Earlier this year, the ‘points and fixed miles’ earning option faced extinction in the Hilton HHonors program, changing the way that members earn airline points or miles on their travels.
Under the old scheme, travellers could earn either 1,000 Qantas or Velocity points at most Hilton hotel brands, regardless of the length of their stay.
Now, Qantas and Virgin Australia Velocity points are only available under the ‘points and miles’ option – where either one Qantas point or two Velocity points are awarded per US$1 spent, in addition to the regular serve of HHonors points.
Making the most of it
The old scheme made it logical to choose ‘fixed miles’ if you weren’t paying much for the room, or ‘variable miles’ if you were paying more or staying longer – these days, the best airline option isn’t as obvious.
Naturally, if you’re just a few points away from a decent Qantas award, funnelling your points across to the Red Roo is the obvious choice.
However, with Virgin Australia now offering twice the earning rate of Qantas, it’s the smart choice for Australian business travellers.
To compare the two, a one-way flight from Sydney to Melbourne can be had for 6,900 points with Velocity or 8,000 points with Qantas, plus small amounts for taxes and surcharges at the time of redemption.
Assuming your only source of points is the Hilton HHonors program, you’d earn that free flight with Virgin after spending just US$3,450 – whereas you’d need to spend US$8,000 to earn the same with Qantas.
If you’d rather use points to jet to Asia, a return trip from Sydney to Singapore in business class comes in at 160,000 Velocity points on Singapore Airlines – quite a hefty asking price.
Qantas clocks in at 120,000 points, but with only half the earning potential as Velocity, it’ll take you longer to get there if earning from hotels alone.
On that basis, you’d need to spend US$80,000 for the free trip with Velocity, or US$120,000 for the same with Qantas.
However, you don’t have to look to your own country for an airline partner. Hilton HHonors boasts ties to a raft of frequent flyer programs, and you can pick and choose airlines as required – even if that means changing preferences for each hotel stay.
For Aussie travellers, we’d suggest United – you’ll earn one mile per US$1 with HHonors, and the recent changes to MileagePlus result in very attractive redemption rates for travel in business and first class to and from Asia.
With United, a return trip in business class between Sydney and Singapore or Bangkok comes in at just 60,000 miles, so at one mile per US$1, that same journey could be yours for US$60,000 – a faster return than offered by either Qantas or Virgin.
Of course, members of Qantas or Velocity Frequent Flyer get many opportunities to earn points on home soil, whereas it’s a little harder to earn United miles here – particularly without a United-earning credit card available in the Australian marketplace.
Given that you’ll earn rewards faster with United than either of the Australian players, they’re still out top pick – provided HHonors isn’t your only source for UA miles, of course.
Otherwise, Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer remains the obvious choice for your HHonors airline points, with the two points per US$1 rate the next best on the list.
If you are planning a stay within the HHonors portfolio of hotels, don’t forget to activate your free HHonors Gold or Diamond status through Velocity – we wouldn’t want you to miss out on that room upgrade!
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