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.
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Each individual hotel has an (unpublished) maximum of how many points a standard room will cost.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.
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 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.
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 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:
- Hilton Honors Gold status can be earned just for having the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (review), Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (review), The Platinum Card® from American Express (review), or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (review)
- Hilton Honors Diamond status can be earned just for having the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express (review)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
- The Conrad Bora Bora costs up to 120,000 Hilton Honors points for a standard room redemption
- The Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills costs up to 120,000 Hilton Honors points for a standard room redemption
- The Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam costs up to 110,000 Hilton Honors points for a standard room redemption
- The Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos costs up to 150,000 Hilton Honors points for a standard room redemption
- The Waldorf Astoria Maldives costs up to 150,000 Hilton Honors points for a standard room redemption
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.
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.
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?