely with points
- 20% bonus on base points earned on every stay
- Elite roll-over nights
- Two bottles of water per stay at select properties
Due to the 20% bonus, Hilton Honors Silver members earn six points per dollar spent at Tru and Home2 brands (five base points + one bonus point) and 12 points per dollar spent at all other Hilton properties (10 base points + two bonus points). Based on TPG’s valuations, this means Silver members get a 3.6% return at Tru and Home2 brands and a 7.2% return at other Hilton brands.
How to get Hilton Silver status with a credit card
Cardholders of the Hilton Honors American Express Card are given Hilton Honors Silver status as a card benefit. This card has no annual fee (see rates and fees), but currently offers a bonus of 75,000 Hilton Honors points (worth $450 according to TPG’s valuations) after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership.
Hilton Honors Gold
You’ll earn Hilton Honors Gold status after 20 stays, 40 nights or 75,000 base points accrued in a calendar year. On top of the benefits available to Hilton Honors Silver members, Hilton Honors Gold members also get the following benefits:
- Free continental breakfast for you and another guest registered to your room, either as a My Way member benefit or as a brand amenity
- Space-available room upgrades, all the way up to the executive level
- Milestone bonuses: Earn 10,000 bonus points every 10 nights after you’ve stayed 40 nights in a calendar year
- 80% bonus on base points earned on every stay
Due to the 80% bonus, Hilton Honors Gold members earn nine points per dollar spent at Tru and Home2 brands and 18 points per dollar spent at all other Hilton properties. Based on TPG’s valuations, this means Gold members get a 5.4% return at Tru and Home2 brands and a 10.8% return at other Hilton brands.
How to get Hilton Gold status through credit cards
Cardholders of the following American Express cards automatically get Hilton Honors Gold status for as long as they keep their card account open:
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: $95 annual fee (see rates and fees)
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: $95 annual fee (see rates and fees)
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: $550 annual fee (see rates and fees)
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: $595 annual fee (see rates and fees)
Additionally, cardholders of the Hilton Honors American Express Card can earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year by spending $20,000 on the card in a calendar year.
Hilton Honors Diamond
You can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status after 30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 base points accrued in a calendar year. In addition to Gold benefits, Hilton Diamond members also get the following perks:
- Space-available room upgrades all the way up to a one-bedroom suite
- Executive lounge access for you and up to one other guest registered to your room
- Premium Wi-Fi
- 48-hour room guarantee if you reach out at least 48 hours before your stay
- Elite status gifting: If you hit 60 nights in the calendar year, you can gift Gold status to any member and if you hit 100 nights then that gift is upgraded to Diamond
- 100% bonus on base points earned on every stay
Due to the 100% bonus, Hilton Honors Diamond members earn 10 points per dollar spent at Tru and Home2 brands and 20 points per dollar spent at all other Hilton properties. Based on TPG’s valuations, this means Diamond members get a 6% return at Tru and Home2 brands and a 12% return at other Hilton brands.
TPG values Hilton Honors Diamond status at $3,025 per year primarily due to the bonus earnings, space-available room upgrades, milestone bonuses and free breakfast.
How to get Hilton Diamond status through credit cards
Some of the Hilton Honors credit cards that offer complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status as a benefit also allow you to spend your way to Hilton Honors Diamond status. Specifically, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card both offer an upgrade to Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year when you spend $40,000 on your card in a calendar year.
Meanwhile, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card offers complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status as long as you keep the card account open. The Hilton Aspire currently offers a welcome bonus of 150,000 Hilton Honors points (worth $900 by TPG’s valuations) after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership. The card has a $450 annual fee (see rates and fees) but includes many perks that can justify the annual fee.
Status match to Gold and challenge to Diamond
Hilton Honors frequently offers a status match to Hilton Honors Gold with a challenge to keep Gold status or upgrade to Hilton Honors Diamond status.
Currently, you can request a status match to Hilton Honors Gold and experience how Hilton Honors Gold Members travel for the following 90 days. If you stay 10 nights within your 90 day trial period, you can keep Gold status through March 31, 2022. And, if you stay 18 nights within your 90 day trial period, Hilton will upgrade your status to Diamond through March 31, 2022.
However, you’ll want to time your status match carefully since the terms and conditions often state that only members who have not previously completed a status match challenge are eligible.
