My Best-Ever Use Of Hilton Points

I’m shocked by how much value I just got out of my Hilton Honors points.

There are many things to love about Hilton Honors, but…

First let me give Hilton Honors credit for areas where they deserve it:

So why am I not as loyal to Hilton Honors as I am to Starwood Preferred Guest and World of Hyatt?

  • Hilton Honors’ elite recognition isn’t that strong, so while they’re basically giving away top tier status, the benefits can’t compare to World of Hyatt, for example
  • My biggest issue is just that I find most of Hilton’s hotel brands to be boring; there just aren’t that many Hilton family properties I get excited about

Getting outsized value from Hilton points can be tough

Last year Hilton switched to a new system for points redemptions, where award pricing is now more variable. They no longer publish award charts. The good news is that I find Hilton Honors offers pretty consistent value. You can usually redeem points for 0.4-0.5 cents each towards the cost of a hotel stay.

That’s good for most consumers, since most people want to redeem points for the same hotels that they’d usually pay to stay at. It’s less good for those who are specifically seeking out more aspirational hotels.

I don’t have a huge balance of Hilton Honors points — I have about 200,000 — and whenever I stay at a Hilton I feel like the redemption value is right at the cusp, which is to say that using my valuation of their points, either paying cash or redeeming points works out equally well.

Usually I’d rather save cash than save a specific points currency, but for whatever reason I haven’t redeemed much for Hilton.

Well, I just made my first Hilton redemption in a while, and it’s a spectacular value.

The incredible value I got with my Honors points

I’ve been wanting to take my dad to Europe in the next few weeks. We were supposed to go on a trip last year, but he was in Florida, and the hurricane at the time meant we had to reschedule the trip. He had an Aeroplan ticket he had to use by the end of August (since it was valid for a year from the date of issue), so I figured I’d take him to Tallinn, Estonia, and Riga, Latvia (two places neither of us have been to before).

I had set alerts for Lufthansa first class award space to open, and yesterday the space finally became available. Of course this space often disappears quickly, so I got on the phone and booked right away.

We’d be flying to Tallinn, but then I started looking at hotels. OMG, for our nights there were virtually no options. I know Tallinn has become a tourist hotspot, so I’m not sure if it’s that, or if there’s something specific going on in town. Virtually all decent hotels were sold out.

For a moment I was kicking myself for not having checked hotels first, but I knew Lufthansa space could disappear any moment, so…

Fortunately I then checked the Hilton, and noticed they had standard room availability.

For just 30,000 points per night I could book a free night, when a stay would have other cost 533EUR per night for our three night stay. I value Honors points at ~0.4 cents each, so I value 30,000 points at ~$120. Talk about an incredible value.

Thank goodness there was a standard room available, because the room that would cost just 10EUR per night more would have cost 419,000 Honors points per night (since it would be based on their even more variable pricing). That should give you a sense of what a good deal this was.

But it actually gets better than that. When I looked at the price breakdown, I noticed that it was the first night that was insanely expensive, while the second and third night were actually reasonably priced. The last two nights could be booked for just 104EUR per night.

So in the end I redeemed 30,000 points just for the first night, when the rate would have been 900EUR. Then I paid cash for the last two nights.

Now, of course I don’t want to claim I got 900EUR worth of “value” here, since I would have never paid that at the Hilton. However, options in the city were truly limited, so having Hilton Honors points really saved me here.

I never thought I’d get that much value out of my Hilton points. It just comes to show that having diversified points really pays off sometimes.

Comments

  1. You got over 2 pennies per point. Sounds like it often happens with a standard room rate on points and a variable temporary demand based rate in cash, like what happened with you.

    I find this happens often in airport hotels. I had a redemption in June at the DoubleTree EWR (not the most exciting hotel) for 20,000 a night while the cash rate with taxes added was close to $300.

    Congratulations on your snag.

  2. “You get what you pay for”

    And when you don’t have to actually pay & stay real dollars & nights for top tier status – it’s not surprising you have a weak & watered-down list of benefits.

    Not being able to check out at 4pm on a stay is an automatic disqualifier for me (and I’m sure many others) for wanting to give any real loyalty to a chain like this (plus Lucky as you note, uninspiring brands).

  3. I have a stay in Europe coming up where I am getting about 5.4 cents per dollar via Hilton points. I debated whether to spend cash or use points, but it makes sense to use points when you can with Hilton given the points are very easy to earn with bonuses and credit card spend.

