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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
1. 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.
» Learn more: Your guide to booking award nights with Hilton Honors
2. 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.
3. 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:
Members can link their Hilton Honors and Lyft accounts to earn 3 Hilton Honors points for every dollar spent on a ride (2 points per dollar spent on shared rides).
You can easily move points from American Express Membership Rewards into your Hilton Honors account if you find yourself low on points.
You can move points from Hilton Honors to many airline partners to book flights.
You can pool points or transfer to anyone without a fee.
If you’re feeling kindhearted, you can also donate points to charities.
» Learn more: Which hotel elite status should you pursue?
The cons of the Hilton loyalty program
1. 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. 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.
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.
2. 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.
» Learn more: How much are my Hilton points worth?
3. 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.
4. 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
Hilton 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:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card