Hilton HHonors Rewards: An Easy Way to Earn Free Stays - NerdWallet
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Hilton HHonors Rewards: An Easy Way to Earn Free Stays

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Hilton HHonors Rewards: An Easy Way to Earn Free Stays

If you’re looking for a hotel loyalty program that offers flexible rewards, consider joining the Hilton HHonors program. As a member, you’ll be able to redeem your points for free stays at more than 4,200 properties worldwide and earn more with every dollar spent at Hilton portfolio hotels. Here’s what you should know before joining.

Hilton HHonors: The basics

As a Hilton HHonors member, all of your Hilton portfolio stays will count toward earning a higher membership status, giving you access to more perks. Plus, you can easily qualify for ongoing automatic elite status (that is, a membership status of Silver or higher) by signing up for a co-branded credit card, which is rarely an option with other programs.

How to advance

The Hilton HHonors program includes four tiers, or membership levels, ranging from Blue to Diamond. The higher your status, the more benefits you’ll be eligible for. Here’s what you need to qualify for each tier and what you get in return:

Blue (just enroll): Free second guest, late check-out and express check-out. Earn 10 base points for every eligible dollar spent on your Hilton portfolio room and room charges. A few exceptions apply.

Silver (4 stays or 10 nights): In addition to all of the Blue perks, you’ll also get 15% elite status bonus on all point earnings, every fifth night free, complimentary access to fitness centers and two complimentary bottles of water per stay.

Gold (20 stays, 40 nights or 75,000 HHonors base points): Get a 25% elite status bonus on all points earned, eCheck-in, complimentary Wi-Fi at select hotels, bonus perks at select hotels and all the Silver perks.

Diamond (30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 HHonors base points): Get a 50% elite status bonus, a 48-hour room guarantee for last-minute booking, extra perks at select hotels and all the perks listed above.

You can become an HHonors member by creating a free profile on Hilton’s website. If you’ve stayed at Hilton hotels or traveled with Hilton partners in the past six months, you can start off with credit from those by reporting them as “missing stays.” Just complete the information about your check-in and check-out date, along with the name and location of the hotel (or partner).

Calculating a point’s worth

Like most loyalty rewards, the value of an HHonors point varies based on how it’s redeemed. Using data from 10 international and domestic stays at Hilton portfolio hotels from different price categories, NerdWallet valued Hilton HHonors points at 0.5 cent each, below the industry standard of 1 cent each, when redeemed for hotel stays. There are also other lower-value redemption opportunities, as noted below.

Keep in mind that the Hilton credit cards listed below and membership in the HHonors program can help you earn points much more quickly than most general travel rewards cards. By redeeming selectively, you can also squeeze additional value out of each point. These factors can make up for the otherwise relatively low redemption value.

How base points and bonus points are earned

You can earn two types of points through Hilton HHonors: base points and bonus points. Generally, you’ll earn 10 base points per dollar spent at a Hilton portfolio hotel regardless of the HHonors status you have. These can help you qualify for Gold status or Diamond status if you earn enough of them, though there are other ways to qualify, too. Aside from that, they don’t offer much utility over bonus points earned with a credit card or elite status. Both bonus points and base points can be redeemed for free stays.

The number of bonus points you earn is determined by money spent at Hilton with your co-branded credit card as well as the number of base points earned. Say you purchased a $200 Hilton stay and had automatic Silver status with the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Visa Signature® Card. You’d earn 2,000 base points, plus 1,500 HHonors bonus points (15% bonus on the base points earned from the Silver status, plus 6 points per dollar spent on Hilton on your card).

Because the sign-up bonus is also bonus points, not base points, it would take $7,500 in Hilton hotel stays to get to Gold status with this card – that is, if you didn’t already fast-track your way there.

Cards that earn HHonors points

The easiest way to earn more HHonors bonus points is by getting a co-branded card. Here are some to consider:

Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Visa Signature® Card

  • The annual fee is $0.
  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 Hilton HHonors™ Bonus Points after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening.
  • Automatic HHonors Silver status with a fast-track to Gold status
  • Earn 6 HHonors bonus points per dollar spent at Hilton portfolio hotels, 3 per dollar spent at supermarkets, drugstores and gas stations and 2 per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn an annual loyalty bonus of 10,000 Hilton HHonors bonus points at the end of each calendar year when you spend $1,000 or more on stays within the Hilton portfolio

Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card

  • The annual fee is $95
  • Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio after you make $2,500 in purchases within 4 months of account opening
  • Earn two weekend certificates after making $2,500 in purchases during the first four months
  • Automatic HHonors Gold status
  • Earn 10 HHonors bonus points per dollar spent on hotels in the Hilton portfolio, 5 per dollar spent on airline and car rental purchases, and 3 on all other purchases.
  • Earn an anniversary bonus of one weekend night (standard room, double occupancy) at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio after you spend $10,000 on purchases each year (starting from your Annual Fee Date) and remain a cardmember.

Hilton HHonorsTM Card from American Express

  • Earn 7 HHonors bonus points for purchases charged directly with a participating hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio, 5 per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations and 3 per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.

