Hilton Honors Review: Hilton Honors Perks, Point Value & More
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Hilton Worldwide is the largest hotel chain in the U.S. and the second-largest globally, with more than 750,000 rooms across 94 countries. The company’s loyalty program, Hilton Honors Rewards, is also one of the most popular among travel-minded consumers, boasting more than 25 million members – including a record 4.2 million new enrollees in 2014.
The ability to earn free nights is Honors’ main draw, and members cashed in on 5.4 million rewards nights in 2014, according to Hilton. Other perks include specialized check-in/check-out procedures, the potential for room upgrades, discounts on activities, and health club access – depending on your status level.
But is Honors the most rewarding hotel loyalty program out there? And how can members maximize their earnings at the lowest possible cost? We’ll explain all of that and more below.
Hilton Honors Pros & Cons
No rewards program is perfect. They all feature legitimate perks, marketing fluff that won’t get you much in practice, and a fair amount of fine print to confuse matters. The following breakdown of Honors’ strengths and weaknesses will give you a quick sense of the program’s overall value proposition.
|International ubiquity, with more than 4,300 global properties||Generic travel rewards cards (those not tied to a particular provider) offer more flexible earnings|
|Wide range of reservation price points, thanks in large part to numerous well-known sub-brands||Must regularly spend money at Hilton properties to maximize value|
|Ability to earn airline miles and hotel points for the same stay||Points expire after 12 months of account inactivity|
|Qualify for Silver or Gold status with a co-branded credit card||Cost of a free night varies by hotel category and travel dates|
|No blackout dates or reservation restrictions||Honors members who do not have a co-branded credit card must requalify for status annually|
|More than 60 travel partners, including American Airlines, United, Alamo & Avis||Most travel partners have a very unfavorable transfer ratio|
|Honors credit cards offer lucrative initial rewards bonuses||Hotel reservations are only one small part of travel costs|
How To Earn Honors Points
To put it simply, you’ll earn Honors points on purchases made directly from Hilton properties – such as hotel reservations, in-room movies and room service. Within this framework, there are two types of Honors points: 1) base points and 2) bonus points (or bonus miles). We’ll explain how they work as well as how to choose between Hilton’s earning styles below.
Base Points: All Honors members earn at least 10 points on each dollar they spend through Hilton properties. The higher your Hilton elite status, the more base points you will earn.
Bonus Points/Miles: Members can choose between earning 5 bonus Honors points per dollar spent with Hilton or 1 mile from an affiliated airline. Even with Honors’ relatively low point valuation, the points-based option is the better deal. If you’re interested in earning miles, consider getting one of the market’s best airline credit cards instead of hampering your ability to accrue free nights.
Other Ways To Earn:
- Elite Status: The Honors program has four different status levels. Each provides unique benefits, including base-point bonuses and additional free nights. You can find a comparison of these status levels, their associated perks and qualification requirements in the next section.
- Honors Credit Cards: Opening the right Honors credit card will enable you to supercharge your earnings, especially since you’ll be able to rack up Honors points without actually visiting a Hilton hotel. Not only do most of the chain’s credit cards have attractive initial rewards bonuses, but they also enable you to earn free nights when spending money at grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, etc.More information about Honors credit card offers can be found below.
Program Levels & Membership Perks
Honors status levels range from Blue (the lowest) to Diamond (the highest). Each provides unique benefits and has its own eligibility requirements. The following table will help you quickly compare status levels and strategize about how to maximize your savings.
|Tiers||How To Qualify/Maintain Status||Minimum Cost to Qualify||Primary Benefits||Secondary Perks|
|Just sign up||$0||Ability to earn bonus Hilton points or points/miles on related travel
2nd guest (3rd person in party) stays for free
|Digital check-in up to 24 days in advance
Complimentary in-room Internet access at most Hilton properties
Late and express check-out
Personalized room preferences (e.g., choice of pillow/newspaper)
|Silver||Stay four times or 10 nights in a calendar year
Open either the standard Honors Credit Card or the Honors Visa Signature Card
|$0 (you can automatically qualify by opening one of Hilton’s no annual fee credit cards)||15% bonus on base Honors points
Every 5th night free on stays of 5+ nights
|All the perks of Blue status|
|20 stays, 40 nights, or 75,000 base points in a calendar year
Open either the Hilton Honors Surpass Card or the Honors Reserve Card
|$75 (the Surpass Card’s annual fee)||25% bonus on base Honors points
Free access to hotel fitness centers and health clubs
|Executive floor/lounge access
All the perks of Silver status
|30 stays, 60 nights, or 120,000 base points in a calendar year||$4,350 (30 nights at the average Hilton hotel)||50% bonus on base Honors points
Guaranteed room when booking at least 48 hours in advance
Chain-specific points bonuses and other perks (e.g., room upgrades, in-room movies, and spa and golf discounts)
|All the perks of Gold status|
Honors Credit Cards
While the Hilton credit card power rankings may fluctuate due to changes in their initial bonuses or based on a given individual’s particular spending habits, a clear hierarchy currently exists when you consider all use cases. Surpass is the obvious leader of the Hilton Honors pack, with both a hefty initial bonus and attractive ongoing perks, followed by the standard Hilton Honors Card, Reserve and the Visa Signature version – in that order.
