Following our guide to earning and redeeming Free Night Awards within Marriott Bonvoy, let’s take a look at Hilton Honors and how you can leverage the program’s Free Weekend Night Rewards for maximum value at Hilton properties.
For the most part, you’ll need to be involved with US credit cards in order to rack up the free night certificates and participate meaningfully in the Hilton Honors program. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to take the first step along this journey, as you can earn your first certificate pretty much immediately with a single US credit card application.
1. Amex US Hilton Aspire Card
The Hilton Aspire Card is the only credit card that gives you an annual free weekend night certificate every year as on ongoing perk, without having to “work” for it through your annual spending.
Note that the Hilton Aspire’s Free Weekend Night Reward is earned immediately in the first year. This makes it superior to the corresponding Free Night Awards on the Marriott Bonvoy co-branded credit cards, which are only earned as an anniversary benefit starting in the second year.
On its own, the Free Weekend Night Reward could already justify the Hilton Aspire Card’s US$450 annual fee. However, it’s far from the only strong benefit on this card: you’ll also earn a welcome bonus of 150,000 Hilton Honors points, an annual US$250 airline incidental credit, an annual US$250 Hilton resort credit, instant Hilton Diamond status, and a Priority Pass membership with unlimited visits.
The Hilton Aspire Card is truly jam-packed with value, and the effortless annual Free Weekend Night Reward is just one reason why I’ve always said that this product is a little too good to be true.
In addition to the free night that you get just for holding the card, you can also earn an additional free night every year if you spend US$60,000 on the Hilton Aspire in a calendar year.
Alas, that’s probably out of reach for most of us, and the return on spending may not be worthwhile even if you could spend that much.
2. Amex US Hilton Business Card
In addition to the Hilton Aspire, there are two other Hilton co-branded cards that offer the ability to earn Free Weekend Night Rewards every year.
Let’s first discuss the Hilton Business Card, because you’d be more likely to apply for it during the early stages of your US credit card journey as it does not contribute to Chase’s “5/24 rule” as a business card.
The Hilton Business Card allows you to earn two Free Weekend Night Rewards: one after spending US$15,000 in a calendar year, and another after spending US$60,000 in a calendar year.
Again, the US$60,000 threshold perhaps doesn’t make sense to aim for, but the US$15,000 free night could be justified if your spending outpaces the minimum spending requirements that you can juggle. Last year, I earned a Free Weekend Night Reward on my Amex US Hilton Business Card when I had some extra expenses to pay through Paypal.
The Hilton Business Card offers a signup bonus of 130,000 Hilton Honors points in exchange for a US$95 annual fee. If you can put US$15,000 of spending on this card every year, then the resulting annual free night certificate will outweigh the annual fee multiple times over.
3. Amex US Hilton Surpass Card
Finally, the Hilton Surpass Card allows you to earn one Free Weekend Night Reward after spending US$15,000 on the card in a calendar year.
Just like the Hilton Business, the card also comes with a signup bonus of 130,000 Hilton Honors points and a US$95 annual fee, so the value proposition works out exactly the same. There’s no ability to earn a second free night upon spending US$60,000.
Incidentally, the Hilton Surpass has previously offered a Free Weekend Night Reward as part of the signup bonus, too, in addition to the 130,000 points.
Since you can only earn one signup bonus per card with American Express US, it might make sense to wait for that signup bonus to come back before applying for the Hilton Surpass if you don’t have it already.
That’s exactly the situation I’m in right now, as I’m currently holding all the Hilton cards except the Surpass Card, waiting for a historically-high welcome bonus to return.
How to Redeem a Hilton Free Weekend Night Reward
Hilton’s Free Weekend Night Rewards get deposited into your account within eight weeks of earning them, whether it’s through applying for or renewing the Hilton Aspire Card or for meeting one of the spending thresholds. I’ve often found that they get deposited into my account much sooner than eight weeks.
You’ll receive an email confirming the arrival of your Free Weekend Night Reward, which will also mention an expiration date for your certificate. This is the date you must stay by, not book by.
Typically, Free Weekend Night Rewards are valid for 12 months from the date of issue, although any certificates issued before December 31, 2020 will have a 24-month validity period due to the current circumstances.
There’s no function on the Hilton Honors website that tracks your free night certificates, and you can’t redeem these certificates online either. You’ll have to call Hilton Honors at 1-800-446-6677 to make your redemption, and you’ll need to provide the Reward ID that was included in the email you received.
Before calling in, you’ll first want to conduct a search on the Hilton Honors website to decide where to redeem your certificate.
You’ll need to look for a “Standard Room Reward” on your chosen date – if a standard room isn’t available and only “Premium Room Rewards” are showing, then you won’t be able to apply your Free Weekend Night Reward to the stay.
