A Generous Hotel Promotion That Works Even On Free Night Stays

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A bit over a week ago I wrote a post entitled “Giving Credit To Hilton HHonors Where It’s Due.” The premise of the post was that even though I think Hilton HHonors elite benefits are somewhat subpar, and even though I don’t like Hilton’s portfolio of hotels as much as some other brands, the number of points they offer for hotel stays is industry leading.

For example, at the moment:

Members ordinarily earn 10 base points per dollar spent, plus an additional five points if they choose Points & Points as their earnings preference (which most people should be doing). When you factor in the triple base points and 5,000 bonus points, that means you’re earning 35 Hilton points per dollar spent, plus 5,000 bonus points per stay.

Then if you’re a Diamond member you earn an additional five points per dollar, and if you’re paying with a card like the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card, you’re earning an additional 10 points per dollar.

That means I’m earning a total of 50 HHonors points per dollar spent, plus 5,000 bonus points per stay.

Qualifying for promotions on award stays

One thing I wasn’t aware of is that these promotions even work on award stays, assuming you put any incidental spend on the folio. In other words, if you book an award stay through the app and put some spend on your folio that’s paid for with a Visa, you’d receive 5,000 bonus points per stay.

The one catch is that this won’t work at Hampton, Home2 Suites, and Homewood Suites, because incidental charges aren’t eligible for points accrual at those properties.

What this means in practice

On the most basic level, this means you could get a 5,000 point discount off the cost of a normal “free night” stay. For example, the DoubleTree Kuala Lumpur costs 10,000 points per night, and you could get a 5,000 point discount by putting anything on your folio while staying at the hotel.


If you live in Egypt or Turkey, this could even be an opportunity to earn Diamond for next to nothing. For example, take the Hilton Sharm Dreams Resort in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, where a free night redemption costs 5,000 points. Assuming you charged anything to your folio and stayed for one night, your stay would basically be free.


You could do that over and over until you earned Diamond status, theoretically.

I’m not saying I’d recommend doing that, but rather that it’s interesting to see how far this promotion can be taken.

While I won’t be moving to Egypt or Turkey to take advantage of this promotion, being able to earn 5,000 bonus points even on award stays may shift which hotels I stay at, and cause me to book Hiltons for one night stays.

Does being able to earn 5,000 points back on Hilton award stays change how you’ll redeem your HHonors points?

(Tip of the hat to InsideFlyer)

Regarding Comments: The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. This is why, incidentally, Hilton is much more lucrative as a points program than a lot of people give them credit for. Sure their redemption rates are higher, but you can get 5000-10,000 points a night at virtually any stay. It really makes it easy to rack up points quickly. Plus there are 4 separate credit cards to leverage

  2. You can also bounce between the DoubleTree and HGI in Queretaro, Mexico for a mattress run closer to home. (if your home is in the US)

  3. @Lucky: “The premise of the post was that even though I think Hilton HHonors elite benefits are somewhat subpar, and even though I don’t like Hilton’s portfolio of hotels as much as some other brands, the number of points they offer for hotel stays is industry leading.”

    And the basis of the premise was shown to be pure bunk. Just give it up. You want to say good things about HHonors? Just go ahead and say them without all the caveats!!! You were wrong in your evaluation of ALL the programs and the jury is now out. It is time to stop digging, i.e., get rid of the caveats when praising HHonors because the program deserves praising. Period. You have nothing left out there that you can compare HHonors to because nothing comes close to rivaling it anymore. Hyatt? WOH!? SPG? The answer just elicits a laughter. MR will be what it has always been: an overall good, mature and stable program but not as rewarding as HHonors.

    As for the rest of the post, it is essentially correct, but it also illustrates my basic point that bloggers commenting about or disparaging HHonors have no business doing it because they are clueless about the program. Anyone who knows the first thing about HHonors would have known that for all practical purposes the program makes no distinction between award and paid stays. The perk is so valuable, it made my list of top reasons why I am sticking with HHonors at this time of major changes in the hotel loyalty landscape.

