I recently signed up to the Hilton HHonors rewards program because Martha and I spent a few days in Miami after our cruise to the Bahamas. As far as I can remember, the HHonors Rewards program is the first hotel rewards program I’ve ever signed up for.
Whenever I read a rewards program, I always compare it to Southwest’s Rapid Rewards because it’s, in my mind, the gold standard. It’s very easy to understand – you earn 1 point her one-way and it takes 16 points to earn a free flight. They recently added wrinkles to the program, but the basic idea is the same. You can earn points through partners but there are no large numbers, odd earning rules, and the whole thing can be explained in a few sentences.
While The Hilton HHonors reward program is also fairly simple at the core, the number of little add on bits is a little confusing. Here’s how I understand the program to work.
How to Earn Points
There are several ways to earn points in the Hilton HHonors program. The most obvious way is to stay at a Hilton’s hotel. The hotels in the Hilton HHonors network include the follow brands, which number over 3,500 physical locations:
- Waldorf Astoria
- Embassy Suites
- Hilton Garden Inn
- Homewood Suites
- Hilton Grand Vacations
With the HHonors program, there is a Double Dipping component that lets you earn points in HHonors as well as a partner airline. You have the option of choosing:
- HHonors Points and Variable Miles – You earn 10 HHonors Base points + 1 airline mile per eligible dollar spent.
- HHonors Points and Fixed Miles – You earn 10 HHonors Base points per eligible dollar spent + 500 airline miles (only 100 airline miles if you stay at Hampton Inn, Hampton Inn & Suites, and Homewood Suites).
- HHonors Points and HHonors Points – You earn 10 HHonors Base points + 5 bonus points per eligible dollar spent.
You can review this list of partner airlines to help you decide which option you want. Also, you can change your double dipping options whenever you want. You can change your settings by logging in and clicking My Way in the sidebar. By default, no option is selected.
Your tier status is based on stays, nights, or Base points earned in a calendar year. There are four levels:
- Blue – This is the base level.
- Silver VIP – Awarded if you have four stays or 10 nights earned in a calendar year. You earn 15% bonus on your HHonors Base points, complimentary access to the health club/fitness center, and some other benefits.
- Gold VIP – Awarded if you have 16 stays, 36 nights, or 60,000 based points earned in a calendar year. You earn 25% bonus on your base points, space-available room upgrades, complimentary high speed internet access, and other perks based on the hotel.
- Diamond VIP – Awarded with 28 stays, 60 nights, or 100,000 based points earned. You earn a 50% bonus on base points, near-guaranteed reservations, as well as all these other Diamond VIP perks based on hotel.
Also, according to Ric Garrido, “Members with elite status starting at Silver elite (4 hotel stays or 10 hotel nights in a calendar year) can redeem points for VIP discounted award nights. There is a 15% discount for a four night stay. 20% discount for five night stay, and 25% discount for 6 to 14 nights.”
You can redeem your points any number of ways but we’ll only take a look at redemptions at their hotels. The “cost” of one free night is based on the category of the room, starting at 7,500 points for the lowest category room. The category points schedule is for Conrad, Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites Hotels, Hampton Inn, Hampton Inn & Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, and Homewood Suites by Hilton hotels:
- Category 1 – 7,500
- Category 2 – 12,500
- Category 3 – 25,000
- Category 4 – 30,000
- Category 5 – 35,000
- Category 6 – 40,000
- Category 7 – 50,000
They also run specials, what they call Point Stretchers, which are promotional reward rates for certain hotels throughout the year.
As is the case with all rewards programs, you can buy points. You can buy up to 40,000 bonus points per calendar year at a rate of a penny per point if you buy more than 10,000 points. If you buy fewer than 10,000 points, the cost is 1.25¢ per point. Points are deposited into your account within 30 minutes of purchase.
You can also transfer points but it’s a bit of a pain. The person receiving the points has to setup a registry, it looks like a wedding registry, and then donors can transfer points at the cost of $25 per 10,000 points. If you transfer more than 200,000 points in a calendar year, then the points after the 200,000th point are free of charge.
Overall, I’m not sure how “good” this program is relative others but I only recently joined and have been enjoying it so far.