Related reading: What are hotel and airline status matches and how do you get one?
Which bookings are eligible for Hilton elite benefits?
You usually won’t get access to elite benefits and earning when you don’t book directly with a hotel brand. Luckily, the Hilton Honors terms and conditions state that bookings through the following channels will be eligible for on-property Hilton Honors benefits:
- Any official direct Hilton hotel brand or Hilton Honors website
- Hilton Reservations & Customer Care phone line
- Hilton Honors or Hilton mobile application
- Directly at a hotel in the Hilton Portfolio
- Through an IATA accredited retail travel agent professional booking through a Hilton channel or the following Global Distribution Systems: Amadeus, Apollo/Galileo, Worldspan and SABRE
The Hilton Honors terms and conditions also note that on-property benefits will not be awarded in the following circumstances:
- Reservations booked through a non-Hilton-direct booking channel or a non-designated GDS, third party website or any other channel
- Rates available on “opaque” websites where the hotel brand and specific hotel are not known until the booking is made
- Third-party hotel packages or travel packages not booked through one of the eligible channels
- Any ineligible stay, including but not limited to wholesale/tour operator packages, contracted crew rates and travel agency discount rates, as defined in the Hilton Honors terms and conditions
So, if you’re looking to get elite earnings and benefits on a stay, you’ll want to book through an eligible channel.
Related reading: Booking direct: How much value does Hilton status provide?
Ways to earn Hilton points
As with most hotel loyalty programs, there are many ways to earn Hilton points. Although you can earn some points through Hilton Honors partners, most travelers earn the majority of their points by staying at Hilton properties or through credit card spending.
Here’s a quick overview of some popular ways to earn Hilton points.
You’ll earn at least 10 Hilton Honors base points for every dollar you spend at most Hilton brands, although you’ll only earn five base points per dollar spent at Home2 Suites and Tru by Hilton. You can earn base points on up to four rooms per stay and you’ll earn base points on all eligible charges you make to these rooms.
You’ll also earn bonus points based on your Hilton Honors status tier. Specifically, Silver members earn a 20% bonus, Gold members earn an 80% bonus and Diamond members earn a 100% bonus.
Hilton Honors periodically offers promotions that can allow you to earn bonus points on hotel stays. Currently, Hilton is offering its Hilton Points Unlimited promotion, which allows you to earn 2,000 points per stay plus an additional 10,000 bonus points after every 10 nights when you register and then stay between Jan. 6 and Sept.7, 2020.
Related reading: How to get elite status perks for multiple hotel rooms
Credit card spending
Credit card spending will likely be your best bet to earning a large sum of Hilton Honors points. Between sizable welcome bonuses and high category bonuses, it’s relatively easy to earn Hilton points quickly using Hilton Honors credit cards.
My favorite Hilton Honors credit card is the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. Although the card does have a $450 annual fee (see rates and fees), it comes packed with benefits that can justify this annual fee even if you stay with Hilton just a few times each year.
The Hilton Aspire comes with a welcome bonus of 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership. Based on TPG’s valuations, this welcome bonus is worth $900. Plus, the card offers solid bonus categories:
- Earn 14x points at hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio (8.4% return based on TPG’s valuations)
- Earn 12x points at U.S. supermarkets from May 1, 2020, through July 31, 2020 (7.2% return)
- Earn 7x points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, and on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies (4.2% return)
- Earn 7x points at U.S. restaurants (4.2% return)
- Earn 3x points on all other purchases (1.8% return)
In terms of card perks, you’ll get complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status and up to $250 in statement credits each year of card membership for use at participating Hilton Resorts (these statement credits can also be used at U.S. restaurants from June through August 2020). Plus, you’ll get one weekend night reward with your new card and every year after renewal, as well as the ability to earn a second weekend night reward after you spend $60,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year. And, you’ll temporarily have more flexibility when using these weekend night rewards.
