How to Use the Free Hilton Honors Program to Save on Hotel Stays

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Hilton is one of the world’s largest hotel chains, with more than 6,000 properties across 119 countries. Its portfolio includes 18 brands including Waldorf-Astoria, Conrad, and of course its namesake Hilton.

The company’s free loyalty program, Hilton Honors, provides a great deal of value to travelers. The Centers for Disease Control is still advising against non-essential travel, but as the percentage of Americans who are fully vaccinated climbs, travel is beginning to cautiously rebound — at least within the United States. While you will be able to truly make the Hilton Honors program work for you when travel returns in full, there’s no reason you should not join it now, even if you stay at Hilton properties infrequently.    

What Is Hilton Honors?

Hilton Honors is Hilton Hotels’ loyalty program. It’s free to sign up, and when you’re enrolled you can earn Hilton Honors points that you can redeem at any hotel within the Hilton portfolio.

Members get perks such as a guaranteed Hilton Honors discount rate, no resort fees on stays booked with points, free Wi-Fi, and more. Depending on how many nights you stay in Hilton hotels over the course of a year, you may also qualify for Hilton elite status. The three Hilton elite status levels — Silver, Gold and Diamond — unlock progressively nicer perks such as free breakfast, lounge access, room upgrades, and more.

How to Earn Hilton Honors Points

There are several ways to earn Hilton Honors points that you can redeem for discounted hotel stays.

Staying at Hilton Hotels

When staying at a hotel under the Hilton portfolio as a Hilton Honors member, you’ll earn 10x points per dollar at most Hilton brands (Home2 Suites and Tru by Hilton earn 5x points). Elite members earn additional points on their stay; there is a 20% bonus for Silver members, 80% for Gold, and 100% for Diamond.

The chain also has periodic promotions offering bonus points on Hilton hotel stays. For example, there is an ongoing promotion where you’ll be eligible to earn 2,000 points per stay as well as 5,000 additional bonus points for every five nights. You’ll just need to register and complete your stay by May 2, 2021.

Spending on a Co-Branded Credit Card

Another viable strategy for earning Hilton Honors points is applying for a co-branded credit card, such as the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card*, Hilton Honors American Express Card or Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.

While they vary in terms of earning rates, these cards all earn Hilton Honors points for every dollar you spend. The Aspire card, for example, earns 3x points per dollar spent on general purchases and 14x Hilton Honors points per dollar spent at hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio. Using this card for both everyday spending and stays with Hilton can quickly boost your points balance. 

Riding With Lyft

Hilton recently partnered with ride-sharing service Lyft, so now Hilton Honors members can earn Hilton points every time they use Lyft. After you link your Hilton account to your Lyft account, which is free to do, you’ll earn 3x Hilton Honors points on economy, luxury and extra seats rides, or 2x points on shared rides, up to $10,000 in Lyft rides per year.

This is in addition to the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles you can earn with Lyft.

Buying Points

You can also purchase Hilton Points for one cent apiece via Hilton’s website. It’s typically not a great value, however, unless you buy points during a promotion, when points are on sale for as low as 0.5 cents each.

How to Redeem Hilton Honors Points

To redeem your Hilton Honors points for hotel stays, log into your Hilton Honors account. Enter your desired destination or property, dates, and number of guests into the search bar at the top of the page. Click on the “Use Points” box on the right-hand side.

You’ll then be able to browse hotels,see their nightly rates in Hilton Honors points, and book.

You can also use the flexible dates option to get a wider view of rates over the course of a month. If your dates do have some flexibility, this can be a worthwhile strategy to help you get a lower rate.

Keep in mind that Hilton Honors points expire 12 months after the last activity on your account. Due to the pandemic, however, Hilton has extended the validity of all points until at least December 31, 2021.  

How Much Are Hilton Honors Points Worth?

