What is the best hotel scheme? – Hilton HHonors – The Facts

This is the second of our overview series of the main hotel loyalty schemes.  Each scheme will be covered over two posts.  One will list the basic facts of the scheme, the other will be my subjective view of what is of particular merit.

Hilton HHonors covers 4,000 hotels globally under 10 brands – Waldorf-Astoria, Conrad, Hilton, Hilton Grand Vacation, Embassy Suites, Doubletree, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites, Hampton Inn and Home2Suites brands.  The Hilton HHonors website is here.

What is the geographic spread?  The European properties are mainly branded Hilton with a growing number of Doubletree, Hampton and Waldorf-Astoria sites.  In general, UK Hilton branded hotels are tired and in need of refurbishment.  Doubletree, especially the ex-Mint brand hotels in London, is well regarded.  After a few years of stagnation, there have been a number of high-profile hotel openings recently – Hampton (a budget brand with free breakfast and free internet) is seen as having most potential.

Do I use them?  I do.  I liked the Conrad New York last year, booked before the devaluation.  We visited the Waldorf-Astoria Syon Park outside London, now downgraded to a Hilton, a few times with our children.  I visited the Hampton Inn in Berlin a couple of years ago and was VERY impressed by the value for money given the quality of the room and the breakfast.  We are due to visit the new Doubletree Jumeirah in Dubai later this year.


Elite membership levels

Silver – requires 4 stays or 10 nights.  Benefits are 15% bonus on base points, free bottled water at most brands.

Gold – requires 20 stays or 40 nights or 75,000 base points.  Benefits are 25% bonus on base points, guaranteed upgrade of some sort, free continental breakfast (most brands), free internet.

Diamond – requires 30 stays or 60 nights or 120,000 base points.  Benefits are 50% bonus on base points, guaranteed upgrade of some sort, free continental breakfast (most brands), free internet, guaranteed lounge access.

All elite members receive ‘fifth night free’ when booking reward nights, effectively a 20% discount on a 5-night stay.

Suite upgrades are NOT an elite benefit.

British Airways offers free Diamond status to Gold Guest List members of British Airways Executive Club, which requires 3,000 tier points for two consecutive years.

The full table of elite benefits is here.  Hilton is well regarded for providing elite status benefits even if you have booked your room via a site such as Expedia although you will still not receive points or stay credit for your room rate.

Hilton does not offer lifetime status.

Earning points

Hilton HHonors is the only programme to allow you to earn hotel points AND airline miles on the same stay.  The points structure is outlined here.  You can choose between earning:

10 Hilton HHonors points + 5 bonus Hilton HHonors points per $1 spent, or

10 Hilton HHonors points + 1 to 2 airline miles per $1 spent

The Avios rate (to BA) is 1 per $1 and to Iberia Plus Avios is 1.5 per $1.  (Not tricky to decide which one to choose!)  Virgin Atlantic is even better at 2 miles per $1.

Hilton HHonors is always running a major promotion, so your average number of points earned per stay will always be higher than the numbers quoted above.  See our ‘Hotel Promos‘ page for any current offers.

If you work for the public sector in the UK, Hilton offers an aggressive discount scheme which offers room discounts of up to 40%.

Spending points

Following an aggressive devaluation in February 2013, redemption rates for hotels run from 5,000 points in Category 1 (only a handful of hotels globally) to 95,000 points in Category 10.

To confuse issues further, there is now seasonal pricing within categories, so a Category 9 hotel could run from 70,000 to 95,000 points depending on the month.  This website shows you the month-by-month pricing for each hotel.

(Prior to the devaluation, the maximum cost of a redemption was just 50,000 points.  The jump in the maximum to 95,000 was without precedent.)

Elite members receive the 5th night free on standard room redemptions.

Hilton has also ‘Premium Room’ redemptions.  In general, you should ignore these.  They usually involve Hilton effectively buying your room for you from the hotel, at a fixed exchange rate of around 0.2p per Hilton point.  This is poor.  However, Hilton appears to be experimenting with more flexible pricing of Premium Room Rewards at some properties which does improve the value for money.

A typical 5-star 70,000 point (mid-season) redemption would typically require a Gold member to spend $4,500.  This is almost triple what Club Carlson would require.  However, the regular Hilton HHonors promotions will, in reality, drive down this figure.

Points expiry

Points expire after 12 months of no activity on the account – see point 13 here.  This is quite tough.

This article explains how to keep your points alive.

Can you upgrade using points?

Yes.  Hilton offers ‘room upgrade rewards’ at selected properties at selected times.  These are not available with Advanced Purchase Rates.  Upgrades may be offered at the time of the booking and, technically, can also be offered at check-in.

Are ‘cash and points’ redemptions available?

Yes, although not all hotels offer them.  These deals are good value when you can find them.  As a ballpark, I tend to value Hilton points at 0.3p each when redeeming for an ‘all points’ redemption, but using ‘cash and points’ you can often achieve 0.5p.

