Hilton points are by far the easiest hotel points to earn via credit cards. 6 points per dollar at select stores on the Surpass, and over 15 different credit cards are out there that can earn a decent amount of Hilton HHonors points. Therefore, I’ve spent a bit of time recently thinking about the absolute best use of Hilton HHonors points.
This is a post about best uses of Hilton points and not how to earn them, but like I said, the ease of earning is the inspiration.
As I mentioned recently, we both just got the Citi HHonors 75,000 point card (the one with no annual fee) again. I couldn’t pass up the offer. But I encourage you to read the post on the 15 credit cards to earn Hilton HHonors points. There are 4 different Hilton cards alone.
Then there are cards like the Virgin Atlantic card, which has a 75,000 mile bonus and transfers 1:1.5 to Hilton. At least 112,500 Hilton points.
And if you just wanted to earn via spending you can earn 3 points per dollar everywhere via the Hilton Reserve and Hilton Surpass, or 6 points per dollar via the Surpass with dining, gas, and grocery.
Enough about earning, let’s talk using points.
Let me go over awards, what I think the sweet spots are, best hotels by category, and then conclude with some of the best options over all.
Also, let me take the Hilton Award Chart from the recent Master List of Hotel Award Charts.
One more resource, is the FlyerTalk thread that discusses the difference between Axon awards. This used to be the most amazing deal before the devaluation a couple (few?) of years ago, and this thread was a gem. Unfortunately, I don’t know if I’ll ever need to use it again, but it is a benefit for AMEX Hilton card holders for 4 night stays.
The odd thing is that sometimes the discount award chart is more expensive than a standard room, for off-peak at least. Regardless you should have the info.
AXON rewards are available for 4-night stays at hotels in categories 5 through 10, as follows:
Category 5: 130,000 points
Category 6: 160,000 points
Category 7: 190,000 points
Category 8: 220,000 points
Category 9: 260,000 points
Category 10: 300,000 points
Frankly, one of the best deals is 5th night free. Simple as it sounds, when you book 5 nights it takes the average nights’ price and subtracts one.
One tip for booking 5th night free awards that cross into peak and off-peak. Is that if you’re staying for 6 or 7 nights, you should book the 5 nights that are the highest priced award.
So if you’re booking an award that’s 95,000 points for 5 nights and 70,000 for two nights… don’t book all 7 nights together. It will average all 7 nights out and then subtract one. But if you book the 5 nights together that are the higher amount, it will still subtract one night, but the value of the one night will be higher. In this case it only saves 7,000 points, but it’s something.
Best Deals with Hilton HHonors Points
I’m sure many will disagree, but I think Hilton is much better for low category stays than many rewards programs, and much worse for high category stays than many programs (same with SPG).
1) Consider that 80% of the Hilton Hotels are in the bottom 5 of the 10 categories. So it’s not unrealistic to find a good hotel for the cheaper price.
2) You can book 19 nights (23 after 5th night free) at a 5,000 point hotel instead of 1 night at a 95,000 point hotel.
The reality is somewhere closer to the middle, as most hotels are categories 4 and 5, but it’s something to think about.
Compare to Hyatt, where you could get 6 nights at a category 1 Hyatt instead of 1 night at a top tier hotel. 6 is a lot less than 19. Hyatt is a much better program for booking nice rewards.
Plus, a much higher percentage of Hyatt’s hotels are nice. See the Best Hotel Rewards Program InfoGraphic. You’ll see that Hyatt has almost twice as many “Top 500 Hotels” as Hilton, and yet they have 1/8th of the number of properties.
So I’m much more likely to see and book higher category Hyatts than lower categories, and I’m much more likely to see and book lower category Hiltons.
That being said, prices for mid to high tiers can be quite reasonable in off-peak awards. Categories 5, 6, and 7 can (in theory) be as low as 30,000 points.
Category 7s at 30,000 points would be an incredible deal. We’re now in the top 10% of hotels but near the bottom of realistic prices… or it could be 60,000 points. Quite a price range.
Off-peak pricing is misleading
1) Unlike SPG, I can’t find a list of dates of off-peak times for Hilton HHonors. It seems to be less based on dates than SPG, or they just don’t like informing you of prices (like Delta).
2) Finding dates is either hard or impossible. This is the most annoying thing about Hilton- that their award chart has so many ranges it comes close to telling you nothing. A category 7 could be 30,000 points, or it could never drop below 60,000 points.
For example, I browsed off-season dates for the Conrad Bali and it never dropped below 50,000 points. Then in Summer it pops back up to 60,000 points. Be clear that there often is no option for the bottom end of the range, 30,000 points.
