Your Guide to Booking Award Nights With Hilton Honors

Lissa Poirot, Josh GarberOctober 5, 2020
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Hilton is one of the largest hotel brands, with more than 6,000 hotels in over 100 countries. Its Hilton Honors loyalty program can be richly rewarding for members and includes the following brands:

  • Hilton Hotels & Resorts.

  • Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts.

  • Conrad Hotels & Resorts.

  • Canopy by Hilton.

  • Curio Collection by Hilton.

  • Doubletree by Hilton.

  • Tapestry Collection by Hilton.

  • Embassy Suites by Hilton.

  • Hilton Garden Inn.

  • Hampton by Hilton.

  • Tru by Hilton.

  • Homewood Suites by Hilton.

  • Home2 Suites by Hilton.

  • Hilton Grand Vacations.

How many points are needed for a free night?

The minimum amount of Hilton points that you’ll need to book a standard room is 5,000 points, and the cost can reach upward of 120,000 points for high-end properties.

Hilton doesn’t offer an award chart, meaning that the number of points needed for any given stay will vary based on hotel, room, booking and stay date. Although this can make pricing your award night more uncertain, Hilton does put both a minimum and a cap on the number of points needed for stays and has a useful tool you can use to check the maximum price.

For example, a night at the Conrad Tokyo requires a minimum of 88,000 points a maximum of 95,000 points.

Importantly, the cap on the maximum number of points needed per night for Hilton award redemptions applies only to a standard room rate; premium rooms can cost quite a deal more. Here’s an example using the Conrad Tokyo:

Pay with points and cash

Hilton also allows you to pay with a mixture of points and cash for hotel stays. Although this can be a helpful feature if you don’t have enough Hilton points to book a full stay, if you’re looking to maximize the value of your points, this isn't usually the best option. You’ll still need to pay resort fees for bookings made with Points & Money (notably, resort fees are waived for award bookings paid entirely with points). Additionally, by using the strategies in this article, you’ll often be able to get a better redemption rate for your points than is offered through Points & Money.

Best strategies for booking Hilton award nights

Here are some strategies that can help you maximize the value of your Hilton Honors points:

1. Stay for at least five nights

One of the best ways to get the most value out of your Hilton points is using Hilton’s 5th-night free benefit. Whenever you book a standard room reward for five or more nights with Hilton, the fifth night is free.

This benefit can greatly reduce the number of points needed for your stay. For example, a standard room reward at the Conrad Maldives is 95,000 points per night, but a five-night stay using Hilton points would only cost 380,000 points (for an average of 76,000 points per night).

2. Focus on luxury properties

Luxury properties generally offer the best opportunity to maximize the value of your Hilton points. For example, you can book the Conrad Maldives for a five-night stay for 360,000 points. That same stay would have cost $7,821.60 in cash, which equals a redemption rate of 2.17 cents per point (this is well above NerdWallet’s valuation of 0.4 cent per point).

3. Book entirely with points

Whenever possible, book your award stays entirely with points to avoid the much-dreaded resort fees.

How many Hilton Honors points will I earn on hotel stays?

Hilton Honors members earn 10 points for every $1 spent at most Hilton properties. Home2 Suites and Tru hotels earn 5 points per $1.

Hilton Honors elite members earn additional bonuses on top of the 10 points per $1:

  • Silver: 20% bonus points.

  • Gold: 80% bonus points.

  • Diamond: 100% bonus points.

Additionally, meeting planners can earn 1 point for every $1 spent when booking guest rooms, meeting rooms and other event space.

Earn more points with the Hilton credit cards

Hilton offers four credit card options that come with welcome bonuses and elite status, among other benefits.

Hilton Honors American Express Card

This card has a $0 annual fee and the following welcome bonus: Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Card after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

The card comes with complimentary Silver elite status and offers the following bonus categories:

  • 7x points per $1 spent on Hilton hotels and resorts.

  • 5x points per $1 spent at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations.

  • 3x points on all other eligible purchases.

  • Upgrade to Gold elite status after spending $20,000 on eligible purchases in a calendar year.

Terms apply.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

Welcome bonus: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card has a $95 annual fee and comes with complimentary Gold elite status and the following opportunities to earn points and free nights (Terms apply.):

  • 12x points per $1 spent on Hilton hotels and resorts.

  • 6x points per $1 spent at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations.

  • 3x points on all other eligible purchases.

  • Complimentary free weekend night reward after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases in a calendar year.

Terms apply.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card offers a welcome bonus of 150,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 4 months. The card has a $450 annual fee and offers free Diamond elite status the following point-earning opportunities (Terms apply.):

  • 14x points per $1 spent on Hilton hotels and resorts.

  • 7x points per $1 spent on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and U.S. restaurants.

  • 3x points on all other eligible purchases.

  • Complimentary free weekend night reward after you spend $60,000 on eligible purchases in a calendar year.

Terms apply.

The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

Welcome bonus: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

Cardholders pay a $95 annual fee in exchange for Gold elite status and the following rewards (Terms apply.):

  • 12x points per $1 spent on Hilton hotels and resorts.

  • 6x points per $1 spent on flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel and car rentals booked directly with select car rental companies.

  • 6x points per $1 spent at U.S. gas stations, U.S. purchases for shipping and wireless telephone service purchases made directly with U.S. service providers.

  • 3x points on all other eligible purchases.

  • Complimentary free weekend night reward after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases in a calendar year.

  • Second free weekend night reward after you spend $60,000 on eligible purchases in a calendar year.

Terms apply.

How else can you use Hilton Honors points?

As a Hilton Honors member you can redeem points toward travel in other ways.

NerdWallet values Hilton points at 0.4 cent each. This is a baseline value, drawn from real-world data, not a maximized value. In other words, you should aim for award redemptions that offer 0.4 cent or more in value from your Hilton points.

Airline and Amtrak points

For example, 10,000 Hilton Honors points can be redeemed for 1,500 Amtrak Guest Rewards points, while the same number of points equals 1,000 Delta or United miles.

Hilton Experiences

Hilton also lets you redeem points for experiences and events. Some of these "once-in-a-lifetime experiences" can be booked outright, while others require bidding.

For example, bidding for tickets to a Jim Gaffigan comedy show in New York topped out at 90,000 points — or you could get The Ultimate Mezcal Tasting Experience in Cancun for just 25,000 points.

Non-travel awards

You can also use points to shop for non-travel awards. Some options:

  • Shop and purchase items through Hilton’s partnership with Amazon.com. Link your Hilton account to Amazon and you can use your points through the Shop with Points program. On Amazon, 500 points equals $1.

  • Pool your points with other Hilton Honors members free of charge and redeem for free night awards.

  • Donate your points through Point Worthy to a number of nonprofit organizations, such as the Red Cross. Redeem at least 10,000 points for a $25 donation.

The bottom line

Hilton Honors has a really great award program if you’re savvy and willing to invest the time to find the best redemptions. To maximize the value of your points, try to save enough so that you can book your entire stay using the points, ideally at luxury properties and for at least five nights. Consider getting a Hilton-branded credit card to further maximize your points earnings and obtain some elite status.

All information about the Hilton Honors American Express CardHilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Hilton Honors American Express CardHilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card are no longer available through NerdWallet.

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