How To Redeem Hilton Honors Points For Best Value

How To Redeem Hilton Honors Points For Best Value

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While I write a lot about the value of hotel loyalty programs, it occurred to me that I’ve never actually written general guides on how to redeem points with the major programs. In this post I wanted to talk about how to go about redeeming Hilton Honors points, and what the best uses of the currency are.

Basics of redeeming Hilton Honors points

Let’s start by talking about the basics of redeeming Hilton Honors points — how much should you expect to pay for free nights, are there blackout dates, how much are Hilton Honors points worth, etc.?

I value Hilton Honors points at 0.5 cents each

Personally I value Hilton Honors points at 0.5 cents each. There’s no science to that, but rather I think that’s a fair, conservative valuation for what the points are worth. In other words, I won’t redeem points for a hotel stay with Hilton unless I’m getting well over 0.5 cents of value per point.

It’s important to come up with a points valuation for yourself (it can be different than mine), so that you can decide whether to pay cash or redeem points for a hotel stay.

Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam

Hilton Honors has no blackout dates

Hilton Honors has no blackout dates, which is to say that if a standard room is available for sale with cash, it can also be booked with points.

Now, the important thing to keep in mind is that some hotels have a very small pool of “standard” rooms, and a vast majority of rooms at a hotel may be considered “premium.” If a hotel has 150 rooms, it’s possible that only 10 rooms are considered “standard,” so that’s the major issue you’ll run into when redeeming points at some properties.

Free night awards cost 5,000-150,000 points per night

Hilton Honors doesn’t publish an award chart, but rather has dynamic award pricing. That’s to say that the cost of a free night redemption can vary based on the cash cost of a stay.

However, there are limits to Hilton Honors’ award pricing for standard rooms. Across the Hilton Honors portfolio, standard room redemptions cost a minimum of 5,000 points and a maximum of 150,000 points per night.

Each individual hotel has an (unpublished) maximum of how many points a standard room will cost. There are only a couple of properties that will cost up to 150,000 points, while all other properties will cost significantly less than that.

This is important to understand, because a hotel could be charging the same number of points on two nights, even if one night costs $200 if paying cash, while the other night costs $400 if paying cash.

Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal

Standard room rewards vs. premium room rewards

When you search award availability, you may notice that some awards are labeled as a “Standard Room Reward,” while others are labeled as a “Premium Room Reward.” What’s the difference? Standard room rewards are for situations where a standard room is available for sale, while premium room rewards allow you to redeem points for any type of hotel room, though generally the value won’t be as good.

If you see pricing at a hotel that’s above the typical maximum for a property, that means there’s no a standard room available, and you’re booking a premium award. Take the below example for the Waldorf Astoria Maldives, where a standard room is available for 150,000 points, while a premium room costs a minimum of 1,125,000 points — that’s quite a difference!

Hilton has “standard” and “premium” awards

Hilton Points & Money awards aren’t a great deal

Hilton Honors offers Points & Money awards, whereby you can book a stay at a hotel using a combination of points and cash. This might sound appealing to those who want to reduce the cash cost of a stay using points, or those who don’t have quite enough points for a stay.

Generally speaking, Hilton Points & Money isn’t a great use of points, and you’re going to get a better value booking a free night award stay outright. For example, take the Waldorf Astoria Maldives, where a free night costs 150,000 Hilton Honors points.

Hilton Honors Points & Money awards

Want to book a Points & Money award instead? If you wanted to reduce the points requirement by half (75,000 points), you’d need to pay a total of $1,050.12. As a point of comparison, I value Hilton Honors points at 0.5 cents each, meaning those 75,000 Hilton Honors points are worth $375 to me. But here you’re being asked to pay nearly three times that much.

Hilton Honors Points & Money awards

Hilton Honors elite members get a fifth night free

One way to maximize Hilton Honors points is to stay in increments of five nights. All Hilton Honors elite members (including Silver, Gold, and Diamond members) receive a fifth night free on award stays. There needs to be award availability for five consecutive nights, and then you’ll only pay for four of those nights. You can use this an unlimited number of times, and even for back-to-back stays. However, you must be paying for all nights with points out of the same account.