    I’m not super loyal (my paid stays have ranged from Four Seasons, Loews, Starwood, Hilton, Marriott and boutiques this year) with hotels, but I’ve consistently found Hilton to be the most rewarding when it comes to basic earning and burning without requiring a ton of stays. I think the new Marriott will be a better program for true road warriors, but I simply can’t guarantee I will stay 30 nights or whatever in Marriotts every year.

    I’m looking forward to redeeming for Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills at some point.

  4. I forgot, I’ve also stayed at some Hyatt hotels this year – their earn rates are good. I need to investigate their card and program more.

  5. recently booked a $300 2-day hotel stay at Vienna Garden Inn for 20k points… The one you got is even better. I always thought Hilton points were garbage – I guess it makes sense to hold on to your hhonors points and hunt for these opportunities.

  6. I was in Tallinn on a cruise a couple of years back.

    It was indeed great, and I envision it being even better when the cruise ship passengers sail away in the evening.

  7. “Getting outsized value from Hilton points can be tough.”

    As I quantitatively showed in a post with a nice glossy chart [1], it’s no tougher than for any other program, especially in conjunction with the “5th award night free” perk [1][2]. The reason is that at their top (expensive or ‘aspirational’) end hotels, Hilton intentionally UNLINKED award costs in points from corresponding cash room rates, thereby still enabling one to get outsized value, even under the revenue system and no award charts. At the same time, because cash rates can decrease significantly when demand is low, one can often snatch “premium” room awards, including suites, for about the cost of standard awards or even less, because the required number of points would generally follow the decrease in cash rates. One simply has to play the game with a “full deck” to take advantage of such opportunities.

    The lesson of this post, however, is that one should not wed oneself too exclusively to a single program. Leave the options open. Like I have said before, I am “an equal opportunity opportunist”, who will go with a redemption that gives me the better or best value among alternatives from all the programs for which I have points. I live by that principle every year during my annual Year-end Asian Escapade(tm) [3], staying at, e.g., Hyatt or Marriott hotels even in cities that have a Hilton presence.

    Having said that, I do defend Hilton here and elsewhere forcefully against bogus claims because (a) the program does it for me and, more to the point, (b) no one else dared to defend it before I started doing it for fear of being ridiculed (as I initially was on this very site), since self-anointed gurus had declared Hilton (…and Marriott!) the worst programs in the business without knowing jack about it. The demise of their favored programs, the continued strength of Hilton Honors, and now with Marriott finding its footing tell you all need to know about how much one should blindly accept travel bloggers’ claims, predictions or made-up and self-serving standards of excellence. 😉

    Supporting material (to be provided in the next post):
    —————————————————————————-
    [1] Link to post entitled “The Outsized Value of the 5th Award Night Free at ‘Aspirational’ Hilton Properties is Alive and Well” provided in next post. It shows how awards costs in points and cash are unlinked at high end…and more.

    [2] Also of interest should be this post “No, There Has Not Been A “Big Devaluation In Hilton ‘5th Award Night Free’ Benefit.” Au Contraire!” that debunked another claim before it spread in the blogosphere echo chamber.

    [3] Link to “Year-end Asian Escapade: Anatomy of a Big-Time Redemption – 2017 Edition”, where I reported on the 2017 Edition of my Year-end Escapade(tm).

  8. Tallinn, and especially Riga are prime places to use up whatever Club Carlson points you have.

    I burnt most of mine back when you got two nights for one and I did back to back two nights stays using my and my wife’s card. Four nights for two in Helsinki, Copenhagen and St. Petersburg, and two for one in Tallinn. Riga was just straight points this year, but I was more impressed with the property in Riga than the others, it’s one I’d go back to even without points (Raddisson Blu Elizabete).

  9. I just tried posting the 3 promised links but the post did not display as usual with “waiting for moderation” message. It just vanished! Then I tried posting again, and I got the message:

    “Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!”

    So, may it is in moderation but just did not display?

  10. Apologies if this is a dumb question, but I got the Hilton Honors Ascend card a little over a month ago since the 100K point bonus was too good to give up. I’m close to meeting the minimum spend. Are Hilton Honors points also considered AMEX membership points, or are they separate? As an example, can HH points be used as AMEX membership points for that Virgin Atlantic 30% bonus promo? Thanks for the help.

  11. I exclusively use AirBnBs when I travel to Europe. They are typically cheaper and do provide an authentic feel. I wish there was a points options with AirBnB, which can reward loyal and frequent customers

  12. So you aren’t allowed to mention Aspire?

    I just stayed 5 nights on a cheap paid rate (AZ in the summer is cheap for obvious reasons) and got 4,200 base points and then various bonuses for another 13,600 points. At .005 cents per point that is $89 off my stay where the room was was no more than $100 with taxes or about another 15% off.

