8 ways to maximize Hilton Honors redemptions
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The Hilton Honors program has become quite formidable in recent years. While the program doesn’t publish award charts and as a result has variable award pricing with numbers that can get astronomical for ‘premium’ rooms, there are plenty of ways to extract substantial value from the program.
One of Hilton’s strong suits is its expansive portfolio. It’s been doubling down on luxurious Conrad, LXR and Waldorf-Astoria properties in recent years, opening up a broader portfolio for those who adore aspirational stays.
On the other end of the spectrum, Hampton Inn and Hilton Garden Inn allow road-trippers to cash in points on largely satisfactory stays where the property itself takes a back seat to the journey.
There even are some all-inclusive properties available for those looking to really maximize their award stays. Whether you’re planning a close-to-home vacation or a post-pandemic getaway to the other side of the world, Hilton’s portfolio of over 6,200 properties spread across more than 100 countries has you covered.
While we’ve covered the basics of earning Hilton points and how to redeem them, we’ll get a bit more strategic and highlight our favorite ways to make the most of awards with the Hilton Honors program.
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Automatic Diamond elite status
As with any loyalty program, maximization comes easier to those with elite status. At Hilton, Diamond members earn more on stays and receive added perks like complimentary food and beverage credits and room upgrades.
Unlike with most programs, Hilton offers an incredible shortcut to its highest elite tier, Diamond. By simply signing up for and holding the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, you’ll keep Diamond status for as long as you retain the card. Said another way, you can come into the Hilton Honors program, having never spent a single night in a participating property, and this card will rocket you to its highest elite tier.
The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Related: What is Hilton elite status worth?
Not only does this card roll out the red carpet for anyone interested in maximizing their stays with Hilton, but it also nets you 14 Hilton bonus points per dollar at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton portfolio. Stack that with the 100% point bonus for Hilton stays as a Diamond member (20 points per dollar spent at most Hilton brands) and you’ll be earning a total of 34 points per dollar on most Hilton stays — a whopping 20.4% return based on TPG valuations.
It also unlocks the fifth night free on award stays (more on that later), a perk that is only extended to members with elite status in the Hilton Honors program.
While the $450 annual fee (see rates & fees) may seem steep, we value Diamond status at well over that price. The card also comes with annual free night certificates, airline fee credits and Hilton resort statement credits. If that’s not enough, here are seven more reasons why you should have the Amex Hilton Aspire in your wallet.
Enrollment is required for select benefits.
Big welcome bonuses
If you’re thinking about your next redemption, there are several solid offers on Amex’s cobranded Hilton Honors cards that will significantly boost your Hilton balance. Many of them are even offering elevated welcome bonuses.
For instance, with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, you can currently earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, you can earn up to $130 in statement credits on eligible purchases made on the card at any of the Hilton family hotels in the first 12 months of membership.
For a more budget-friendly redemption, you could enjoy a tropical escape at the Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo Doubletree on the Big Island in Hawaii, which starts at 35,000 points per night. The DoubleTree by Hilton Williamsburg is another great option, which usually costs around 27,000 points per night. Or you can stay at an all-inclusive property like the Hilton Rose Hall Resort from around 60,000 points per night based on double occupancy.
Related: The best hotel credit cards
Standard room rewards
While Hilton no longer has a published award chart, standard (base-level) room rewards are generally capped at specific amounts – in most cases, between 5,000 and 95,000 points per night. However, the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi may price as high as 150,000 points for a standard night.
When you see these in multiples of 5,000 or 10,000 points, that may mean revenue rates are high, like in this example of the Hampton Inn Manhattan-Times Square North.
With taxes and fees, your Honors Discount rate comes to $984.
However, award rates are variable as paid rates drop. This same room is available for just 36,000 points in March ($115 with taxes and fees).
What’s important to note here is that fewer points for a room isn’t always the best value. In the above example, it’s not difficult to see that 70,000 points are higher than the 36,000 points charged in March.
However, due to the cash rate being so high on New Year’s Eve, you could easily yield well over one cent per Hilton point by paying for that room with points rather than cash. TPG values Hilton Honors points at 0.6 cents apiece, so you’d be getting more than double the value compared to what we typically see from Hilton redemptions.
In the cheaper example, it’s a worse value to use points compared to cash. Redeeming 36,000 Honors points for a $135 all-in room nets you under 0.4 cents per point in value. In that scenario, you could be better off paying cash, earning points on the stay and pocketing those points for a later date when cash rates are through the roof.
Long story short: Try to look for award stays where the standard room rewards are in an increment of 10,000 points. That’s a potential indicator that you’ll be getting substantial value for your points. Even if you’re paying the peak rate, you could be getting terrific value if cash rates are also high.
Premium room rewards
While some hotel chains reserve premium rooms for cash purchasers, Hilton opens up its premium rooms and suites for redemption via Honors points. You’ll find premium room rewards at virtually any Hilton property on any night, even the ultra-luxe Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi.
The only issue? Hilton charges a whole lot for these rooms. Given that there’s no award chart, Hilton prices its premium room rewards fully dynamically (and indeed, stratospherically).
Looking to use points to secure a king overwater pool villa Conrad Bora Bora Nui? You can do it, but you may want to have a seat before parting ways with over one million Honors points per night.
