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Hilton Honors: The Complete Guide

Dec. 20, 2018
Loyalty Programs, Travel, Travel Credit Cards
Hilton HHonors Rewards
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If you’re looking for a hotel loyalty program that offers flexible rewards, consider joining Hilton Honors. As one of 82 million members worldwide, you’ll be able to redeem your points for free stays at more than 5,500 properties in over 100 countries and earn points with every dollar spent at Hilton portfolio hotels, with partners, or with a Hilton Honors American Express card.

Based on our latest analysis, we value Hilton Honors points at 0.4 cent each. But the good news is that you earn multiple points per dollar spent at participating hotels, based on your elite status and which credit card you use. With the right planning, it can be easy to earn a free night or other rewards of your choosing.

Is Hilton Honors the right program for you?

We crunched the numbers to help you decide how much energy to focus on this loyalty program.


In this article:

Hilton Honors: The basics

Hilton Hotels is one of the largest hotel chains in the world, with over 800,000 hotel rooms worldwide across 15 brands. Some of the most common hotel brands in the Hilton portfolio include:

  • Hampton by Hilton: Catering to travelers of all styles, Hampton by Hilton offers free breakfast to all guests, free Wi-Fi and a customer satisfaction guarantee. Hampton is the largest brand inside Hilton, accounting for nearly half of all the chain’s properties.
  • Hilton Garden Inn: The Hilton Garden Inn, geared to business travelers, offers a fitness center, cooked-to-order breakfast and business centers with free printing.
  • Doubletree by Hilton: Focused on upscale business and leisure travelers, Doubletree greets guests with a warm chocolate chip cookie at check-in. Rooms include luxury linens and high-end amenities.
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton: Many business travelers choose Embassy Suites for their two-room accommodations with separate living areas and bedrooms. Guests get a cooked-to-order breakfast daily and drinks in the evening at a two-hour reception.
  • Homewood Suites by Hilton: Homewood Suites is the extended-stay brand, with full kitchens and refrigerators in every room. Guests can take advantage of a complimentary cooked breakfast every morning, with drinks and bites Monday through Thursday.
  • Hilton Hotels and Resorts: The flagship brand, Hilton Hotels and Resorts can be found in 89 countries and territories. With a focus on the upper-upscale niche (better than upscale, but not quite luxury), guests can expect a full-service experience.
  • Waldorf Astoria: A brand rich with history, Waldorf Astoria is one of two luxury brands in the Hilton portfolio. Guests at any of the 30 hotels in 25 destinations can expect deluxe accommodations and personalized service.

Other brands in the Hilton Portfolio include Conrad, Canopy by Hilton, Curio Collection by Hilton, Hilton Grand Vacations, Home2 Suites, Tapestry Collection by Hilton and Tru by Hilton.

As a Hilton Honors member, all of your stays at participating Hilton hotels will count toward earning elite membership status, giving you access to more perks. Plus, you can easily qualify for ongoing automatic elite status by signing up for a co-branded credit card.

Hilton Honors elite levels

Hilton Honors consists of four membership levels, ranging from Blue to Diamond. The higher your status, the more benefits you’ll get when staying at Hilton properties. You can earn status through staying at hotels, earning Hilton Honors points, or by holding certain Hilton Honors American Express cards. You can become an Honors member by creating a free profile on Hilton’s website.

  • Blue: Hilton Honors Blue is the base level of the program, which everyone gets for signing up. Members get a free second guest, late checkout where available, and express checkout. Blue members earn 10 base points for every eligible $1 spent on the room, including room charges. Hilton Honors members can also pool their points with up to 11 other members, making it easier for friends and families to get free nights.
  • Silver: Hilton Honors members who stay four times, 10 nights, or hold the Hilton Honors American Express Card earn Silver status. In addition to all of the Blue perks, you’ll also get a 20% bonus on all points you earn, every fifth night free, complimentary access to fitness centers, and two complimentary bottles of water per stay.
  • Gold: After 20 stays, 40 nights, earning 75,000 Honors base points, or holding the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card or the The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card, members gain Gold status. In addition to Blue and Silver rewards, Gold members get an 80% bonus on all points earned, complimentary continental breakfast at applicable Hilton hotels, and space-available upgrades to preferred rooms.
  • Diamond: The highest elite tier in Hilton Honors, members earn Diamond status after 30 stays, 60 nights, earning 120,000 Honors base points, or holding the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express. On top of the previous tier perks, Diamond elite members get a 100% point bonus and a 48-hour room guarantee for last-minute bookings, and they can extend their status for an additional year if they aren’t able to requalify. Diamond members can also visit the executive-floor lounge at select hotels and get 24-hour access to member services.

