If you’re looking for a hotel loyalty program that offers flexible rewards, consider joining the Hilton HHonors program. As a member, you’ll be able to redeem your points for free stays at more than 4,200 properties worldwide and earn more with every dollar spent at Hilton portfolio hotels. Here’s what you should know before joining.
Hilton HHonors: The basics
As a Hilton HHonors member, all of your Hilton portfolio stays will count toward earning a higher membership status, giving you access to more perks. Plus, you can easily qualify for ongoing automatic elite status (that is, a membership status of Silver or higher) by signing up for a co-branded credit card, which is rarely an option with other programs.
How to advance
The Hilton HHonors program includes four tiers, or membership levels, ranging from Blue to Diamond. The higher your status, the more benefits you’ll be eligible for. Here’s what you need to qualify for each tier and what you get in return:
Blue (just enroll): Free second guest, late check-out and express check-out. Earn 10 base points for every eligible dollar spent on your Hilton portfolio room and room charges. A few exceptions apply.
Silver (4 stays or 10 nights): In addition to all of the Blue perks, you’ll also get 15% elite status bonus on all point earnings, every fifth night free, complimentary access to fitness centers and two complimentary bottles of water per stay.
Gold (20 stays, 40 nights or 75,000 HHonors base points): Get a 25% elite status bonus on all points earned, eCheck-in, complimentary Wi-Fi at select hotels, bonus perks at select hotels and all the Silver perks.
Diamond (30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 HHonors base points): Get a 50% elite status bonus, a 48-hour room guarantee for last-minute booking, extra perks at select hotels and all the perks listed above.
You can become an HHonors member by creating a free profile on Hilton’s website. If you’ve stayed at Hilton hotels or traveled with Hilton partners in the past six months, you can start off with credit from those by reporting them as “missing stays.” Just complete the information about your check-in and check-out date, along with the name and location of the hotel (or partner).
Calculating a point’s worth
Like most loyalty rewards, the value of an HHonors point varies based on how it’s redeemed. Using data from 10 international and domestic stays at Hilton portfolio hotels from different price categories, NerdWallet valued Hilton HHonors points at 0.5 cent each, below the industry standard of 1 cent each, when redeemed for hotel stays. There are also other lower-value redemption opportunities, as noted below.
Keep in mind that the Hilton credit cards listed below and membership in the HHonors program can help you earn points much more quickly than most general travel rewards cards. By redeeming selectively, you can also squeeze additional value out of each point. These factors can make up for the otherwise relatively low redemption value.
How base points and bonus points are earned
You can earn two types of points through Hilton HHonors: base points and bonus points. Generally, you’ll earn 10 base points per dollar spent at a Hilton portfolio hotel regardless of the HHonors status you have. These can help you qualify for Gold status or Diamond status if you earn enough of them, though there are other ways to qualify, too. Aside from that, they don’t offer much utility over bonus points earned with a credit card or elite status. Both bonus points and base points can be redeemed for free stays.
The number of bonus points you earn is determined by money spent at Hilton with your co-branded credit card as well as the number of base points earned. Say you purchased a $200 Hilton stay and had automatic Silver status with the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Visa Signature® Card. You’d earn 2,000 base points, plus 1,500 HHonors bonus points (15% bonus on the base points earned from the Silver status, plus 6 points per dollar spent on Hilton on your card).
Because the sign-up bonus is also bonus points, not base points, it would take $7,500 in Hilton hotel stays to get to Gold status with this card – that is, if you didn’t already fast-track your way there.
Cards that earn HHonors points
The easiest way to earn more HHonors bonus points is by getting a co-branded card. Here are some to consider:
- The annual fee is $0.
- Sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 Hilton HHonors™ bonus points after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening*
- Automatic HHonors Silver status with a fast-track to Gold status
- Earn 6 HHonors bonus points per dollar spent at Hilton portfolio hotels, 3 per dollar spent at supermarkets, drugstores and gas stations and 2 per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn an annual loyalty bonus of 10,000 Hilton HHonors bonus points at the end of each calendar year when you spend $1,000 or more on stays within the Hilton portfolio
- The annual fee is $95
- Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio after you make $2,500 in purchases within 4 months of account opening
- Earn two weekend certificates after making $2,500 in purchases during the first four months
- Automatic HHonors Gold status
- Earn 10 HHonors bonus points per dollar spent on hotels in the Hilton portfolio, 5 per dollar spent on airline and car rental purchases, and 3 on all other purchases.
- Earn an anniversary bonus of one weekend night (standard room, double occupancy) at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio after you spend $10,000 on purchases each year (starting from your Annual Fee Date) and remain a cardmember.
Hilton HHonorsTM Card from American Express
- Earn 7 HHonors bonus points for purchases charged directly with a participating hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio, 5 per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations and 3 per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.
- Earn 12 HHonors bonus points for purchases charged directly with a participating hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio, 6 per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations and 3 per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.
How to get more HHonors bonus points
Aside from getting a co-branded card and staying at Hilton portfolio hotels more often, you can also get more bonus points by purchasing them for 1 cent each, in increments ranging from 1,000 to 80,000 points. This is still a splurge, since NerdWallet values the points at 0.5 cent each. But if you’re just 1,000 points short of a free stay, spending that $10 may be a sensible move.