Notably, there is a list of excluded hotels that do not qualify for Free Weekend Night Reward redemptions, which you can find here.
These are largely Hilton Grand Vacations, all-inclusive, or residence-style properties. Thankfully, most of the best hotels in Hilton’s portfolio are not on this list and remain eligible for booking a free night.
What Counts as a Weekend Night?
You’ll notice that Hilton Honors’s reward certificates are all known as Free Weekend Night Rewards. They’re intended to be redeemed on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night, and that limits their utility to only three days out of the week.
(Due to the pandemic, Hilton Honors has temporarily relaxed this requirement, and any Free Weekend Night Reward issued before December 31, 2020 can be redeemed on any day of the week.)
Even outside of this temporary gesture, some FlyerTalk data points indicate that it’s possible to get the Hilton Honors agent to apply the Free Weekend Night Reward to a weeknight stay if they aren’t paying attention. Indeed, I myself was able to apply an award to a Wednesday night stay at the Waldorf Astoria Beijing last year (though I had to cancel it due to the coronavirus).
However, there are also a few rare data points that guests have been turned away at check-in because they redeemed a Free Weekend Night Reward on an ineligible weeknight stay. To be on the safe side, I’d recommend sticking to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights when redeeming Hilton certificates (outside of the current pandemic-related allowance).
Strategies for Maximizing Hilton Free Weekend Night Rewards
As with all instruments like these, the key to maximizing value lies in booking a hotel that would otherwise cost as much in cash as possible, while still remaining true to your travel goals and the places you want to visit.
Because Hilton Honors is largely a dynamically priced program, we can use the points price of a hotel as a barometer for assessing the value you’re getting from your Free Weekend Night Reward:
- Two properties are priced at 120,000 Hilton Honors points per night for a Standard Room Reward: the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi and the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos.
- Other top-tier properties are priced at a maximum of 95,000 Hilton Honors points per night for a Standard Room Reward.
- In general, I’d say that any property that would otherwise cost you 80,000 Hilton Honors points per night represents a good use of the Free Weekend Night Reward. This price point corresponds to a cash price of about US$400+.
Some of Hilton’s best properties, where I’d like to redeem my Free Weekend Night Rewards in the future, include:
- Conrad Bora Bora Nui
- Conrad Hong Kong
- Conrad Osaka
- Conrad Tokyo
- Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam
- Waldorf Astoria Bangkok
- Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills
- Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi
- Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund (I actually treated my parents to a stay here using last year’s Free Weekend Night Reward and the “second guest trick”)
Among the trio of Hilton co-branded credit cards, it’s theoretically possible to rack up five Free Weekend Night Rewards per year.
However, it almost certainly doesn’t make sense to aim for the free nights at the US$60,000 spending thresholds. Even if you intended to redeem these certificates in the Maldives where you might otherwise pay US$2,000+ per night, you’d still most likely come out even further ahead if you placed that US$60,000 in spending on another card(s) instead.
Therefore, some Hilton Honors members could earn up to three certificates per year if they can stump up US$30,000 in spending across the Hilton Business and the Hilton Surpass. Meanwhile, the vast majority of members will probably be satisfied with one certificate per year from simply holding the Hilton Aspire year after year.
Now, some of the luxury hotels in major cities might make for a fun one-night hop, but if you’re going to the Maldives or Bora Bora, you’ll certainly want to stay longer than one night.
In that case, you’ll want to combine your free night with a Hilton Honors points redemption to chain together a longer stay, especially if your stay happens to fall on some weeknights as well.
Just keep in mind that you can unlock the Fifth Night Free benefit when redeeming Hilton Honors points, but not when redeeming Free Weekend Night Rewards. Thus, combining the two instruments would make the most sense on stays of either three nights or fewer, or six nights or more.
Finally, if you’re earning points in two-player mode, then the sheer power of the Hilton Aspire Card ought to be harnessed by both yourself and your partner.
As a household, you’d earn at least two Free Weekend Night Rewards every year, which you could redeem back-to-back for a luxurious weekend getaway once a year, all while enjoying top-tier elite treatment as Hilton Diamond members.
Hilton’s Free Weekend Night Rewards are one of the strongest benefits of the Hilton Honors program and the suite of co-branded cards issued by American Express US.
Compared to Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton’s free night certificates are stronger in many ways: you can earn them immediately in the first year, and you can redeem them for the best luxury hotels in the portfolio with no upper limit. The only drawback is the limitation to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.
If you’d like to experience some world-class hotel stays without paying out-of-pocket, then diversifying into Hilton Honors – and in particular, getting the Hilton Aspire Card – is the key to getting started.