Hilton Honors elite status is easy to earn

When you redeem points for your hotel stay, you of course want to have as good of an experience as possible. That’s why it’s worth noting that Hilton Honors makes it easier than any other hotel program to earn status with credit cards:

The reason this matters is because having status can get you everything from room upgrades, to complimentary breakfast, to executive lounge access. The value of that will add up quickly.

Complimentary breakfast can add a lot of value to a stay

Pool Hilton Honors points to maximize value

Among hotel loyalty programs, Hilton Honors arguably has the most generous policy for combining points between accounts. Hilton Honors lets you pool points with others at no cost, which is awesome in situations where that could allow you to book something you don’t otherwise have enough points for.

There are no resort fees on points stays

Nowadays many properties charge resort fees or destination fees, which are essentially a money-grab. One awesome thing about redeem Hilton Honors points is that you’re not on the hook for those fees when you’re redeeming points for your stay, rather than paying cash. This applies regardless of whether or not you have elite status.

Hilton Honors often sells points for 0.5 cents each

Hilton Honors frequently has promotions for purchasing points, and the program frequently sells points with a 100% bonus, which is a cost of 0.5 cents per point. That’s right around what I value the points.

The reason this matters is because there are lots of situations where you could get outsized value simply by buying points from Hilton and then immediately redeeming them for a hotel stay. Personally I think it’s worth having a reserve of Hilton Honors points when a situation like that arises.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai DIFC

The best uses of Hilton Honors points

With the above basics out of the way about redeeming Hilton Honors points, how do you get the most value with your points? Below is my approach to redeeming Hilton Honors points for maximum value.

Standard room free night awards get you the most value

Personally, I exclusively redeem Hilton Honors points for free night awards in standard rooms. I don’t use Hilton Honors points for premium awards, or for merchandise, or for Points & Money awards. Personally I consistently get way more than 0.5 cents of value per point when redeeming for standard room free night awards, while I find most other redemptions don’t offer that level of value.

Conrad Bora Bora

Crunch the numbers on each redemption

Even though Hilton Honors has dynamic award pricing, that doesn’t mean every redemption is created equal. With each redemption you’ll want to crunch the numbers, and in general you’ll get the most value when you can find a standard room that’s available over a busier period.

For example, say you want to stay at The Gabriel Miami Downtown, a Curio Collection by Hilton property. I just pulled up the calendar availability for the month of December. Nearly every night has redemptions available for 70,000 Hilton Honors points. As mentioned above, I value Hilton points at 0.5 cents each, so to me that’s the equivalent of “paying” $350 for a night.

Hilton Honors award calendar

Want to pay cash for your stay instead? Over the course of the month, rates vary from $298 to $798. Yet when paying points, you’d pay the same no matter what. In other words, the value you’ll get per point ranges from 0.43 cents to 1.14 cents — that’s a massive difference!

Hilton Honors revenue stay calendar

Similarly, points pricing between hotels isn’t always logical. Let’s use two hotels in Turkey as an example. The Hampton by Hilton Bolu costs 5,000 Hilton Honors points or $80 per night, giving you a redemption value of 1.6 cents per Hilton Honors point.

Hilton Honors award pricing

Meanwhile the Hilton Garden Inn Erzurum cost 12,000 Hilton Honors points or $41 per night, giving you a redemption value of 0.34 cents per Hilton Honors point.

Hilton Honors award pricing

I can’t understate enough how just crunching the numbers and doing some comparison shopping can stretch your points further.

Redeem at Hilton’s best hotels for maximum value

While you can get great value with Hilton Honors points with a bit of effort at your typical four star hotel, the area where Hilton Honors really shines is when it comes to luxury hotels, as that’s where you’ll get the most value for your points.

Let me give some examples of hotels that I’ve redeemed at, and the maximum you’d pay for a standard room free night award:

Given that you can acquire Hilton Honors points for 0.5 cents each, those are some potentially amazing values. For example, redeeming just 150,000 Hilton Honors points per night at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives, when cash rates would be $2,000+ including taxes & fees, is an awesome opportunity.

That’s a great use of points!

The challenge is that award availability at these top properties can be really limited. That’s because each of these hotels only categorizes a limited number of rooms as “standard” accommodations, so the pool of rooms bookable with points is limited.

This is a case where persistence most definitely pays off, though. Either book right when availability opens, or keep checking back as the stay date approaches, as more rooms often become available closer to arrival.

Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills

Bottom line

Hilton Honors is a pretty easy-to-use points program, and there are many great uses of the points. If you want to maximize your points, make sure you redeem for a standard free night award, which will stretch your points furthest. I value Hilton Honors points at 0.5 cents each, and recommend trying to get way more value out of your points than that.

Personally my favorite use of Hilton Honors points is for stays at Hilton’s top luxury hotels, where you’ll almost consistently get the best value, assuming you can find award availability.

What has your experience been with redeeming Hilton Honors points?

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  1. Azamaraal Diamond

    Recently returned (April) from 15 night stay at Conrad Rangali Island (Maldives). Three consecutive 5 night stays (points). Although I had to purchase 100,000 points we still received outstanding value (5 for 4 @96,000 pts = 78,000 per night or approx $390 when the rack was way over $2000 on many nights). No tax and no resort fee as well. Wonderful.

  2. Buddy M. Guest

    Ben,
    I wonder if you could touch on the minimum night requirement for award stays at certain Hilton properties. One property that I've experienced personally with this tactic is the Conrad Rangali Maldives. There is availability next February but there is a 3-night minimum to get the base 120k rate for a standard beach villa. What really irks me is that if you can swing 600k in points and stay for 6 nights you...

    Ben,
    I wonder if you could touch on the minimum night requirement for award stays at certain Hilton properties. One property that I've experienced personally with this tactic is the Conrad Rangali Maldives. There is availability next February but there is a 3-night minimum to get the base 120k rate for a standard beach villa. What really irks me is that if you can swing 600k in points and stay for 6 nights you can get a over-water villa with jacuzzi at the same 120k nightly rate. I only needed a room for 5 nights though and would have to change other plans to stay there 6 nights. I'm still considering it but tried several times to get help from customer service and they couldn't get the same 120k rate for 5 nights. The rate jumps to 600k a night if you only need 5 nights. Also, no way to use a free night cert when there is a minimum 3 night stay to get the 120k nightly rate. I'm kinda bummed about the whole program but I have the 600k in points so I am considering it still even though it would add considerable expense for the extra float plane ride I would have to pay. I've currently have a 5-night stay booked at the SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton at 85k a night that is a short boat ride from the Maldives airport. The last rep I talked to said to keeping checking that maybe they would change room availability because the rep talked to someone higher up and they were going to suggest it to someone else who is in charge.

    1. MM Guest

      Exactly! I wish someone like Ben would investigate and publicize this relatively recent disingenuous tactic from Hilton: instituting minimum stay requirements to prevent you from using free night certificates !! If 3 nights are required (or even 2, or 5, 6 etc.), then single night certificates are worthless for these properties, effectively blocking their use! And guess where minimum stays are being forced: tahiti, maldives, seychelles. Hilton's aspirational properties. Previously, if you had enough points,...

      Exactly! I wish someone like Ben would investigate and publicize this relatively recent disingenuous tactic from Hilton: instituting minimum stay requirements to prevent you from using free night certificates !! If 3 nights are required (or even 2, or 5, 6 etc.), then single night certificates are worthless for these properties, effectively blocking their use! And guess where minimum stays are being forced: tahiti, maldives, seychelles. Hilton's aspirational properties. Previously, if you had enough points, you could book a week and then call and apply free night certificates to single nights in that reservation, since the inventory for certificate nights and standard points nights was the same. It still is. They just won't do it now. This is patently unfair and a huge but secret devaluation.

  3. Peter Guest

    Luxury properties may be the most aspirational redemptions but you can also get great value at run-of-the-mill properties that surge rates due to seasonality or special events. For example a room at the Hampton Inn Duluth, MN will run you $350 in the summer… but the points price is still 60,000, or avout 58 cents per point.

  4. Alex77W Guest

    I agree that validation of 1 HH point =$0.005 is about right but disagree regarding statement that redeeming at the top end properties represents the "best value". I did stay at HGI Dempasar a couple times for 5k/nigh when the cash rates were about $45-50. Then for teh top properties you can ask yourself if you are willing to pay 150k points (or $350/night) or just stay in a less expensive hotel.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      Since Hilton is selling points almost continuously at 0.5¢, I don’t worry about “best”.

      If I find a better than 0.5¢ reservation I take it, and buy the points then.

    2. DCS Diamond

      "Value" means different things to different people so it's YMMV.