    I’m curious how long it will take for the $250 resort bonus to be credited (yes, my hotel was on their list). Looking at flyer talk it may take several months which is excessive.

  13. I’ve got great value out of the Hilton program for years. I had a NYE stay in Queenstown, NZ last year at 30K Points a night and the paid rate was over $500 NZD per night.

    Just because there aren’t guaranteed Suite night awards or good transfer partners to airline programs doesn’t mean the program has no value.

  14. I found the same issue in Tallinn in mid September with the Marriott. Some nights were shockingly expensive. Fortunately, I booked far enough ahead that the nights I wanted were about $150.

  15. @Lucky if you book one stay (in this case one night) with points and a consecutive one with cash, do you have to deal with an extra check-in/out and whatnot?

  16. Tallinn is fantastic, you and your Dad will love it, I’m sure. The Hilton is also great with superb staff. I’ve had great value in Queenstown NZ using points and recently booked Hilton Nashville suite for nothing using a Hilton VISA free night cert – would have been 70k points or $750 with almost nothing else available in the city that night!! Not had for £750 spend on the card, although sadly that’s now closed to new applicants with nothing to replace it.

    Benefits in the USA are pretty weak (as you say, you can get top tier for nothing) but when elsewhere in the world I find Diamond treatment is good as it’s far more unusual to have status.

  17. The lounge at Tallinn Hilton has a great view, and the F&B offerings are quite decent.

    We stayed there for 2 nights on our 2nd visit in2016 as part of a land trip – our return flight was 9W’s HEL-YYZ, so Tallinn became a natural choice. We have had multiple day visits as cruise port of call already. Previous visit we stayed at Radisson Blu nearby. On the last trip we bought a day pass at the Stockmann Dept Store’s customer service desk and took the trams all over town – much further away from the tourist center / Old town – see the real Tallinn where the locals live and work.

    Riga is nice too. The Radisson Blu Elizabeth had killer breakfast buffet which at the time was free to all guests. They had the gigantic black grapes that in Japan would cost a fortune at the depart stores supermarket.

    Make sure to find time to visit the Occupation Museum – both cities have its own. We went to the one at Riga but did not have time to visit the similar one in Tallinn. It would give you some perspective on the Baltic countries and how their heroic struggles for their final independence.

    You can also take a day trip via ferry to Helsinki if so wish.

  18. I will be the first one to agree that Hilton status is so inconsistent in the US, I also acknowledge that I have gotten nonstop suite upgrades whenever I have stayed in Europe or Asia at Hilton brands.

    I suggest taking a look at some of Hilton’s brands new properties, I stayed at a few recently (one being the Hilton Dalian Pebble Beach Resort) and they are actually inspiring. It seems like Hilton newer properties are 10 times better in terms of wow and the inspirational factor than their legacy properties.

  19. @Neil – You can transfer AMEX MR points to Hilton points 1:2, but not the other away around. However, even if it were possible to transfer Hilton points to AMEX MR point, it’s not a transfer I would recommend because Hilton points are worth more as Hilton points…

  20. @LAXjeff sez: “Just because there aren’t guaranteed Suite night awards or good transfer partners to airline programs doesn’t mean the program has no value.”

    Of course not. That is simply what self-anointed travel gurus wanted you to believe, and they made the claims so relentlessly that they turned them into blogosphere dogma. The only problem? The claims were and remain bogus. No loyalty program ‘guarantees’ suite upgrades, which, without exception, depend on availability and are at the discretion of each property [suite night awards (SNAs) were so useless that SPG was compelled to begin offering alternative perks to SNAs]; and there is a strong likelihood that their over-the-top focus on “good transfer to airline programs” played a role in the demise of Starwood.

    Hilton has been rewarding for you, that is what is important and no one can take that away from you unless you let yourself believe that the self-serving hype and bogus claims have any merit. SPG was supposed to be la ‘crème de la crème’ of loyalty programs and look at where it is now. And Hyatt Gold Passport? WoH! sounds about right regarding what’s happened to it….

    Bottom line: YMMV.

    G’day.

  21. I used to live a few blocks from that Hilton. It used to be a local hotel brand (Reval Hotels) with the biggest casino in the city (Olympic Casino) located there, owned by one of the richest people in Estonia (Armin Karu), then Hilton took over.

