How To Maximise Hilton Honors Points

Hilton is one of the largest hotel chains in the world, with several well-known brands other than just Hilton. They also own Waldorf Astoria, Doubletree and Conrad, to name a few. The loyalty scheme is relatively straightforward and rewarding, with a few caveats. Points are earned on stays with Hilton group hotels, and as with most other loyalty programs, they have a few other partners. Due to Hilton’s relatively small footprint in Australia and relatively poor earning rates through credit card partners, it can sometimes be dismissed by those looking for loyalty programs. The Hilton loyalty program still has several redeeming qualities that make it worth a look. Here’s how to maximise Hilton Honors points and use the program to your advantage.

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    How to earn Hilton Honors points

    The amount of points you earn depends on the hotel you stay in. However, unlike other hotel loyalty programs, the variability in points earned is much lower. Most brands will earn 10 points per US$1 spent (excluding taxes). This is also earned on anything you spend in the hotel, including in the restaurants, minibar or room upgrades. As you work your way up the tiers, you will get additional bonus points, capping out at 20 points per US$1 for Diamond members.

    The great thing about the Hilton program is amassing points through stays is relatively easy. There are frequent bonus points offers, with double and triple points being an almost permanent promotion. In addition, you can stack offers on their page that can give you 1-2,000 bonus points for booking during specific dates and in certain markets. This is made even easier once you’ve worked your way up the tiers where bonus points are added, giving you a potential 30 or 40 points per US$1 spent.

    On a 4-night stay costing $300 per night, you can get 20-30,000 points per stay. That’s easily enough for a free night in one of the lower-tier hotels. A couple of stays like this can get you a night in a Maldives resort, usually costing over $1,000 per night. This means you can spend about $2,400 and receive over $1,000 in rewards (give or take). Of course, this is a rough estimate and depends on factors such as reward availability and resort location. There are still many examples like this, and it’s easy to see how this program can be of excellent value when you maximise its potential.

    Working your way up loyalty tiers

    Hilton’s tier benefits are excellent, and I think this is a program where it’s worth trying to work your way up the tiers if you can. If you’ve managed to work your way to Diamond status, you get complimentary breakfast (outside the US), free room upgrades, premium Wi-Fi and a guaranteed room when booking 48 hours in advance. On top of this, an excellent benefit from Silver and above is booking a 4-night reward stay, which gets you a fifth night free! This reduces your reward costs for longer stays by 20%. A great benefit when booking longer resort stays, such as some of the Hilton Maldives resorts.

    Another benefit which is good but, in my experience, is definitely hit or miss is the room upgrade. Both Gold and Diamond status should entitle you to a free room upgrade. This is usually honoured outside the US without prompting, but the upgrade perk is hit or miss in the US. I assume this is because, in the US, Diamond status is relatively easy to attain with the right credit card, making it quite costly for the hotel chain to give upgrades away.

    There’s an easier way for those who won’t necessarily spend 40-60 nights away from home to qualify for these perks. Velocity Gold members and American Express Platinum Card holders qualify for Hilton Honors Gold status for free. This fast tracks you to a premium status level, giving you all of the above perks without having to stay. Suppose you’re a member of another hotel loyalty program. In that case, you can also use a status match to get a temporary match to a higher Hilton status and make it easier to reach Gold or Diamond status.

    Buying Hilton Honors points for cheaper stays.

    How to maximise Hilton Honors points using credit cards, points purchasing and more

    One great way to pay for your stay with points is by buying them. While it might be challenging to use them to pay for a week-long resort stay due to a cap of 320,000 points per year, it can supplement your existing points balance and extend your stay enough to take advantage of the fifth-night free perk offered to Silver and above Honors members.

    You might ask why I would pay for points. The whole reason for collecting these points is for free stays. But buying points during offer periods can significantly cut the cost of your trip. Hilton frequently offers a bonus of 100% when purchasing points (essentially making them half-price), allowing you to save thousands of dollars with this technique potentially. We have shown you how to do this for a stay in the Maldives.

    Which redemptions make Honors points worth it?

    Let’s look at some great redemptions you can get with the Hilton Honors rewards program. I’ve put these together to show you the variety of places you could stay in and why this program should be considered.

    A stay at the London Hilton Park Lane for five nights would set you back $3,300 for a non-flexible, non-refundable rate without breakfast. If you were a Hilton Silver and above member, you could get the same stay by buying 320,000 points (remember you only need to pay for four nights) for $2,400, which would be changeable without extra charges and include breakfast if you are Hilton Gold and above. The great thing about Hilton redemptions is they also include all room taxes, so a free room is a free room.

    Hilton has a substantial footprint in the US. For those who frequent the US, finding redemptions at reasonable rates is easy. Above is an example of Los Angeles, and as you can see, there are nearly 100 potential hotels where you can redeem your points with various types of rooms available to suit all budgets.

    It is important to note that Hilton has two types of redemptions. These are standard room rewards and premium room rewards. Premium room rewards tend to be available in Hilton’s highest-end resorts and have much poorer redemption rates. Typically, these high-end hotels will have a few standard room rewards available, but they disappear quickly. An example is the Maldives, which has several great Hilton properties, but one of the most desirable is the Waldorf Astoria. As you can see here, there is a vast difference in price between the Premium and Standard room rewards, and in my opinion, this isn’t worth chasing.

    The downside to Hilton Honors in Australia

    a maldives honeymoon on a budget isn't so unachievable when you buy hilton points to stay at this - the Conrad Maldives

    So what are the downsides? Most of Hilton’s properties outside the US are on the higher end of the price spectrum. This may not suit those who want to travel on a budget or even those looking for midrange hotels. If you regularly stay in 4- or 5 star hotels, this is a good program.

    Hilton points are also challenging to get with credit cards in Australia, and the earning rate could be better when you find one. Take the American Express Membership Rewards program, which will give you only 1 Hilton point per 2 reward points in Australia. In comparison, American Express in the US offers 2 Hilton points per reward point and a dedicated Hilton card that offers up to 14 points per $1 spent! Even when exchange rates are considered, the Australian rate is terrible, and there are much better redemption options with your points. This means the only viable way to earn Hilton points in Australia is through stays or buying them. Churning is not a strategy I would use here; you’re much better off using this technique to redeem flights to your destination.

    Another caveat to the Honors program is Hilton’s relatively poor European footprint. While they have a presence, some countries, such as Denmark, lack any Hilton properties, and compared to chains like Accor, the presence is minimal, with the present hotels being a bit tired and in need of renovation.

    If you’re a frequent traveller to larger cities, popular holiday destinations or the US, the Hilton Honors program is a great program to look into. You can maximise your benefits by working your way up the tiers (remember you can get Hilton Honors Gold status for free if you’re Velocity Gold or an American Express Platinum Card holder) and using the frequent bonus point offers; there is a good value proposition to being loyal to Hilton to get free nights relatively quickly and save money on your holiday.

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