Keep in mind that the purchased points won’t help you advance to Gold or Diamond status, like base points, but you can redeem points for free stays.
To purchase points, log on to your Hilton profile. On the left-hand side, under “My Points,” click on “More Ways to Use Points” and “Purchase.” From there, you’ll be able to select the number of points you want to buy.
How to redeem HHonors points
Hilton categorizes its hotels on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most expensive. A standard room in a Category 1 hotel costs 5,000 points per night, while one in a Category 10 hotels cost between 70,000 and 95,000 per night.
Good redemption options
During peak season, you may get a better value for your points if you spend them on a lower-tier Hilton hotel. Hotels in Categories 1 through 3 offer rewards pricing that doesn’t change seasonally, giving you more for your money as demand (and prices) rise.
Hilton doesn’t list hotels by category when you do a search, but generally, the ones with rooms at 20,000 points or less during popular traveling times tend to have these flat rewards rates. In some cities, these low-tier hotels may be in short supply.
Hilton also gives you an option to pay with Points & Money on select stays, which can help you stretch your points further while still getting an excellent redemption value. For instance, you may have the option to pay 12,000 points and $50 instead of paying 30,000 HHonors points for a certain room — say, one with a $150 list price. In this transaction, you’re effectively purchasing 18,000 points for $50, and getting each point for about 0.28 cents — a good deal, considering that they can be redeemed for about 0.5 cents each. If you’re willing to pay for part of your stay, this can be a good choice.
Bad redemption options
Top-tier hotels usually don’t offer inexpensive rooms, but when they do, it’s better to pay cash, since the number of points required for a stay is determined by hotel category, not list price. In the unlikely event a Category 10 hotel offered a standard room for $95 or 95,000 points in peak season, for instance, you’d only get a value of 0.1 cent per point if you paid with rewards. You’d be better off saving your points for your next trip.
While Hilton has several transfer partners, you generally won’t be able to exchange points at a 1:1 ratio. Unless you have absolutely no use for your HHonors points or are trying to use them before they expire, transferring your points usually isn’t a cost-effective choice.
If you absolutely want to transfer points, though, you have plenty of choices. Participating airlines include domestic carriers, such as Delta and United, as well as international carriers like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. You can also transfer points to Amtrak. You can view a full list of transfer partners here.
- HHonors points expire after 12 months of account inactivity. To keep an account active, you must be earning or redeeming points or staying at Hilton portfolio hotels.
- Unless you have a credit card granting you automatic elite status, you have to re-qualify each calendar year by staying at Hilton portfolio hotels.
- Bonus points earned on base points don’t count toward Gold or Diamond status, according to Hilton. They can be used for free stays, though.
Top Hilton credit cards from NerdWallet
Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Visa Signature® Card
For a $0 annual fee card, the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Visa Signature® Card packs a punch. You’ll get automatic Silver status with a fast track to Gold, plus a tempting sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 Hilton HHonors™ bonus points after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening*. It also rewards customer loyalty with an annual bonus of 10,000 HHonors bonus points at the end of each calendar year when you spend $1,000 or more of Hilton portfolio stays that year. For most frequent travelers, that’s an easy spending minimum to reach.
One of the best things about this card is that the Silver status automatically renews as long as you’re a cardholder. That means you can continue racking up free stays that don’t expire (as long as you keep your account active), giving this card an excellent long-term value at a minimal cost.
Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card
The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card is an ideal card for someone who plans to spend $1,900 or more on Hilton portfolio stays per year. Although the annual fee is $95, it quickly pays for itself if you stay at Hilton frequently. You’ll earn a generous sign-up bonus: Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio after you make $2,500 in purchases within 4 months of account opening. The card comes with automatic Gold status, which will automatically renew each year.
Like the Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Visa Signature® Card, the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card also rewards you for loyalty. You’ll get an anniversary bonus of one weekend night certificate at select hotels once you spend $10,000 each year and remain a cardmember. While this card may not be worth the annual fee if you rarely stay at Hilton, it could be a good bet if you’re planning to go on several trips and love staying at Hilton portfolio locations.
The calculated value of these points is based on an estimated redemption rate, not a credit card rewards earn rate. Therefore, you may notice that these numbers don’t match the rewards rates on our credit card finder tool. Read on for how we estimated these points values.
We sampled Hilton portfolio hotels ranging from Category 2 to Category 9 in five domestic cities and five international cities, based on availability and data from Booking.com and Expedia. Choosing a high-tier and low-tier option for each city, we used a sample weekday date, Apr. 5, 2016, and a sample weekend date, Apr. 9, 2016, to measure prices. We looked at the following cities:
- Los Angeles
- Orlando, Florida
- New York
- Las Vegas
- Mexico City
International stays netted an average of 0.5 cents a point when redeemed on weekdays, and 0.5 cents a point when redeemed on weekends. Domestic stays got and average of 0.5 cents a point when redeemed for weekdays and 0.5 cents a point when redeemed on weekends. Overall, NerdWallet values HHonors points at 0.5 cents each.
Last updated October 7, 2015