      When the cash rate is $45-$50, I would pay cash instead of using points, even if doing an award stay would cost just 5k/night and yield a redemption value of 0.9-1.0cpp.
      Points are too "expensive" to use on rooms with such low cash rates.

      I would not pay 150k points for a room that would cost "just" $350/night either, as that would yield...

      "Value" means different things to different people so it's YMMV.

      When the cash rate is $45-$50, I would pay cash instead of using points, even if doing an award stay would cost just 5k/night and yield a redemption value of 0.9-1.0cpp.
      Points are too "expensive" to use on rooms with such low cash rates.

      I would not pay 150k points for a room that would cost "just" $350/night either, as that would yield a redemption value of just 0.23cpp, which is awful and a terrible use of points.

      In general, however, standard awards that would cost 150k points/night would be for rooms that would cost $1K or more per night as revenue stays.
      A $350/night room that goes for 150k points/night would likely be a premium room reward, which one must [almost] always avoid, because redemption values are [almost] always quite low...

  5. Dragonbaby Guest

    WA Maldives had some standard room availability pre pandemic. Booked a 5 night trip that had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. Now there is no availability of “standard rooms”. Looked recently and the only standard room rate on points were the dates most recently released, but when I clicked in it was actually not available. Probably phantom availability. Incredibly frustrating.

  6. xdambox New Member

    How do you suggest getting started on accumulating Hilton Honors points, since transferring MRs from Amex is not recommended, and HH co-branded cards don't always offer the best return on spending?

    1. DCS Diamond

      @xdambox - By design, the Hilton Honors program is meant to be rewarding primarily to members who spend real money at Hilton hotels. It is precisely why the program did not make the transfer of bank points like AMEX MR or Chase UR points to its points currency favorable. To earn huge numbers of Hilton points, and I mean huge, one must actively patronize the chain. Thus, in spite of talks about how Hilton makes...

      @xdambox - By design, the Hilton Honors program is meant to be rewarding primarily to members who spend real money at Hilton hotels. It is precisely why the program did not make the transfer of bank points like AMEX MR or Chase UR points to its points currency favorable. To earn huge numbers of Hilton points, and I mean huge, one must actively patronize the chain. Thus, in spite of talks about how Hilton makes it "easy" to earn either its Gold or Diamond status, neither status does one any good unless one spends real money on revenue stays at Hilton hotels, and that's because it is the only way to earn enough Hilton Honors points to be able afford award stays in the program.

      So, how does one get started on accumulating Hilton Honors points? Simple,

      1. Sign up for a high point-earning Hilton Honors credit card that comes with the either the Gold status (AMEX Surpass, 12x earn rate) or the Diamond status (AMEX Aspire, 14x earn rate), and get the associated signup bonus points (I am not sure what the current best offer is).

      2. Begin staying almost exclusive at Hilton hotels and watch your stash of redeemable Hilton Honors points grow exponentially, as your base earn rate will then be:

      - as a 'Surpass' Gold: 10x (base) + 8x (Gold bonus) + 12x (Surpass bonus) = 30x on every stay, even on incidentals.
      - as an 'Aspire' Diamond: 10x (base) + 10x (Diamond bonus) + 14x (Aspire bonus) = 34x on every stay, even on incidentals.

      3. Be sure to always sign up for Hilton Honors' nonstop promos, especially those that award 2x or 3x, which are quite lucrative because they will add 10x or 20x to the preceding base earn rates to boost a Gold's earn rate to 40x or 50x, and Diamond's earn rate to 44x or 54x, respectively.

      Like I said, Hilton Honors is by design highly rewarding to members who spend real money at Hilton hotels - a sound financial model that ensures that all cash and points activities are kept "in-house" to benefit the chain's bottom line.

      There is little to no financial benefit for a loyalty program to make it favorable for members to transfer other points currencies to its own (like UR to WoH points or AMEX MR to starpoints) or its own to other points currencies (starpoints to airline miles)...just ask SPG (R.I.P).

    2. Azamaraal Diamond

      DCS
      Your logic works for those who are able to acquire a Hilton branded CC. Living in Canada AMEX does not offer any branded cards other than Marr oops Bonvoy. This puts us so far behind that the $.005 rate still is excellent rather than spending cash.

      But only for aspirational properties and probably "old" rates.

