Hilton HHonors Points: What They’re Worth and How to Use Them
How much is a Hilton HHonors Point worth? Given that HHonors Points are notoriously hard to redeem, we value them at 0.5 cents apiece on average, though depending on how you redeem your Hilton HHonors rewards, their value can vary from 0.1 cents to as much as 1 cent (if you’re lucky). The industry standard, as a reference point, is 1 cent, so HHonors Points aren’t quite as good as the competition. Since there are 10 different hotel chains under the Hilton umbrella, you can redeem in a number of ways, even before you factor in redeeming points for airline miles, cruises and more.
This is our in-depth calculation of just how far your points and elite status will get you. Check out our blog for an explanation of how best to use your credit card to earn Hilton HHonors Points. Read on for the best credit cards to earn you those Hilton HHonors points, and the best ways to redeem them.
Two notes to keep in mind: one, we did our calculations based on only one redemption option per category. You might get a different rate if you book at, say, the Rome Cavalieri during off-peak times. Also, our calculations overestimate the value of Hilton HHonors points. Points don’t cover the cost of taxes or other fees, which can cost over $50.
The most common way to redeem HHonors points is, of course, for a hotel room. Here are the standard room rates, current as of March 2013:
|Category||HHonors Points Required|
|Category 4||20,000 to 30,000|
|Category 5||30,000 to 40,000|
|Category 6||30,000 to 50,000|
|Category 7||30,000 to 60,000|
|Category 8||40,000 to 70,000|
|Category 9||50,000 to 80,000|
|Category 10||70,000 to 90,000|
Does that seem confusing? It should. Hilton hides its low rewards rates with an obfuscating set of redemption options. Based on our analysis, redeeming for a hotel gets you a point value of 0.5 cents on average. We crunched the numbers to see exactly how many points would be required for a one-night stay on September 21st, 2013:
|City||Hotel||Points||Rate||Cents per Point|
|San Francisco||Hilton Garden Inn San Francisco Airport North||40,000||$329||0.82|
|San Francisco||Homewood Suites by Hilton – SFO Airport North||40,000||$219||0.55|
|San Francisco||Hampton Inn San Francisco – Daly City||75,239||$177||0.24|
|New York||DoubleTree Suites by Hilton – Times Square||80,000||$540||0.68|
|New York||Hilton Garden Inn New York/Chelsea||60,000||$349||0.58|
|New York||Homewood Suites by Hilton – Edgewater||40,000||$179||0.45|
|Atlanta||Hampton Inn Atlanta – North Druid Hills||20,000||$92||0.46|
|Atlanta||Embassy Suites Atlanta – Buckhead||40,000||$139||0.35|
|Atlanta||Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta Airport||20,000||$159||0.80|
|Chicago||Embassy Suites Chicago – Downtown/Lakefront||50,000||$219||0.44|
|Chicago||Hampton Inn Chicago – Midway Airport||40,000||$126||0.32|
|Average Cents per Point||0.51|
As you can see, redemption values vary greatly, but you end up getting rates around 0.5 cents per point.
Other travel options:
- Car rentals: A week’s rental from Alamo requires 70k points and costs ~$250. Points are worth $250/70,000 = 0.35 cents.
- Cruises: A $250 voucher for CruisesOnly, an American cruise only, costs 120k points. Points are worth $250/120,000 = 0.21 cents.
- Entertainment parks: A three-day adult Park Hopper ticket to Disneyland costs 115k points and is worth $199. Points are worth $199/115,000 = 0.17 cents.
Points for miles
You can trade points for airline miles on one of Hilton’s many partner airlines, at different rates. (Well, you can, but you shouldn’t.) You can swap 10,000 HHonors points for 1,200 Southwest Rapid Rewards points, with a cash value of just $10 in Business Select or $20 if you fly economy. Points are worth 0.1 to 0.2 cents.
How should you use your Hilton HHonors Points?
HHonors points are good at any of the 10 hotel chains owned by the Hilton Hotel empire. These include the Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Hilton, DoubleTree, Hilton Garden, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites, Home2 Suites, and Hilton Grand Vacations. Over 3,700 hotels accept points, as of this writing. If you want to redeem for hotel stays, Hilton breaks its hotels up into 7 tiers and charges a different number of points for each tier. The Waldorf hotels are on a different point schedule entirely.
