Hilton Honors Reward Optimization for Beginners

Apr 1, 2020

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Note: NerdWallet strongly discourages traveling in the near future while the coronavirus continues to spread. Check the CDC and State Department websites for current guidance and travel restrictions. Please use the content of this article only to help inform future travel plans.

With over 5,000 properties spreading across six continents, Hilton Honors offers a large global network. This not only makes the loyalty program accessible, but also valuable to travelers looking to maximize their rewards points. After all, rewards points are only valuable if you can easily use them.

NerdWallet currently values Hilton Honors points at 0.5 cent each, and while they are not the most valuable hotel points, you can still find solid value when redeeming them for award nights.

If you have started accruing Hilton points you’ll want to know the ins and outs of redeeming them.

Here’s how to get started using your points, what to consider when redeeming them, plus some standout sweet spot redemptions.

Where can you stay with your points?

With over 14 hotel brands, Hilton points can get you to a hotel that fits your travel style.

If you're looking for luxury, you’ll want to focus on Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts and Curio Collection by Hilton. On the more budget end of the spectrum, you can check out the Hampton by Hilton and DoubleTree by Hilton Hotels brands.

How to get started using your points

As with most hotel loyalty programs, you’ll find that using your points to book free award nights nets you the most value.

Once you have enough points to book free nights with Hilton Honors, you can redeem them online or through the Hilton Honors app.

Here’s a quick walkthrough on how to book an award night using your Hilton Honors points.

Booking award nights online

First, you'll need to sign in to your account, which you can do from the top right-hand corner on Hilton's website.

Once logged in, you can enter your destination and dates next to the “Find a Hotel” button. Be sure to also check the box for “Use Points” under the “Special Rates” option.

After submitting a search, you'll receive a results page showing available properties with their nightly points rates.

You can click “View Rates” to view the various redemption types, such as premium room awards and points and money redemptions.

When completing an award booking, remember to review the hotel's cancellation policy. Most of the time, the cancellation policy follows the same rules as the hotel’s cash rate. However, it's always a good idea to double check in case you need to cancel your reservation.

What to consider when redeeming points

There are some key things to consider before making a redemption. Some of these include:

  • How much is the cash rate as opposed to the points rate?

  • What benefits will you get at the hotel?

  • How does the quality of the hotel compare to others in the area?

It’s good to know what kind of value you can expect to get when using your Hilton Honors points and how to find high-value redemptions. With that said, the best use of your points is the one that you value the most.

The most straightforward way to evaluate a redemption is by comparing how much it would cost to pay with cash as opposed to using points.

Here’s a quick example:

You are looking to book a night at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. After searching on Hilton’s website, you see that you have the option to pay $371 per night or redeem points for 70,000 per night.

A simple calculation of the nightly cash rate divided by the nightly points rate results in a rough idea of how much value you’re getting from your points.

In this example, it works out to be 0.53 cents per point ($371 / 70,000 = 0.0053). You can then compare the value per point you are getting to NerdWallet’s points valuations.

Since NerdWallet currently values Hilton points at 0.5 cent each, you can see that this is a just-above-average use of points. As a starting point, you’ll always want to shoot for getting a higher value from your points than 0.5 cent.

A few program sweet spots

When it comes to redeeming your points, you can do so at some of Hilton’s high-quality hotels around the world. You're sure to find convenient redemption options when you travel given Hilton’s broad global footprint.

Of course, some redemption options are much more valuable than others. To give you an idea of what is out there, here are some top Hilton Honors redemption sweet spots.

Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi

Sure, you've seen those photos of overwater bungalows in the Maldives. The Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi reflects this aesthetic. When staying at this brand new property, you can expect luxury and crystal clear waters beneath.

However, staying at one of the most aspirational hotel properties will cost you. To book an award night at this property, you'll need to fork over 120,000 Hilton Honors points. This is Hilton’s top-level redemption category, but in comparison, cash prices for this hotel start at around $1,900 per night.

Hilton Budapest

There are three Hilton properties in Budapest, but the Hilton Budapest stands out above the others. Located high atop Castle Hill on the Buda side of the river, you are steps away from the Fisherman's Bastion and Matthias Church. If you're lucky, you will score a room overlooking the Danube and the magnificent parliament building.

The hotel is newly renovated and features an excellent executive lounge with sweeping views over the city. This is definitely a hotel you won't want to miss if you have Diamond status with Hilton, as you're likely to get a room upgrade and enjoy the lounge. Points rates start at just 30,000 per night, which can be a great deal when hotel rates are high during peak seasons in Budapest.

Hilton Garden Inn Vienna South

At just 20,000 points per night, the Hilton Garden Inn Vienna South is a steal for a stay that offers the opportunity to enjoy the imperial city of Vienna, Austria. With excellent public transit, you can reach the city center in just 10 minutes to marvel at the spires of St. Stephen's Cathedral or explore the city’s museums.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Kuala Lumpur

The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Kuala Lumpur is an excellent low-range redemption. At 20,000 Hilton Honors points per night, it is the second-lowest level redemption in the program. With wide-open standard award availability, this hotel boasts a 4.5 rating on TripAdvisor and a convenient location for seeing all the top tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur.

Hilton Garden Inn Hanoi

If you find yourself in Hanoi, the Hilton Garden Inn is an excellent redemption option. The hotel is located in the city center where you’ll be less than half a mile from the Hanoi Opera House and also close to other popular sites, such as Hoan Kiem Lake and the Old Quarter.

With an average 4.5 rating on TripAdvisor, this hotel is a bargain at just 10,000 points per night. Cash rates are usually around $100 per night, which means you'll be getting close to 1.0 cent in value per point.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.