    The location is good but not great. You’re on the edge of the center. The nearest tram stop is a few blocks away, and same with the center and the old town. I generally recommend people choose a hotel in the center, like Radisson, Viru Hotel, or Nordic Hotel Foorum. Those are all right in the center and direct next to Old Town.

    If you let me know what date exactly it was really expensive, I can find out why. This weekend the Ironman triathlon is in town and that’s causing a huge demand for rooms for example.

    Enjoy your stay! The tour books do a pretty good job of listing all the sights. A slightly offbeat choice may be the TV tower. It’s on the edge of town so best to take a taxi/Uber there.

  22. I’ve been checking IHG in Vancouver for this month, I don’t see any rooms for points, while cash rates are of course still available. This is like award seats with airlines.

    Is it just Vancouver during the peak season or it’s same everywhere during peak season?

  23. Best value for money I had were:
    1. free night certificate at Waldorf Amsterdam when standard room was 600 euro per night. Booked it for my friends as I didn’t have time to go.
    2. Maldives where 95K points were exchanged for $1000 per night villa.
    3. 5K points stays in HGI Rzeszow, during 5K Visa promotion. I stayed for “free” twice and had breakfast for two.

  24. Just lost my diamond status through being a platinum VA member as no matter if you keep platinum you only get one year diamond status which is a shame. Also unlike the US you can’t get a card to get diamond status in AU just gold which doesn’t give you the lounge access ☹️

  25. Really enjoyed my short stay at Tallinn Hilton last year. Was upgraded from standard basic room to the executive floor as a Gold. The breakfast in the downstairs restaurant was MUCH better with far more choices than the lounge offering. Nice/pool/sauna area and very friendly staff.

  26. @Ben Holz, I’ve done back-to-back stays in cash and points many times, and I’ve never had to check out and back in. Though, to be safe, I always do alert the hotel itself (not Hilton corporate) in advance and again when I check in.

  27. @rich…$250 aspire resort credit should post within a few days (similar to an Amex offer or the airline spend credits).

    @Lucky I’m glad to see you finding some value in the Hilton program. Although it is quite true that the elite recognition is inconsistent (actually as a Diamond who regularly stays across the portfolio from Hamptons to WA’s I find the HGIs and Hamptons are great at getting me suites with extra space when on family road trips which is very helpful) overall the redemption opportunities are great FOR THOSE WHO ARW PATIENT ANS WILLING TO LOOK.

    As I have posted about previously we booked the Grand Wailea for 95K/night (5th night free) when paid rates were about $1200 all in. Throw in the breakfast credits for Diamond a moderate upgrade from a garden view room and the $250 resort credit from Aspire and I don’t see what’s not to like. Obviously if you’re just burning 60K points on a downtown Hilton that is retailing for $225 you’re not getting good value…so maybe just don’t do that 🙂

  28. Nice redemption Lucky! Tallinn is a beautiful city. You and your dad will have a great time. By the way, how do you set alerts for first class availability???

  29. @Bossman sez: “Although it is quite true that the [HH] elite recognition is inconsistent…[followed by something positive experience about Hilton]”

    It’s sad (sickening actually) that bloggers have brain-washed their readers into almost constantly apologizing for patronizing Hilton, even when their own experiences tell them otherwise. Every positive experience almost invariably contains the obligatory caveat about how Hilton lacks this or that benefit as claimed by self-anointed travel gurus.

    So, who ya gonna believe, travel bloggers or yer lyin’ eyes? See “DCS says: August 4, 2018 at 10:26 pm” above for a brief elaboration on who to believe (hint: your lying eyes!), but Hilton Honors elite recognition is no more inconsistent than any other program’s…really.

  30. I remember a few years ago when the Park Inn Tallinn was either 9k or 15k Club Carlson pts per night, which I value at 6-10k Hilton.

  31. @DCS – I totally agree. And it’s also worth considering that some chains, especially Starwood (as was) and Hyatt, are particularly light in some countries where Hilton is strong, such as the UK. I’m a longstanding HH Diamond (by actually earning it) and as much as I’d like to have the chance to develop status with Hyatt they just don’t have any/many hotels that I’m able to use.

    I’ve often had really great recognition as a Diamond – OK, the late checkout thing isn’t great (though I see chat that might be about to change) but other than that HH really works for me. I used to be an IHG loyalist but have refocused over the past few years to get top status (Diamond and Spire respectively) in both. (I’ve been an IHG RA on more than one occasion in the past, but my travel patterns mean it is difficult to keep that up).

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