The Pros and Cons of the Hilton Loyalty Program

Hilton makes it easy to earn elite status, but award stays often cost more points than you would expect.
Aug 2, 2021

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The Hilton loyalty program, Hilton Honors, is one of the big names when it comes to hotel rewards programs. With more than 6,500 properties in 119 countries and territories, members have a lot of options for earning and redeeming points.

There are plenty of reasons to like Hilton Honors, including its 18 hotel brands, which span budget to luxury travel styles, and its generous elite program, which includes a fast track to its top-level status via the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. Terms apply.

But, as with many things in life, there are a few downsides of the Hilton Honors program, especially when compared with the competition.

Here’s a quick guide to the pros and cons of the Hilton loyalty program so that you can make an informed decision on where to earn and redeem points.

The pros of the Hilton loyalty program

✅ Many (many) hotels to choose from

Hilton’s geographic breadth and impressive diversity of brands mean that the program works for both business and leisure travel on any budget. You can travel for work and stay at Hampton by Hilton or DoubleTree by Hilton, or take a dream vacation at a luxurious Conrad or Waldorf-Astoria property.

One of the best features of a good rewards program is having a plethora of choices where you can earn and redeem points, and Hilton succeeds by this measure.

✅ Elite status accessibility

Because there are a number of Hilton co-branded credit cards that come with automatic elite status, earning status in the Hilton Honors program doesn't necessarily have to involve extensive qualifying stays in a calendar year or a particular spend amount.

Silver status (low tier)

The $0-annual-fee Hilton Honors American Express Card comes with Silver status and the ability to earn Gold status after spending $20,000 on the card in a calendar year. Terms apply.

Silver status includes perks like a free water bottle, fifth night free on award stays and a 20% points earning bonus on stays.

Gold status (mid-tier)

Hilton Honors Gold status is a built-in perk of The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card. Gold status comes with a food and beverage credit or lounge access where available, space-available room upgrades, and bonus points when using the card to pay for eligible Hilton stays. Terms apply.

Diamond status (highest tier)

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card comes with automatic Diamond status in the Honors program. Terms apply.

Many benefits are extended to these top-tier members. Diamond members get a food and beverage credit or lounge access at hotels, space-available room upgrades and the ability to gift status to a friend. The credit card offers attractive perks, such as bonus points for staying at Hilton properties (14x points per dollar spent), plus a $250 annual airline fee credit and $100 credit at participating Conrad or Waldorf Astoria properties.

🤓Nerdy Tip

If you haven’t quite achieved that next elite level, Hilton Honors allows elite nights to roll over from one year to help you achieve status for Silver and above. If you have status in another hotel loyalty program, you can request a status match from Hilton.

✅ Extensive partner list for earning and redeeming points

Hilton has partnerships that give you numerous points-earning opportunities beyond checking into a hotel. For example:

The cons of the Hilton loyalty program

❌ No award chart

If you're searching for a program that makes it easy to know how many points you’ll need for a stay, Hilton Honors will disappoint. There is no award chart that lays out the points cost of hotel nights (like there is with World of Hyatt, for instance). Instead, Hilton Honors uses dynamic pricing, which means that the number of points you need for a free night is often tied to demand and the cash price.

Award nights start at 5,000 points and go up from there. The costs typically depend upon the brand, date and type of hotel. This can make it difficult to plan a trip because the cost can vary as your travel date approaches. Also, if you don’t have a specific date in mind, it can be difficult to determine how many points you will need to save up.

To the good: Hilton Honors offers the Points Explorer tool that lets members search for hotels with availability based on the number of points they are willing to spend.

❌ Points rates for rooms can be pricey

Prices for many redemption nights can be surprisingly high, especially at properties that might seem like they should require fewer points (think airport hotels, for example). Many loyalty program members plan on redeeming their points for memorable hotels at vacation destinations or for bucket list trips, so having to use a lot of your points for midrange hotels can be a bit disconcerting.

In general, you'll want to aim for your points to be worth at least 0.5 cent apiece. This is the average expected value of a Hilton point determined by NerdWallet's deep dive analysis in summer 2021.

❌ Hilton doesn’t have any hip brands

There is no hip or lifestyle brand with Hilton Honors. Compare that with Marriott Bonvoy, for example, which has W Hotels and Moxy in its brand portfolio. Travelers looking for an aspirational brand in the Hilton network might be disappointed.

❌ Easy path to status, but less transparency

Hilton Honors has plenty of fans because it’s a good choice for frequent travelers and for those who have a big vacation in mind. By making it so easy to attain top status using credit cards (not something many other programs easily offer), Hilton Honors is understandably attractive among hotel loyalty programs.

Just be prepared to spend a lot of points for a hotel redemption, and don’t expect an easy time figuring out how many points you’ll need to save up.

If you’re thinking of joining Hilton's loyalty program

Becoming a Hilton member has many benefits that travelers love, such as a wide footprint, ease of earning points, flexibility for points transfers and the ability to earn elite status easily. However, there are downsides to the program, too.

Most notably, the program's lack of an award chart makes planning redemptions and maximizing the value of points a challenge. If staying in a trendy hotel with modern fixings and amenities is important to you, you should look at other hotel loyalty programs.


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:

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