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Guide to the Hilton Honors rewards program

Bankrate logo Bankrate 8/12/2020 Bankrate Staff
a river with a city in the background: Hilton Hawaiian Village © Jeff Whyte/Shutterstock Hilton Hawaiian Village

Hilton is a renowned name in the hospitality industry. Since Conrad Hilton bought his first hotel in 1919, Hilton has been one of the leading hotel brands in the world. Today, its portfolio includes 18 brands and over 6,200 properties in 118 different countries and territories.

Whenever and wherever you travel, you're likely to find a Hilton property nearby-making its rewards program, Hilton Honors, a favorite for many kinds of travelers: casual vacationers who want to save some money on their next trip, rewards enthusiasts who want to travel the world without breaking the bank and business travelers who want a little extra comfort while they're away from home.

This Hilton Honors guide will answer all your most important questions about the rewards program and show you how to earn and use your points for free nights at Hilton Hotels.

What is Hilton Honors?

Hilton Honors is the loyalty program for Hilton Hotels. Members enjoy great perks like the lowest rates, free Wi-Fi and the ability to manage your reservation and even unlock your door from the Hilton mobile app.

On top of that, members earn points anytime they make a reservation at a Hilton hotel or use a Hilton credit card. As you earn points, you unlock even more great benefits through Hilton's elite tiers.

Then, of course, you can redeem your points for free nights at properties within the Hilton portfolio-from more budget-friendly brands like Hampton by Hilton to luxurious resorts from Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts.

The best part is, Hilton Honors is free. You don't have to pay to create an account and begin earning points and rewards as a member. As you earn more, you can increase your status level and see even more benefits.

How to earn Hilton Honors points

There are many ways to earn points, which makes it easy to get to your next free night sooner.

Stay at Hilton hotels

You'll earn 10 base points for every dollar you spend at Hilton hotels. You can also earn bonus points every time you stay based on your elite status level. Silver members earn a 20 percent bonus, Gold members earn an 80 percent bonus and Diamond members earn a 100 percent bonus. The more you stay, the more you earn.

Use a Hilton Honors credit card

American Express offers several co-branded Hilton credit cards that earn Hilton Honors rewards. If you use one for your normal spending at the grocery store, gas station and online shopping, you can earn Hilton Honors points with every purchase. These cards usually come with a new card member bonus as well, giving you the opportunity to earn a lot of points in a short period of time.

Ride with Lyft

If you like to ride-share when you travel, it could pay to use Lyft more often. You can link your Hilton Honors and Lyft accounts to earn three points for every dollar you spend on individual Lyft rides and two points for every dollar on shared rides. The best part? You'll earn the points automatically once your accounts are connected.

Join Hilton Honors Dining

You can earn points to eat at restaurants around the world with Hilton Honors Dining-and it's incredibly easy. Search for restaurants near you, pay with the credit card you've registered with Hilton Honors Dining and earn points. You'll earn two points for every dollar you spend (including taxes and tip) for just showing up, five points for opting in for email notifications and eight points per dollar when you use the service at least 11 times in a calendar year.

Rent a car

Hilton Honors partners with Alamo, Enterprise and National Rental Car, allowing you to both earn points and receive a discount on your rental. You'll earn 500 base points just for making a reservation plus an additional 500 points for each day you rent a car up to 5,000 points.

Reach Hilton stay milestones

As a Hilton Honors member, you can earn bonus points when you reach certain milestones each calendar year. After you stay for 40 nights in a Hilton hotel, you'll receive 10,000 bonus points, then continue to earn 10,000 points for every 10 additional nights you stay throughout the year. Also, once you reach 60 nights, you'll earn 30,000 more points on top of the 10,000 you already earn for hitting another 10 nights.

How to redeem Hilton Honors points

There's also more than one way to spend the points you've earned.

Free nights at Hilton properties

The best and most obvious way to use your Hilton Honors points is for free stays at Hilton hotels. Your points work at all properties in the brand's portfolio-from the most luxurious to the most economical-giving you amazing flexibility for how you use them. If you don't have enough for a completely free night, you can also use points and cash for the same purchase.

How many Hilton Honors points you need for a free night depends on where you stay and when you stay there. Hilton uses dynamic pricing for its rewards, so the cost for each hotel will vary based on its luxury level, location and demand.

Redeem for exclusive experiences

If you have some points to burn and want to try something new and exciting, you can use your Hilton Honors point for Hilton Experiences. These adventures are curated specifically for Hilton Honors members. Each one offers something different based on your location, like an ultimate Mezcal tasting in Cancun or a Balinese culinary lesson on the beach in Bali.

Pay for Lyft rides

Connecting your Hilton Honors account with your Lyft account can save you some cash while ride-sharing. If you have enough points in your Hilton account, you can convert them to Lyft credits to use whenever you need them. Unfortunately, you have to do this beforehand instead of only transferring what you need in real-time.

Transfer points to airlines

Hilton partners with over 30 different airline and railway partners, including Delta and United. You can transfer your Hilton Honors points to the partner's loyalty program if you need some extra miles to book a reward flight. The exchange rate typically is pretty poor, so it's best to save your points for other uses.

Shop with points

You can use your Hilton Honors points to shop online through either the Hilton shopping portal or Amazon. To use them on Amazon, you'll need to link your accounts then select your Hilton Honors points as your payment method at checkout. You can choose how many points you would like to use for your purchase.