We’ll save you the math (that’s what we’re here for) and we’ll simply tell you if you’ll get a better or worse value than the industry standard 1 cent per point. If you want to check out the nitty-gritty of the calculations, and get some more information, check out our review of the Hilton HHonors points program. Also keep in mind that your points do expire after a year of inactivity, so make sure to stay active on your account..
|Redemption Option||Value of a point (cents)||Good idea?|
|Hotel stay, Category 1||1.7||Great|
|Hotel stay, Category 3||0.4||Terrible|
|Hotel stay, Category 7||0.7||Mediocre|
|Hotel stay, Waldorf||0.6||Mediocre|
|Points for airline miles*||0.1-0.2||Terrible|
*Values derived from Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points.
If you want to cash in on your Hilton HHonors points, the best way is to use them for free nights at lower-grade hotels, or trade points for miles if and only if they have a deal going on. (For example, until July 15th of 2011, Hilton will let you trade 5,000 HHonors points for 500 JetBlue TrueBlue points, making the HHonors points worth ~1.04 cents each).
Elite status tiers:
Elite status is earned through stays, nights, or base points. You have through the calendar year to accumulate enough to earn a membership level, and once you’ve got it, you need to re-qualify every year. Here’s our breakdown of the elite levels, requirements, and a summary of benefits. Benefits are additive, meaning that you automatically get the benefits of a lower level.
|Blue||Sign up online||Late check-out
Spouse stays free
|Free access to fitness centers and health clubs
Two bottles of water per stay
15% points bonus
5th night free
75,000 base points
|25% points boost
Free high-speed internet
Executive Floor Lounge access (if you’re granted an upgrade to an EF room)
Hotel chain-specific benefits
120,000 base points
|50% points boost
48-hour room guarantee
Executive Floor Lounge access, regardless of room
Hotel chain-specific benefits
*The room upgrade benefit is limited to Hilton, Conrad, and DoubleTree hotels.
Read our take on what you need to know to best choose and use your Hilton credit card.
Hilton credit cards
Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card
The Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card is arguably the best in the HHonors portfolio, and indisputably the best for frequent travelers. You can earn a great signup bonus: Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton HHonors portfolio after $2,500 in eligible purchases within 4 months of account opening* This is redeemable for a Category 7 hotel. Beyond that, you get automatic Gold status, 10 points per $1 (5%) spent at the Hilton, 5 per $1 (2.5%) on airfare and car rentals, and 3 per $1 (1.5%) elsewhere. There are also big-spender perks:
- Diamond status ever year you spend $40,000 or more
- An anniversary bonus of one weekend night free in a standard room with double occupancy every year you spend $10,000 or more
Finally, it has no foreign transaction fees, and is an EMV chip-and-signature card, which is useful when traveling abroad. If you’re a big spender or a big traveler, the Reserve is easily the best of the lot.
No-fee Hilton Visa Signature
In terms of the practicality of having a no annual fee Visa credit card, this is your best bet. Visa is easier to use outside of the United States, and you’ll never have to worry about paying an annual fee, so you can leave the card open forever without a recurring fee, which positively influences your credit score.
Amex Hilton HHonors Surpass
The Amex Hilton HHonors Surpass is the other card in contention for the top spot, giving you 4.5% rewards at the Hilton, 3% on groceries, drugstores, gas and some utilities purchases, and 1.5% elsewhere (percentages based on a valuation of 2 HHonors Points to the penny). It offers a signup bonus to sweeten the deal. But aside from the rewards rate, where it stands out is the perks: 2,500 points for each stay in your first 18 months, up to 8 stays; 500 points for booking online; airport lounge access and Gold Elite status for your first year. This makes it one of the most rewarding cards out there, and well worth the $annual fee is $75 annual fee. It’s better than the Reserve if you spend on groceries and gas, or if you don’t plan to put more than $10,000 on the card a year.
No-fee Hilton credit card from Amex
The other Hilton credit card from American Express is less impressive. Though it has no annual fee, you only get a 40,000 Hilton HHonors Points Bonus after spending $750 - when you spend $750 in the first 3 months-point signup bonus, 2,500 points up to just 4 stays, Silver status rather than Gold, and only 3% rewards when you spend on the Hilton.
The choice between the two Amex versions comes down to how you will use the card. If it’s not going to be your primary card, go with one of the no annual fee versions. If you’re going to spend a ton of money on the card, the rewards will more than make up for the annual fee if you go with the Surpass version.