You can find a quick breakdown of the best options for different types of applicants below. The number of free nights listed along with each card reflects WalletHub’s calculations for what the average person would earn based on their intended use and the number of nights spent with Hilton each year. For a full review of Hilton’s card offers, check out WalletHub’s guide to choosing the best Honors credit card.
|Best For A Quick Rewards Score||Best For Moderate Travelers (5-13 Nights Per Year)||Best For Heavy Travelers (14+ Nights Per Year)|
Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express
Estimated Value (1st Year): 4.99 Free Nights
Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express
Estimated Value (1-5 Year Avg.): 12.58 Free Nights
Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express
Estimated Value (1-5 Year Avg.): 15.43 Free Nights
Estimated Value (1st Year): 4.93 Free Nights
Hilton Honors American Express Card
Estimated Value (1-5 Year Avg.): 11.88 Free Nights
Estimated Value (1st Year): 13.81 Free Nights
How Much Are Honors Points Worth?
Each Honors point is worth roughly half of one cent ($0.0055), on average, when redeemed for a free night at Hilton Worldwide properties. Of course, the value of a point will vary based on the city you’re staying in, your hotel’s classification within the Hilton portfolio, and your dates of travel. Weekends and peak dates for your destination of choice tend to be more expensive than weekdays and the shoulder season (the period between peak and off- seasons).
The graph and table below reflect pricing and point redemption data for all of the Hilton-owned locations in 10 of 2015’s most popular destinations – 6 domestic and 4 international. This information will further illustrate the variance that exists among Honors point valuations as well as help you determine the number of points needed for a free night in major cities around the world.
Point Values By Time Period & Destination
City-Specific Honors Redemption Rates:
|City||Hilton Hotels||Points Needed For A Free Night||Best Values||Worst Values|
|MOST POPULAR DOMESTIC DESTINATIONS|
Min.: 30,000 (numerous locations)
Max.: 104,040 (Conrad Chicago)
|Hilton Garden Inn Chicago North Shore/Evanston ($199 room for 30,000 points)
Hilton Chicago/Oak Lawn ($181.67 room for 30,000 points)
|Conrad Chicago ($289 room for 104,040 points)
Hampton Inn Westchester/Oak Brook ($99 room for 30,000 points)
Min.: 20,000 (DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel - Newark Airport)
Max.: 468,409 (West 57th Street by Hilton Club)
|Hampton Inn New York - LaGuardia Airport ($285.67 room for 40,000 points)
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel - Newark Airport ($129 room for 20,000 points)
|Hilton Club New York
($439 room for 171,503 points)
West 57th Street by Hilton Club ($1,109 room for 433,250 points)
Min.: 20,000 (numerous locations)
Max.: 99,776 (Elara, Hilton Grand Vacations - Center Strip)
|Hampton Inn Las Vegas – Summerlin or North Speedway ($129 room for 20,000 points)
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel - Las Vegas Airport ($119 room for 20,000 points)
|SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, Curio Collection by Hilton ($120 room for 60,000 points)
Hilton Grand Vacations Suites - Las Vegas Convention Center ($89 room for 35,000 points)
Min.: 30,000 (numerous locations)
Max.: 102,839 (Hilton - San Francisco Financial District)
|DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel - San Francisco Airport ($272.33 room for 30,000 points)
Hampton Inn & Suites - Oakland Airport-Alameda ($245.67 room for 30,000 points)
|Hilton - San Francisco Financial District ($285.67 room for 102,839 points)
Parc 55 San Francisco, A Hilton Hotel ($269 room for 75,319 points)
Min.: 40,000 (Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resort)
Max.: 75,319 (Las Casitas, A Waldorf Astoria Resort)
|Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resort ($209 room for 40,000 points)
Las Casitas, A Waldorf Astoria Resort ($269 room for 45,800 points)
|Embassy Suites - Dorado del Mar Beach Resort ($148.94 room for 50,000 points)
Hampton Inn & Suites San Juan ($159 room for 50,000 points)
Min: 30,000 (numerous options)
Max.: 80,920 (DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel - Washington, D.C. - Crystal City)
|Embassy Suites Washington D.C. - Convention Center ($09 room for 50,000 points)
Hilton Garden Inn Washington D.C. - Georgetown Area ($245.67 room for 40,000 points)
|Hampton Inn & Suites - Alexandria Old Town Area South ($159 room for 57,239 points)
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Bethesda ($119 room for 40,000 points)
|MOST POPULAR INTERNATIONAL DESTINATIONS|
Min.: 20,000 (Hilton London Croydon)
Max.: 117,564 (DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel - London – Victoria)
|DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London - Ealing ($196.90 room for 30,000 points)
London Hilton on Park Lane ($438.90 room for 80,000 points)
|DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London – Victoria ($230 room for 117,564 points)
Hilton Watford ($64.90 room for 30,000 points)
Min.: 30,000 (Hilton Paris - Orly Airport)
Max.: 129,845 (Hotel Astor - Saint Honoré)
|Hilton Paris - Charles De Gaulle Airport ($167.95 room for 32,669 points)
Trianon Palace Versailles, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel ($313.50 room for 62,489 points)
|Hilton Paris - Opera ($362 room for 129,845 points)
Hilton Paris - La Defense (£235.40 room for 65,690 points)
