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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express
There’s been plenty of change within the Hilton Honors loyalty program in 2017. We knew the Citi co-branded card partnership was ending and just saw the rather stunning new lineup of American Express Hilton cards to be released next year. At the beginning of the year we saw the name change from HHonors to Honors, the introduction of Points & Money rewards and the ability to pool points with friends and family.
Ahead of launching a handful of new cards in January 2018, Hilton and Amex are offering an exclusive, higher-than-ever sign-up bonus on the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express. You can earn up to 125,000 Honors points when you sign up for this card through The Points Guy. You’ll earn 100,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months and an additional 25,000 points after spending another $1,000 in the first six months.
With this sign-up bonus in mind, today I’ll show you four ways to redeem 125,000 Honors points for real value.
1. Subsidize Stays at Luxury Properties
With top-tier Hilton hotels costing 95,000 points for a standard room (and more when a standard room isn’t available), 125,000 points won’t go very far toward a lengthy, free vacation. Instead, you can utilize the new Points & Money rewards to subsidize your stay and make it more affordable. Four nights in a standard room at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island will cost you a rather hefty amount:
Using your 125,000 points to subsidize that cost not only earns you above the value of a single free night, but it also lowers the taxes and pesky service charge:
In this example, 125,000 points saves you exactly $1,386, giving you an outstanding redemption value of 1.1 cents per point; nearly twice TPG’s valuation of 0.6 cents per point.
2. Five Nights in Waikiki for $500
While there are certainly plenty of luxury properties in Hawaii, first-time visitors are often looking for a more practical option for experiencing Oahu, Pearl Harbor and Honolulu. If you’re on a budget but can earn 125,000 Hilton points with the Hilton Surpass Card, you could stay at the Hilton Waikiki Beach for 25,000 points and ~$99 per night.
My favorite thing about this property is that it doesn’t charge a resort fee! It’s a block from the beach in the middle of Waikiki, meaning everything’s easily accessible for first-time visitors to Hawaii. It has a pool, a 24/7 restaurant and rooms with ocean views. $500 and 125,000 points for five nights, with no added resort fee, is a great deal.
3. Five Free Nights at Universal Orlando For Hilton Honors Elite Members
If you have Silver, Gold or Diamond Hilton Honors status, you’ll receive the fifth night of your stay for no points on any award stay booked completely with points. Hilton elite status is relatively easy to earn via credit cards — the Hilton Surpass Card and Platinum Card from American Express include complimentary Gold status, and the no-fee Hilton Honors Card from American Express offers Silver.
With 125,000 points and any level of elite status, you need to find a property that costs 30,000 points per night and book a five-night stay. The total will come to 120,000 points for the entire stay. One of the best family properties I found for 30,000 points is the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at the Entrance to Universal Orlando. DoubleTrees are generally very comfortable properties, and this location is hard to beat for a young adult or family vacation.
The property is within walking distance to Universal Studios and has a pool, four restaurants, scheduled transportation to SeaWorld and Aquatica and no resort fees. There are plenty of services in Orlando that you can schedule to come pick you up and take you to the other theme parks in attractions in the area, including Disney.
4. Redeem for Honors Experiences
There are still hidden gems deep inside the websites of large loyalty programs. Hilton auctions off “redemption experiences” that are divided into music and cultural categories. I often look at the auctions when they’re a day or two from closing and usually cannot believe the low amount of points that some experiences sell for.
While there are some great concert tickets, I find the real value for my points with the cultural experiences. There’s currently a “Discover the Wudang Taoist Culture in Shiyan” experience bidding at 50,000 points.
- Wudang Taoist Tea Art and Chinese Zither performance upon arrival
- Round-trip transportation to/from Wudang Mountains
- Guided tour of Wudang Mountains
- Tai Chi Health Food dining experience and Tai Chi course
- Two night stay in a Deluxe Mountain View King room at DoubleTree by Hilton Shiyan
- Transportation to/from Wudangshan Airport
I’ve seen incredible experiences like this — often including two nights or more at very nice Hilton properties — go for less than 125,000 points. These are not marketed very well and your competition for the lesser-known destinations is usually very small.
Finding luxury properties and earning over 1 cent point via Points & Money Rewards is going to be your best bet for maximizing 125,000 Hilton points earned via the Hilton Surpass Card or through other methods. If you can find lower-priced award properties at a destination you want to visit for five nights, make sure you pick up Hilton elite status and get a fifth night free.
Many award travelers have shunned Hilton Honors because of the high cost of many standard rooms, and while it can be a challenge to find value, it’s still worth maintaining a balance of Honors points. Especially with the Surpass Card offering an easy way to quickly earn 125,000 points, you could be closer to some great redemptions than you think.
Featured image courtesy of Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.