Hilton Honors is a solid rewards program for people who frequently stay at Hilton hotels, because elite status makes it easy to collect points. For everyone else, not so much. There are only a few ways to use your points other than for free nights, and they offer poor value.
What Are Hilton Honors?
With more than 5,700 properties in over 100 countries, Hilton is one of the largest hotel chains in the world. Its portfolio ranges from more affordable brands like Hampton by Hilton all the way up to luxury flags such as Waldorf Astoria and Conrad. Honors are the loyalty points the company gives to guests and holders of its branded credit cards.
Hilton Honors can be redeemed at any Hilton properties around the world, with no blackout dates, but generally at crummy redemption rates. You can also use points for experiences, travel, shopping, and partner transfer options.
How to Earn Hilton Honors
There are two types of Hilton Honors points, base and bonus points. Both points can be redeemed for hotel stays and other free stuff, but only base points count towards Hilton elite status.
You earn those base Honors points by spending money at any Hilton hotel, —10 points per dollar at most properties. You can collect bonus Honors by shopping through the Hilton portal, and spending with travel partners like Lyft, car-rental companies, and cruise lines.
You can also collect them with the three Hilton Honors American Express cards; the basic one earns 7 points per dollar on Hilton purchases, and 5x points at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card earns 14 points for every dollar spent with the company, 7 points per dollar on restaurants, direct-booked flights, and some car rentals, and 3 points per dollar on everything else.
You can convert American Express Membership Rewards, Diners Club points, Amtrak points, and certain airline miles into Hilton Honors points. It’s worth noting that points expire after 12 months of account inactivity.
You earn different amounts of Honors depending on what your elite status is with Hilton. The company has four membership tiers; the higher your level, the more perks you get when you stay at Hilton hotels, including extra points, upgrades, free breakfast, lounge access, and more.
Blue: The entry level; when you sign up, you will automatically be enrolled in Blue. It gets you 10 points per dollar spent at most Hilton properties, late checkout, free points pooling, digital check-in and some other minor benefits.
Silver: Requires four stays or 10 nights, or holding the HIlton Honors American Express Card. You get 12 points per dollar spent at most Hilton properties, all Blue benefits, plus the ability to rollover any nights more than you needed to reach Silver status, fifth nights free, and two complimentary bottles of water (yipee…).
Gold. You become a Gold member after 20 stays, 40 nights, earning 75,000 Honors base points or holding the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card or the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card. Gold gets you 18 points per dollar, all the Silver perks, plus room upgrades, free breakfasts, and special points bonuses after your 40th night’s stay in a year.
Diamond. The top tier in the Hilton Honors program is earned after 30 stays, 60 nights, 120,000 Honors base points or holding the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from Amex. Along with everything else, it gives you 20 points per dollar spent at Hilton, guaranteed availability within 48 hours of a stay, executive lounge access, the ability to give Gold or Diamond status to one other member per year, and the ability to extend your status for a year.
What Cards Earn Membership Rewards
- American Express Hilton Honors
- American Express Hilton Honors Aspire
- American Express Hilton Honors Surpass
How to Use Hilton Honors
Unsurprisingly, the best way to use Hilton Honors is for free hotel stays. Hilton uses a sliding scale to determine how many points a stay will cost, factoring in the property, room type, and location. Some experiences also provide a good value. Plus, you can always transfer your points to other reward programs. But in general, other options provide a poor redemption value.
Ways to use Hilton Honors:
- Hotel stays. You can book with points or points and cash.
- Transfer to travel partners. Hilton has more than 40 airline partners. Transfer rates vary.
- Experiences. Select from music, sports, culture, food and wine experiences around the globe.
- Merchandise. Shop online at the Hilton Honors Shopping Mall. 1 point = 0.2 cents
- Amazon. Use your rewards at checkout. 1 point = 0.2 cents
- Gift cards. Purchase gift cards through Hilton’s portal. 1 point = 0.2 cents
- Transfer to friends and family.
- Donate to charity.
Hotel Stays and Upgrades
Hilton has 14 different hotel brands, from modest Hamptons to extravagant Waldorf Astoria resorts. Hilton Honors can be used at any of the properties, but the company doesn’t make an award chart available: you either have to check availability for the specific property you want to stay at, or use Hilton’s Points Explorer tool to search for hotels available for a certain number of points in your desired destination.
You’ll generally get more value for your points at the luxury properties, especially Waldorf Astoria, but that’s not always saying much. For instance, on a recent night the Hampton Inn in Los Angeles cost $125 or you 30,000 points, giving you a value of .4 cents per point—a pretty chintzy deal. A superior room at the Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills with two queen beds and a terrace cost $925 a night or 95,000 Honors points. That gives you a value of about 1 cent per point, which is still not fantastic.
If you have Silver, Gold, or Diamond Honors status you can do a little better. You get your fifth night free; if you stayed at the Beverly Hills Waldorf for five nights, you’d get 1.2 cents per point. Gold and Diamond members could upgrade for free on top of that.
If you don’t have enough points in your account, you can pay using a combination of points and cash.
These are the brands in Hilton’s portfolio:
- Embassy Suites
- Hilton Garden Inn
- Hilton Grand Vacations
- Home2 Suites
- Homewood Suites
- Tapestry Collection
- Waldorf Astoria
Transfer to Travel Partners
You can also transfer your miles to credit card, airline and rail partner programs. The rates vary widely, but in most cases you’re trading 10,000 Hilton Honors points for 1,000 or 1,500 partner points. Hilton does occasionally run promotions which will increase the value of your points when you transfer. That’s the only time that transferring your points might make sense.
This is really the only other redemption option that you’ll want to consider other than hotel stays. Hilton offers dozens of music, sports, culture and food experiences around the world: Muay Thai lessons, backstage tours, concert tickets and more. Some of these may only be accessible through your Hilton Honors membership.
Some experiences have a flat points price; others are sold by auction. The company doesn’t put a dollar value on experiences, so you should do a separate search before spending your points, because values can vary widely. An all-access tour of Madison Square Garden for 10 costs 100,000 points, but the tickets only cost $35 apiece, for a value of 0.03 cents per point.
Amazon, International Shopping Mall and Gift Card Purchases
Using your points at Amazon gives you an exchange rate of just 0.2 cents per point. It’s almost never worth it. The same goes for spending through the International Hilton Honors Shopping Mall, as well as using points for gift cards.
Pool and Transfer Points
You can pool your points with other members, combining up to 500,000 points and 10 different members each year for free. This can be useful if you want to book a group travel experience, give a gift, or want to get use out of small buckets of miles. You can also transfer your points for free.
Hilton Honors reward points don’t give you a lot of value in terms of cents per point, but they are also relatively easy to earn. If you hold Gold or Diamond status, you’ll multiply your earnings pretty quickly, making this program most worthwhile for Hilton regulars.