    3. Never In Doubt Guest

      @xdambox,

      Until September 18, you can acquire 320,000 points for 0.5¢/point from Hilton.

      Don't worry if you miss that date. they'll almost certainly be "on sale" again, at the same price, no later than mid-October.

    4. DCS Diamond

      I thought about that when I wrote above that "the only way to earn enough Hilton Honors points to be able afford award stays in the program", so I am glad you brought it up.
      Sure, one can "speculatively" purchase HH points at 0.5cpp up to 320K/year, but that works only for limited, specific purposes. It is not sustainable as a way to play the game in the long run.
      If one is...

      I thought about that when I wrote above that "the only way to earn enough Hilton Honors points to be able afford award stays in the program", so I am glad you brought it up.
      Sure, one can "speculatively" purchase HH points at 0.5cpp up to 320K/year, but that works only for limited, specific purposes. It is not sustainable as a way to play the game in the long run.
      If one is going to purchase 320K HH points every year (I've done it only 3 times in 12 years as a HH Diamond), one would be much better off just patronizing the program full-time. It is way cheaper in the long run...

    5. DCS Diamond

      Oops! That should have been: Spending money at Hilton hotels is "the only way to earn enough Hilton Honors points to be able afford award stays in the program".

  7. crosscourt Guest

    I'm not sure about the max number of points being 150,000. I looked at the Hilton in Singapore for late september and a standard room was 202,000 points.

  8. Jacob Mochel Guest

    Last week used my Aspire Free Night award at the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh for a standard room, with Diamond (from the Card) got upgraded upon request to "King Castle View," had amazing view from the room and loo. Diamond also included breakfast for two; table service "continental" 2 courses with pastries, espresso coffee and bloody Marys included. Menu price was 30 pounds per person!

  9. BeachMiles Guest

    Is there any policy regarding booking a standard room with points, and then paying the property directly additional cash for the difference.
    Sometimes the room I really want is only $50 to $100 bucks more on the cash rate, but 100,000 or more in points. Thanks

    1. magice Member

      Usually, I would call up the property to ask if there is any cash upgrade available. It actually tends to be a bit cheaper than just the difference, too.

  10. Lan Sluder Guest

    Just a comment on Aspire and other "free night certificates." Hilton has a list of around 30 properties that don't honor the certficate.

    However, in fact, these certificates are good only for standard night awards, not premium awards. And in most cities the top end Hilton properties may not offer anything but premium awards. So, in actuality, there are scores, perhaps hundreds of better properties where you cannot redeem the annual free night award. Think...

    Just a comment on Aspire and other "free night certificates." Hilton has a list of around 30 properties that don't honor the certficate.

    However, in fact, these certificates are good only for standard night awards, not premium awards. And in most cities the top end Hilton properties may not offer anything but premium awards. So, in actuality, there are scores, perhaps hundreds of better properties where you cannot redeem the annual free night award. Think twice before you renew your Aspire Amex and pay the $450 renewal fee, especially as the Diamond elite level benefits in recent years have been diluted. Diamond, even Life Diamond, now means relatively little at most Hilton properties.

    I've been a loyal Hilton Honors member (and Diamond for many years) but I am switching most of my stays to another loyalty program.

    1. Sel, D. Guest

      “And in most cities the top end Hilton properties may not offer anything but premium awards.”

      Perhaps for certain dates, but your statement is incredibly false.

    2. Andrew Guest

      I’ve found diamond to be amazing internationally. I don’t use them domestically though.

  11. Never In Doubt Guest

    Among lower/middle range properties, finding value at 0.5¢ has been difficult for me in the US, but in Europe (particularly England), I found it to be much easier.

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BeachMiles Guest

Is there any policy regarding booking a standard room with points, and then paying the property directly additional cash for the difference. Sometimes the room I really want is only $50 to $100 bucks more on the cash rate, but 100,000 or more in points. Thanks

1
Sel, D. Guest

“And in most cities the top end Hilton properties may not offer anything but premium awards.” Perhaps for certain dates, but your statement is incredibly false.

1
Azamaraal Diamond

DCS Your logic works for those who are able to acquire a Hilton branded CC. Living in Canada AMEX does not offer any branded cards other than Marr oops Bonvoy. This puts us so far behind that the $.005 rate still is excellent rather than spending cash. But only for aspirational properties and probably "old" rates.

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