Few weeks ago I published a post on new lineup of Amex Hilton credit cards. I don’t believe it’s an earth-shattering development for most of my readers. Getting 100k Hilton points is not nearly as exciting as it was just a few years ago. However, Hilton program does have its strengths, and that’s what this write-up will focus on. My post is mostly meant for beginners, but I hope old-timers can glean some value as well.
1) Redeeming Hilton points on Category 1 or 2 property will almost always be a good deal.
Hilton often sells points for 0.5 cents apiece. So, if you redeem them on a Category 1 (5,000 points per night), it will be an equivalent of paying $25. You will be hard-pressed to find a better deal, even in a third-world country. Ditto for Category 2. This one isn’t quite as much of a bargain as a Category 1. Still, a decent hotel room for $50 all-in is nothing to sneeze at.
My point is: 100k bonus can go very far if you are a hobby maximizer. That’s the good news. The bad news is, Category 1 Hilton properties are disappearing at an alarming rate, and without notice. In fact, I couldn’t find any in US, not even one. If you spot one, let me know! There are still quite a few Category 2 hotels in USA, but I think they are also in danger of disappearing soon. Hilton did away with award charts, and I’m convinced that finding those rare Cat. 1 and 2 unicorns will only get harder and harder.
You can check this Google map listing all Category 1 and 2 Hilton properties around the world but I will warn you, it’s not 100% accurate. Still, it’s a good reference point for those who need a little inspiration. One Cat. 2 hotel that has been on my radar for some time is Hampton Inn Spring Hill located about 2 hours from our house.
It’s close to Weeki Wachee Preserve, a 6,000-acre protected wildlife area great for bird watching and hiking. It’s also an ideal spot for a day trip to Crystal River where you can spot manatees. The reviews for the hotel are a bit mixed, hence the cheap rate via points. It is currently going through renovation, though.
When you have an early flight or visiting relatives, and just need a place to sleep, those Cat. 2 properties in US can definitely come in handy.
If you are planning to apply for Hilton card with the idea of mostly maximizing points towards low-category hotels, you should look into The Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card or The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card. Both pay us commission.
2) If you are flexible on destinations, try typing in country (or state) name to see current properties’ rate via points.
For example, let’s say we are traveling to Poland. There are 17 Hilton hotels in the country, and here are just a few:
The same goes for typing in US state:
3) Redeeming points on stays of five/ten/fifteen nights will give you the best bang for your point.
If you happen to have elite status, which comes complimentary with all Amex Hilton co-branded credit cards, you’ll get each 5th night free when redeeming points. That’s a good way to maximize your stash even further. If you burn points on a Category 1 hotel, that’s an equivalent of paying only 4,000 points per night. I took advantage of this sweet spot when I treated my family to hotel stay in Krakow, Poland. Unfortunately, it looks like the same property now costs 10,000 points per night.
4) Mid-tier properties can be a very good deal during off-season and special events.
When there is SuperBowl game in town, paying 40,000 points for hotel room is a steal. After Hilton has revamped its program, they did away with categories. While it led to less transparency and disappearance of many spectacular deals, it has also adjusted rates on some overpriced hotels. Now, if you go off-season when demand is low, you can expect to pay less via points. Here are rates I found for oceanfront Hilton hotels in Daytona Beach in November:
5) Redeeming Hilton points on an overwater bungalow in Maldives (and other super fancy hotels) is a fantastic value.
If you’ve been around this hobby for more than a few days, you’ve probably noticed an unusual fascination with the Maldives. It seems everyone and their pet has either been to Maldives or going there in a near future. Why? It’s simple. Getting business class redemption to Maldives is relatively easy, especially compared to Bora Bora.
Also, there are several great hotel options, all of them on private islands. Oh, and let’s not forget that the Maldives is an incredibly beautiful destination that may disappear due to global warming. Is it a cheap place to visit? Not even close.
On top of miles and points, you’ll have to budget $600 per person for roundtrip transfer to one of the islands. Then there is super expensive food when you get there, and the list goes on. But I believe going to Maldives is an attainable goal even for those who are middle-class. I really do! My husband and I are going to Bora Bora, and we are certainly not swimming in money.
Are you celebrating a special wedding anniversary and have a lot of miles/points, plus some cash savings? You may want to look into treating your spouse to an overwater bungalow experience on the other side of the world. Update: Maldives is currently going through a political crisis. in all likelihood, it will be resolved by the time you get here, but it’s something to keep in mind,
Out of all the hotel options, none are as good of a deal as Conrad Maldives Rangali Island See promotional video of the resort and tell me it doesn’t look amazing! Well, the good news is, you can get an overwater bungalow here (with private pool!) for only 95,000 points per night:
If you happen to have Gold/Diamond status via credit card, breakfast is free. The paid rate varies between $750-$1,500 per night. Avoid New Year’s timeframe because they apparently force you to pay for an expensive buffet. The best part about this redemption? There is a TON of availability. I worked like a dog to secure my bungalow in Bora Bora and even then, I think I just got lucky because someone cancelled. No such issues with Hilton in Maldives.
If you are thinking about visiting this resort, you should absolutely look into Hilton Honors Aspire Amex card that comes with free weekend night on top of points. You can easily utilize your $250 resort credit at this property. Application link (pays no commission)
The best value when it comes to Hilton program is in low as well as high-end redemptions. However, depending on your plans, you can do well with mid-tier hotels, too. Let’s say you apply for Ascend card and get 100k points after paying $95 fee. If you redeem your stash on 5 nights at a hotel that costs 25,000 points (or $100), you will be getting a value of $405. It’s not a mind-boggling return, but it’s nothing to sneeze at, especially if you were planning to pay cash.
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.