Hilton Honors Complete Guide

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Hilton Honors is the loyalty program for Hilton hotels & resorts and their many brands worldwide. While Hilton has gotten a bit of a bad rap in the frequent traveler community over the past few years for eliminating its award chart, there are many advantages to the program — including easy elite status, high earnings on paid stays, no resort fees on award bookings, and more. This complete guide offers everything you need to know about the Hilton Honors program.

Conrad Bora Bora, bookable with Hilton Honors points
Grounds at the Conrad Bora Bora, bookable with Hilton points or free weekend night certificates from their credit cards

Hilton Honors overview

Hilton Honors shares traits that are common to most hotel rewards programs:

  • Earn points from paid stays (but not when stays are booked through online travel agencies such as Expedia).
  • Use points to book free night awards.
  • Those who spend many nights at Hilton hotels booked either as free nights or paid stays (but not those booked through online travel agencies) earn elite status.
  • Elite status levels range from Silver to top-tier Diamond.  The higher your status, the more perks you get.
  • Branded credit cards can be used to earn points and to help earn elite status.

Recent posts about Hilton Honors

Hilton Honors Award chart / Points Explorer Tool

Direct link to Hilton Points Explorer Tool

Hilton eliminated award charts several years ago and pricing is now variable. Hilton instead offers the Hilton Points Explorer tool linked above that purportedly shows the minimum and maximum price of a standard room at each hotel in the Hilton Honors program. Unfortunately, when the tool launched we showed that it isn’t very reliable (See: Hilton’s junky new Points Explorer tool isn’t always accurate). The tool can indeed be useful for finding the maximum price of a hotel when room rates are high but it does not always accurately reflect the minimum price.

Hilton Honors 5th Night Free awards

Hilton offers the 5th night free on standard room points award stays for those with Silver status or higher. The Hilton Honors Terms & Conditions state that “After the 5th Night Free benefit is applied, eligible members will be charged 0 points for the 5th night, 10th night, 15th night, and 20th night of the stay, as applicable.” You can get a maximum of 4 free nights in a single stay (i.e. at a maximum, you would get 4 free nights on a 20-night stay). However, a member can utilize this benefit an unlimited number of times during the year.

Note that the way Hilton calculates and displays the price on 5th night free stays can be confusing. Essentially, they price each night at 4/5ths of the cost of an award night, though pricing when booking 5 nights may not be the same as the price of booking 5 nights separately. The best practice is to search nights both as a 5-night stay and individually to be sure you get the best deal. See: Hilton’s funny math: save points by extending a stay and Hilton stinks at math: book award nights separately for more on this topic.

Points & Money awards

Hilton offers members the chance to book an award using a mixture of points and money. Members can use points in increments of 1,000 points to offset the cost of a stay. When using points & money, points will offset the cash cost at a rate just below the ratio of the paid room rate to the award night cost.

In other words, if a $100 stay costs 20,000 points, the value of points in that instance is half a cent per point. If a member uses points to partially offset the cost of the stay, the points will reduce the cost by just under half a cent per point (i.e. using 10,000 points will reduce the cash cost by a little less than $50).

Hilton Honors Elite status

Status level Nights per year required Lifetime status requirements Key benefits
Silver 4 stays, 10 nights or 25,000 base points N/A 20% bonus on base points, 2 bottles of water at most full-service properties
Gold 20 stays, 40 nights, or 75,000 base points N/A 80% bonus on base points, free breakfast
Diamond 30 stays, 60 nights, or 120,000 base points 10 years of Diamond status plus either 1,000 lifetime nights or 2 million base points earned 100% bonus on base points, free breakfast, lounge access

Elite status things to know

  • Lifetime status is only available for Diamond members. The 1,000 lifetime nights required can be paid and/or award stays.
  • Elite nights are earned with either cash or award stays.  When booking a four night award, it may make sense to book 5 nights instead (thanks to 5th Night Free pricing) just so that you can get an extra elite night. Make sure not to check out after the fourth night.
  • Elite nights are not earned with online travel agency bookings.  For example, if you book through Expedia, you will not earn elite night credit (or points) for your stay.  You also might not receive elite benefits during your stay, but some hotels have been known to offer them anyway as long as you add your Hilton Honors membership number to the reservation.
  • Missing stay: If a stay was not properly credited to your account, you can fill out a missing stay request form online: https://www.hilton.com/en/hilton-honors/guest/missing-stays (note that you’ll need to log in to fill out the form)

Elite perks / free breakfast: what and where?