Min.: 76,636 (Hilton Tokyo Bay)
Max.: 147,218 (Hilton Tokyo)
|Hilton Tokyo Bay ($283.79 room for 76,636 points)
Conrad Tokyo ($450.72 room for 121,716 points)
|Hilton Tokyo ($424.01 room for 147,218 points)|
Min.: 25,379 (Hilton - Toronto Airport Hotel & Suites)
Max.: 50,000 (Hilton Garden Inn - Toronto Downtown)
|Homewood Suites by Hilton Toronto Vaughan ($166.33 room for 40,000 points)
Hampton Inn by Hilton - Toronto Airport Corporate Centre ($151.14 room for 30,000 points)
|Hampton Inn by Hilton Toronto-Mississauga ($75 room for 30,000 points)
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Toronto Downtown ($116 room for 40,000 points)
WalletHub compiled room costs and rewards stay point totals for all of the Hilton Worldwide hotels – including popular sub-brands like DoubleTree, Embassy Suites and Hampton Inn – within 15 miles of the city center in 10 of the most popular destinations for U.S. travelers in 2015, according to booking data. We chose six domestic destinations (Puerto Rico qualifies as domestic since it is a U.S. territory) and four international destinations in recognition of the fact that domestic travel is more common (not to mention more affordable).
For each destination, we compared the cost of purchasing a room with Honors points versus cash in order to calculate point valuations. We did so with four sets of dates (three nights per stay) in order to see how valuations compare for peak travel dates, shoulder season, weekends and weekdays.
The minimum and maximum numbers of points needed for a free night as well as the best and worst value hotels for each destination are based on these dates. As a result, specifics may be different when it comes time for you to book a trip.
Honors members have more than 20,000 options from which to choose when redeeming points, according to Hilton’s website, and these items and experiences range in cost from 20,000 to 2 million points. While you might assume that everyone redeems for free nights, Honors members actually purchased 95,800 items (worth roughly $8.1 million overall) from the Hilton Worldwide Shopping Mall in 2014 – in addition to booking 5.4 million reward nights.
The thing is, each type of redemption – merchandise vs. gift cards vs. free nights, for example – offers a different value proposition. So, using your Honors membership to garner benefits other than complimentary reservations may result in leaving money on the table. Below, we break down Hilton’s main redemption categories in order to help you determine how often you’ll be able to reap competitive earnings.
|Redemption Method||Average Value||More Details|
|Hilton Reservations||1 point = 0.49 cent||Hilton properties include:Canopy
|Transfer Partners||10 points = 1 mile (increments of 10,000 points)||Honors points can be converted to airline miles in increments of 10,000 points. Hilton has 65 airline partners, including:American Airlines
While Hilton’s website mentions rail partners, none seem to be currently available.
|Merchandise||1 point = 0.16 cent||Merchandise from major brands like:Amazon
|Gift Cards||1 point = 0.20 cent||14 shopping and dining options, including:Best Buy
|Cash Back||NOT AVAILABLE|
|Concert Experiences||1 point = 0.56 cent||Premium tickets to concerts and comedy shows through Live Nation.
Sound-check and backstage passes available for certain acts.
|Charity||1 point = 0.25 cent||Points can be donated to 20 charity partners, including:American Cancer Society
American Red Cross
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
World Wildlife Fund
Pointers & Potential Pitfalls
Now that you’re familiar with the major components of Hilton’s Honors Rewards, it’s worth exploring some of the program’s finer points. The following guidance will help you finalize your decision about whether to join Honors as well as better manage your account if you decide to do so.
- Shoulder-Season Weekdays Offer The Most Value: Points are worth 0.52 cent each when redeemed for weekday reservations either a few weeks before or after a city’s peak tourism dates. Booking for one of these periods will save you 20% compared to the most expensive dates (high-season weekends).
- Ill-Timed Bookings Can Reduce Point Value By 40%: As you can see in the valuation section above, the purchasing power of an Honors point fluctuates based on demand. So, choose your travel season and dates very carefully in order to get the most bang for your buck.
- Earnings Expiration: Earned Honors points expire after 12 months of account inactivity. You can stave off inactivity by earning or redeeming Honors points or staying at a Hilton-owned hotel at least once per year. You can also automatically re-qualify by keeping a Hilton credit card open and in good standing.
- Hotel Categories: Hilton hotels are classified into categories based on how nice/costly they are, with Category 1 being the lowest rung and Category 5 the most upscale. The number of points needed for a free night at a given hotel is directly correlated to its categorization. Remember this when booking rewards nights, as you might be able to save money if you’re torn between two properties that happen to be classified differently despite being equal in your mind.
- Fine Print: Looking only at the large-print text on any loyalty program’s website can lead to some costly misassumptions. To get the full story about any particular membership feature that appeals to you, make sure to review all related post-scripts and see what the terms and conditions say about the matter.
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