Hilton HHonorsTM Surpass® Card from American Express

  • Earn 12 HHonors bonus points for purchases charged directly with a participating hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio, 6 per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations and 3 per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.

How to get more HHonors bonus points

Aside from getting a co-branded card and staying at Hilton portfolio hotels more often, you can also get more bonus points by purchasing them for 1 cent each, in increments ranging from 1,000 to 80,000 points. This is still a splurge, since NerdWallet values the points at 0.5 cent each. But if you’re just 1,000 points short of a free stay, spending that $10 may be a sensible move.

Keep in mind that the purchased points won’t help you advance to Gold or Diamond status, like base points, but you can redeem points for free stays.

To purchase points, log on to your Hilton profile. On the left-hand side, under “My Points,” click on “More Ways to Use Points” and “Purchase.” From there, you’ll be able to select the number of points you want to buy.

How to redeem HHonors points

Hilton categorizes its hotels on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most expensive. A standard room in a Category 1 hotel costs 5,000 points per night, while one in a Category 10 hotels cost between 70,000 and 95,000 per night.

Good redemption options

During peak season, you may get a better value for your points if you spend them on a lower-tier Hilton hotel. Hotels in Categories 1 through 3 offer rewards pricing that doesn’t change seasonally, giving you more for your money as demand (and prices) rise.

Hilton doesn’t list hotels by category when you do a search, but generally, the ones with rooms at 20,000 points or less during popular traveling times tend to have these flat rewards rates. In some cities, these low-tier hotels may be in short supply.

Bad redemption options

Top-tier hotels usually don’t offer inexpensive rooms, but when they do, it’s better to pay cash, since the number of points required for a stay is determined by hotel category, not list price. In the unlikely event a Category 10 hotel offered a standard room for $95 or 95,000 points in peak season, for instance, you’d only get a value of 0.1 cent per point if you paid with rewards. You’d be better off saving your points for your next trip.

Hilton also gives you an option to pay with Points & Money on select stays, but you generally can’t maximize your rewards this way. For instance, you may have the option to pay 12,000 points and $50 instead of paying 30,000 HHonors points for a certain room, giving those points a value of about 0.28 cents each. Since NerdWallet values Hilton HHonors points at 0.5 cents each, you’d be missing out on a lot of value here.

Transfer partners

While Hilton has several transfer partners, you generally won’t be able to exchange points at a 1:1 ratio. Unless you have absolutely no use for your HHonors points or are trying to use them before they expire, transferring your points usually isn’t a cost-effective choice.

If you absolutely want to transfer points, though, you have plenty of choices. Participating airlines include domestic carriers, such as Delta and United, as well as international carriers like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. You can also transfer points to Amtrak. You can view a full list of transfer partners here.

Fine print

  • HHonors points expire after 12 months of account inactivity. To keep an account active, you must be earning or redeeming points or staying at Hilton portfolio hotels.
  • Unless you have a credit card granting you automatic elite status, you have to re-qualify each calendar year by staying at Hilton portfolio hotels.
  • Bonus points earned on base points don’t count toward Gold or Diamond status, according to Hilton. They can be used for free stays, though.

Top Hilton credit cards from NerdWallet

Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Visa Signature® Card

Citibank Hilton HHonors Credit Card
Apply Now

on Citibank's
secure website

For a $0 annual fee card, the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Visa Signature® Card packs a punch. You’ll get automatic Silver status with a fast track to Gold, plus a tempting sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 Hilton HHonors™ Bonus Points after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening. It also rewards customer loyalty with an annual bonus of 10,000 HHonors bonus points at the end of each calendar year when you spend $1,000 or more of Hilton portfolio stays that year. For most frequent travelers, that’s an easy spending minimum to reach.

One of the best things about this card is that the Silver status automatically renews as long as you’re a cardholder. That means you can continue racking up free stays that don’t expire (as long as you keep your account active), giving this card an excellent long-term value at a minimal cost.

Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card

Citibank Hilton HHonors Reserve Credit Card
Apply Now

on Citibank's
secure website

The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card is an ideal card for someone who plans to spend $1,900 or more on Hilton portfolio stays per year. Although the annual fee is $95, it quickly pays for itself if you stay at Hilton frequently. You’ll earn a generous sign-up bonus: Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio after you make $2,500 in purchases within 4 months of account opening. The card comes with automatic Gold status, which will automatically renew each year.

Like the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Visa Signature® Card, the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card also rewards you for loyalty. You’ll get an anniversary bonus of one weekend night certificate at select hotels once you spend $10,000 each year and remain a cardmember. While this card may not be worth the annual fee if you rarely stay at Hilton, it could be a good bet if you’re planning to go on several trips and love staying at Hilton portfolio locations.


The calculated value of these points is based on an estimated redemption rate, not a credit card rewards earn rate. Therefore, you may notice that these numbers don’t match the rewards rates on our credit card finder tool. Read on for how we estimated these points values.

