How To Stay At A Hilton Hotel For Free Until April 30th

Hilton HHonors Free Hotel Nights

Hilton points unlimited promo

How To Stay at a Hilton Hotel For Free

Hotels are expensive, except when they’re free. Today I’m going to show you how to use a limited-time promo that Hilton is running until April 30th, 2018 to stay for free, or almost free, at Category 1 Hilton properties. This hack could be a great way to explore a new city without having to pay for hotels or qualify for Hilton Gold or Diamond status for nearly free.

Editor’s Note: This post was guest-written by the same guy who showed you how to fly round trip to Africa (DC to Senegal) for 50,000 points.  While I believe that this trick for staying at Hilton properties for free will technically work, it’s not really practical for most of us.  And that was true of the Africa trick too.  Regardless, I love reading about what’s possible and I hope you will too.  You can find John’s website and award booking service here: theflyingmustache.com/awardbooking.
-Greg The Frequent Miler

It’s not everyday that a hotel promo comes along that essentially allows you to stay for free. I’m not talking about 4th night free, I’m talking about not costing you any of your precious points. I will go over how you can actually stack another bonus on top of this bonus offer to make it completely, absolutely and totally free or even get paid in points to stay at their hotels.

Hilton HHonors Free Hotel Nights

Hilton status match offer

The offer and setting yourself up for success

Before you make a b-line for your local Hilton there are a few things that we need to go over to make sure that you are set up to maximize this deal. First, you will have to register for the Hilton Points Unlimited promotion which you can do here. Second, you will need to have either Hilton Gold or Diamond status in order to make the numbers work.

There are a few of easy ways to get to Gold or Diamond without actually staying at hotels.

  • The first is matching your status from another program. Hilton will match your status from any other loyalty program. All you need to provide for validation is a screen shot showing your current status level or your membership card. You can find their status match page here.
  • The second is signing up for one of the new Hilton credit cards from American Express. They are slated to be released on January 18th and both the Business and the Ascend card come with complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status. Their new premium card, the Aspire card, comes with complimentary Diamond status.
  • The third way is if you are an Amex Platinum card holder or authorized user then you will automatically be given Hilton Gold status.

Now that you’ve signed up for the offer and worked out how you are going to get Gold or Diamond status it’s time to look at the fine print to make sure that we don’t miss anything. For this particular offer they exclude Hampton by Hilton Hotels in Mainland China. The offer clearly states that “There is no limit to the total amount of bonus points that may be earned during the promotion period with this offer” which is excellent. Hilton doesn’t allow you to book back-to-back stays at the same hotel and have them count as separate stays. So you will either need to wait 24 hours between stays at the same hotel or switch hotels each night if you wish to have each night credited as a separate stay.

Hilton HHonors Free Hotel Nights

Gold status is so easy to get even I have it

Finding the right hotels

In this post I have referred to Hilton Category 1 hotels, but as of March 1st, 2017 Hilton technically did away with hotel categories and instead moved to a new dynamic pricing scheme (which Greg wrote about here). What I am  referring to when I say Category 1 is Hilton hotels that cost only 5,000 points per night. While Hilton does not provide a way for you to easily search which of their hotels fall into the 5,000 points category, Award mapper is a great tool that allows you to select the points range you want to see and then narrow your selection by hotel chain. You can use this tool to find which Hilton properties are only 5,000 point per night.

Points Mapper map of Hilton 5,000 point hotels

One important component of this offer, and the reason that you need Gold or Diamond status to make it work, is that Hilton gives their elite status members an additional bonus each time they stay at select properties. They call this bonus the “My Way” hotel benefit and you can see the various bonus levels in the image below.

Hilton HHonors Free Hotel Nights

List of Hilton property bonuses

You may notice one very important thing about the “My Way” hotel benefits and that is that only two of the hotels that fall into what Hilton used to call Category 1 earn a decent amount of “My Way” membership bonus points. This is important because this is how we get all the way to free rather than having to shell out precious points to stay at our favorite Hilton hotel.