Your Amazon purchase will cost you 500 points for every dollar, which is a very low exchange rate. Keep that in mind before deciding to use your points in this way.

Book a rental car

Finally, Hilton Honors points will transfer to Hilton's rental car partners, allowing you to use them to reserve a car while you're traveling. Alamo, Enterprise and National Rental Car all accept the hotel's points.

How much are Hilton Honors points worth?

You can expect your Hilton Honors points to be worth roughly 0.6 cents each on average. This number is an estimate, of course, and should be used as more of a guide than a rule. Your points will be more or less valuable at some properties and on certain dates than others.

For instance, a water villa room at the Conrad Maldives in May 2021 will set you back $617 per night if you pay with cash or 95,000 Hilton Honors points-which works out to 65 cents per point. But not far away at the SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton, a king sky room costs $285 per night or 73,000 points. In this case, your points would only be worth less than 0.4 cents each.

It's difficult to predict which properties and dates will give you the best value. Hilton operates on a dynamic pricing system instead of a set rewards chart, so the points you'll need for a free night will fluctuate based on the demand.

While you can use your Hilton Honors points for all sorts of other things besides hotel nights, they're a lot less valuable in other applications. It may be tempting to use your points for other purposes-especially since most people aren't traveling right now because of coronavirus. You'll be much better off saving your Hilton points for the next time you travel instead of using them elsewhere.

If you're saving your points for when travel returns, you probably want to know if Hilton Honors points expire. They do-but it takes a while. You'll lose your points if your account goes 15 months without earning or spending points. Anytime you either stay in a Hilton hotel, earn points through a third-party (like a rewards credit card), purchase points or donate points through the Hilton Honors Give Back program, your clock resets and you get another 15 months.

Hilton Honors elite status

Status levelRequirementsBenefits
MemberSign up for a Hilton Honors Membership
  • Hilton Honors Discount rate
  • Points toward free nights & more
  • No resort fees on reward stays
  • Digital Check-in
  • Choose Your Room
  • Digital Key
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Hilton Honors Experiences
Silver10 nights, 4 stays, or 25,000 Base PointsAll the Member benefits plus:
  • 20% Bonus Points on stays
  • Fifth night free on reward stays
  • Two free bottles of water
  • Elite Rollover Nights
Gold40 nights, 20 stays, or 75,000 Base PointsAll the Member and Silver benefits plus:
  • 80% Bonus Points on stays
  • Space-available room upgrades
  • Free continental breakfast
  • Milestone Bonuses
Diamond60 nights, 30 stays, or 120,000 Base PointsAll the Member, Silver, and Gold benefits plus:
  • 100% Bonus Points on stays
  • Executive lounge access
  • Diamond status extension
  • Premium Wi-Fi
  • 48-hour room guarantee
  • Elite status gifting

Best Hilton Honors credit cards for 2020

Hilton Honors American Express(R) Card: Best for no annual fee

The Hilton Honors American Express(R) Card comes with an 80,000-point bonus when you spend $1,000 on it within the first three months. You'll earn 7X Hilton Honors points for every dollar spent at a Hilton hotel or resort, 5X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, and 3X points on everything else.

If you need to, you can transfer your earned points to over 40 airlines or redeem them for gift cards or Hilton-related purchases, but not cash. International travelers can benefit from the lack of foreign transaction fees, but what we like best is that the Hilton Honors American Express(R) Card doesn't charge an annual fee.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass(R) Card: Best for casual travel

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass(R) Card comes with an annual fee of $95 and some great additional benefits. New cardholders who spend $2,000 within the first three months of membership will get a bonus of 130,000 points.

This card is a great choice for frequent travelers loyal to the Hilton brand since it offers travel perks like room upgrades, an 80% bonus on base points earned from hotel stays and a fifth night free on a standard room when you book five nights or more using points.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Best for luxury travel

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is the top tier of the three personal Hilton Honors cards, and it comes at a hefty price-cardholders pay a $450 annual fee. But the perks might be worth the cost if you spend a lot of nights in hotels throughout the year.

New cardholders can receive 150,000 points when they spend $4,000 in the first three months and can earn 14X points on Hilton purchases, 7X points on select travel and U.S. restaurant dining and 3X points for other eligible purchases.

Aspire cardholders will also receive complimentary Diamond status and a free weekend night reward. The card also offers PriorityPass Select, which allows members and up to two guests unlimited access to over 1,200 airport lounges.

Hilton Honors Business Card: Best for business travel

The Hilton Honors Business Card is perfect for the small business owner with good credit and loyalty for the Hilton brand. New cardholders will receive 130,000 bonus points if they spend $3,000 within the first three months and can earn 12X points at Hilton hotels and resorts, 6X points for select business-related purchases in the U.S. (including travel) and 3X points for other eligible purchases.

Cardholders will also receive automatic Gold status and can enjoy other American Express business card perks like baggage and rental car insurance or roadside and travel assistance. The card charges a $95 annual fee.

The bottom line

Hilton Honors is an excellent rewards program to be a part of, no matter how you like to travel. With properties all over the world, Hilton lets you earn and use points virtually anywhere you go. Even with limited travel happening right now, you can still start earning and saving Hilton Honors points for the future. Your rewards stash will help you save money on travel for both fun and business once you're ready to hit the road again.

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