Related reading: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire credit card review
The Hilton Surpass currently offers a welcome bonus of 125,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership. Based on TPG’s valuations, this bonus is worth $750. With the Hilton Surpass you’ll earn:
- Earn 12x points at hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio (7.2% return based on TPG’s valuations)
- Earn 6x points at U.S. supermarkets (3.6% return) normally, but earn 12x points at U.S. supermarkets from May 1, 2020, through July 31, 2020 (7.2% return)
- Earn 6x points at U.S. gas stations and U.S. restaurants (3.6% return)
- Earn 3x points on all other purchases (1.8% return)
Hilton Surpass cardholders get complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status as well as the ability to earn Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year after spending $40,000 in a calendar year. You’ll get 10 Priority Pass lounges visits each Priority Pass Membership year once enrolled. And, you can earn a Free Weekend Night Reward after spending $15,000 on your card in a calendar year.
Finally, if you’re looking for a no annual fee credit card, the no annual fee Hilton Honors Card from American Express may be right for you (see rates and fees). This card currently offers a welcome bonus of 75,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership. Based on TPG’s valuations, this bonus is worth $450.
Cardholders of the Hilton Amex get complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status as well as the ability to earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year by spending $20,000 on their card in a calendar year. Plus, the Hilton Amex offers the following bonus categories for spending:
- Earn 7x points at hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio (4.2% return based on TPG’s valuations)
- Earn 5x points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations (3% return)
- Earn 3x points on all other purchases (1.8% return)
Related reading: The best hotel credit cards
You can also get Hilton Honors points by transferring American Express Membership Rewards to Hilton Honors at a 1:2 ratio. The program does run transfer bonuses from time to time. But, since TPG values Amex points at two cents per point and Hilton Honors points at 0.6 cents per point, even transferring during a bonus period usually won’t make sense.
Related reading: A guide to earning transferable points and why they’re so valuable
By linking your Hilton Honors account with your Lyft account, you can earn 3x Hilton points on Lyft rides (economy, luxury and extra seats) and 2x points on shared Lyft rides. You can earn Hilton points on up to $10,000 of Lyft spending per calendar year.
You can also earn Hilton points on select Alamo, Enterprise and National car rentals. Specifically, you can earn 500 Hilton points for every completed qualifying rental. And, you can earn an additional 500 Hilton points per rental day, up to 4,500 bonus points, per qualifying rental reserved through Hilton on or after Jan. 1, 2020 and completed by Dec. 31, 2020. Based on TPG’s valuations, 500 Hilton points are worth $3.
Finally, by creating an account and linking a credit or debit card to Hilton Honors Dining, you can earn between 2x and 8x at participating restaurants for a 1.2% to 4.8% return based on TPG’s valuations. Note that these points are on top of the points you might earn from your credit card or the restaurant’s loyalty program.
Related reading: Earn bonus points with dining rewards programs
Buy Hilton points
Hilton generally sells points for one cent each and allows you to purchase up to 80,000 points a year. However, during some Hilton buy points promotions, you may be able to purchase a larger amount of points for as low as 0.5 cents apiece.
Related reading: When does it make sense to buy points and miles?
Redeeming Hilton points
Generally speaking, the best way to redeem hotel points is for free nights at the program’s participating properties. And, this is certainly true when it comes to redeeming Hilton Honors points. But, here’s an overview of all of your options for redeeming Hilton points.
Hilton doesn’t publish an award chart. But, you can use the Points Explorer tool to search for properties based on location and the number of points you’re willing to spend per night.
Once you’ve searched by location and points amount, you can filter your results based on the brand. Here’s a sample search for Florida properties that have been booked recently for 25,000 points or less per night.
Although Hilton’s Points Explorer tool can be useful for trip planning, the current prices at which you can book may vary from what is shown in the Points Explorer. This is because the Points Explorer uses historical data instead of current data. So, you’ll want to check the current points cost using Hilton’s normal booking search engine before getting too excited about a particular property.
Although Hilton doesn’t have a published award chart, the value you can get from your Hilton points when redeeming for a free night will vary. For example, let’s take the Conrad New York Midtown. On a random date I checked, the rate is $528 plus $84 of taxes for one night, or 95,000 Hilton Honors points. Although 95,000 Hilton points is a lot to spend for a night in New York City, you would get a value of 0.64 cents per point — which is above TPG’s valuation of Hilton points at 0.6 cents each.
But, you may get a much worse value for your points on some redemptions. For example, the H Hotel Los Angeles, Curio Collection by Hilton is asking roughly $156 for a room on that same date ($134 + $22 in taxes). However, they want 43,000 points for that exact room, giving a redemption value of just 0.36 cents per point. That is incredibly low and likely not worth your hard-earned points.