    Here it is as provided in the comments section of a post over at VFTW on October 19, 2016 [see item #3 on list below; will provide a link to the original comment if anyone cares]:

    “My elite status plan now that there is ‘turmoil’ across the hotel loyalty programs landscape: stick with HHonors because it offers it all, consistently.

    The [updated] canonical list of HH perks in no particular order:

    — Ability to make elite based on (a) # of nights, (b) # of stays or (c) spend (just $12K for HHD) or # of base points. Only program that offers all three avenues for elite qualification.

    — Unlimited complimentary suite upgrades at check-in, including on award stays, with extremely high AVAILABILITY due to large footprint.

    — [THIS IS IT] Makes no difference between award and paid stays when it comes to pretty much every aspect the program, be it earning promo points, status recognition, etc.

    — Automatic and “guaranteed” upgrade to exec floor for top elites.

    — “Guaranteed” exec lounge access for top elites.

    — Free full restaurant breakfast EVEN when there is exec lounge, except in the US where AT LEAST “continental” is “guaranteed” (exec lounge or full restaurant? usually optional)

    — Award stays/nights count towards elite qualification.

    — 5th award night free!

    — Uncapped time for late checkout.

    — Best second tier elite status in the business. Period.

    — Only program with 4 different co-brand CCs that one would actually want to use to pay for stays. In addition, the program offers the ability to make top elite through AFFORDABLE CC spend on co-brand cards ($40K on HH Citi Reserve or Surpass vs $75K Chase Ritz Carlton – an all around mediocre “premium” card); and offers Gold status, best second tier in the business, by just having either of 2 co-brand cards with an annual fee.

    — Double dipping [50% bonus points on base points]

    — 1000 Diamond My Way bonus points.

    — 500 Amex co-brand cards booking bonus points.

    — Only program that offers top elites the mother of all status diffentiators: HHonors “Diamond Force.” Only truly guaranteed perk because it is automated and independent of individual properties.

    — Only program that’s consistently offered lucrative global and targeted promos over the last couple of years, WITHOUT A SINGLE PROPERTY OPTING OUT [properties in China may be beginning to opt out after the Chinese acquired significant shares in Hilton from blackstone]

    — Yuge footprint.

    — Unprecedented programmatic maturity and stability.

    — Among best managed hotel loyalty programs and parent companies.

    — Etc…etc…etc…”


  4. BTW, I am not sure what the hype is about with this visa promo, when HHonors has run several like it with AMEX (Biz Plat or their co-brands). For my FLL stays last months, these points posted. See item [4]

    — Base Points: 12058
    — 2016 HH3 DOUBLE POINTS OFFER: 12058
    — 2016 HH3 MOBILE APP OFFER: 12058
    — 50% BONUS ON BASE POINTS: 6029
    — DIAMOND VIP BONUS – 50% 2016: 6029

    Then a day later this posted:

    — AMEX 5,000 PTS ON US OFFER – Hilton Ft Lauderdale Beach Resort: 5000

    That’s two stackable AMEX promos the terms of which I do not even remember, just I do not even remember registering for either promo [I am sure that they came by email and I registered by clicking on the link in the email as I always do for promos that I am notified about by email].

    The key is to register because it is unthinkable that I would stay at a Hilton property and not spend even a penny, even on award stays, which ALWAYS count!

  5. @James K. sez: “This is why, incidentally, Hilton is much more lucrative as a points program than a lot of people give them credit for. Sure their redemption rates are higher, but you can get 5000-10,000 points a night at virtually any stay. It really makes it easy to rack up points quickly. Plus there are 4 separate credit cards to leverage”

    Right on and you provided the valid answer to the often-heard canard about how HHonors awards require a lot of points. The number of points required is meaningless without taking into account the ability to earn points, which is HUGE under the HH program. Therefore, the metric to use if one want to discuss the cost of awards meaningfully and intelligently is the “spend per free night”, which is the closest thing to an objective measure of award costs. It represents how much one must spend in real currency to afford an award night, so it is literally the cost of that award. In terms of “spend per free night”, HGP, MR and HH awards cost exactly the same [I can provide links to independent posts, including mine with glossy charts, that clearly show this]. SPG awards, especially at their “aspirational” top tier properties, were about an order of magnitude more expensive [one had to spend as much as it requires to qualify for HH Diamond, to be able to afford a single award night at a top tier Starwood property].