Airline redemption options

Hilton HHonors points can be transferred to a large number of airlines including British Airways and Virgin.  The ratio is a pathetic 10:1, however (6.7:1 for Virgin).

Can I earn Avios directly without collecting points?

No, as ba.com explains here.  You must be a member of Hilton HHonors and then select ‘points and variable miles’ as your earning style with British Airways as your airline partner.  You will earn 1 Avios per $1 spent at most brands and, whether you want them or not, you will also receive some Hilton HHonors points.

A more lucrative option is to credit your stay to Iberia Plus, as that earns 1.5 Avios per $1.  You can transfer Iberia Avios to BA via ‘Combine My Avios’ online.

Credit card partnerships

Can you get elite status with a UK credit card?   Yes, the Hilton HHonors Visa credit card (see my review) gives you Silver status for as long as you hold the card.  If you spend £10,000 on the card within a year, you will be upgraded to Gold.

Is Hilton HHonors an Amex Membership Rewards partner?  Yes, at a 1:2 transfer rate.

Hilton HHonors is also a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club partner – you can move Virgin miles to Hilton at the rate of 1 to 1.5, with a 10,000 miles minimum.  As Virgin is a Tesco Clubcard partner, you can therefore convert Tesco Clubcard point to Hilton HHonors by routing through Virgin Flying Club, although this is not hugely attractive.

Purchasing and transferring points

You can buy Hilton HHonors points for $12.50 per 1,000 (less for larger quantities) via this link.

Points can be transferred to other members for a payment of $25 per 10,000 points.  This is not a bad price and I have done it in the past to move points from my wife to myself.

My opinion

Read my other post today for my overall opinion of Hilton HHonors.

Virgin Flying Club - what are the best partner awards?
What is the best hotel scheme? - Hilton HHonors - The Opinion
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  1. Hi Raffles,

    I just booked a few rooms in Canada (Toronto & Niagara) and was offered (after confirmation) to upgrade to a suite for some random number (4992 & 5332 I think) points.

    I thought that was pretty good value. Never seen it before.


    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      Yup. I often get points for (guaranteed) upgrade after making cash bookings.

      • Same here. Example: Last September (before I became Gold), I received an upgrade from standard room to Executive room (with the usual perks like e.g. lounge access) at Hilton Glasgow for an incredibly low amount of just 852 HHonors points!

  2. Anyone confirmed to get points on public sector rate? I have an NHS “Visitor” ID with no expiry date which I could show if required.

    • Should be fine. Only IHG plays games over your rate being too low.

    • Yes I can confirm you earn full points on public sector rate.
      I normally use airline rate at Hilton (non-points earning) but used Public Sector rate for a one night stay in December & my points were added correctly.

      I also managed to earn the 500 fixed miles & the BA 1,000 bonus miles just before the offers ended too but unfortunately both of those deals have now ended.

      • gnarlyoldgoatdude says:

        Remember that the Public Sector rate also gets you breakfast, so you may want to change your “my way” settings to get additional points if you are Gold or Diamond.

    • I’ve just done a search using the http://www.hiltonpublicsector.co.uk/ site with interesting results. Doing a search without the code gives results for the required room at £97, yet if you choose standard rate rather than Gov, the rates drop to £85 or £95. Nice saving… not! but when the public sector code is entered, rates drop to £66, but availability drops substantially, with only a couple of nights in a fortnight window showing! so ensure you use code if planning a public sector booking, and be sure to check other rates and availability.

      • One reason availability may drop considerably when using the Public Sector rate is because (according to the T&Cs) it is only supposed to be for weekend (ie Fri/Sat/Sun) nights.

        Some hotels do appear to allow use of the rate for weekday nights but not all do, hence the reduced availability.

        • Good point, TimS, that makes sense. Difficult to tell on my search though if that’s the case as there was so little weekend availability anyway.

  3. Will spend on the Hhonors Platinum card keep points from expiring ?

    • As far as I know, just having the card is enough to keep your points from expiring.

  4. With Hilton, a redemption stay actually counts as a qualifying night. That was a surprice for me, when I qualified to Silver on redemptions (and also to Gold later on).

  5. Another reflection on HHonors – customer service is pretty poor. Have now been on the phone trying to sort out some points which didn’t post correctly (most of that on hold).

  6. gnarlyoldgoatdude says:

    Same day bookings are sometimes cheaper than those pre-booked.

    My standard public sector rate at the Hilton Southampton is about £65, and I usually book this 2 or 3 weeks in advance. However, on the two occasions where I’ve needed to book a(n) hotel on the day, the public sector code brought it down to £56.

  7. Fast track to Hilton Gold with 4 stays via a HRG promo


    • Thanks, looks interesting. Less risky than the Accenture employee-only variant as fundamentally anyone could be a HRG customer.