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Hilton HHonors

Hilton HHonors is the complimentary hotel loyalty program of the Hilton Hotel group. Members earn Hilton HHonors Points and exchange them for valuable rewards when they stay at more than 4000 hotels & resorts, across Hilton’s 12 brands in more than 90 countries: Waldorf Astoria,  Conrad, Hilton, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hamptin Inn; Homewood Suites, Home2Suites, Hilton Grand Vacations, and Curio Collection.

Waldorf Astoria and Conrad are Hilton’s luxury hotel brands.

In this overview, I explain the Hilton HHonors loyalty program:

  • Membership tiers
  • Earn HHonors points
  • Redeem awards & travel for free
  • Pros & things I like about Hilton HHonors
  • Cons & things I don’t like about Hilton HHonors
  • Key points
  • Poll: what’s the best hotel loyalty program?


HILTON HHONORS EXPLAINED: MEMBERSHIP TIERS

Hilton HHonors is a top class awards structure offering a four-tier system of awards points. Blue is the first level, Silver the second, Gold the third and Diamond is the top-level. Each level has benefits and as the member moves from Blue to Silver to Gold then Diamond, they become more valuable.

  • Blue is the base level and will earn you 10 HHonors Base Points for every eligible US dollar spent on your room. In addition, you also enjoy the following benefits:
    • Earn HHonors Bonus Points or airline/rail miles for the same hotel stay.
    • Quick reservations and check-ins based on your room preference.
    • Late check-out (when requested and available).
    • Express check-out.
    • Second guest stays free.
    • Complimentary basic WiFi.
  • Silver is reached after completing 4 eligible stays or 10 eligible nights in a calendar year. As a Silver member, you’ll receive the same benefits as a Blue member, plus the following:
    • a 20% bonus on all the HHonors Base Points you earn.
    •  every 5th night free on Standard Room Reward stays of 5 nights or more.
    • Complimentary access to fitness centers and health clubs.
    • Two complimentary bottles of water per stay.
    • Complimentary basic WiFi.
  • Gold is reached after completing 20 eligible stays or 40 eligible nights or 75,000 HHonors Base Points in a calendar year. As a Gold member, you’ll receive the same benefits as a Blue member, plus the following:
    • a 50% bonus on all the HHonors Base Points you earn.
    • every 5th night free on Standard Room Reward stays of 5 nights or more.
    • Complimentary access to fitness centers and health clubs.
    • Two complimentary bottles of water per stay.
    • eCheck-In: select your room and check-in online up to 24 hours in advance at participating properties.
    • My Way Gold Membership hotel benefits, which are brand-specific and may very from space-available room upgrades to HHonors Bonus Points or complimentary breakfast. You can find them out here.
    • Complimentary basic WiFi.
  • Diamond is Hilton HHonor’s highest level and is reached after completing 30 eligible stays or 60 eligible nights or 120,000 HHonors Base Points in a calendar year. As a Diamond member, you’ll receive the same benefits as a Blue member, plus the following:
    • a 20% bonus on all the HHonors Base Points you earn.
    • every 5th night free on Standard Room Reward stays of 5 nights or more.
    • Complimentary access to fitness centers and health clubs.
    • Two complimentary bottles of water per stay.
    • eCheck-In: select your room and check-in online up to 24 hours in advance at participating properties.
    • Complimentary high-speed WiFi.
    • 48 hour room guarantee: you are guaranteed a room when you make a reservation at least 48 hours prior to your arrival.
    • My Way Diamond Membership hotel benefits, which are brand-specific and may very from space-available room upgrades, restaurant and spa discounts to HHonors Bonus Points and/or complimentary breakfast. You can find them out here.

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HILTON HHONORS: EARN POINTS

There are endless ways to earn HHonors Points and boost your account (this is certainly one of the strong points of the Hilton HHonors program).