Still, you can find deals during off-peak times, and it’s useful to have the option when you need to confirm a special room or spacious suite. When the award prices are a bit more down-to-earth, it can be an especially appealing option for families when a standard hotel room just won’t cut it.
Related: The best Hilton resorts for families
Fifth night free
As previously noted, Hilton allows all of its elite members to get the fifth night free on award stays.
This isn’t just available to upper-tier elite members; Silver, Gold and Diamond Hilton Honors travelers can utilize this perk. Remember that you can achieve Hilton’s lowest status tier, Silver, by merely holding the no-annual-fee Hilton Honors American Express Card (see rates & fees).
And if you don’t have a Hilton cobranded card, see below for all the welcome offers currently available, all of which come with varying levels of elite status:
- Hilton Honors American Express Card: Earn 100,000 Hilton honors points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of cards membership, plus earn $100 in statement credits on eligible purchases made on the card at any of the Hilton family hotels in the first 12 months of membership. Per TPG’s latest valuations, 100,000 points is worth up to $700 (includes $100 in statement credit)
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, you can earn up to $130 in statement credits on eligible purchases made on the card at any of the Hilton family hotels in the first 12 months of membership. Per TPG’s latest valuations, the 130,000 Hilton points are worth $780 in value toward award stays.
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Earn 150,000 Hilton points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Per TPG’s latest valuations, the 150,000 Hilton points are worth $900 in value towards award stays.
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, you can earn up to $130 in statement credits on eligible purchases made on the card at any of the Hilton family hotels in the first 12 months of Membership. Offer expires 7/6/2022. Per TPG’s latest valuations, the up to 130,000 Hilton points are worth $780 in value toward award stays.
Bear in mind that you can also snag Hilton Gold status by adding The Platinum Card® from American Express to your wallet (enrollment required). In contrast, Hilton Diamond status is issued with the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express.
When you have this status and are logged into your account, you’ll see this discount automatically reflected in the reservation.
The fifth-night-free perk applies to every fifth night on up to a 20-night stay, and it can be used an unlimited number of times per year. Unfortunately, the perk only applies to standard room rewards.
Given this information, you should do your best never to book four-night, standard award stays with Hilton Honors. After all, since the fifth night is free, you can extend your trip by 25% for no additional points.
Points & Money awards
If you’re an infrequent traveler and won’t earn enough points for multiple free nights, consider Points & Money.
When booking online, you can use a slider to select any combination of points (in increments of 1,000) and cash. For comparison, most other programs aren’t as flexible and use a fixed number of points and cash for this award option.
Just be aware that a Points & Money selection is final once booked. You can’t go back and create partial cash refunds by applying newly-earned points later on. You’ll also need to redeem a minimum of 5,000 points, though any cash amount will earn you Hilton points.
The program generally gives you around 0.5 cents per Honors point when factoring in your Points & Money discount. That’s not a great value, but it’s better than letting your points collect dust indefinitely.
Buying points can actually make sense
If you’re short on points, it can sometimes make more sense to buy the remaining points you need for a reward than to use the Points & Money feature. While Hilton usually sells points for one cent apiece, it sometimes runs promotions that let you buy points for just 0.5 cents apiece. That’s slightly below TPG’s valuation for Hilton points.
We usually don’t normally recommend buying points to fund a stay fully, but it can be a good deal with a promotion like this, especially if you’re booking expensive high-end hotels when standard room awards are available. Just ensure that the amount you spend on buying points comes out lower than the price of a standard stay.
To stay up-to-date on the latest points sale, bookmark our permanent page for Hilton buy-points promotions. We write about these deals as soon as they go live.
How NOT to redeem your Hilton points
Besides hotel stays, Hilton allows you to redeem your points for event credits, Amazon purchases, Lyft rides and airline miles.
However, we typically never recommend these types of redemptions. The airline transfer ratios are less-than-ideal transfer ratios and event credits and Amazon purchases yield a flat 0.2 cents per point, which is well under our benchmark of 0.6 cents per point.
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Hilton Honors isn’t as easy to maximize as programs that use award charts, like World of Hyatt. However, its incredible range of properties makes it one worth checking out. You can redeem for simple Hampton Inn stays as well as aspirational holidays at a Waldorf-Astoria, and the fifth-night-free perk with elite status is ideal for those able to unplug for longer periods of time.
Perhaps the best use of Honors points is to redeem when cash rates are through the roof. If there’s a convention or major sporting event in town, Hilton tends to jack up the cash rates. Award stays usually tick higher but rarely in proportion, thereby creating a better value for exchanging points for a stay.
Those seeking to truly maximize the program would be wise to check out one of its cobranded American Express cards. The ability to secure top-tier Diamond status by merely holding the Aspire Amex is tremendous, and it allows those new to the brand to enter as if they were a seasoned VIP.
Additional reporting by Darren Murph and Jasmin Baron
Featured photo of the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Welcome Offer: The Free Nights Faster Promotion - Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, you can earn up to $130 in statement credits on eligible purchases made on the card at any of the Hilton family hotels in the first 12 months of membership. Terms apply.
130,000 Bonus Points is worth up to 3 free nights at 4,400+ properties worldwide!
- Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, you can earn up to $130 in Statement Credits on eligible purchases made on the Card at any of the Hilton family hotels in the first 12 months of Membership.
- Earn a Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your Card in a calendar year.
- Earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio.
- Earn 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
- Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
- Spend $40,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
- $95 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees