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A Complete Guide to Hilton Honors: Free Nights, Credit Cards & More

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It's far from perfect, but the Hilton Honors hotel rewards program is a go-to for many globe-trotting travelers. With a broad range of properties worldwide, they've got something for every type of traveler.

Although award rates can be quite high at some locations, Hilton Honors points are incredibly easy to earn. With several big welcome bonus offers on co-branded Hilton credit cards, you'll be well on your way to booking free stays in no time. 

Better yet, you can transfer points from credit cards like the *amex gold* or the *bilt rewards card* straight to Hilton to book an award night. So even if you've never stayed with Hilton, you may already have the points needed to book a free night at one of these properties and not even know it. 

From booking those free nights to earning elite status, and more, here's everything you need to know about Hilton Honors. 


Hilton's Award Rates

Like many other hotel programs, Hilton uses a dynamic pricing model … with a twist. While most programs that use dynamic pricing charge a varying amount of points for a free night – typically tied to the cash price – Hilton does things a bit differently.

In addition to dynamic pricing, they also have “standard awards” at a set rate for every property. While award rates are all over the map at many Hilton properties – and sometimes as high as 1 million points a night – there’s still a lowest-and-best base rate when redeeming Hilton Honors points. Finding these “standard room awards” is the key for getting the best bang for your buck with Hilton points as well as redeeming free night certificates.

This means if you've got some flexibility in your schedule, you'll want to book when a standard award is available. The easiest way to find these lower rates is by going to the room selection page and clicking “Edit Stay”


Hilton Room Selection


Click the date and then click “Shop by Price” next to “Flexible travel dates?” to view the calendar for the current month.


Hilton dates

Here you'll be able to scan through the calendar to see the dates that are available at standard pricing. In the example below, 110,000 points per night is the standard rate. As you can see, it's not uncommon to find some nights going for 500,000 points or more – hard pass. 


grand wailea availability february


Additionally, you can use Hilton's Points Explorer tool to search for award nights. Simply plug in your points “budget” and desired location to scope out properties you could afford with your current points balance.


Points Explorer


For example, if I set Paris (CDG) as my desired destination, the Points Explorer tool will pull up all of the available properties and provide the range of points that each property will cost to book.


Hilton Points Explorer Paris


Free Night Certificates

All of the major hotel chains like Marriott, Hyatt, and IHG offer free night award certificates that can easily be earned with a co-branded credit card. But if you ask us, Hilton free night certificates stand above the rest.

Other hotel chains cap which properties you can book using their certificates, but not Hilton: No hotel or resort is off-limits with a Hilton free night certificate. So while even mid-tier properties are out of reach with Hyatt or Marriott, you can book some of the best Hilton properties on the planet using these certificates whether you're planning a trip to New York or Boston … or the Maldives and Bora Bora.


conrad bora bora nui pool 1


To top it off, Hilton free night certificates are easier (and quicker) to earn than competing hotel chains. And while it takes a bit of legwork to find nights that are eligible to redeem a Hilton certificate – especially at the priciest properties – it's fairly straightforward, making it a surefire way to cover a night at a Hilton hotel that costs $500 a night, if not double that or more!

Hilton and American Express offer a handful of different co-branded credit cards, many of which include a way to earn free night awards as a perk. On some, getting a Hilton free night certificate is as easy as keeping the card open and paying its annual fee. On others, you'll need to spend a certain amount each year to get one.

With Hilton's top-tier credit card, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, you'll get a free night certificate that can be used for a standard room at almost any Hilton hotel in their entire portfolio (subject to availability) each year you hold the card. Unlike other hotel credit cards, you get this benefit right off the bat – not after you renewing the card for a second year.


hilton aspire surpass cards


The Aspire card also allows you to earn a second free night certificate by spending $30,000 or more on the card in a calendar year … and then another one if you're able to spend $60,000 or more in the same year. But this card doesn't come cheap: After a recent annual fee hike, the Aspire card now costs $550 a year to hold. 

With the *Hilton Surpass* you can also get you a free night certificate, but only after you spend $15,000 on your card in a calendar year.


Earning & Using Hilton Honors Elite Status

Hilton has three different levels of elite status: Silver, Gold, and top-tier Diamond.

Every Hilton Honors member starts at the same basic member level, working their way up the status ladder by accumulating elite nights at Hilton properties.

To earn Hiltons's top-tier Diamond elite status, you'll need to either stay with Hilton for 60 nights during the status year or hold the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, which gives you complimentary Diamond status as a card benefit.

If two months out of the year sounds like a lot of time to spend in a hotel, having the Hilton co-branded American Express card is the best shortcut that will help get you there sooner. 


Hilton Status


At the lower status levels, there really isn't much to get excited about. Save for free bottled water, free wifi and discounted Hilton Honors room rates, being a Member or having Silver status doesn't feel particularly elite.

But at the Gold and Diamond level, things change – in a big way. With Gold and Diamond status, you get perks like a daily food and beverage credit in the U.S. or free continental breakfast internationally, and space-available room upgrades. Diamond elites also get access to the executive lounge at properties where it's available – a separate lounge with complimentary food and drinks. Regardless, it's a great way to save on food costs while traveling!




And unlike other hotel programs, getting Hilton elite status is far easier to attain. With Hilton elite status, you (generally) get what you deserve – or far more often than you'll find with the other big chains. That consistency is just another reason we think this hotel rewards program reigns supreme.

Read more: How to Get Instant Hotel Status From a Single Credit Card 


How to Create a Hilton Honors Account

While you won't need to have an existing Hilton Honors account to search for free nights using points, you will need one once it comes time to book. Thankfully, creating an account with Hilton is a quick and pain-free process. 

You can start by going to Hilton's website on either a desktop, mobile phone, or even on Hilton's app. On desktop or a mobile browser, you'll see the option to “Join” or “Sign In” in the top right corner. On the mobile app, the button to “Join Now” is in small print below the “Sign In” button. 


Hilton Sing In


From here, you'll be prompted to enter a few pieces of personal information, including your name, e-mail address, state or province of residence, and a password. Additionally, you can enroll in person at any Hilton hotel or over the phone. 


Hilton Honors Sign Up


After completing your registration, you'll be able to login to your new Hilton account where you can find your new member number and additional account information. 


How to Search for Award Nights on Hilton's Website

After creating your Hilton Honors account – or logging in, if you already had one – you can start searching for available hotels in your destination.

You can do this by simply typing the city name in the search box, selecting your check-in and out dates, and number of guests. Before hitting “Find a Hotel,” you'll want to click the “Special Rates” box and then choose “Use Points.” This last step is crucial to finding the points price for a hotel – without checking that box, you'll only see cash rates. 


Hilton Special Rates

Hilton Use Points


If you forget to select the points option from the special rates, you can always modify the search by marking the box “Use Points.” 


Hilton search


Once you've filled all that information in, you'll see the search results. Hotels within your desired city are sorted in list-view, as well as map view to the right. The map can be super helpful whether there's a specific area that you're looking to stay in or if you're just not sure where to start. 


Hilton Honors map


Notice that in the search results, you'll see the starting cash price and points price for a given hotel. You'll need to click “View Rates” to confirm availability and room type. 


Hilton award night


After clicking “View Rates,” you'll see what room types are available to book with points – and in some cases, that'll even include suites. The default view will be the lowest-priced standard rooms. If there are any suites available, you can switch to see the cost of those as well. 


Hilton suites


The fact that you can book straight into a suite using points is another nice feature that sets Hilton apart from some of its peers. This isn't a possibility with the likes of Marriott or IHG – and if you've got elite status, scoring a complimentary upgrade is usually a long shot with either program, too. 


Earning Hilton Points

There are lots of ways to earn the Hilton points needed for a free night. From earning points on paid stays, to co-branded credit cards, and bank transfer partners, here's how it's done. 


Staying With Hilton

Yes, of course you earn points when you stay with Hilton. Call it the old fashioned way. 

You'll get 10 base points for every dollar spent. If you've got elite status, you can earn up to a 100% bonus on your paid stays, helping rack up the points a bit faster. 

There are some exceptions, though. At Home2 Suites by Hilton and Tru by Hilton properties, you'll only earn five base points for every dollar spent.