  • You can earn Base Points with hotel stays at the Hilton group. You earn 10 Base Points for every US dollar spent on your room rate and other eligible room charges, including telephone calls and room service. Some exceptions apply:
    • At Hampton In or Homewood Suites by Hilton hotels, you earn 10 Base Points for every US dollar spent on your room rate only.
    • At Home2 Suites by Hilton hotels, you earn 5 Base Points for every US dollar spent on your room rate only.
  • In addition to Base Points,  all HHonors members – regardless of status –  have the choice of earning Bonus Points or miles:
    • Or you choose the “points & points” option, which means that you will earn 10 HHonors Base Points plus 5 Bonus Points per eligible US dollar spent on your room. For stays at Home2 Suites by Hilton hotels, you will earn 5 HHonors Base Points plus 2.5 Bonus Points per eligible US dollar spent on your room.
    • Or you choose the “points & miles” option, which means that you will earn 10 HHonors Base Points plus 1 mile per eligible US dollar spent on most stays. For stays at Home2 Suites by Hilton hotels, you will earn 5 HHonors Base Points plus 1 mile per eligible US dollar spent on your room, up to 100 miles per stay.
  • Hilton HHonors elite members automatically receive extra HHonors Bonus Points on all the Base Points they earn: a 15% bonus once they reach Silver status, a 25% bonus once they reach Gold status, and a 50% bonus once they achieve Diamond status.
  • Gold and Diamond Hilton HHonors members can choose to receive up to 1000 extra HHonors Bonus Points as one of My Way On-Property Benefits, when they stay at Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Hilton, DoubleTree, Embassy Suite, and Hilton Grand Vacations hotels.
  • Citizens of selected countries can earn HHonors Bonus Points with a Hilton HHonors card on everyday purchases, from groceries to phone bills, and then redeem these points for reward nights and more. Plus, certain Hilton HHonor credit cards automatically come with elite status and/or tens of thousands of bonus HHonors Points.
  • You can earn HHonors Bonus Points with selected travel partners, such as car rental companies, major cruise lines, mobile roaming.
  • You can also buy HHonors Bonus Points when you need them or receive HHonors Points as gifts when you set up a HHonors Points Gift Registry.
  • If you have an American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, or a Diners Club account, more HHonors Points could be just a telephone call away. Learn how to exchange points with these leading credit card rewards programs.
  • You can turn online surveys and energy bills into HHonors Points.

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HILTON HHONORS: REDEEM POINTS & TRAVEL FOR FREE

The Hilton HHonors program offers many ways to use points:

  • You can use your HHonors Points to book a free or discounted standard room at any of the Hilton Group hotels and resorts worldwide, with no blackout dates.
    • You can redeem free nights with no black-out dates, starting at just 5000 HHonors Points for a night at a category 1 hotel to a minimum of 70 000 HHonors Points at a category 10 hotel. The number of points required is seasonally dependent.
    • You can stretch your HHonors Points with “Points&Money Rewards” and book a seriously discounted hotel room using a combination of HHonors Points and cash. The exact value of this varies from hotel to hotel, but expect to pay somewhere between 2,000 and 20,000  HHonors Points plus $30USD to $150USD.
    • Award stays do count toward elite status qualification.
    • When you redeem 4 nights at select hotels and resorts, then your 5th consecutive night is free.
    • You can also use your HHonors Points to upgrade to a higher room category.

  • You can spend HHonors Points at selected selected travel partners, such as car rental companies and major cruise lines.
  • The Hilton HHonors airline transfer program allows you to convert HHonors Points to frequent-flyer miles on over 50 major airline partners, where you can redeem them for free plane tickets or upgrades. Exchanges are in increments of 10,000 points and you need to allow up to 30 days for your exchange to process. Expedited processing is available with participating airline and rail partners for a fee of $25 US dollars and usually requires a minimum of 10 business days. For every 10 HHonors Points transferred you will get 1.5 miles with Aeroflot, American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Gulf Air, Hawaiian Airlines, Mexicana Airlines, Qantas Airways, South African Airways, and Virgin Atlantic Airways. For Aeromexico and LAN, it’s 25,000 points for 6,500 Premier Kilometers. For Air New Zealand, the transfer ratio is 10,000 points to 20 Airpoints. For all other transfer partners, the transfer ratio is 10:1.
  • You can also donate HHonors Points to friends and family.