Hilton offers a fairly simple set of elite benefits that apply at almost all properties in the Hilton Honors program.

Gold members are entitled to complimentary continental breakfast at all properties in the Hilton Honors portfolio. Those with Gold status can also receive a complimentary room upgrade up to the executive level (note that Gold members only receive lounge access when upgraded to the executive level).

Diamond members also receive complimentary continental breakfast at all properties in the Hilton Honors portfolio and additionally receive lounge access at properties with an executive lounge.

The definition of a continental breakfast varies; at some properties, this consists of a full made-to-order breakfast in the hotel restaurant, at others it could mean a voucher that can be used at on-property dining options that may not completely cover breakfast. However, most Hilton full-service properties have good breakfast offerings.

Shortcuts to elite status

There are two key shortcuts to Hilton elite status: credit cards or status match.

Credit Cards

The easiest shortcut to Hilton elite status is via credit card. The Hilton Honors Surpass card from American Express offers complimentary Gold elite status. Alternatively, the Hilton Honors Aspire card from American Express offers complimentary Diamond status. The ability to essentially buy meaningful elite status by maintaining a credit card account is unique to Hilton.

Note that those who spend $40,000 in a calendar year on the Surpass card earn Diamond status.

Status match

Hilton also offers a status match program. At times in the past, they have given a straight match to those with comparable status in other programs, Hilton currently offers a status match challenge whereby they will match your comparable status in another program to either Hilton Gold or Hilton Diamond and then you will need to complete 10 nights (for Gold) or 18 nights (for Diamond) within a 90-day trial period to maintain status through the end of the current membership period (currently available through March 31, 2022).

See Hilton’s status match page here: https://statusmatch.hiltonhonors.com/

Point earning from stays

Status Points earned per $ Points earned at Home2 Suites & Tru by Hilton
Member 10 5
Silver (20% bonus) 12 6
Gold 18 9
Diamond 20 10

 

The chart above shows point earnings for stays.  The middle column shows the number of points earned per dollar at most brands.  The next column shows the points earned per dollar at long-stay brands that don’t follow the same formula: Home2Suites and Tru by Hilton.

Points are not earned with online travel agency bookings.  For example, if you book through Expedia, you will not earn points for your room charge.  You also might not receive elite benefits during your stay, but some hotels have been known to offer them anyway as long as you add your Hilton Honors membership number to the reservation.

Point transfers to airline miles

Hilton Honors offers the ability to transfer Hilton points to various airline partners. Transfer ratios are abysmal: unless you are trying to unload a small amount of Hilton points set to expire or you need to top off your airline miles for a highly valuable award flight, these transfers are unlikely to make sense.

You can see participating airline programs and ratios here: https://hiltonhonors3.hilton.com/en/earn-use-points/exchange/airline-rail/index.html

Manage points

Share points with others

Hilton Honors allows points pooling whereby you can share points with up to 10 other members. Each member can transfer up to 500,000 points into a pool in a calendar year and an individual member can receive up to 2,000,000 points in a calendar year. You must have been a member for at least 30 days and have at least 1,000 points in your account to join a pool. Note that while the original program announcement suggested that pooled points are available immediately but “may take up to 24 hours” to be reflected in your account, my experience has been that it often takes several days for pooled points to transfer and transfers have sometimes failed without reason. It is advisable to transfer in advance when possible.

How to keep points alive

Points expire after 12 months of inactivity.  Fortunately, almost all points activity will reset the clock.  Points remain alive and available as long as you earn or use points at least once every 12 months.

Some examples of activity that would keep points alive:

  • Earning from a stay
  • Using a Hilton credit card
  • Purchasing points
  • Transferring from Amex Membership Rewards
  • Earning from the Hilton Dining program
  • Shopping with points at Amazon
  • Earning points from a car rental
  • Donating Hilton points to charity

Credit cards

The Hilton Honors credit cards are issued by American Express. Below you’ll find information about each currently available Hilton credit card:

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

FM Mini Review: This card is loaded with valuable perks that are more than worth the card's annual fee if you stay in Hilton resorts at least once per year, and other Hilton properties a few times a year..


Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base
Travel
Dine
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 14X Hilton spend ⚬ 7X US restaurants, flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, select car rental companies ⚬ 3X everywhere else ⚬ Terms & Limitations Apply.