Note that if you’ve stayed at a Hilton hotel in the past six months but didn’t get status credit, you can request it by reporting it as a “missing stay” on your Hilton profile. Just complete the information about your check-in and check-out dates, along with the name and location of the hotel.

Lifetime Diamond status

In 2017, Hilton introduced a lifetime status benefit for their most loyal guests. To qualify for Lifetime Diamond status, Hilton Honors members must have Diamond status for at least 10 years. The 10 years of Diamond status do not have to be consecutive. In addition, members must meet one of two milestone requirements:

  • Stay at least a combined total of 1,000 paid and reward nights.
  • Earn a total of 2 million base points.

If you had a previous membership and it was canceled due to inactivity, those nights may not apply toward lifetime status.

Earning Hilton Honors points

You can earn two types of points through Hilton Honors: base points and bonus points. You’ll earn 10 base points per $1 spent at most Hilton portfolio hotels, regardless of the Honors status you have.

At Home2 Suites by Hilton and Tru by Hilton hotels, you’ll only earn 5 base points per $1. And you won’t earn any base points at Hampton by Hilton hotels in China, since those hotels are excluded from the loyalty program.

The only difference between base points and bonus points is in qualifying for elite status: You can qualify for Gold and Diamond status with base points, but not with bonus points. All points can be redeemed for free stays. The number of bonus points you earn is determined by your elite status, any bonus promotions you used when you booked, and whether you used a Hilton credit card. Elite status can gift you between 20% and 100% more bonus points, while using a Hilton credit card at a participating portfolio hotel may earn you an additional 7 and 14 bonus points per $1.

If you paid $200 for a one-night stay at a participating Hilton Hotel and didn’t use a Hilton Honors credit card, you could earn:

  • Blue: 2,000 base Hilton Honors points.
  • Silver: 2,400 Hilton Honors points (2,000 base points and 400 bonus points).
  • Gold: 3,600 Hilton Honors points (2,000 base points and 1,600 bonus points).
  • Diamond: 4,000 Hilton Honors points (2,000 base points and 2,000 bonus points).

The fine print

Honors 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.

And, unless you have a credit card that grants you automatic elite status, you have to requalify each calendar year by staying at Hilton portfolio hotels.

Cards that earn Hilton Honors points

The easiest way to earn more Honors bonus points is by getting a co-branded card. American Express offers four Hilton Honors credit cards: three consumer cards and one business card, each with various benefits and bonus earnings.

Hilton Honors American Express Card

  • $0 annual fee.
  • Welcome offer: Earn 90,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
  • Earn 7 Hilton Honors bonus points for each $1 of eligible purchases charged to your card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Earn 5 Hilton Honors bonus points for each $1 of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations on your card.
  • Earn 3 Hilton Honors bonus points for each $1 spent on all other eligible purchases on your card.
  • Automatic Hilton Honors Silver status.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Spend $20,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year to earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

  • $95 annual fee.
  • Welcome offer: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points and a free weekend night reward after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 4 months of Card membership. Terms Apply.
  • Earn 12 Hilton Honors bonus points for each $1 of eligible purchases charged to your card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Earn 6 Hilton Honors bonus points for each $1 of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations on your card.
  • Earn 3 Hilton Honors bonus points for each $1 spent on all other eligible purchases on your card.
  • Automatic Hilton Honors Gold status.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Spend $40,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year and you can earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • Earn a weekend night reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year.
  • Receive 10 free airport lounge visit each year once enrolled in complimentary Priority Pass membership.
  • Note: (From January 2018 to July 2019, this card was called the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card).

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

  • $450 annual fee.
  • Welcome offer: Earn 150,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in eligible purchases on your card within the first 3 months of card membership.
  • Earn 14 Hilton Honors bonus points for each $1 of eligible purchases charged to your card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Earn 7 Hilton Honors bonus points for each $1 of eligible purchases on your card for flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and U.S. restaurants.
  • Earn 3 Hilton Honors bonus points for each $1 spent on all other eligible purchases on your card.
  • Automatic Hilton Honors Diamond status
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Enjoy a free annual weekend night reward from Hilton Honors upon signup and every year upon card renewal.
  • Earn an additional weekend night reward after you spend $60,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year.
  • Receive up to $250 in statement credits each year of card membership for eligible purchases at participating Hilton Resorts.
  • Receive up to $250 per calendar year in credits for incidental fees charged by an airline to your Hilton Honors Aspire Card account.
  • Receive up to $100 in credit for qualifying charges at participating Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts when you book a two-night minimum stay with your card at HiltonHonors.com/AspireCard.
  • Receive unlimited Priority Pass lounge visits once enrolled in the program.