Paying for your stay with a co-branded Hilton credit card will earn you up to 14x points per dollar, depending on which version of the card you carry.


Swiping a Co-Branded Credit Card

You can also earn more of them by using a Hilton Honors credit card for your day-to-day spending. There are several versions to choose from, each with its own unique set of benefits for every kind of traveler.


Hilton Honors American Express Card

  • Welcome Offer: bonus_miles_full
  • Earn Hilton Honors Silver Status for as long as you have the card.
  • Get Hilton Gold Status if you spend $20,000 or more in a calendar year.
  • 7x Hilton Honors Points: At participating hotels in the Hilton portfolio.
  • 5x Hilton Honors Points: At U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • 3x Hilton Honors Points: on all other eligible purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • No Annual Fee (see rates & fees)


*Hilton Honors*


Learn more about the *Hilton Honors*.


Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

  • Welcome Offer: bonus_miles_full 
  • Earn a free night certificate after you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year, valid at almost any Hilton property.
  • Get up to $200 back each year for purchases made directly with Hilton. You'll get $50 in statement credits to use at Hilton properties each quarter, up to $200 per calendar year.
  • Get Hilton Honors Gold Status for as long as you have the card. This will get you free breakfast at almost any Hilton hotel abroad or a daily food and beverage credit at U.S. properties.
  • Work up to Hilton Diamond Status if you spend $40,000 or more in a calendar year.
  • Earn 12x Hilton Honors Points at participating hotels in the Hilton portfolio.
  • Earn 6x Hilton Honors Points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 4x Hilton Honors Points on U.S. online retail purchases.
  • Earn 3x Hilton Honors Points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Get complimentary National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive Status – easily our favorite car rental elite status.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $150 annual fee (see rates & fees)


*Hilton Surpass*


Learn more about the *Hilton Surpass*.


Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

  • Welcome Offer: Earn 175,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after spending $6,000 in the first six months of card membership. This limited-time offer ends July 31, 2024. 
  • Get Hilton Honors Diamond Status: As long as your card account is open, you'll have Hilton's top-tier Diamond status
  • Get up to $400 in Hilton Resorts statement credits: Each calendar year, you’ll receive up to $400 in statement credits for incidentals charged to your card at participating Hilton resorts – a category that includes many Hilton properties. Cardholders get one $200 credit from January through June and another credit July through December.
  • Free night certificate: After opening your account and again each year on your cardmember anniversary, you will receive a certificate for a free night eligible at any property in Hilton's portfolio.
  • Additional free night certificates: Earn an additional free night certificate after making $30,000 in purchases in a calendar year, plus another after spending $60,000 in the same year (for up to three free nights total).
  • Get up to $200 in annual airline credit: Get up to $50 in statement credits each quarter on purchases made directly with an airline (including airfare) or through amextravel.com.
  • Earn 14x Hilton Honors points per dollar for each eligible purchase on your Card made directly with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Earn 7x Hilton Honors points per dollar for eligible purchases on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com; on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies; & at U.S. restaurants.
  • Earn 3x Hilton Honors points bonus points on all other purchases.
  • Get complimentary National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive Status – easily our favorite status with a rental car chain.
  • $189 CLEAR® Plus Credit: Get up to $189 per calendar year in statement credits when you pay for a CLEAR® Plus Membership with the Aspire Card.
  • $550 annual fee (see rates & fees)

All information about the Hilton Aspire Card has been collected independently by Thrifty Traveler and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

We consider the Hilton Aspire Card the best hotel credit card, period – read our guide to see why!


hilton aspire card


Learn more about the Hilton Honors Aspire Card (for full disclosure, this is our personal referral link)


Transfer from American Express Membership Rewards

With several great Amex Membership Rewards-earning credit cards on the market like the *amex gold* or *amex platinum*, you may very well have a way to get a bunch of Hilton points and not even realize it. 

Hilton is an Amex transfer partner and points transfer at a 1:2 ratio to Hilton Honors. Just be warned: Transferring to Hilton is not always going to be the best use of your Amex points, as you can often get far greater value transferring them to airlines to book flights. At first glance, it might seem like a good deal, however, we recommend you shop around and compare the cash value between properties first before you transfer. 