Note that you also have the ability to redeem your points for upgraded accommodations. When you are looking at Pay with Points options for a room, you’ll usually see that some rooms cost more than others.
While redeeming for a premium room might not represent the best value, it can be nice for families in need of a larger room or couples who want an ocean view from their room.
Related reading: Maximizing redemptions with Hilton Honors
Points & money rewards
Redeeming for a free night award using Points & Money allows you to stretch your points. Instead of paying all points for a free night, you can use a combination of cash and points. Unlike other programs, you can even adjust the ratio in increments of 1,000 points using a sliding tool.
In the case above, I’d be able to pay $45 to save 10,000 points, which values these points at 0.45 cents each.
You can also redeem your Hilton points for select on-property rewards. For example, you can redeem your points for Hilton Hawaii dollars. If you do so, 25,000 Hilton points can become $50 to use when you stay or visit the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort in Oahu or the Hilton Waikoloa Village on Hawaii’s Big Island. However, this only yields a value of 0.2 cents per point, which is well below TPG’s valuation of 0.6 cents per point.
You can also redeem Hilton points to book golf tee times and daily golf academies in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Florida, South Carolina and Puerto Rico. In general, a tee time will cost you between 25,000 and 35,000 Hilton points, while a day at the gold academy will cost you between 60,000 and 100,000 Hilton points.
You can transfer your points to or from Amtrak Rewards, but you’ll lose a good bit of value in the process. You can also transfer airline miles from more than 40 carriers to Hilton, but you’ll usually need to transfer at least 10,000 miles at a time and the transfer ratios aren’t favorable.
You can also redeem your Hilton points toward car rentals, Shop with Points at Amazon and Lyft rides. But, you’ll usually only get about 0.2 cents per point on these redemptions. So, I’d recommend avoiding all of these travel rewards options.
Related reading: How to earn and redeem points with Hilton Honors partners
Hilton Honors Experiences
If you’re looking for a non-hotel award with potentially solid value, you can also redeem points for various experiences through Hilton Honors Experiences. Some experiences can simply be purchased using a set amount of points, while other experiences are sold in an auction format.
Currently, Hilton Honors Experiences in the U.S. are relatively limited with only two dining experiences at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, California being offered. But, the options and types of experience available tend to change often. So, it’s worth checking the website frequently to see what types of experiences may appear.
Related reading: Unlock VIP event access with your credit cards
Finally, you can donate your points to any of the 30 charities supported by Hilton. For every 10,000 Hilton points you donate, Hilton will send a $25 contribution to the charity you choose. Note that donating your points gets a value of 0.25 cents per point, which is well below TPG’s valuation of 0.6 cents per point.
Related reading: The best credit cards to maximize your nonprofit donation
Award booking process
Booking award nights through the Hilton website is easy. From the homepage, type in your destination, dates and number of guests. But, before clicking “Find a Hotel,” click on “Special Rates” and check the “Use Points” box.
Once you click “Find a Hotel,” the award rates for your stay will appear in the search results.
If you want to compare other rates to award rates, you can click on a specific property to see award rates and other rates for each room type. This allows you to quickly decide if it’s worth redeeming points.
You can also use the flexible date search to easily view a month at a time. Once you click the flexible dates box, you will be presented with your list of hotels. Click “View Available Dates” on your preferred hotel and you’ll see a calendar view of how much a stay of your chosen length would cost per night for each check-in date.
I personally aim to only use Hilton points when I can get a redemption rate of 0.6 cents per point or higher. This is in line with TPG’s valuation of Hilton points at 0.6 cents each. But, even if you’re willing to book awards that get a value of fewer than 0.6 cents each for your Hilton points, it’s generally best to aim for an award where the rate is no more than the max listed on the program’s Points Explorer page.
Related reading: Maximizing redemptions with Hilton Honors
Maximizing Hilton points
Here are some of the strategies you can use to get the most value out of your Hilton Honors experience.
Hilton Honors frequently offers promotions that allow you to earn extra points. Currently, you can earn 2,000 points per stay for stays between Jan. 6 to Sept. 7, 2020, through the Hilton Points Unlimited promotion. Plus, you’ll earn an additional 10,000 bonus points after every 10 nights stayed during the promotion.