This is very frustrating and going out and looking for the 30,000 points dates for most category 7 hotels is useless. Yet, hotels that are only 60,000 points are listed in the “30,000 to 60,000 point” category.
Best Hilton HHonors Hotels by Category
Best Category 1 Hilton Hotels = 5,000 points
Hilton Salalah Resort, Oman
Way out in the middle of nowhere Oman, but a very interesting beach vacation. The Oman coast (and culture) is very interesting to me.
So many hotels in Egypt
Egypt has a ton of category 1 Hiltons. “Hilton” hotels, not Hampton Inns but actual Hiltons.
- Cairo/6th of October City/Pyramids area
- Sharm El Sheik
5 nights in Sharm El Sheik for 20,000 points is a steal.
Best Category 2 Hilton Hotels = 10,000 points
So many great options.
- Hilton Sibiu, Romania
- Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- DoubleTree Agra (if you have to see the Taj, this is the best way to endure Agra)
- DoubleTree Beijing
- Hilton Garden Inn Hanoi
- Hampton Inn & Suites Mexico City – Centro Historico
I’ve stayed at a few, the DoubleTree in Kuala Lumpur is awesome. Location is great, the hotel is great, and the views from the lounge are great.
The one that catches my attention the most is the Hilton Sibiu. I still haven’t been to Transylvania but I hear it’s the best part of Romania so I’m anxious to go back. There are actually two HHonors Cat2s, the one in Sibiu and one in Cluj. Next summer!
Best Category 3 Hilton Hotels = 20,000 points
- DoubleTree Phuket
- DoubleTree Bangkok
I’m not a fan of Phuket, but a ton of people are. I am a fan of Bangkok, but I might be odd in that I’ve spent significantly more time there (probably 6 weeks of my life in Bangkok). I love the city…
Okay, I just love Thai food. But I imagine they’re both good hotels.
Best Category 4 Hilton Hotels = 20,000 – 30,000 points
- Hilton Nairobi
- 2 DoubleTrees in Zanzibar
- Hilton Bangkok
- DoubleTree Queenstown
Category 4s are especially a steal for 20,000 points. Same as a category 3… but nicer hotels.
Best Category 5 Hilton Hotels = 30,000 – 40,000 points
- Hilton Florence
- ton of hotels in Istanbul
- Hilton Barcelona
Best Category 6 Hilton Hotels = 30,000 – 50,000 points
- DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Amsterdam Centraal Station
- Hilton Cape Town City Centre
Best Category 7 Hilton Hotels = 30,000 – 60,000 points
- Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
- Conrad Bali
- Hilton Singapore
- Hilton Tokyo
- Millennium Seoul Hilton
- Hilton Barra Rio de Janeiro
- Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort
- Hilton Berlin
- different Hilton hotels in London
Best Category 8 Hilton Hotels = 40,000 – 70,000 points
- Conrad Pezula?
- DoubleTree Resort & Spa by Hilton Hotel Seychelles – Allamanda?
Best Category 9 Hilton Hotels = 50,000 – 80,000 points
- Conrad Hong Kong
- Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa
- Hilton Bora Bora/Moorea
Best Category 10 Hilton Hotels = 70,000 – 85,000 points
- Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
- Conrad Koh Samui
For many top hotels the best option is to get the Citi Hilton Reserve card, which gives two free weekend nights. As I mentioned in the post that discusses annual benefits of credit cards, you can get another free night on your anniversary if you spent $10,000 that year.
- Conrad Maldives
- Conrad Koh Samui
- Hilton Bora Bora
- Hilton Moorea
- Hilton Seychelles
And there are many more top end hotels, although these are some more exotic options to use your free nights for.
Not sure I would use my Hilton points here, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea. My point earlier about using Hilton points for low end hotels is that I have a portfolio of points. I try to use free nights from the Hilton, Fairmont, IHG, or Hilton cards for top hotels. I might even use Hyatt points in general to cover expensive cities and nice hotels, because it’s better at it. Hilton is better at low category hotels.
However, if you can get a couple Virgin Atlantic bonuses (at once), you can easily rack up enough points for 4 nights at top hotels.
Low category hotels, category 1 to 5, will continue to be my focus. Two Virgin bonuses after spending would be 270,000 points. At a category 5 in off-peak, that could be 11 nights. 11 nights at the Hilton in Florence, or Barcelona.
But that could be 67 nights in Egypt!
Not that I’m suggesting spending 67 nights in Egypt, but with two cards you can stretch your points at various category 1-5 hotels, it’s over 4,000 hotels.