DoubleTree by Hilton and Hilton hotels earn 1,000 points per night on top of your 2,000 points per stay bonus. Most of the DoubleTree and Hilton hotels that are 5,000 points per night are either in the Middle East or Mainland China.

Hilton Garden Inn’s earn a respectable 750 points per night on top of your 2,000 bonus points per stay. They have 5,000 point per night locations in several countries in Europe, Asia and Central and South America.

Hampton By Hilton’s (formerly known as Hampton Inns) earn a measly 250 points per night on top of your 2,000 bonus points per stay and for that reason should be avoided at all costs (just kidding). This is the only brand with Category 1 hotels in the United States that I found. Even starting with the smaller 250 point “My Way” bonus there is still a way to stay completely for free which I will cover below.

One thing to keep in mind is that with the “My Way” bonus you have to select between free breakfast and a points bonus. It may make sense for most people to pay a few Hilton Honors points rather than cough up some dough for your morning meal.

One small caveat

While the wording for this offer makes it seem that the promotion should be activated just by staying at the hotel (even on points), because the offer is so new I only have confirmation of this offer working for someone who stayed at the hotel on points and charged something small to their room. You may wish to make a small charge to your room if you are planning on taking advantage of this promotion just to be sure that the points post without issue. Buying a bottle of water is enough to ensure that everything outlined in this post will work and that you will be able to stay for free (except for that bottle of water).

Adding it up

While no matter which way you look at it this is an incredible deal, the math works out slightly different for the different Hilton brands. If you are staying at either a Hilton Hotel or a DoubleTree by Hilton then every time you hit your fifth one-night stay you break even points-wise. Here is what that looks like:

Each stay gets you 2,000 bonus points.

You receive 10,000 bonus points after 5 stays.

Diamond and Gold members receive 1,000 bonus points per stay at Hilton and DoubleTree.

Five one-night stays X 2,000 bonus points = 10,000 points.

5-stay bonus = 10,000 points.

1,000 bonus points per stay for Gold and Diamond members X 5 = 5,000 points.

Total bonus points for 5 one-night stays = 25,000.

Redemption cost for 5 one-night stays in Cat 1 hotels = 25,000.

Total cost for 5 nights = 0 HHonors points.

The math is slightly less favorable for Hilton Garden Inn hotels but even if you just stay for 5 nights the points cost per stay is pretty marginal. Before you remind me that 250 points is actually more than zero, please keep in mind that Frequent Miler’s current reasonable redemption value for Hilton Honors points is $0.0045, less than half of a penny per point. That would mean that the approximate value of the 250 HHonors points you are redeeming for each one night stay is $1.13. In the next section I show you how you can stack another bonus on top of this to make your stays free or even have them pay you in points to stay.

Here is how we get from 5,000 points per night to 250 points per night.

Each stay gets you 2,000 bonus points.

You receive 10,000 bonus points after 5 stays.

Diamond and Gold members receive 750 bonus point per stay.

Five one-night stays X 2,000 bonus points = 10,000 points.

5 stay bonus = 10,000 points.

750 bonus points per stay for Gold and Diamond members X 5 = 3,750 points.

Total bonus points for 5 one-night stays = 23,750.

Redemption cost for 5 one-night stays in Cat 1 hotels = 25,000.

Total cost for 5 nights = 1,250 HHonors points ($5.63 equivalent cash value).

If you are staying at a Hampton By Hilton, with its much less generous “My Way” status bonus, you are going to be paying 750 Hhonors points per night after stacking up all the promos. That comes out to 3,750 HHonors points for five one-night stays ($16.88 equivalent cash value), which is still less than the cost of a standard one-night stay. Even with the smaller bonus you can still make the stays completely free and I will show you exactly how in the next part.

Hilton HHonors Free Hotel Nights

Hilton Stay More Earn More bonus offer

Making it truly free (or getting paid for your stay)

Wait! Don’t waste any of those Hhonors points! For the truly frugal (and dedicated) hotel guest you can actually get them to give you points to stay at their hotels!