Related reading: Your complete guide to all current hotel promotions
Fifth night free on awards
As mentioned above, Silver, Gold, and Diamond Hilton Honors members have access to a fifth night free on award stays benefit. This benefit provides every fifth night free for standard room reward stays of five or more nights.
If nights during your stay are priced differently, the free night(s) will be subtracted as the average number of Hilton Honors points needed on each night of the stay. There is no limit on how many times you can use this benefit annually, but no more than four free nights will be awarded per stay.
Related reading: I missed out on a free hotel night — Reader mistake story
Price match guarantee
To incentivize you to book directly with Hilton, Hilton offers a price match guarantee in case you find a lower price elsewhere.
Under this guarantee, if you find a lower price for the same accommodation and terms before making a reservation or within 24 hours of making your reservation through an official Hilton booking channel, Hilton will honor the lower price and take an additional 25% off the room rate for each night of your stay.
When multiple prices for the same accommodations are available through the official Hilton booking channel, you must book the lowest rate to be eligible for the Price Match Guarantee. Hilton’s claim process is easy to use since it auto-populates much of the required information using your Hilton confirmation number.
Related reading: Saving on hotels with a best rate guarantee — Reader success story
Stretch your points at low-category Hilton hotels
You can get a lot of value by redeeming your Hilton points at luxury properties. But, you can also get significant value from your points at low-category Hilton properties. There are many low category Hilton properties internationally, including 5,000 and 10,000-point per night properties in Egypt and Turkey that look impressive. And, there are even some low-category Hilton properties in the U.S. that cost as little as 10,000 points per night.
Frequently asked questions
How much are Hilton points worth?
The value of Hilton points depends on how you plan to redeem your points. However, TPG values Hilton Honors points at 0.6 cents each. This valuation is based on the value you can get when redeeming these points as well as the cost at which TPG would be willing to buy Hilton points.
Related reading: Buying Hilton points saved me $1,000 — Reader success story
How many points do I need for a free night at Hilton?
Hilton doesn’t have an award chart, so the actual number of points required for a free night varies depending on the hotel, time of year and cost of a room. A standard room usually costs between 5,000 and 95,000 Hilton Honors points but may cost as much as 120,000 points at select properties with specialty accommodations. And, premium rooms are bookable for more points than standard rooms at most properties.
How do I get lifetime Diamond status with Hilton?
You can get lifetime Hilton Honors Diamond status by meeting both of the following requirements:
- Earn Hilton Diamond status for 10 (non-consecutive) years
- Complete stays totaling 1,000 paid and reward nights or earn two million base points
Note that you must complete 365 days at Diamond status for it to be counted as a fully completed year.
Which Hilton brands are best?
Hilton has 18 different brands, ranging from luxurious Waldorf Astoria properties to practical, budget-focused Home2 Suites properties designed for extended stays. The best brand for you depends on your needs and preferred style. But the Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, LXR and Curio Collection brands would generally be considered to be Hilton’s best brands.
Related reading: Your ultimate guide to Hilton hotel brands
Do Hilton Honors points expire?
Hilton Honors points normally expire if you don’t have any eligible account activity during any 15 consecutive month period. Eligible account activity that will keep your points from expiring can be any of the following:
- Stay at a hotel within the Hilton Portfolio
- Earn Hilton Honors points through any Hilton Honors partner, including cobranded Hilton Honors credit cards
- Purchase Hilton Honors points
- Donate points through The Hilton Honors Giving Back Program
Related reading: How to keep your points and miles from expiring
As you can see, it’s relatively easy to earn and redeem Hilton Honors points. I’d recommend getting the Hilton Aspire credit card if you stay at Hilton properties at least a few times each year and will be able to get enough value from the card’s perks to justify the card’s annual fee. Having the card will also let you spend to earn Hilton points if needed for an upcoming redemption.
When it comes to redeeming, you’ll get the most value from your Hilton points when you redeem for award nights and in some cases, Hilton Honors Experiences. I try to stay in increments of five nights when using points, since Hilton Silver, Gold and Diamond members get every fifth night free on award stays.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Business Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire, please click here.
Additional reporting by Brett Holzhauer.
Featured image of the Conrad Bora Bora by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.