Hilton Honors points are typically worth less than credit card points, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards, or airline miles, such as Delta Air Lines SkyMiles

You can, however, transfer Hilton Honors points to airline partners and use them for free flights. The disparity in valuation is evident in the transfer ratios; when transferring to American Airlines, for example, 10,000 Hilton points become 1,500 AAdvantage miles. The ratios are slightly better for Delta Air Lines (10,000 Hilton points = 1,000 SkyMiles) and United Airlines (10,000 Hilton points = 1,000 MileagePlus miles). Note that this is a relatively poor use of points, since airline miles are typically not 10 times more valuable than hotel points. In most cases, you would be better served by keeping your Hilton Honors points in your account and use them to book hotel stays.

Hilton Honors Elite Status

Hilton Honors has an elite status system with three tiers. The premise is that the more stays you have, the more benefits you’ll get.

Silver, Gold and Diamond members all receive a fifth night free when booking with points. Other benefits depend on your status level.

Silver Elite Status

You’ll earn Hilton Honors Silver elite status after four stays, 10 nights or 25,000 base points in a calendar year — although these thresholds were cut in half for 2021 due to the pandemic.

Benefits of Silver elite status include:

  • Fifth night free on award stays
  • 20% bonus on points earned during your stay
  • Elite rollover nights
  • Two complimentary bottles of water (at eligible properties)

Pro Tip

The no-annual-fee Hilton Honors American Express card can help you earn bonus points in addition to Silver elite status. (See Rates & Fees)

Gold Elite Status

Similarly, you’ll earn Gold elite status after 20 stays, 40 nights or you amass 75,000 base points in a calendar year. Again, this calculation was halved for 2021.

Benefits of Gold elite status include:

  • Complimentary continental breakfast for you and a guest
  • Room upgrades, depending on availability
  • 80% bonus on points earned during your stay
  • Milestone bonus, where you can earn 10,000 points for every 10 nights you stay after 40 nights in a calendar year (in 2021, this threshold is at 20 nights in a year)

Diamond Elite Status

To earn Hilton’s highest level of elite status, you’ll need typically 30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 base points accrued in a calendar year — although in 2021, these requirements were all halved.

Benefits of Diamond elite status include the same as Gold benefits, plus:

  • Executive lounge access for you and a guest
  • Premium Wi-Fi
  • Guaranteed room (even if the property is sold out) if you reach out 48 hours prior to desired stay
  • 100% bonus on points earned during your stay
  • Elite status gifting

Best Hilton Honors Credit Cards for 2021

Hilton has a handful of co-branded credit cards with American Express. These cards are an excellent way to  earn Hilton Honors points that you can later redeem for travel. If you stay at Hilton hotels frequently or plan to in the near future, one of them could be a good addition to your wallet. The cards would, however, make little sense for someone who is not a Hilton loyalist, as their benefits are specific to the hotel chain.  

Hilton Honors American Express Card

With the $0 annual fee (See Rates & Fees) Hilton Honors Amex card, you’ll earn 100,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months. Plus, you can earn up to $100 in statement credits on eligible purchases made on the Card at any of the Hilton family of hotels in the first 12 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 8/25/2021. The card earns 7x points on eligible purchases with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio; 5x at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations; and 3x on all other eligible purchases. You’ll also receive complimentary Hilton Silver status.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

With this $95 annual fee card, $0 introductory annual fee for the first year (Offer expires 8/25/2021) (See Rates & Fees), you’ll earn 130,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months of card membership. It earns 12x points on eligible purchases with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio, 6x at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations, and 3x on all other eligible purchases. It comes with complimentary Gold status and a Weekend Night Reward after you spend $15,000 in a calendar year.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

With Hilton’s most premium card, you’ll earn 150,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card carries a $450 annual fee, but gives you complimentary Hilton Diamond elite status. You’ll earn 14x points on eligible purchases at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio, 7x points on flights booked with airlines or the American Express travel portal and select car rental companies, 7x points at U.S. restaurants, and 3x points on all other eligible purchases. You can also earn a Weekend Night Rewards every year after renewal, plus another night after you spend $60,000 in a calendar year. The card also comes with up to a $250 annual Hilton resort statement credit, which can help offset the cost of the annual fee.

All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NextAdvisor and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Card, click here

For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card, click here