The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

  • $95 annual fee.
  • Welcome offer: Earn 125,000 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.
  • Earn 12 Hilton Honors bonus points for each $1 of eligible purchases charged to your card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Earn 6 Hilton Honors bonus points for each $1 of eligible purchases on your card at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers, on U.S. purchases for shipping, at U.S. restaurants, on flights booked directly with airlines or with Amex Travel, or on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies.
  • Earn 3 Hilton Honors bonus points for each $1 spent on all other eligible purchases on your card.
  • Automatic Hilton Honors Gold status.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Spend $40,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year and you can earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • Earn a weekend night reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year.
  • Earn another weekend night reward from Hilton Honors after you spend an additional $45,000 in purchases on your card in the same calendar year.
  • Receive 10 free airport lounge visit each year once enrolled in complimentary Priority Pass Select membership.

Transferring credit card points to Hilton Honors

If you have a credit card that earns American Express Membership Rewards or Diners Club International Club Rewards, you can turn those points into Hilton Honors points. Prior to transferring, you must link your accounts.

  • American Express Membership Rewards: If you live in the United States, you can transfer Membership Rewards to Hilton Honors at a ratio of 1:2. You must transfer a minimum of 1,000 Membership Rewards points to earn 2,000 Hilton Honors points and transfer in increments of 1,000 Membership Rewards points. If you live outside the United States, your transfer ratio may vary. Refer to this chart to see how your transfers may work.
  • Diners Club International Club Rewards: Points earned from Diners Club credit cards may also be transferred to Hilton Honors. Cardholders in the U.S. can exchange 1,250 Club Rewards points for 2,000 Hilton Honors points. Transfers may be made through the Club Rewards website, or by calling Club Rewards.

How to get more Hilton Honors bonus points

Aside from getting a co-branded card and staying at Hilton portfolio hotels, you can also get more bonus points through promotional offers, with partner offers, and through Hilton Honors dining. If you are just short of a reward night, you can also purchase Hilton Honors points.

  • Promotional offers: Hilton Honors regularly offers promotions encouraging travelers to stay at their hotels. Promotions can include things like double and triple bonus points, on-property credits, and free breakfast at certain hotels.
  • Car rentals: Hilton Honors members who book rental cars with Alamo, Enterprise or National can earn up to 5,000 bonus points per rental, depending in part on how long you have the vehicle.
  • Cruises for Hilton Honors: Members who book through Cruises for Hilton Honors, powered by CruisesOnly, can earn bonus points based on the length of their cruise. Bonuses range from 6,000 Honors bonus points for up to a five-night cruise, to 50,000 Honors bonus points for cruises of 13 nights or more.
  • OneSimCard: Frequent international travelers can pick up more Hilton Honors points by buying a OneSimCard. Members earn 100 bonus points for signing up and 1 bonus point per minute on outgoing and incoming calls on your phone when using OneSimCard outside of the United States.
  • Hilton Honors Dining: Bonus points may be earned with every restaurant meal. Through Hilton Honors Dining, members can earn up to eight Hilton Honors bonus points per $1 spent at one of over 10,000 restaurants in the program. To start earning, sign up on the Hilton Honors Dining website.
  • Booking meetings and events: Meeting organizers can earn one bonus point per $1 spent on guest rooms and meeting rooms during qualifying events at participating Hilton portfolio properties. Planners can earn up to 100,000 Hilton Honors points per event.
  • Buy points: If you need a few extra bonus points for a free night, you can purchase points directly from Hilton at the price of 1 cent each with a minimum purchase of 1,000 points. Because we value points at 0.4 cent each, we don’t recommend purchasing points unless you can save more money by getting a small number of points.

How to redeem Honors points

Although Hilton Honors is a hotel loyalty program, the points can be redeemed in many different ways. From free hotel nights to shopping at Amazon, Hilton Honors makes it easy to use your points — but they don’t always provide the same value.

Redeeming Hilton Honors points for room nights

Hilton no longer categorizes their hotels on a fixed scale, but instead uses a dynamic award calendar. The amount of points you’ll need for a free room night is based on the hotel, the room you want, when you book and the dates of your stay.

Our research found an average price for an award night of roughly 38,000 to 45,000 points per night, depending on your dates and how far ahead you book. Family-friendly properties like Hampton by Hilton and Embassy Suites may cost less, while luxury properties like Waldorf Astoria and Conrad often cost more.

To search for an award night, visit HiltonHonors.com and sign in with your member number and password. From there, you can search for all available rooms at a destination with their cost in points.

Hotel nights with Points & Money awards

Another way for guests to use their Hilton Honors points is through the brand’s Points & Money awards. Through its new flexible awards system, members can choose how many points to use per night at over 4,900 hotels with no blackout dates, starting at 5,000 points and increasing in 1,000-point increments.