As you can see from the picture above, once you hit 40 nights at Hilton properties you get a 10,000 point bonus. It costs between 0 and 750 points per stay, depending on the brand, for each stay up until 40 nights. So when you hit 40 nights you would be out 10,000 HHonors points if you were staying at a Hilton Garden Inn. Thankfully, the 10,000 point 40-night stay bonus kicks in at that point and brings your cost to exactly zero points for 40 one-night stays. If you were staying at Hilton or DoubleTree properties you would be up 10,000 points now and if you were staying at Hampton By Hilton you would be out 20,000 points after receiving the 40 night bonus.

It gets better! Because you get another 10,000 HHonors point bonus at 50 nights, you will be ahead 7,500 HHonors points at 50 nights for Garden Inn properties, 20,000 points for Hilton and DoubleTree and just 17,500 points shy of breaking even for the Hampton by Hilton customers.

I know that this might count as a punishment in some places but if you stay another 10 nights to get to the 60 night threshold then you qualify for an additional 30,000 bonus points. That would mean that if you used these promotions to complete 60 one-night stays at Hilton Category 1 hotels they would give you 35,000 points for staying at their Garden Inn hotels, 50,000 points for Hilton and DoubleTree and a far less sexy 5,000 HHonors points if you completed all of those stays at a Hampton property. No matter which property you choose, they all start earning you points by the time you reach 60 one-night stays. They are basically paying you between 83 and 833 HHonors points per night to stay at their properties when you hit 60 one-night stays.

Hilton HHonors Free Hotel Nights

View from my private suite at Conrad Koh Samui, where you won’t be staying for this promotion.

The ability to stack a limited-time Hilton hotels promo with a status bonus and a frequent-stay bonus makes it possible to stay at 5,000 points per night Hilton properties for free or even earn points for staying. You must register for this bonus and have elite status in order to get this deal to work. There are several easy ways to get status with Hilton including matching your status from another program or signing up for a credit card that gives you Gold or Platinum status. This opportunity is a great way to stay at Hilton properties for free, earn elite status, or both.

About John Klukas

John is the head mustache over at The Flying Mustache blog and spends his days, nights, and weekends flying around the world and helping people use their miles to do the same. Though his facial hair may change, his devotion to helping people get the most from their miles never waivers.

More articles by John Klukas »

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Comments

  1. This is completely insane and the work of a madman and I mean this in the best ways possible …. I’m loving this post, I’m a teacher so I have a lot of time on my hands in 5 months, when does the promotion end ?

  2. “View from my private suite at Conrad Koh Samui, where you won’t be staying for this promotion.”

    Best part of this post 🙂

  3. Just stayed a night at a Hilton garden inn and grab a bag of chips to trigger the promotion. The front desk zeroed out the chips on the folio. I believe they thought they were showing good service to a diamond member, but I wanted the points not the chips.

    • Call customer service? That sucks, and I would not like the situation given this. Make sure you let us know if you happen to actually get the points in the end, which would maybe imply the incidental terminology on the FAQ is not hard coded, but I would bet it is. Even if you do get them, we could argue that even if they $0.00’d the charge, it maybe still triggered the promo. Nevertheless, more DP’s are more DP’s! Thanks

  4. A fun post! Until recently, the Hampton by Hilton in Panama City was a cat 1 (5k a night). Stayed there for five nights last year, and it was a surprisingly inexpensive way (on points) to check out the city and, of course, the Canal. The award stay even included a free semi-decent breakfast. Alas, I see it is now a cat 2 (10k points a night).

    One editorial suggestion: make it clear upfront in the blog posting that the points from this Hilton promotion can be earned on award stays as well as paid stays. This is very unusual for promotions, and I had some trouble comprehending the post until this fact suddenly dawned on me.

  5. Not sure what Hilton Rewards Team means by “Time to fix this, thanks!” Am I misunderstanding something here or am I imaging the conversation could have gone something like this?

