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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 signing up 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.
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?
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)
The no-fee Hilton Honors American Express card can help you earn bonus points in addition to Silver elite status.
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 Hilton Honors Amex card, you’ll earn 80,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months. The card earns 7x points on Hilton purchases; 5x on groceries, dining, and gas; and 3x on all other purchases. You’ll also receive complimentary Hilton Silver status.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
With this $95 annual fee card, 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 Hilton purchases, 6x on groceries, dining, and gas, and 3x on all other 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 Hilton stays, 7x points on flights booked with airlines or the American Express travel portal and car rentals, and 3x points on all other 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 a $250 resort statement credit, which can help offset the cost of the annual fee.