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Update: The Hilton American Express Ascend Card is now the Hilton Surpass® Card from American Express and is offering a limited-time bonus of 130,000 bonus points + a free weekend night through August 28, 2019.
The Hilton Honors program has made a large push in recent years to contend with their competition in Marriott and Airbnb. There are currently over 6,700 Hilton properties across the globe, giving us a vaerity of ways to spend our Hilton Honors points. They have started new brands like Motto and Signia to keep up with ever-changing products and demand from travelers. They also recently partnered with Lyft to help you earn even more points.
We love getting hotel rooms completely booked on points, but what about premium hotel rooms on points?
Today we’ll show you how to do exactly that the next time you go to redeem your Hilton Honors points.
Hilton Honors Upgraded Rooms on Points
Hilton is probably the simplest hotel brand to purchase premium rooms via points. It is the same exact process as booking a standard room, with one key difference. Instead of choosing that standard room, you simply select an upgraded room.
To start this process, simply log in to your Hilton Honors account and enter your search criteria, making sure to check the Use Points box. On the results page, you’ll see the lowest number of points required for a free night at the listed hotels during the date(s) of your stay. Most of them will likely list a “Standard Room Reward” price, which indicates that a base-level room is available using your points.
However, some may be sold out of standard rooms. If that’s the case, you’ll see a higher price (you can use Hilton’s Points Explorer tool to see the range of expected award rates) along with the “Premium Room Reward” designation.
This indicates that the property only has upgraded rooms available using points.
To actually view these room options, simply click on Select for your desired hotel or resort. This will then list out all of the available rooms for your desired dates along with the required prices. You can then decide whether it’s worth redeeming extra points to snag the upgraded accommodations.
For this example, I selected the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas. As noted above, the standard award for my date is 80,000 points, and this would book into a 500-square-foot Citi View Room with two double beds.
If I select the Honors Discount Semi-Flex rate, this room would otherwise cost me $522.49 once I factor in the pesky resort fee and other taxes. Using 80,000 points instead gives me a redemption value of 0.65 cents per point, just slightly above TPG’s most recent valuations (which pegged Hilton Honors points at 0.6 cents apiece).
However, many travelers come to Las Vegas looking for luxurious suites and villas, so lets say that I want to use my points for one of these rooms. I scroll down the list and am intrigued by the One Bedroom Villa. Unfortunately this comes with a steep price tag, both in cash and in points.
Selecting the Honors Discount Semi-Flex price again comes to a total of $1,082.53, so given the 315,000 points per night, I’d enjoy just 0.34 cents per point.
Herein lies one of the main problems with Hilton’s Premium Room Rewards option. These awards are typically set to offer a relatively fixed value somewhere between 0.3 and 0.4 cents per point. As a result, booking these accommodations will often sacrifice some value compared to booking a standard room.
There’s another issue with these awards that applies to anyone with Hilton Honors elite status: Premium Room Rewards are not eligible for the program’s fifth night free perk on award stays. As a result, a longer stay in an upgraded room would likely impact the value of your redemption even more.
Let’s take a look at an example that illustrates this phenomenon: the Parc 55 in San Francisco, which is on our list if you are looking to take a family trip to the Bay Area. A standard award books into a room with either one king bed or two double beds, and rates over the summer are typically 60,000 points per night. However, a five-night stay in July as an elite member would only require that number of points for four of the nights.
The total rate for this stay in cash (again using the Honors Discount Semi-Flex rate) would be $1,754.85, giving you a redemption value of 0.73 cents per point. This is a nice boost over TPG’s valuations, as the fifth night free perk is a great way to maximize your Hilton Honors redemptions.
If you were looking to book an upgraded room at the Parc 55, it’s a much pricier proposition. I looked into the beautiful Skyline Suite, which you can book for just over $2,500 for the same five-night stay in July noted above.
The nightly rate for this room is 150,000 points per night. However, unlike Standard Room Rewards, you don’t get the fifth night free by booking an upgraded room.
This drops your overall redemption value to just 0.33 cents per point.
However, don’t be discouraged and cross off this award option yet. There are two other ways to get that beautiful hotel suite you are eyeing.
Using Points & Money
Hilton also has a very handy feature called Points & Money. This is available on all award stays, whether you’re booking standard or premium accommodations. It allows you to select a combination of points and cash, so you can still use your points even if you’re short on the full amount needed for your stay. In the context of Premium Room Rewards, however, it’s a great way to redeem the points required for a standard room and then effectively pay cash for the upgrade.
For example, let’s say you were planning a two-night stay at the Hilton Barbados in October to celebrate an anniversary or an upcoming baby. A standard room starts at 60,000 points per night, but you’re much more interested in redeeming 97,000 points for a Panoramic View Corner Suite with a king bed. If you don’t have enough points to cover that full stay but do have enough to cover the standard stay, simply select the upgraded room and then use the Points & Money slider to adjust the combination of points and cash to 120,000 points.
In this example, you’re effectively paying 60,000 points + ~$158 per night for the suite. This may not be something you’d want to do all the time, but if you’re traveling for a special occasion and want to guarantee that fantastic room, Hilton’s Points & Money redemption option can accomplish that.
This can also be a nice way to confirm a room on an executive floor. Certain properties in Hilton’s more up-scale brands (including Hilton and Conrad) have an Executive Lounge that offers complimentary breakfast, snacks and — in some international locations — alcohol. If you want to minimize your expenses during your trip, using additional points to book right into a room that includes lounge access could make sense.
However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind with this type of award:
- Like Premium Room Rewards, Points & Money awards are not eligible for the fifth night free benefit. The moment you move the slider off the full reward option, the cash rate will jump significantly to cover the formerly free night.
- Any combination of points and cash at a property with a resort fee will result in that fee being charged in full. As a result, you should generally try to pay entirely in cash or entirely using points at these resorts.
If you are short a small number of points from either of the two scenarios above, your best bet would be to buy points, especially if there’s a promotion in effect.
However, if you’re still struggling to use either the full Premium Room Rewards option or the Points & Money redemption, you can save points and have the opportunity for luxury upgrades through elite status.
Hilton Honors Elite Status Upgrades
Complimentary, space-available upgrades are a perk of certain tiers of Hilton Honors elite status. While you are able to earn this status the old fashioned way (by physically staying at the hotel), that can take quite a while. To expedite that process, you can also earn various levels of status by holding one of these cards.
- Hilton Honors American Express Card (automatic Silver status)
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (Gold)
- Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card (Gold)
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express (Diamond)
- The Platinum Card ® from American Express (Gold)
The benefits at these tiers differ, but Gold and Diamond members are eligible for upgrades on all stays, including those booked with points.
I currently hold Diamond status through the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and I’ve been able to get great upgrades in both Puerto Rico and Sydney, Australia. Next, we are staying at the Waldorf Astoria in Park City, Utah for a quick one night staycation for our one year anniversary next month. We are crossing our fingers for an upgrade.
Of course, this can be a gamble, as you’re hoping that these enhanced room types are still available when you arrive. If you’re not willing to take the chance and want to make sure your stay is in more comfortable accommodations, I encourage you to use the above strategies.
Saving money by using points and miles is a great way to enhance your vacations. With Hilton Honors points, you can easily take the sting out of paying cash for a hotel, and in certain circumstances, you may want to spend more to get a better room, even if you don’t get the absolute best value out of your points.
However, if you are looking for premium hotel rooms without burning a ton of points, I would highly recommend a card like the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express to earn Diamond status, as this will give you a great chance at getting a premium room upgrade without any additional cost.
Featured photo courtesy of Conrad Koh Samui
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