To move your Amex points to Hilton, you’ll need to log in to your Amex account and go to “Transfer Points” under “Rewards.” Once you’ve done that, click “Travel” and choose the option to “Transfer points to partners.”


Amex transfer points


From here, you can select Hilton from the list of eligible partners. If this is your first time transferring Amex points to Hilton, you'll need to enter your Hilton Honors member number to link your accounts.

Next you'll need to enter how many points you’d like to transfer over and finally you'll review the transfer details before hitting “Submit.” 


Hilton transfer


Amex points generally transfer instantly to Hilton, but in some cases, there can be delays … especially if it's your first transfer to Hilton. In most cases, logging out and back into your Hilton Honors account should solve the problem and show the points reflected in your balance. 

Read next: Points Stuck in Limbo? Here’s Why (& What You Can Do About It)


Transfer from Bilt Rewards

While initially targeted toward renters, the *bilt rewards card* is an extremely well-rounded travel rewards credit card that can also help you earn Hilton points. And if you've got a stash of points from any of Bilt's Rent Day promotions, Lyft rides, or Neighborhood Dining program, you can also transfer them to Hilton – even if you don't have a Bilt Mastercard. 

Bilt recently added Hilton Honors as its newest transfer partner. Bilt Rewards members can now transfer their Bilt points to the hotel program … but only at a (relatively poor) 1:1 ratio: 10,000 Bilt points get you 10,000 Hilton Honors points. 

Unlike most transferable points programs, you won't be able to move Bilt points to a partner on your desktop. With Bilt, you'll need to have the mobile app to get it done – not shocking from a company whose customer base skews younger.

After logging into the Bilt app, you'll need to ensure that the partner you're planning to move points to is linked to your Bilt account. If you haven't already done so, you'll need to link your Hilton account to Bilt Rewards – and as an added bonus, you'll even get an extra 100 Bilt points for doing so.

If you skipped step one and don't yet have a Hilton account, you can even create one right from the Bilt app and it will automatically be linked. 


Hilton Bilt Transfer


After you find Hilton in the travel tab you'll be asked how many points you want to transfer. Everyday Blue members have to transfer at least 2,000 points – only those who have earned Silver status or higher can move 1,000 points at a time over to Hilton or another Bilt transfer partner.


Hilton Bilt Transfer


The last step in the process is to simply review and confirm the accuracy of your point transfer request. If everything looks as it should, you'll need to agree to the terms and conditions and hit “confirm transfer.”

Just beware: Once your transfer goes through, you can’t pull those points back into your Bilt account. That makes it critical to complete the steps above and confirm award availability first. 

Once you hit confirm transfer, points are usually available in your Hilton Honors account within seconds. Just like transferring Amex points, if you don't see them show up right away, try logging out and back in. 


How to Book a Free Night With Points

Now that you've got the necessary Hilton points in your account, it's time to book your free night with points. If you had to log out and back in for the points to show up, you may need to recreate your search using the steps above.

Once you've decided what room type will work best for you, click “Book Now.”


Hilton Booking


You could pay completely in points or opt for the option to redeem a combination of points and cash. While it's not always a great value, this can be a really good option if you're short on points. 


Hilton Booking Checkout


From there, just review your stay details and confirm your booking. If you don't yet have a credit card on file with Hilton, you'll also need to enter this for incidentals and confirming your stay. But don't worry: You won't be charged anything (other than points), unless you opted for the “Points + Cash” booking option. Unlike several other major hotel chains, Hilton doesn't tack pesky resort fees onto award stays.

One last thing to pay attention to is the cancellation policy. Most Hilton award stays have very generous cancellation policies, meaning you can cancel up to a day or two before your scheduled check-in date and get all your points back.

But be sure to verify the cancellation policy before confirming your booking and set a calendar reminder when that date is approaching – just to be safe. 


Bottom Line

Whether you've already got a stash of Hilton points (or free night certificates) from nights on the road or you're sitting on a pile of transferable credit card points, using the Hilton Honors program to book a free night can be a great way to save big on your next trip. 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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