    Hilton Management: Let’s do something nice for our loyal customers, perhaps a nice promotion or two.
    Hilton Rewards Team: We can come up with something nice. Oh but wait, we need to ‘fix it’ in case they actually want to use it and benefit from it …
    Hilton Diamond Member: Hmm I see the (non)loyalty Hilton has for their top customers. Time to move my hotel stays over to a new hotel chain. Thanks Hilton Rewards Team. 🙂

  6. Is the my way point rewards per night? It looks like it’s pretty clear in it’s wording that it’s per stay. If you book 5 separate stays I would assume that doesn’t trigger the 5th night free.

  7. In order to get started, if you don’t have any available points, you have to pay the full rate for each night, correct? So it’s not technically free if you have to pay money to book those first few nights before the points start kicking in?

    • well, he mentioned that you can apply for an Amex Hilton card, which will give you at least 50k points once you meet the spending requirement. And it can be as low as $1000 in three months. Just use it for your daily expenses. No extra spending.

      All you paid is a hard pull to Amex. Does it consider free for you now?

  8. @Lei, haha, no, because I have that card already. I also had the Amex Hilton Surpass card already. Assuming I didn’t have them yet, you also have to wait for those points to post before you can book, and that gives you less time to make these stays before the promotion ends.

    • lol, this article says “how to stay for free until April 30th” not “guaranteed to stay free for months” So if you apply it today, meet the spending requirement by the end of this month (Like prepay your cellphone bill or utilities or vehicle insurance.), you will receive the points latest in March. Then you can use the points to book 5 stays before May to make them free stays.

      Or assume your Hilton points balance is 0, and already have all the Hilton cards, you can still apply for Amex MR cards and transfer MR points to Hilton (Not worth it, but doable.)

      • Haha, like you said at the end, transferring MR points is not worth it…because by getting those free nights you lose a lot of other value. I really like this post and the math works out great…but only for those who already have points to stay or who have not applied for all the Hilton cards like I have. For rest of us, we have to spend money to start getting these free nights, so it really ends up as more of a “buy one, get one free” in the end.

  9. Is there any USA properties for 5,000? Awardmapper shows Columbus, GA for one hotel (Hilton Garden Inn Columbus Airport) but when using HIlton’s site it is actually above 20k a night. I am wondering if anyone has a up-to-date list of 5000 point per night hotels. Only thing roughly up to date is loyaltylobby (google “Hilton 5000 point hotels” and its the first result. I am going to start digging.

  10. Help a fool figure this out. You are having to “pay” for the first 5 nights as I read it, right? So you aren’t actually getting any nights free until you have paid for the first 5 nights. Am I wrong or misreading this?

    • Nope, you are correct…I mentioned that earlier and feel like it’s more of a “buy one, get one” unless you already have lots of Hilton points or can get the AmEx Hilton cards with their bonus points. I already got those cards two years ago and can’t get those points a second time.

    • You can transfer in from transferable points currencies or get a credit card bonus. I’m not suggesting actually paying for any stays, though you can do that if you wish. Hilton points are very easy to get, they even allow points pooling with up to 10 members. You could also buy the points if you need to. So many ways to get those points.

      You do need to have enough points in your account to stay 5 times. Basically, if you had 15,000 points in your account you would be good to go. The 2,000 point stay bonus and the 1,000 point elite bonus should post right away after each stay. So if you started with 15,000 points then after stay 1 you would have 13,000, after stay 2 you would have 11,000, after stay 3 you would have 9,000 after stay 4 you would have 7,000 and after stay 5 you would trigger the 10k bonus and end with 15,000 points again. Technically you could start with 10,000 points and be fine, but I would have a little buffer in case the points don’t show up immediately after your stay.

      • Perfect comment. Thanks for the math. I was wanting to reply to the above comments and sorts laugh at how much ignorance it is to be complaining that this isn’t “free’ given the “cost”. You made it even more obvious. Well done.

      • Sadly, I have over 269k points, so I will definitely try this out. Thank you for all of the advice. I have a lot of traveling to do, so I will definitely use this!

  11. Even if you went to Krakow to do this, you’d basically be doing one night on one night off. Where would the one night off go? Are there two properties next to each other?

