I’ve written before about when it might make sense to buy points outright from a loyalty program, and going forward I’d like to highlight some of the best opportunities for purchasing points in programs where there’s a real case for doing so at a good value.
In the case of Hilton Honors, buying points during one of their 100% bonus events can be a very effective way to instantaneously top-up your account balance for a big redemption.
Hilton typically offers this bonus a few times a year, and the current 100% bonus event lasts until February 19, 2019, so let’s have a look at how the promotion works and under what circumstances under which you might wish to take advantage of it.
Buy Up to 80,000 Hilton Honors Points with a 100% Bonus
Hilton Honors normally allows you to purchase points at a rate of 1 US cent per point (cpp), which is much higher than a fair price at which I’d consider purchasing points.
Indeed, I generally value Hilton Honors points at 0.7 Canadian cents per point or 0.5 US cents per point, so it would almost never make sense to buy points at the usual rate of 1 US cent per point.
During these 100% bonus events, however, you can purchase up to 80,000 Hilton Honors points for the standard rate of 1 US cpp, and then you’ll get an additional 100% bonus thrown in, meaning that you’re effectively purchasing points at the rate of 0.5 US cents per point, which is much closer to a fair price at which buying points might make sense.
After all, you’d be coming out ahead as long as you can redeem the points at a value higher than 0.5 US cpp, which you should definitely be aiming to do whenever you’re considering a redemption. If you maxed out the current promotion, for example, you’d end up acquiring 160,000 Hilton Honors points for a US$800 expense, which you’d then look to redeem for a hotel stay that retails for far more than that amount.
While you’re limited to a maximum points purchase of 80,000 points (resulting in a total gain of 160,000 points after the 100% bonus), keep in mind that Hilton allows you to easily pool points among different individuals’ accounts, so it’s possible to easily bypass the limit by purchasing the maximum number of points under different family members’ accounts and then pooling them all together.
To take advantage of this promotion, simply head to the Hilton Honors website and log into your account. You should see the promotion being displayed prominently, and can begin your transaction right then and there.
Note that you’ll want to use a US credit card to buy Hilton Honors points, if possible. That’s because Canadian residents are subject to GST/HST on points purchases, which can add a further 5–15% to your total, not to mention the 2.5% FX fee on most Canadian credit cards, both of which can quickly eat into the value of your purchase.
Hilton Honors points purchases are processed by an external vendor, Points.com, so they don’t count as a hotel purchase and you don’t earn any special bonuses from using one of the Amex Hilton credit cards.
I’d recommend simply using the US credit card of your choice that maximizes return on daily spending, or going with a US credit card that you’re working on meeting the minimum spending requirement.
Who Should Buy Hilton Points with a 100% Bonus?
Because of the significant upfront expense involved, there are very few circumstances when you should buy points without a specific and immediate use in mind. Instead, I’d say that this promotion only makes sense for one of the following purposes:
Booking a High-Value Aspirational Hotel
If you’re looking to honeymoon in the Maldives or Bora Bora, you’ll no doubt have considered staying at the many glamorous properties such as the Conrad Maldives, Conrad Bora Bora Nui, or the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi.
Hilton Honors doesn’t publish an award chart, but most of their top-tier properties go for at most 95,000 points per night for a standard room, with the exception of the Waldorf in the Maldives (and in Los Cabos), which go for 120,000 points per night. Compared to the cash rates of US$2,000+ per night (plus taxes) at these properties, redeeming points is obviously a screaming deal.
At places like this, you’d also likely want to squeeze maximum value out of your points by taking advantage of the Fifth Night Free benefit, which would bring the effective price down to 76,000 points per night (or 96,000 points per night at the Waldorf).
And if you were to buy these points under the current 100% bonus promotion, that’d be equivalent to paying US$380 per night at the Conrads (or US$480 per night at the Waldorf), which is akin to getting 80% off the retail price!
The trickiest part may actually lie in finding the hotly-contested standard room availability at these resorts, especially if you’re looking to take advantage of the Fifth Night Free benefit. If a standard room isn’t available, then the Hilton Honors website will give you the option of redeeming a crazy-high number of points for a higher-category room or suite, and those are usually never a great deal.
I’d recommend first locating the available standard rooms on your desired dates, and then quickly completing the transaction and securing the rooms at the highly discounted rate.
Quickly Top-up for an Upcoming Redemption
If you’ve identified a good opportunity to redeem your Hilton Honors points for greater than 0.7 Canadian cpp / 0.5 US cpp in value, but are still missing some of the points required to complete the booking, then buying points with a 100% bonus to top-up your account could be the most straightforward solution.