We sampled Hilton portfolio hotels ranging from Category 2 to Category 9 in five domestic cities and five international cities, based on availability and data from Booking.com and Expedia. Choosing a high-tier and low-tier option for each city, we used a sample weekday date, Apr. 5, 2016, and a sample weekend date, Apr. 9, 2016, to measure prices. We looked at the following cities:

  • Los Angeles
  • Orlando, Florida
  • New York
  • Dallas
  • Las Vegas
  • Toronto
  • Mexico City
  • London
  • Paris
  • Tokyo

International stays netted an average of 0.5 cents a point when redeemed on weekdays, and 0.5 cents a point when redeemed on weekends. Domestic stays got and average of 0.5 cents a point when redeemed for weekdays and 0.5 cents a point when redeemed on weekends. Overall, NerdWallet values HHonors points at 0.5 cents each.

Last updated October 7, 2015


Claire Davidson is a staff writer covering personal finance for NerdWallet. Follow her on Twitter @ideclaire7 and on Google+.

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  • Mooredoghouse

    I just signed up and now I’m getting a few sales calls per week to buy points or sign up for one their time shares, so annoying!

  • JD

    I’ve found that the American Express Surpass is superior to the Citi Reserve Card as it offers more points on everyday purchases. Same with the no-fee Amex vs. the no-fee Citi card. However, the two free night certificates offered by the Citi Reserve is an amazing benefit. I recommend getting that card, obtaining the certificates, using them, then cancelling the card and keep they Amex one. The Amex one had an 80K point sign up bonus earlier this year.

  • Daniel Genzink

    If my wife and I use an award night, can we both get credit towards diamond status? Or does Hilton only credit one person per room per night for status?

  • Hulabird22

    That happened to me, I emailed them and complained and they reinstated mine. You should give that a try.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1331539020 Pamela Benjamin Wigandt

    They are NOT crooks. Read your terms and conditions..Your points only expire if you do not have activity on the acct for a year or more. The card member is sent an e-mail at 6 months and 9 months warning them they haven’t had activity and there are suggestions on how to keep your acct active if you are not traveling,

  • Quarex

    You must understand, they used to be a lot more like the other companies–for five years, every time I was travelling cross-country, I would spend a few hours playing with routes in Google Maps and checking the Hilton Honors page until I found a route with mostly 12,500 (or lower)-points-per-night reservations. They changed the system in the last year to raise the price across the board, but also give you (some) more points per stay–but it looks like it has become virtually impossible to find anything under 25,000. Unless you fall for their new “half-price points plus $50!” scheme where you pay half in rewards points and half in cash–but do not get any rewards points for the stay. A nice tricky way to keep people from noticing they are functionally losing money.

  • Angie@NW

    You can absolutely have both cards, but it may not be beneficial because you can’t transfer points from one card to another. Although you own both cards, you can’t pool the points together and redeem rewards.

    In terms of rewards, you are better off making all of your purchases and racking up points on a single card.

  • Bencahn87

    actually angie…i called the Hilton Rewards customer service line and you absolutely can combine them. the way it works is this:

    you have a HHonors Rewards account, where your points from the credit cards get “funneled” to. If you have two cards, they simply get funneled to the same HHonors Rewards account. I asked the representative if people sign up for the Citi and AMEX cards frequently, and she said people do it “all the time” to get the 80,000 points total. fascinating!

  • Angie@NW

    Oh, thank you so much for the update! That’s great information to have on hand. I appreciate it!

  • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

    Thanks for your comment, Susan. After speaking with a Hilton Honors representative, it seems that the only way to get the Surpass card is to cancel your current card and then reapply for the Surpass. But note that if you haven’t had your AmEx Hilton for at least 12 months, you won’t get signup bonus for the Surpass card.

  • Washington Irving

    I’ve just upgraded to the Surpass card from the HHonors AmEx. Bonus of 50,000 points for spending $3,000 within the first 90 days. Kept the same card number and did not have to cancel and reapply. This was done online within the AmEx My Account page.

  • bencahn87

    I currently have the HHonors AmEx, and I still need to spend the ~800 within 4 months to get the 40,000 bonus points. If I were to spend the ~800 and get the 40k points, would I then be able to upgrade to the Surpass card, and collect the 50k bonus points on TOP of that, thus earning a total of 90,000 bonus points?

  • Ben Cahn

    VIP reservations…? For me it’s just a nice way to squeeze a few free hotel stays out of em. I’m spending money anyway, might as well get something nice out of it. Once I use my 80,000 points, I’ll just cancel the cards. Anyone recommend any other hotel cards with good rewards systems?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1331539020 Pamela Benjamin Wigandt

    The card member needs to accept responsibility. Most times you will not get points back. If the guest ignores the warning e-mails, that on them. Where is the accountibility?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1331539020 Pamela Benjamin Wigandt

    You are incorrect. The member earns 10 points for every $ spent and depending on the tier they earn bonus points. Silver earns 15%bonus, gold earns 24% and diamond earns 50%.

  • Nancy

    I think you can purchase 1000 points minimum for $12.95 to save your points and keep your account active even if you don’t stay in a Hotel for that year.

  • Dinesh Kukreja

    how you won 500,000 HH points ? Please Share with us too