The Complete Guide to Using Hilton Honors Points

Sam KemmisMarch 10, 2020
On a similar note...
On a similar note...

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Hilton Honors points aren’t the most valuable in the travel rewards world — NerdWallet currently values them at 0.4 cent each. Yet Hilton doles them out like candy, leaving frequent guests and credit card holders with plenty to use.

You can redeem Hilton points for hotel rooms, of course, and in this guide we lay out how to do just that. We also explain how (and when) to use a combination of points and miles, and include a calculator for determining if a potential redemption is “worth it.”

You can also use Hilton points in other ways, such as transferring to airline partners, booking unique “experiences,” and even renting cars. Are these other redemptions worth the time (and points)? Read on to find out.

Book rooms

Hilton Honors points can be redeemed at any of Hilton’s 5,700+ hotels and resorts. This is the most common — and usually most valuable — way to use them.

To search for award availability, select the “Use Points” box on the Hilton search tool:

This will bring up a search results page with the number of points needed to book the property:

Confusingly, these prices often switch to dollar amounts when clicking through to the room selection screen, though the point amounts are also displayed (much smaller) above the cash rate, as highlighted in red below.

Hilton allows award bookings for several different room types, including suites. This is unusual for a hotel rewards program, and provides far greater flexibility for special getaways. Of course, more expensive rooms cost more points.

How to find a good redemption

Hilton does not use an award chart for its properties, meaning the number of points needed to book a given room dynamically changes based on supply and demand. So there are no clear “sweet spots” for using Hilton points as there are in other programs. The best way to find good deals is to manually search for them.

To ease this burden (somewhat), Hilton has a dedicated Points Explorer page that lets you filter results by the number of points you actually have.

Once you’ve found a booking and want to know if it’s a good use of points, you can do the calculation yourself (using our 0.4 cent per point value as a baseline) or use the calculator below. Make sure to determine all the fees associated with both the cash and award bookings (i.e., get as far through the checkout flow as you can without paying) when comparing costs.

Nerd tip: Hilton Honors elite members get a fifth consecutive night free on all standard room award bookings. In other words, if you are a Hilton Silver member or higher and book five consecutive nights with points, you’ll only pay for four nights. This can make the difference between an average redemption and a great one.

Use cash and points

If you don’t have enough Hilton points in your account to complete a booking, you can use Hilton’s “Points + Money” feature to, well, pay with a combination of cash and points.

Many hotel rewards programs offer something similar, but what makes Hilton’s feature unique is the “slider” that lets you select any 1,000-point increment to offset the cash price of the room.

To determine whether using more points is “worth it,” pay attention to the amount of cash offset by each 1,000-point increment. If it’s more than 0.4 cent per point, then using points is a good value.

Nerd tip: You have to have at least 5,000 points in your Hilton account to use this option, so it won’t work for clearing the few remaining points rattling around in your account.

Donate points

If you do have a few spare points left and no redemption in mind, consider donating them.

Hilton partners with PointWorthy to manage these transactions. The value of these transfers often isn’t the highest compared with other redemption options, but they can be a great way to clear your account.

Events and meetings

Hilton lets you convert points into “event vouchers,” which can be used for planning meetings and events like weddings or conferences. However, points transfer at a measly 25,000-points-to-$50 ratio, or 0.2 cent per point, well below our valuation.

Our recommendation? Use those points to book a honeymoon, not an event space.

Car rentals and Lyft credits

You can use Hilton points to book cars from Alamo, Enterprise and National using a special search function on the Hilton Honors site.

Hilton does not publish a set value for using points this way (that we could find), so we researched it and found a 0.21 cent per point value. Again, this is not a very good value for Hilton points and is kind of a pain compared with using a normal car rental search engine. We’d recommend steering clear.

Hilton also partners with Lyft to both earn and redeem Hilton points when pairing your accounts. It does publish these transfer values:

That’s 0.22 cent per Hilton point, aka not a great value.

Experiences

More and more travel programs have begun offering “experiences,” bookable with rewards points, including Hilton Honors. What kind of experiences?

  • Sporting events.

  • Wine and food tours.

  • Local cultural tours.

  • Live music.

The more exclusive events are sold as live auctions, which let you bid Hilton points until a certain date. Other events can be purchased outright using points. In both cases, it’s hard to peg a clear “value” to these redemptions since there’s no equivalent cash price.

To determine if an experience is worth the points for you, multiply the cost in points by 0.4 cent, then multiply again by 0.01 to determine a rough cash value. Then ask yourself if you would pay that much for the event you’re considering.

Transfer partners

You can transfer your Hilton points to dozens of airline (and rail) programs, including Alaska, American, Delta and United.

The exchange ratios are terrible, however. For example, 10,000 Hilton points convert to 1,500 AAdvantage miles, which is one of the better exchange ratios and still not even close to worth it. American miles are worth about 1 cent each, while Hilton’s are worth 0.4 cent each, so the ratio would have to be more like 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 to make this a decent option.

The bottom line

Hilton offers members tons of ways to use their rewards points, but only a few ways generally offer good value. When in doubt, use your points to book hotel rooms. Use the calculator above or run the numbers yourself to find a higher-than-average value redemption. And don’t agonize looking for “sweet spots” — in general, Hilton doesn’t have them.

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