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With benefits like room upgrades, free Internet access and continental breakfast for frequent guests, you’ll want to slip a Hilton HHonors card into your wallet.
The program allows members to earn and redeem points at many business and luxury hotels, including the Hilton, Waldorf Astoria, Conrad and DoubleTree by Hilton brands.
Guests can also earn frequent flyer points alongside their HHonors bounty, with partner airlines including Qantas, Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines and United.
Worldwide, over 4,200 hotels in 93 countries are part of the HHonors program, providing blanket coverage over most of the globe’s major business travel destinations.
There are many reasons for Australian road warriors to join the Hilton HHonors program, so we've put together this introduction to get you started.
Hilton HHonors 101
Across the Hilton HHonors portfolio, members can earn and redeem HHonors points with Hilton Hotels, Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, DoubleTree by Hilton, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Homewood and Home2 Suites and Hilton Grand Vacations.
Membership is free – to start collecting points, just head to the Hilton HHonors website to enrol.
You’ll receive your HHonors number immediately, and a membership pack will arrive in the mail after your first two hotel stays, and provided you earn or redeem Hilton HHonors points at least once every 12 months, they’ll never expire.
That’s easily done by staying at any participating hotel, or by spending on the Australian Hilton HHonors Macquarie Platinum credit card.
Hilton HHonors tiers
Beginning at the base-level Blue tier, you’ll progress through Silver, Gold and Diamond as you begin to stay more at hotels within the HHonors portfolio.
Blue members can request free late check-outs (where available), get free in-room Internet when booking directly with Hilton and can stay with their spouse at no extra charge.
That’s a particularly useful benefit at properties that charge a little more for two guests in the same room, although it’s not valid when the rate includes extras like meals or activities.
Status levels can be reached in one of three ways – through the number of stays, the number of nights or Base Points, which reflect how much you’ve spent in-house.
There’s no requirement to hit the targets of all three. As soon as you’ve reached the minimum threshold in just one of those categories, you’ll automatically move up the ladder.
Every US dollar (or its equivalent in the hotel’s local currency) spent on hotel room rates and folio charges earns 10 Base Points. Importantly, these differ from Bonus Points, which are earned from everything else.
But whether earned as Base or Bonus Points, all HHonors points are treated exactly the same when it comes time to redeem them, and contribue to your total balance of HHonors points.
Hilton HHonors Silver
After four stays (check-ins) or 10 nights in a calendar year, you’ll move from Blue to Silver status.
Silver members earn a 15% status bonus on Base Points, and get the fifth night free when making a Standard Room Reward booking of five nights or more.
Any normal access charges for use of hotel-owned-and-operated fitness centres and health clubs are waived during stays, with the exception of resort fees at selected properties.
Two free bottles of water are given per visit, although many HHonors hotels grant this perk on a daily basis – particularly those across Asia.
Gold is the real ‘sweet spot’ in HHonors, serving up benefits like 25% more points on hotel stays, free room upgrades and a continental breakfast at most hotel brands.
Perks like these are yours after either 20 stays, 40 nights or 75,000 Base Points – the equivalent of an annual US$7,500 spend on hotel rooms and incidentals.
Discerning members can make use of Digital Check-In at selected hotels, where guests can choose their preferred room by both floor and number.
Of course, with free upgrades one of the Gold-level perks, we’d recommend fronting up at the desk the old fashioned way to try and nab a better room.
If you are bumped up to the Executive floors, you’ll also be able to relax in a hotel’s Executive Lounge throughout your stay (where available), although lounge access isn't offered if you aren't upgraded to a room type that would normally include this.
A choice of bonus points, snacks or other free amenities can be made for each hotel stay, although this varies by brand.
At the top of the HHonors program is the Diamond tier – earned after either 30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 Base Points.
Members who have also held Diamond status for at least 10 years (not necessarily consecutively) and have spent in at least 1,000 paid nights in the chain's hotels will also receive Lifetime Diamond status.
Over and above the Gold-level perks, Diamond guests earn 50% more points and are guaranteed rooms in already-full hotels if booking at least 48 hours before arrival.
Although that benefit is restricted when hotels are already considerably oversold, it’s particularly handy when hunting for a room during major events or the peak travel season.
Access is also guaranteed to hotel Executive Lounges, regardless of the room type booked or received.
Suite upgrades aren’t a 'published' HHonors benefit, but hotels often use their discretion and assign these to their frequent-staying Diamond guests.
Gold travellers can opt to trade their free breakfast for 1,000 HHonors Bonus Points, but Diamond members aren’t forced to choose – receiving both on every stay.
Earning HHonors and airline points
Within Australia, HHonors has properties in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Cairns, Darwin, Surfers Paradise (Gold Coast) and Alice Springs.
At 10 HHonors points per US dollar, an overnight stay with a A$200 room rate and $25 spent on room service would earn around 1,681 Base Points at any of these hotels, based on the exchange rate as at July 10 2015.
In addition, Silver members would earn 252 Bonus Points, while Gold and Diamond guests reel in bonuses of 420 and 840 points, respectively.
All HHonors members can choose a ‘My Way’ earning style, where either frequent flyer points or an extra 5 HHonors points per US dollar are awarded.
If opting for ‘Points & Miles’, members will earn HHonors points at the rates above – but can pocket either one Qantas point or two Velocity points for each US dollar spent.
The extra HHonors points awarded through the aptly-named ‘Points & Points’ option appear as Bonus Points, so this can’t be used as a shortcut to HHonors status.
Redeeming HHonors points
The best way to redeem HHonors points is to trade them in for a hotel stay, which can be done through the HHonors website.
When hunting for reward nights, search for a hotel room as you normally would, but tick the ‘use HHonors points’ box.
If awards are available, you’ll see something like this:
Points can either be used to make a stay completely free through a ‘standard room reward’, or a smaller number of points can help fund a ‘points and money reward’ with a co-pay on the side.
The latter provides the best value, and gives you the most return on your points – here’s why.
Including the service charge (not shown in our screenshot), that room could be booked for ¥3,105 outright, which is around A$669.
By blowing 80,000 points on a single night’s stay, you’re seeing just a A$0.0083 return for every point spent.
On the other hand, the ‘points and money reward’ costs just 32,000 points plus ¥1,058 (including the hotel’s service charge).
That’s about A$228 for the co-pay, which returns A$0.0137 of value for every point used – a boost of over 50% on what you’d otherwise get on a standard award.
Not every hotel offers this better-value combo, but it pays to seek them out on your travels.
HHonors points can also be swapped for room upgrades, but as Gold and Diamond members already enjoy upgrades at no charge, we’d suggest keeping your points for something else.
The same applies to ‘premium room rewards’, which are used for securing higher-than-basic rooms in advance.
Instead, use your points only for a standard room and you’ll enjoy all your normal HHonors benefits during the stay – including a free upgrade, if available.
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