Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

A negative Hilton Honors quirk you may not know about and which could prove costly ….

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Every so often you come across something in the miles and points field which you think that you should have known, but for some reason had never come across.  This is one such quirk.

Regular readers will know that I suggest mixing cash and reward nights on the same stay if you want to book a hotel redemption and want a room which is better than a standard room.  You book a ‘better’ room for the first night, for cash, and hope that you’re not asked to move for the ‘free’ nights.

In 2016, for example, I stayed at InterContinental Le Grand in Paris for four nights.  As I wrote in this article, I mixed together a cash booking for a club room followed by a redemption booking for a standard room.  What happened is what I was 90% sure would happen – the hotel let me keep my club room for my entire stay, which meant I got a generous upgrade for my reward night.

In turns out, however, that you should never try this trick at a Hilton Honors property.

hilton hotel tallinn park exterior press picture

Tucked away in the Hilton Honors terms and conditions (see here) under ‘Accrual of Points’ Clause 3 is the following wording:

If at least one night of the Member’s stay is consumed with the use of Hilton Honors Rewards Points, the entire stay is considered a “Reward Stay” and Hilton Honors Points may be earned. Participating hotel will determine whether incidental charges incurred during either of those stays are eligible for Points, except that Points will not be earned for incidental charges at Hampton by Hilton, Tru by Hilton, Homewood Suites by Hilton, and Home2 Suites by Hilton.

In plain English (although the wording above is poor):

If you book a Hilton stay which is a mix of cash nights and reward nights, you may (but also may not) earn Hilton Honors points for the money you spend on your room for the cash nights.

It turns out that this clause is enforced – perhaps not all the time, but it does definitely happen and you obviously have no recourse.

The obvious way around this, if travelling with someone else, is to book the reward nights from one account and put the cash nights through the other persons account.  This may cause issues if one person has status and the other does not, since you may lose status benefits on the ‘cash’ nights.

If you are travelling solo, you could still try the same thing – book the cash nights from the Hilton Honors account of another person for 2 guests and add a note saying that you will be the second guest.

You would need to check out and check in again, but this would purely be a token gesture at the front desk. You wouldn’t need to actually pack up and leave the first room.

What this rule means is that trying to get an enhanced room on a reward night by starting your stay with a paid cash night in a better room is going to come at a cost – the loss of points for your room rate on that first night.

How to earn Hilton Honors points and status from UK credit cards

How to earn Hilton Honors points and status from UK credit cards (October 2022)

There are various ways of earning Hilton Honors points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Hilton Honors Gold status for as long as they hold the card?  It also comes with Marriott Bonvoy Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold and MeliaRewards Gold status.  We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER), £200 travel credit and unbeatable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Did you know that the Virgin Atlantic credit cards are a great way of earning Hilton Honors points? Two Virgin Points can be converted into three Hilton Honors points. The Virgin Atlantic cards are the only Visa or Mastercard products in the UK which can indirectly earn Hilton Honors points. You can apply here.

You can also earn Hilton Honors points indirectly with:

and for small business owners:

The conversion rate from American Express to Hilton points is 1:2.

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which can be used to earn Hilton Honors points

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Comments (39)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Neal says:

    Unlike IHG, Hilton does not treat reward stays differently in terms of elite benefits, therefore there are minimal benefits for doing so with Hilton. The trick is best used when an Ambassador stay at Intercontinental properties.

    • Alex W says:

      Not sure what you’re saying here? As far as I recall I’ve had elite benefits on reward nights at Hilton’s and IHGs, including ICs.

      • Vasco says:

        I think what Neal means is that, on paper, you’re not entitled to any status benefits on reward stays with IHG. However, my experience, which seems to be yours too, I’d that properties will generally give those anyway. My best experience with this was at the Crowne Plaza in Denver where they gave us what amounted to a junior suite, and this while I was still plat!

        • Tony says:

          Yep just back from five nights I. Prague and the Holiday Inn Congress Centre gave us an upgrade to an executive room plus free breakfast.

      • Alan says:

        Not all ICs will offer upgrades for reward stays – hence why a potential benefit to having a paid night at the beginning.

  • John says:

    Never not had points doing this. Sorry disagree with this article.

    • Nick Burch says:

      I have missed out on lots of points from this, and despite the hotel asking again, Hilton refused to budge 🙁

      • The Real John says:

        The other John is sort of right but he doesn’t elaborate. He either joined Hilton recently, or never tried this until the new T&Cs were implemented.

        On 1 March 2017, the Hilton T&Cs were revised. Rob’s interpretation of the new T&Cs is wrong, and he has deleted the old version of the same HFP article dated 1 January 2017. The previous T&Cs said ‘the entire stay is considered a “Reward Stay” and no HHonors Points may be earned’. They now say ‘the entire stay is considered a “Reward Stay” and Hilton Honors Points may be earned’. The word NO was removed.

        Prior to 1 March 2017, any combination of paid and award stays was considered a full award and no points were earned. Points And Money (P&M) stays were considered award stays where you effectively purchased points at check-out and immediately redeemed them for your stay (similar to “Harry’s unlimited 0.8p avios”).

        After that date, P&M stays were changed to something like BA’s Part Pay with Avios, where at the time of booking, you effectively sell your points back to Hilton and use the money to pay for the stay. Now, points are earned on the paid portion of P&M bookings. The way Hilton implemented this was to change all award bookings to P&M bookings with a cash component of zero (look at any regular full points stays in your Hilton history and you will see them listed as “Points And Money Standard”). When you combine one paid night with one full award night it is now simply treated as a P&M booking with a paid portion and non-paid portion, and points will be earned.