Because Hilton Honors no longer has award categories for its hotels, prices may change over time. This means prices for Points & Money awards can increase or decrease prior to booking. If you find a lower price before your trip, you can always cancel and rebook your trip to get the better price.

Hilton Honors Experiences

Hilton Honors members who have an abundance of points from staying or spending can trade them in for unique encounters. Hilton Honors Experiences is an auction site that offers regular guests opportunities to get VIP tickets to some of the most in-demand shows, concerts and sporting events. Some of the featured experiences include tickets to the Rose Bowl, a weekend package at the Grammys and a family getaway to Antwerp, Belgium.

Depending on the experience, your value per point will vary based on the ticket price and availability. Unique memorabilia and VIP events could yield a greater value per point than tickets to concerts and sporting events.

Shop with Hilton Honors points on Amazon

Instead of providing members with a merchandise mall, Hilton partnered with Amazon to allow members to use points at one of the world’s biggest retailers. To use Hilton Honors points on Amazon, members must first link their accounts on Amazon.com.

The benefit is available to Hilton Honors members around the world, but it comes with some limitations. Members can’t use their points to purchase some digital goods, Kindle downloads, Subscribe and Save items or AmazonFresh items. Other items may not be available with points and are subject to change. Any returned items purchased with Hilton Honors points will be credited in points and can take up to 72 hours to appear in your Honors account.

Transfer to airline partners

Like other hotel programs, Hilton Honors points can be transferred to airline partners. Members can transfer their points to over 40 frequent flyer program partners, including:

  • Air Canada Aeroplan.
  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue.
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.
  • American Airlines AAdvantage.
  • British Airways Executive Club.
  • Delta Air Lines SkyMiles.
  • Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns.
  • Lufthansa Miles and More.
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer.
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer.
  • United MileagePlus.
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.

Transfer rates vary from airline to airline. While 10,000 Hilton Honors points can be transferred to 1,000 Delta SkyMiles or United MileagePlus miles, the same 10,000 Honors points are exchangeable for 1,500 American AAdvantage miles.

Good redemption options

  • Hotel room nights: The best way to use Hilton Honors points is toward reward nights at its properties around the world. Because award prices are based on several factors including booking dates and season, it may require some searching to find the right price for your stay. Based on our research, Hilton hotels offer the best prices more than 90 days out from your stay, with Home2 Suites, Embassy Suites and Hampton by Hilton properties offering the best overall rates.
  • Points & Money nights: If you don’t have enough points for a free night, Hilton also offers Points & Money rates. But instead of a fixed number of points and hotel price, travelers can decide how many points to use toward a free night, starting at 5,000 points and increasing in 1,000-point increments. Depending on where you plan on staying, using a Points & Money award may be cheaper than buying points toward an award night.

Bad redemption options

  • Shopping on Amazon: Generally speaking, using points for shopping is a bad redemption option. Shopping on Amazon with Hilton Honors points is no exception. When you use your points toward items on Amazon, your points are only worth 0.2 cent each — half of their value when used for hotels. Unless you have an abundance of points you can’t use, shopping with Honors points is generally a bad value.
  • Transfer to airline partners: While hotel points present a very easy way to top up frequent flyer accounts for free flights, this is also generally a poor value. At a transfer rate of 10 Hilton Honors points for one frequent flyer mile in most programs, you trade in 4 cents worth of Hilton Honors points for a frequent flyer mile valued between 1.5 cents and 2 cents each. Unless you have no other way to earn frequent flyer miles, or can gain 4 cents or more on your award redemption, transferring to airline partners may not be a good use of points.

Methodology

To determine the value of Hilton Honors points, we analyzed prices in U.S. dollars and Hilton Honors points at Hilton-affiliated hotels from November 2018 to April 2019 in the 10 largest U.S. media markets as defined by ratings and data company Nielsen, along with five randomly selected media markets. We collected the average prices in cash and points to find the average value of points in cents. The markets are New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Philadelphia; Dallas/Fort Worth; Washington, D.C.; Houston; San Francisco; Boston; Atlanta; Salisbury, Maryland; Lafayette, Louisiana; Madison, Wisconsin; Roanoke, Virginia; and Palm Springs, California. In addition, 20 of the world’s busiest cities for tourism as defined by the 2017 Mastercard Destination City Index were also analyzed from November 2018 to April 2019 to determine the average price in cash, points and an average value of points in cents. The cities are Bangkok; Singapore; Seoul; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Tokyo; London; Paris; Istanbul; Barcelona; Amsterdam; San Jose, Costa Rica; Mexico City; Lima, Peru; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Beirut, Lebanon; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and Cape Town, South Africa.

The average value of 0.4 cent per point was determined from the mean value of all rewards across all surveyed cities. Individual city average values range from 0.3 cent to 0.5 cent per point.

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