    • I am thinking 1 day on 1 day off using the two player game (two members, two separate accounts, me and my GF). Not sure how quickly one property will get pissed about the change every night. I would change rooms each day to be safe, though I don’t know if it will matter. If we can stay in 1 room the duration of the stay, that would be great. I think it being different members I would think they could just check one of us out, and check the other in. I will tell them I am doing it so we can both get status via stays. The terms of the program do show that as long as you skip a day, it is a new “stay”. I can’t see how they can deny it in that case.

  12. First off I did not mention this “stacking” when calling HHonors, so no one is the wiser, since people love to freak out about “DONT CALL”, but I just talked to 6 HHonors reps about the Milestone and Points Unlimited (the rep I asked about this I did not ask about the Milestone in the same conversation) and I can confirm now, after 4 horrible “no” answers (some of those reps would be better off not working there) and 2 “yes” answers… that nights starting January 2018 DO count toward the Milestone bonus. She contacted her help desk (supervisor) who found the documentation and she read it off to me. Her documents read at one point, and I quote “for example a member who completes 60 stays between January 20th to April 1st would be credited 30,000 bonus points.”

    I also asked about Points Unlimited promo and got clarity that her supervisor interperts the information found on the Points Unlimited FAQ, third question from the bottom reading, to mean point stays only work when an incidental charge is made during the stay… but one huge thing to note is the last part of this FAQ speaking of how to make a points stay count for bonus points… “This does not apply to incidental charges for stays at Hampton by Hilton™, Tru by Hilton™, Homewood Suites by Hilton®, and Home2 Suites by Hilton®”

    I do read that, and her supervisor read it this way to, as meaning these 4 brands of hiltons WILL not let point stays count toward the bonus points, even if you charge an incidental. If we believe this to be true… then the information pertaining to Hampton by Hilton should be removed from this article ASAP as some readers will be sorely disappointed if they find they won’t get the promo to work by booking at those hotels.”

    Here is the entire FAQ question I am referencing.

    “Will members earn Bonus Points with the “Points Unlimited” promotion for Reward Stays for this promotion?”

    Members will earn Bonus Points with the “Points Unlimited” promotion if they have incidental charges during a Reward Stay, provided such charges are deemed eligible folio charges. This does not apply to incidental charges for stays at Hampton by Hilton™, Tru by Hilton™, Homewood Suites by Hilton®, and Home2 Suites by Hilton®. For a complete explanation, see number 14 under Accrual of Points.”

    • Thanks for clarifying this @tinytavosa. I figured that one way or the other the nights are going to be counted toward the milestone bonuses for 2018 (even if they waited until April to apply them to your account). Worst case scenario is you would have to wait for the 30k to post until April because they really aren’t going to try and argue that stay from January through March aren’t part of 2018.

      It’s interesting that they say it doesn’t apply for stays at Hampton. Has anyone tested this out? I get told all the time that any number of things don’t work by phone reps or email reps but whether or not the system is actually hard-coded to deny stay credit for Hampton may be a different matter. If you hear of any hard data points on this please let me know.

      Thanks for taking a closer look.
      Cheers,
      John

      • Hey, just wanted to give a DP about a Hampton by Hilton stay with Gold status.

        Stayed on 01/25/2018 at Hampton by Hiltpm, Spring Hill FL. Got 2,000 points and 250 points (my way bonus) today, 01/28/18.

        Seems confirmable that Hamptons DO qualify for this promo… And somehow hilton managed to word the FAQ so bad as to indicate it was not, but in reality they seem to mean you do NOT have to charge an incidental to your room to get the 2000 points from this Points Unlimited promo. That’s good news for most. I should be staying in Hilton Garden Inn sometime in February or the first week of March, and will not charge something one stay to see if we do indeed actually have to charge anything.

  13. Talking to 6 (6!) hilton reps about a technical aspect of the rues does not leave Hilton none the wiser. You SHOULD NOT HAVE CALLED.

    Sheesh.

    • You are not the smartest my friend…. If you were on the calls you would be laughing at yourself.