(This applies to the above-mentioned luxury properties as well. I imagine that many Canadians who’ve gotten one or two of the Amex US Hilton Honors cards will have points balances in the range of 200,000 Hilton Honors points. Buying points to top-up to the 300,000- or 400,000-point range will allow you to secure that memorable getaway at a high-end beach or overwater resort much faster than waiting a month or two to earn yet another credit card signup bonus.)
While Hilton’s luxury properties probably offer the most stellar value, there are occasionally pockets of value in redeeming points for lower-end hotels or nice hotels in less popular destinations as well, although they don’t appear all too frequently.
You’ve Exhausted All the Amex US Hilton Honors Signup Bonuses
The Amex US Hilton cards offer very attractive signup bonuses, but you can only earn the bonus on each card once.
After you’ve exhausted those opportunities (including any upgrade offers that might come around on the lower-end Hilton cards, which I’ll also discuss in further detail in a separate post), then purchasing points outright from the program during one of these 100% bonus events will probably be the best way to rack up Hilton points quickly.
Looking at the rough numbers, the signup bonuses on the Amex US Hilton cards alone should be enough to get you one or two amazing getaways at one of the top-tier properties within the chain (double that if you’re going for the US cards in two-player mode), but after that, if you’d still like to try out more Hilton, Conrad, and Waldorf properties at a fraction of the price, then buying points strategically will likely be your best bet.
Other Ways to Earn Hilton Honors Points
As I mentioned, if you aren’t in a rush to acquire Hilton Honors points but would like to build them up slowly towards a big redemption in the future, then you’ll want to consider getting the Amex US Hilton credit cards for their attractive signup bonuses (and in the case of the Aspire Card, the incredibly lucrative benefits as well).
The Hilton Honors Card offers 75,000 Hilton Honors points upon spending US$1,000 in the first three months, and potentially up to 95,000 points if you search for an incognito mode offer
This is a very attractive option for your first Amex US card, since it’s a no-fee card that you can keep forever to build your US credit history
The Hilton Honors Surpass Card offers 130,000 Hilton Honors points upon spending US$2,000 in the first three months
The Hilton Honors Aspire Card offers 150,000 Hilton Honors points upon spending US$4,000 in the first three months
The US$500 in total credits on this card help to offset the US$450 annual fee; on top of that, you also get an annual free weekend night certificate, instant Hilton Diamond status, and unlimited Priority Pass access, so this is very much an excellent card to apply for and keep forever
The Hilton Honors Business Card offers 120,000 Hilton Honors points upon spending US$3,000 in the first three months
Getting this card is a great idea for newcomers to the US credit card scene, since as a business card it doesn’t count towards Chase’s “5/24” rule in the future
Besides the credit card bonuses, another meaningful way to rack up Hilton Honors points is by maximizing promotions on paid stays, which are frequently more generous than the promotions put on by other hotel chains.
For example, recently there was an outright triple-points promotion for Amex Hilton cardholders, which, when combined with the perks on the Hilton Aspire Card, would allow you to earn a crazy return of 54 Hilton Honors points per US dollar spent under this promotion.
Under this promotion, while I could’ve redeemed points for some Hilton stays during my New Zealand trip at a value that was on the borderline of my 0.7 Canadian cpp valuation, I chose to pay cash instead and rack up the points aggressively.
Overall, my strategy with Hilton points is very much geared towards the larger aspirational redemptions within the chain, such as a fancy Conrad or Waldorf Astoria resort stay sometime down the road, where the value is much more apparent compared to the cash price.
In pursuit of this goal, I’m happy to accumulate Hilton points gradually towards that goal, via a mix of the Amex US signup bonuses, maximizing promotions on paid stays, and taking advantage of one of these 100% bonus events on points purchases if I need to top-up my account when the time comes to book.
Hilton Honors’s 100% bonus on buying points will last until February 19, so make sure to take advantage before then if you’d like to get closer towards a hugely discounted stay at one of Hilton’s top properties, or if you need an instant top-up for an upcoming points redemption.
You can click here to log in to your Hilton Honors account and buy up to 160,000 Hilton Honors points at a rate of 0.5 US cents per point.
Meanwhile, if a high-end Hilton redemption is a more distant goal for you, then you can focus on the Amex US Hilton credit card bonuses to earn points without having to buy them, although fortunately this 100% bonus event usually comes around a few times every year in case you have a need for it in the future.