        Please see confirmation from the Flyertalk Hilton Rep:

        The problem that Nick Burch may have experienced is that many staff were trained in the old T&Cs and refuse to countenance any change. So the hotel may still think it’s ineligible for points, or the Hilton staff dealing with it may get it wrong. One can’t help but think that Hilton deliberately didn’t make this change as clear as they could have.

        • Alan says:

          Interesting! Have always done all points or all cash so hadn’t realised there’d been any changes.

        • Olly says:

          I’ve just checked my HH account for a trip to Hilton Reykjavik two weeks ago which was P&M and,unless they’re really show posting them to my account, I’ve not been given any points for the paid portion.

        • Crafty says:

          I would love to believe this, to avoid having to mess around with my Conrad HK booking next week, but some data points in this thread are running counter to what you say, and Flyertalk doesn’t seem very official.

          Rob, did you run this article by Hilton first? Or do you have a contact you could verify with today? Lots of readers now may make the wrong decisions depending on who’s right.

          • Rob says:

            The rules are the rules as per the T&C’s. Whether an individual hotel chooses to enforce them is a different story – many don’t but you have no comeback.

        • Crafty says:

          But what he’s saying is the rules have changed? Do you have any insight on this, or the ability to get any?

          • Rob says:

            The wording has changed but the wording as you can see (what is in the article is correct as per the last set of rules changes in August) still gives hotels the option not to award points.

  • James says:

    Thanks for the warning.
    Not done this with a Hilton but have at other hotels and unless the hotel is seriously busy they have tended to just leave me in the nicer room.

  • Paul says:

    Good shout Rob. I forgot about this clause until I didn’t see any points for a stay where I used a small amount of points. Thankfully customer services credited me the points (had to chase a few times).

  • PAL says:

    Hilton related. Just reading the hilton card in America. Such a shame we don’t have the same USA benefits we could be travelling business and acquiring top tier much easier : The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card – $450 annual fee, welcome bonus 150K points, Diamond status, annual weekend night reward, $250 airline fee credit every year, $250 Hilton resort credit every year. Sigh…

    • Alan says:

      Yeah it’s a total no-brainer in the USA. Mind you also explains the pretty weak Diamond recognition over there!

    • MikeL says:

      Agree, benefits are incredible but It’ll never happen here.

  • Alan says:

    Yep, sadly has always been the case with Hilton. I’ve been so used to staying with them over the years I didn’t realise that other chains DIDN’T penalise you for doing this, so I’m getting almost the opposite take home message out of the article!

  • Riku says:

    I don’t understand how the quote from the hilton terms and conditions matches with rob’s interpretation.
    The Hilton terms say that a stay which is a mix of points and money earns points.
    Rob’s interpretation says that a mix of points and money does NOT earn points.
    >>If at least one night of the Member’s stay is consumed with the use of Hilton Honors Rewards Points, …Hilton Honors Points may be earned<<
    Doesn't "may be earned" mean that you earn the points?

    • RussellH says:

      > Doesn’t “may be earned” mean that you earn the points?

      This means that it is possible that you will get the points, but it is certainly NOT guaranteed

    • Victor K says:

      I have the same interpretation as Riku

      Furthermore, further down the clause:
      Members will earn Points for combined Points and money Reward Stays on any money spent on eligible folio charges at Waldorf Astoria® Hotels & Resorts Hotels, LXR Hotels & Resorts, Conrad® Hotels and Resorts, Canopy™ by Hilton, Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, DoubleTree by Hilton™, Tapestry Collection by Hilton™, Embassy Suites™, Hilton Garden Inn® and Hilton Grand Vacations®. Members will earn Points for incidental charges only for full Points Reward Stays at Waldorf Astoria® Hotels & Resorts Hotels, Conrad® Hotels and Resorts, Canopy™ by Hilton, Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, DoubleTree by Hilton™, Tapestry Collection by Hilton™, Embassy Suites™, Hilton Garden Inn® and Hilton Grand Vacations®. Members will not earn Points for incidental charges during any Reward Stay at a Hampton by Hilton™, Tru by Hilton™, Home2 Suites by Hilton® or Homewood Suites by Hilton® hotel.

    • David says:

      Maybe it’s “may” as in “might”, depending on how the front deesk staff are feeling on the day…

  • Alex W says:

    I got stung by this at the Edinburgh Waldorf Calendonian, got the better room but no points. I had a long battle with HHonors and eventually did get the points for the paid night, but didn’t get the points for a promotion that was running.

    It worked quite well at IC Koh Samui. Kept a huge suite for the full stay, this was a triple upgrade for the award nights. Only got lounge access for the first night sadly (although they agreed to extend this to 4pm due to Ambassador). Got all the points for the stay.

    • The Original Nick says:

      Nice result for Koh Samui.

      • BP says:

        Best result I got at IC Koh Samui was 5 nights in a Beachfront pool villa free on points when they messed up and made all rooms available.

        I returned for a paid stay a few years later and had the Pool Villa for 4 nights followed by 1 night on points in the cheapest room. They let me keep the villa (with club) for the last night as I was keeping it to 4pm anyway with Ambassador late checkout and checking out at 7:30am.

        I also got a Christmas Eve gala dinner for 2 free as well as a bottle of Moet for some service failings.

        I got married on the pier in the resort 🙂

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