Big spend bonus: Second free weekend night after $60K spend in calendar year

Noteworthy perks: ⚬Annual Weekend Night Reward upon approval and every year upon renewal ⚬ Free Diamond Status ⚬ Priority Pass w/ 2 free guests ⚬ $250 Hilton Resort Credit per membership year ⚬ $250 Airline Incidental Fee Credit per calendar year ⚬ $100 on-property credit w/ Aspire Card package ⚬ Terms Apply. See Rates & Fees

See also: Amex Hilton Aspire In-Depth Review

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card
125K points
125K after $2K in the first 3 months. Terms apply. See rates & fees.

$95 Annual Fee

FM Mini Review: Easy way to secure Hilton Gold status (which offers free breakfast among other perks). Those who want Diamond status may be better off with the Aspire card.


Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base
Dine
Gas
Grocery
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 12X Hilton spend ⚬ 6X U.S. restaurants, US Supermarkets, and US gas stations ⚬ 3X everywhere else

Big spend bonus:
⚬ Free weekend night after $15K spend in calendar year ⚬ Diamond elite status with $40K calendar year spend ⚬ Terms apply

Noteworthy perks: Free Gold status. Diamond status w/ $40K spend. ⚬ 10 free Priority Pass lounge visits per calendar year ⚬ Terms Apply. (Rates & Fees)

See also: Hilton Amex Cards. Everything you need to know.

Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

FM Mini Review: Easy way to secure Hilton Gold status (which offers free breakfast among other perks). Amex business cards do not count towards 5/24 status so will not hurt chances of applying for Chase cards.


Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base
Travel
Dine
Gas
Phone
Biz
Brand
Other

Earning rate: ⚬ 12X Hilton spend ⚬ 6X on Select Business & Travel Purchases (flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel; car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies; US restaurants; US gas stations; wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service provider; US shipping purchases)

Big spend bonus:
Free weekend night after $15K spend in calendar year and another after $60K spend

Diamond elite status with $40K calendar year spend

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Free Gold status. Diamond status w/ $40K spend. ⚬ 10 free Priority Pass lounge visits per calendar year ⚬ Terms Apply.

See also: Hilton Amex Cards. Everything you need to know.

Hilton Honors American Express Card
75K points
75K after $1K spend in 3 months. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)

No Annual Fee

Note that Amex is extending the timeline to meet minimum spend by 3 months for applications approved between 12/1/19 and 5/31/20. See this post for more info.

Alternate offer: You may see a better offer that includes a $100 statement credit during the booking process at Hilton.com.

FM Mini Review: This card isn't particularly rewarding, but it's good to keep primarily for targeted Amex upgrade offers to the Ascend card.


Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base
Dine
Gas
Grocery
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 7X Hilton spend ⚬ 5X US restaurants, US Supermarkets, and US gas stations ⚬ 3X everywhere else

Big spend bonus: Gold elite status with $20K calendar year spend

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Free Silver status; Gold status with $20K spend. ⚬ Terms Apply. (Rates & Fees)

See also: Hilton Amex Cards. Everything you need to know.

Experiences

In addition to redeeming points for award nights or transfers to airline miles (the latter at poor value), it is also possible to redeem points for experiences. These include things like backstage concert tickets, impossible to get sports event tickets, dining with famous chefs, etc.  Some experiences have fixed award prices, but most are setup as auctions.  In either case, you may or may not get good value depending upon circumstances.

Here is a link to available Hilton Honors experiences: https://experiences.hiltonhonors.com/

Hilton Honors Pros & Cons

Pros (where Hilton Honors is better than average):

  • Free breakfast for Gold and Diamond members at all properties
  • Easy elite status via credit card
  • No resort fees on award stays
  • 5th night free awards (Marriott offers this too)
  • Points pooling with up to 10 other members (share up to 500K points per year or receive up to 2,000,000 points per year). This makes it easy to combine forces for an award.
  • Hilton offers good point earnings on paid stays for elites
  • Hilton has a huge number of hotels that run from bottom-tier to luxury

Cons (where Hilton Honors is worse than average):

  • Variable award pricing means it is nearly impossible to predict how many points you’ll need until you are ready to book
  • Hilton offers fewer ulta-luxury aspirational properties than Marriott and Hyatt

Q & A (Questions and Answers)

Q: Can I get the 5th Night Free if I pay for some of the nights with cash, free night certificates, or cash + points?

A: No.  To get the 5th Night Free, you must book entirely with points.

Q: I completed a stay but it hasn’t credited to my account. What can I do?

A: First, wait a bit. It’s not unusual for a stay to appear on your account about a week after checkout.  Next, if the stay still hasn’t appeared, you can fill out a missing stay request online: https://www.hilton.com/en/hilton-honors/guest/missing-stays

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