(EXPIRED) Buy Hilton points for half a cent each through 11/26

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Hilton is offering a 100% bonus on the purchase of points when you buy 10,000 or more points. While I don’t generally recommend buying points speculatively, this can make sense if you have a valuable redemption lined up (and it is indeed how I am generally planning to pick up Hilton points moving forward).

Living room of a 1 bedroom suite at the Conrad Fort Lauderdale

The Deal

Key Terms

  • During this sale, you can buy up to 160,000 Hilton points before the bonus (320,000 with the bonus)
  • Expires 11/26/19

Quick Thoughts

Hilton points are among the least valuable hotel points (not quite at the bottom, but not far from it) and I generally find them to be worth about half a cent each. For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend purchasing points without any goal in mind.

That said, there are a few angles from which I think this sale is potentially interesting.

First: The limit is really 3.2 million Hilton points

First up, the limit is very much a soft cap. While each member is limited to buying 160K points pre-bonus through this sale (320K after the bonus), Hilton allows you to pool points with up to 9 other people. With ten members in a pool, it is possible to buy up to 3,200,000 Hilton points and pool them in a single account. That would cost you $16,000 total and I definitely do not recommend anyone spend sixteen grand on Hilton points — my point, rather, is that you can more or less buy whatever it is that you need with this sale.

If I had stayed for 5 nights, this room at the Conrad Bora Bora would have cost me about $320 in points per night. That’s not cheap, but it’s far below the cash rates.

Note that Hilton ordinarily limits you to buying up to 80K points per year before bonuses — they have increased the pre-bonus limit to 160K for this sale (and also the previous sale).

Second: It’s possible to do much better than half a cent per point

While Hilton points are usually only worth about half a cent each, there are plenty of instances where they can be used for one cent each or even more. Just this year, I’ve used points for a couple of free nights at the Conrad Bora Bora (80K per night for a room costing north of $900 per night at cash rates) and a Hampton Inn in Atlanta for Super Bowl weekend (40K per night for a crummy hotel, but with cash rates around $1,000 per night at the time of booking). When you consider the fact that you don’t pay tax or resort fees when redeeming points, it is certainly possible to get better value than the cost of points here. I wouldn’t recommending buying in the hopes that maybe you’ll redeem the points well, but if you have an upcoming stay where the points will be useful, it can certainly make sense to buy.

Third: Turn your cash back cards into the best Hilton cards for everyday spend

I’ve talked quite a bit this year about my growing infatuation with cash back. I have said and will continue to hold that you’re better off putting most spend on a cash back card and buying Hilton points if it is Hilton points that you are after.

The current lineup of Hilton credit cards earn 3 Hilton points per dollar on everyday (unbonused) spend. Here are four cash back options that would be considerably better for everyday spend:

  1. Citi Double Cash card: Earn 1% when you purchase and 1% when you pay your bill for an effective return of 2% cash back — that’s two pennies back for every dollar spent. If you then use that cash back to buy Hilton points and buy 10K or more in a sale like this one, you’re essentially earning 4 Hilton points per dollar on all spend (since your 2 pennies will buy 4 Hilton points at a cost of half a cent each). In fact, if you then buy the points with your Double Cash card, you’ll earn an additional two percent back for an ever-so-slightly-bigger win.
  2. Discover IT Miles card for the first year: Since Discover doubles all rewards earned on this card in year 1, you earn an effective 3% back with this card in the first year. If you use that 3 cents per dollar to buy Hilton points, that’s a return of 6 Hilton points per dollar.
  3. Alliant Cashback Visa: This card earns 3% back in year 1 and 2.5% back in subsequent years. Even at 2.5% back, that’s an equivalent of 5 Hilton points per dollar when buying through a sale like this.
  4. Bank of America Premium Rewards with Platinum Honors: This card continually earns 2.625% back on all purchases if you have Platinum Honors with BOA (which requires $100K on deposit in cash/investments). That’s like a return of 5.25 Hilton points per dollar spent.

As you can see, it is therefore possible to earn a hefty number of Hilton points on everyday spend with cash back cards — perhaps even as much as the best category bonus on any of the Hilton cards (apart from Hilton spend) without any restriction as to where you earn. Furthermore, with Amex ramping up its war on gaming, it eliminates some amount of risk in MSing on Amex cards.

Of course, the real “best” category bonus for earning Hilton points is probably the Amex Gold’s 4x at US Supermarkets (on up to $25K in purchases, then 1x). That’s because Membership Rewards points transfer to Hilton at a rate of 1 Membership Rewards point to 2 Hilton Honors points. That means the return at supermarkets is really 8x. Furthermore, there are frequent transfer bonuses as high as 30%.

This analysis ignores the value of using your Hilton Honors Surpass card at US Supermarkets for 6x and spending exactly $15K in that category, which yields a free weekend night in addition to the 6x. That remains a good use of that particular card. However, for all other spend, it likely makes more sense to use cash back cards — both because you can earn a similar/better return in terms of the number of Hilton points and because it gives you the flexibility of cash that can be used to buy cheap Hilton points or buy whatever else you want/need.

The problem with that perspective is that you’re counting on there being a sale on Hilton points on the day that you need them. Assuming you’re likely to need Hilton points on a moment’s notice, perhaps you’re better off earning Hilton points. But with almost monthly sales on Hilton points at this half-a-cent price, I’d be more inclined to collect cash.

Bottom line

I don’t recommend that anybody buy Hilton points speculatively. However, with a good use in mind, it could certainly be worth it. With the ability to pool with others, it’s easy enough to buy the points you need for an extended vacation, and remember that Hilton offers the 5th night free on award stays (which might make your points a bit more valuable yet in comparison to cash rates). I have recently run myself fairly low on points and I picked up some extra cash yesterday, so I may actually go against my own better judgment and buy a small sum speculatively after all — but do as I say, not as I do.

H/T: One Mile at a Time

Last updated on November 30th, 2019

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

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Travelwithapoint
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Travelwithapoint

Great analysis Nick. It’s interesting how the branded cards are not always the best for earning points. The old SPG card was a good example. It earned the equivalent of 1.25 AA points, the citi AA card earned 1point. In your example, if someone was solely focused on earning Hilton points, the Amex Gold cards beats the Amex Hilton card.

Pam
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Pam

Thanks, Nick – what card are you personally going to use for pay for thrm?

MSer
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MSer

Buying Hilton at 0.5cpp? Please don’t. I’m Diamond via $60K @6x grocery with Surpass = 0.2cpp cost plus get second weekend night cert at $15K spend (despite claims the Aspire is the no-brainer card, it’s really Surpass for those with grocery access). Hilton are only worth 0.4cpp for most redemptions (ignoring value of Diamond perks). I’m a seller at 0.5cpp (converted a million when Amazon was allowing 0.5cpp redemptions). Combine with regular grocery promos and can get negative cost points.

Aloha808
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Aloha808

Alliant cashback Visa is a no-no for MS.