Hilton Honors American Express Card: How to book a vacation with points

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While the Hilton Honors program no longer uses a fixed award chart, Hilton does make it clear that their standard night awards cost between 5,000 points and 95,000 points per night. This means you don’t have to have tens of thousands of points to cover a free hotel stay or even a weekend getaway. With even a small amount of Hilton Honors points (i.e. 25,000 to 50,000 points), you can potentially hobble together a two or three-night vacation in a hotel with a pool. Your trip may not be anything fancy, but a free vacation is hard to beat.

With some savvy planning, however, it’s totally possible to enjoy a very nice vacation with fewer Hilton Honors points than you might think. Read on to learn the best ways to maximize your Hilton points and why picking up the Hilton Honors American Express Card is a good way to start the process.

As a reminder: Details of the Hilton Honors American Express Card

Picking up the Hilton Honors American Express Card gives you the chance to earn a lucrative welcome offer with no annual fee. Consider these major card details before you sign up.

  • Welcome offer: Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points when you spend $1,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. New cardholders can also earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending a total of $5,000 in purchases on the card in the first six months of card membership
  • Rewards rate: Earn 7X points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio, 5X points at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and U.S. restaurants and 3X points on all other purchases
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Purchase intro APR: None
  • Balance transfer intro APR: None
  • Regular APR: 15.74 percent to 24.74 percent variable APR

Using your Hilton Honors points for hotel stays

Free night awards with the Hilton Honors program start at just 5,000 points, which is great. Then again, the lowest tier Hilton properties tend to be ones you wouldn’t want to spend too much time in.

In fact, the Hilton search tool reveals 16 properties worldwide that cost just 5,000 points per night for a standard room. These hotels are outside of tourist areas and in countries like Turkey, Colombia and Indonesia. You can book a free night at the Hampton by Hilton Bucaramanga in Colombia (retail value of around $73 USD per night) for 5,000 points, but do you really want to? Probably not.

For the most part, you’ll need to fork over at least 10,000 points per night for a free night in the United States—and more like 15,000 or 20,000 per night for a stay in Doubletree or a Hilton Garden Inn.

Fortunately, Hilton makes it easy to search for hotel stays based on how many points you have. With their search tool, you can select the number of points you have to spend per night and where you want to travel to. If you’re not set on a specific destination, you can even use the search tool to compare Hilton properties all over the world.

If you signed up for the Hilton Honors American Express Card and were able to spend $5,000 on your card within six months of account opening, you would earn a total welcome offer of 130,000 Hilton Honors points. With this in mind, you could search for stays that cost 25,000 points per night and plan to stay for five nights to get a general idea. If you use the search tool in this way, you would find a total of 1,496 hotels and resorts worldwide, including the following properties that fit in that price range:

  • Hampton Inn Manhattan Grand Central, NY: 24,000 points per night
  • Hampton Inn Pecos, TX: 25,000 points per night
  • Tru by Hilton Scottsdale Salt River: 21,000 points per night
  • Hilton Dusseldorf: 24,000 points per night
  • Hampton Inn by Hilton Cancun Cumbres: 20,000 points per night
  • Hampton Inn Deadwood at Tin Lizzie Gaming Resort, SD: 14,000 points per night

What can you get with 130,000 Hilton Honors points?

With so many properties to choose from, you’ll need to do some digging to find options that are suitable for the type of vacation you want.

With 130,000 points, some of the vacation options you’ll find on Hilton.com include:

  • A weekend getaway at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico (at 50,000 points per night)
  • A weekend getaway at the Hilton Barbados (at 54,000 points per night)
  • A weekend getaway at the Hilton Rose Hall all-inclusive resort in Jamaica (at 52,000 points per night)
  • A weekend getaway at the Hilton La Romana, an all-Inclusive, adult-only resort (at 63,000 points per night)
  • Several nights at the Hampton Inn Branson on the Strip in Missouri (at 30,000 points per night)
  • Several nights at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, Curio Collection by Hilton (at 31,000 points per night)
  • A weekend getaway at Conrad Las Vegas at Resorts World (at 54,000 points per night)
  • A long weekend at Hilton San Francisco Union Square (at 41,000 points per night)

You probably get the point by now. Either way, you can use the Hilton search tool or Hilton.com to look for properties that can fit in your price range. Once you find the property you want, you can redeem your points for a free night or use a combination of points and cash to book your stay.