      The only question asked was if nights will count as of January. On one separate phone call I asked if point stays indeed count on this promotion given that the FAQ seems to say they will. Why would asking for clarity on and publiclly posted FAQ with a super nice rep raise flags? Not to mention at the intelligance level of these reps, they probably don’t even know that you can book a hotel for 5000 points LOL. I think you’re paranoid and its laughable to be posting under a handle named A. I have been playing this game for well over 5 years and I am not maybe as unintelligent as you seem to be, to call and make anything obvious. I’m sorry that you don’t see a way to call 6 times as 6 people dodging the same reps to get information clarity which is NOT accurate in the post. Why don’t you go be a DP and not just post useless comments raging like you know anything. Get on with it and go do the promo if you’re so into it and worried. SMH.

  14. I’ve been in this game a lot longer than 5 years, tiny (as if that’s a great handle) and I’ve seen countless deals die because of morons calling the hotels and airlines to try double and triple check, raising red flags. And the more people you ask the more flags you raise and the more likely it is that you’ll hit an employee who thinks, ‘hey, this could cause the company to LOSE money and that’s not a good thing.’ Beyond that, guess what? Calling six times and getting all sorts of answers generally means there is none because the company hasn’t caught on as to how people might be gaming the system because otherwise they would’ve have put limits right in the T&Cs. So good job on getting this deal closer to getting killed. There’s a reason why all the veterans-and by veterans I don’t mean a measly 5 years- all say, DON’T CALL (actually, most of them have stopped this and simply gone underground with this stuff, only trusting the information with people who aren’t stupid enough to alert the companies.)

  15. Useless post, as the cost of switching hotels and those expenses are not taking into consideration. Not free, just typical Hilton promotion.

  16. I have a data point from a recent Hampton award stay:

    1) I was awarded the 2,000 points despite not charging anything to my room.
    2) I earned 2x 500 points for “Amex Co Brand Online Booking Bonus”. I’m not sure why I got two of these – maybe because I have both Hilton Amex cards??

    • Epic! I thought you had to charge something to even get those 500 points, so both not having charged something for the 2k points plus the 2x 500 is pretty darn good sounding. Thinking of getting a Hilton AMEX tomorrow for this promo. Especially if you’re DP is not an anomaly.

    • On top of that I realize that means you got 2000 on a Hampton, aka it must be super not hard-coded what the FAQ says about charging something to the room won’t get you 2000 points at a Hampton. Gotta love when corporations make rules they don’t enforce. Thanks Stephen.

      • It got even better. I also got the 250 MyWay benefit and 10,000 points for ‘CRM Winback Promo’. Looks like that was a promo from last year which ended on Jan 11, 2018. I didn’t think I was targeted for that promo but I must have registered despite not getting a confirmation email and was awarded the bonus on an award stay.

        • The real fun part is I realized the FAQ terms might actually be stating that at Hampton, Home2, and Homewood Suites, and Tru by Hilton, you do NOT need to charge an incidental. Only way to really confirm this to be the weird way they worded it, is staying at their other brands and both charging and not charging an incidental. I assume that not charging and getting the points would prove that they do not hard code a need for an incidental, and charging and incidental does not prove much in that case. It is really not charging one that shows us a DP. I will get a DP in the next month but for now I won’t be of any help. if anyone else thinks it through and finds out, let us know! Thanks again Stephen. Looking forward to your posts on the blog!

        • See above for my data point supporting yours too. Looks like Hampton does work without any charges to the room!

  17. This was a great example of applied math, however those 5000-point hotels are hardly convenient, unless you happen to live in Turkey.

    • It is outdated, but it gives you a good guess of where to at least try. Just FYI I’ve looked it over quite well, so can confirm this.

  18. Thanks for the article. I have a question about back-to-back stays: I did stay in China back in 2016, and every single back-to-back night counted as a separate stay, and towards elite status. Is the rule on back-to-back stays a new one that came in with the 2017 terms, or was it there before as well? If it was there in 2016 it obviously didn’t apply to me.

    I would like to book again in Asia (Garden Inn), and doing same-day checkouts and checkins would be the most convenient way of doing so.

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