In the miles and points community, Hilton points are an equivalent of Zimbabwean currency. Their top hotels require 95,000 points, and if you want a suite, prepare to cough up double or triple the amount for a marginally better room.
I personally don’t collect this currency, and it’s been years since I’ve stayed at a Hilton brand hotel. However, there is value to be had even in the HHonors program. As always, it depends on your goals and your geographic location.
Please, don’t take my Hilton points!
Few weeks ago, I suddenly discovered that my tiny stash of 5,000 Hilton points was about to expire. I got it a year ago through a promotion and forgot all about it. Sure, it’s a puny amount, but I just hate losing points.
I knew that the Hilton chart had a few Category 1 hotels in the USA (and I really do mean few). So I did what any decent blogger would do: I sent out a tweet to see if one of my readers could use it. As expected, there weren’t any takers.
I was fiddling with this excellent map made by Travelisfree and noticed that there was a Hampton Inn in Arkansas that costs only 5,000 points per night. My cousin-in-law has quite a few relatives living in the area, about a 1-hour driving distance from the hotel.
So I emailed her and asked if someone could use a 1-night getaway. Turns out, her sister-in-law was thrilled at the prospect. She has 3 kids under the age of 4, and she and her husband rarely do anything by themselves. I made a booking and added her as an additional guest, and also put a note in the comments that she will be the one checking in.
This particular Hampton Inn is located near the Ozarks and would make a nice romantic getaway with the opportunity to watch fall colors in the mountains. Did I mention that this place includes a free hot breakfast and gets amazing reviews on Tripadvisor?
Redeeming about-to-expire 5,000 HHonors points for a nice $100 (plus tax) room is, well, priceless! Treating a tired, sleep-deprived mother to a nice getaway is even more priceless.
As I’ve mentioned previously, finding such rare gems in the Hilton program is difficult, but not impossible. You just have to be willing to put in the time to search for them. While there are very few Category 1 hotels in the USA, there is a good number of Category 2 and 3, costing 7,500 and 10,000 points respectively. Who knows, maybe one of them is located near a poor relative who can’t afford any vacation at all?
Finding sweet spots in other hotel programs
I’ve compiled a list of best hotel bonuses where I’ve linked to each program’s award chart, which you can check out for yourself. In general, if you are looking to get an outsized value in a hotel program, here is what you should search for:
1) IHG : Look for their PointBreaks list, which comes out every 2 months. Alternatively, you can search for Category 1 hotels, which go for only 10,000 points. Some, like this Holiday Inn Express in Melbourne, could provide a good base to explore Kennedy Space center, go to the beach and possibly even Disney World, if you are willing to drive 1 hour after a long day at the park.
2) Marriott : There are many Category 2 hotels in the USA that cost 10,000 points, like this Courtyard Melbourne West property, located close to the beach. There are a few Category 1 properties, which run only 7,500 points, and one of them just might be located near a relative who would be thrilled to stay in it.
3) Club Carlson: The lowest category costs 9,000 points, a great bargain, especially if you happen to have a Club Carlson Visa that lets you redeem every second night free. There is a Park Inn near Disney that costs 15,000 points, which would be a great deal as well.
You could book 2 award nights, a paid night in-between, followed by another 2-night stay. Four nights near Disney for a family of 4 for only 30,000 Club Carlson points is an amazing bargain.
If you are planning to visit Europe in a near future, I strongly recommend you look into this card, which does not pay me commission. Club Carlson has a huge presence there and there are many Cat. 1 and Cat. 2 properties.
4) SPG : You want to look for Category 1 and 2 hotels that cost 2,000 and 3,000 points on weekends. There is a Category 2 property near Disney, called Sheraton Lake Buena Vista resort.
5) Hyatt Gold Passport : There are quite a few Category 1 hotels that cost 5,000 points. Many go for well over a $100 per night, so transferring your Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt program could make a lot of sense in this case. Some, like this one in Atlanta, consist of suites only.
6) Choice: I have a love/hate relationship with this program. On one hand, I got some amazing deals over the years. On the other hand, their US properties are so darn basic. But that’s not true for Europe, which has some incredible bargains for Choice hotels. If you are going to Scandinavia or Italy, look into this program.
This is one of very rare times where it makes sense to purchase points at 1.1 cents a piece. Many properties run 8,000-10,000 points, so the cost would be $88-$110, a great deal for the center of Rome or Amalfi coast.
Well, those are just a few examples of how you can squeeze outsized value out of your hotel points, even if it’s for another family. To me, using my crazy addiction to brighten someone’s day just makes this hobby a little less parasitic. Don’t you think?
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.