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE ABOUT HILTON HHONORS
  • The Hilton Group’s portfolio of hotels is very impressive, with more than 4100 properties worldwide, making it quite easy from a geographical point of view to earn or redeem points.
  • The Hilton Group’s portfolio includes paradise destinations like Bora Bora, the Seychelles, the Maldives and Hawaii.
  • Hilton has a nice mix of hotel brands from luxury to lower end. Waldorf Astoria and  Conrad are high-end luxury hotel brands; Hilton, Hilton, DoubleTree, Curio Collection, and Embassy Suites are in the middle luxury segment; and Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites on the lower end.
  • Hilton runs a Best Rate Guarantee programs, which means you will always get the best available rate at Hilton branded hotels when you book through an official Hilton sites. Should you find a lower rate on another website, within 24 hours of completing a reservation through an official Hilton Worldwide booking website, Hilton will match the lower rate found and will give you an additional 50 US $ discount  for that stay. This will come either as a 50 US $ adjustment for the bill (for hotels outside the USA, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico) or a 50 US $ American Express Gift Check. You must submit an online claim within 24 hours of booking your hotel room on an official Hilton Worldwide booking website. Finding a better rate is not difficult at all, as you can read in my tips for booking a luxury hotel at the cheapest price.
  • You do receive stay (or night) credit for award stays (or nights) and these will count towards your Hilton HHonors elite qualification.
  • Hilton is the only hotel loyalty program that allows you to earn both points and airline miles on the same stay. This “double dipping” permits HHonors members to earn 10 HHonors Base Points and one mile or kilometer at most partner frequent flyer programs of choice per eligible dollar spent at Hilton hotels. The default option by Hilton HHonors is ‘points + points’ (see above).
  • The number of partner airlines for double dipping or converting HHonors points into miles is extensive (more than 50).
  • Hilton HHonors is one of the few programs that allow you to convert airline miles into hotel points.
  • Hilton HHonors has always a number of rate and airline related promotions going. Sometimes, it is difficult to keep track of them.
  • Hilton HHonors offers lifetime Diamond status. It is awarded to select HHonors members, who as of December 31st 2014 have earned Diamond Status for at least 10 years (non-consecutive) and who have completed stays totaling at least 1,000 paid nights pursuant to the standard HHonors Terms & Conditions.
  • Hilton HHonors points do not expire as long as members remain active in the program. To keep an account active, members can stay at one of Hilton Worldwide’s hotels, or earn or redeem HHonors points within 12 months.
  • The Hilton HHonors Gold status is very easy to get through numerous promotions and fast track offers . The Gold status will get you a complimentary internet access and breakfast and/or Club lounge access.
  • WiFi is complimentary to all guests, as long as you have booked directly through Hilton or via a corporate travel agency.
  • There are no award blackout dates. As long as there is standard room available for sale, you can book it using your points.
  • Hilton HHonors customer service is excellent and available 24 hours a day 365 days per year. They response rate to inquiries by email is remarkable fast: the reply usually comes within few hours of sending it. They also don’t force you to use a web form but you can just use a regular email address i.e. gold@hilton.com or diamond@hilton.com.
  • One of the strengths is the Hilton’s Guest Assistance program. If the hotel screws up and don’t fix the post stay issue, the Hilton’s Guest Assistance program will issue a Be my Guest certificate that you can then use to pay for any Hilton property and the offending property gets charged for it.
  • Even when not staying at Hilton properties, you can earn tons of HHonors Points with the program partners (e.g. car rentals, cruise companies, online shopping, credit cards, dining).

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CONS & THINGS I DO NOT LIKE ABOUT HILTON HHONORS
  • The program is not constant and subjective to major negative, changes. For example, in 2013, Hilton announced a sudden and major devaluation of its loyalty program, including new tiers and seasonal pricing (read: more expensive redemptions). Award redemptions at the top-tier hotels went up from 50,000 points a night to an astonishing 70,000 to 95,000 points per night.
  • Because of the major 2013 devaluation, a downside of the current program is the extremely expensive redemption pricing for its high-end hotels. A free stay at a Category 10 hotels needs a minimum of 70,000 points per night. Burning your HHonors points at high-end hotels is definitely not the most economical way (anymore) to spend them.
  • The number of points required for a free or discounted hotel stay is seasonally dependent.
  • Hilton has the best mid-level status (Gold) but the benefits being Diamond over Gold are not that great. Diamond mainly helps potentially with better upgrades, problem resolution and on-property exceptions like early check ins/late check outs.
  • Like all major hotel chains, Hiltons suffers from brand confusion. Differences between Waldorf Astoria and Conrad, and Hilton and Doublte Tree hotels are not always clear.
  • Hilton lacks a hip hotel brand like W (Starwood) or Andaz (Hyatt). As a matter of fact, Hilton recruited the team from Starwood that had been working on the W concept but the court intervened. Good news is that they are launching a new brand, Canopy by Hilton, with those hotels being more individual, fresh, young and hip.

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KEYPOINTS
  • HHonors used to be a well-regarded loyalty programs, but its sudden and major devaluations have damaged its reputation.
  • The best way to spend your HHonors Points is to use them for hotel stays in the mid-luxury segment.
  • The worst way to spend your HHonors Points is to transfer them to airline miles or use them for category 9 or 10 hotels.

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