How to maximize Hilton points for vacation

While searching for properties on Hilton.com can help you figure out which hotels you can afford to book with points, there are still plenty of strategies you can use to get more bang for your buck. Consider the following tips as you start planning your next Hilton vacation with rewards.

Utilize the 5th-night free benefit

First off, you should know that Hilton Honors members with Silver Elite status or better get a 5th night free when they book at least four consecutive nights with points. In the meantime, you should also know that the Hilton Honors American Express Card gives you automatic Silver status just for being a cardholder.

But, how can you use this perk to score a better (or longer) vacation? All you have to do is find a property you like that you can afford to book four nights in. From there, you can book four consecutive nights with points and use the 5th-night free benefit to extend your stay.

Take the Hampton Inn Branson on the Strip, for example, which will set you back 30,000 points per night in the heart of Branson, Missouri.

With the 5th-night free benefit, you automatically get as a Silver Elite member, you could book five nights at this property for just 120,000 Hilton Honors points.

Look for standard night awards

Also, make sure you’re looking for standard night awards, which are the lowest price awards for any particular property. For example, a standard night award at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island will set you back 95,000 points, but you’ll be asked to fork over more points for stays over peak travel dates or nights in a premium room.

Over some of the most sought-after travel dates of the year, the same room could even set you back 4X or 5X as many points.

For the most part, you’ll have the best chance at utilizing standard night awards if you’re flexible with your travel dates and willing to book several months in advance.

Pool points with family members

Also, keep in mind that the Hilton Honors program makes it easy to pool points with others, including friends or family members. This strategy can be especially smart if you plan to share your room with this person during your vacation.

If both you and a partner sign up for different Hilton credit cards and earn 130,000 Hilton Honors points, for example, you could combine your points together and have 260,000 points to spend on a vacation. This could mean elevating your stay to a higher tier property or staying longer than you planned.

According to Hilton, you can pool your points with up to 10 other people and move a maximum of 500,000 points into a points pool within a calendar year. Meanwhile, any member can receive up to 2 million points in a calendar year.

Pursue elite status

Finally, pursuing elite status can help you have a better experience when you stay with the Hilton brand. The Silver Elite status you get for being a cardholder of the Hilton Honors American Express Card unlocks the 5th-night free hotel benefit and a handful of other perks, but you can get even better treatment and more elite perks the higher up the status ladder you go.

For example, Hilton Gold elite status gets you space-available room upgrades and a daily food and beverage credit, whereas Hilton Diamond elite status gets you perks like executive lounge access and premium Wi-Fi.

Transfer points to Hilton Honors

Finally, check whether you have other types of rewards you can transfer to your Hilton Honors account. If you have an American Express credit card that earns American Express Membership Rewards points, for example, you can move points from Amex to Hilton if you need to top up your account for a vacation booking.

However, we only suggest using this strategy if you need several thousand more points for a redemption. Since American Express Membership Rewards points can be worth up to 2 cents each and Hilton Honors points are worth around $.06 cents each, you’ll want to convert your Amex points to Hilton points sparingly.

The bottom line

With its generous welcome bonus and perks like automatic Silver status, the Hilton Honors American Express Card can give you a huge head start if you’re hoping to book a vacation with a hotel credit card. However, you can score a better vacation or a longer getaway if you’re willing to consider multiple destinations, dates and resorts for your trip.

Either way, the Hilton Honors program makes things easy by offering more than 6,500 hotels and resorts in 119 different countries to choose from. Once you start earning points and searching for the perfect resort, you should have no problem piecing together a dream vacation you won’t forget.

Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson writes expert content on personal finance, credit cards, loyalty and insurance topics. In addition to writing for Bankrate and CreditCards.com, Johnson does ongoing work for clients that include CNN, Forbes Advisor, LendingTree, Time Magazine and more.
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