    The math is so trivial there is no excuse for anyone to get it wrong or be confused about it.


  6. BTW, this visa promo is good both on award and paid stays. For paid stays, if you usually pay with a co-brand HH AMEX card, make sure to do the simple math before you pay with a visa, as you might forgo of the rather significant bonus points that you could earn if you paid with an HH AMEX card.

    A HH Diamond paying a folio with the AMEX Surpass earns

    — 12HH/$ + 500 (500 points are the AMEX co-brand booking bonus).

    What is the size of the folio that would make paying with a visa a better deal? Simple. To break even:

    Breakeven-spend * 12HH/$ + 500 = 5,000

    Breakeven-spend = (5000 – 500)/12 = $375.

    So, if one registered for this visa promo and completes a REVENUE stay, one needs to compare their total eligible spend or folio for the stay to $375.

    If spend > $375, pay with the AMEX Surpass
    if spend < $375, pay with a visa
    if spend = $375, it does not matter; pay with either card.

    The breakeven spend will be higher for the no-fee HH AMEX ($642.85).

  7. LOL.

    @Stvr sez: “It doesn’t really matter if the giving is industry leading if the redeeming is so expensive.”

    That is the point that gets missed again and again and again and again! The redeeming of HH points is not any more expensive than is the redeeming of either HGP or MR points. If you want really cheap redemptions, then you should patronize IHG or Club Carlson. You should definitely stay the hell away from SPG because their top tier awards are unaffordably out of this world.

    Look at Chart 3 at the link below where modeling was done for only top elites redeeming at top tier properties of all the major programs:


    or, you can look at independent confirmation and corroboration of the same done across award charts and for both lower and top elites here:

    https://goo.gl/OssKtK .

    @Gary Leff also did to the math but he inexplicably chose not to emphasize the salient points made at the two links I just provided (may be because it went against his usual narrative since he too found SPG [r.i.p] awards — one of his and other travel bloggers’ preferred programs — to be prohibitively expensive).

    Like I said, the math is trivial.

  8. BTW, for revenue stays, one comes out head with this visa promo compared to paying with the AMEX Surpass, if one pays for the stay with the Citi HH Reserve visa, which awards 10HH/$ vs. 12HH/$ for the Surpass. The break even spend is much, much higher ($2,250), meaning that one is ahead using the Citi HH Reserve visa.

    To break even:
    spend*12HH/$ + 500 = spend*10HH/$ + 5000

    spend(12HH/$ – 10HH/$) = 5000-500 = 4500

    Spend * 2HH/$ = 4500

    Spend = 4500/2 = $2,250

    If spend > $2,250, pay with the AMEX Surpass
    if spend < $2,250, pay with a the HH Citi Reserve visa (not just any visa)
    if spend = $2,250, it does not matter; pay with either card.

    That assumes that there is no stackable AMEX promo offering 5000 or 7500 bonus HH points at the same time.

  9. People like DCS whose physical sustenance comes in the form of staying at Hilton don’t spend money on anything else- apparently. Redemption IS more expensive for the vast portion of those in these forums who do not rely solely on hotel purchases to earn points. TY, MR transfer points to Hilton at 1:1.5 vs UR transfers to Hyatt/IHG 1:1. So 30K points earned via other spending (no cat bonuses) will get me a top tier at Hyatt and 45K will get me a top tier at IHG. The same would get me 45K or 67.5K Hilton points, still short of a top tier and LAUGHABLY short of what Hilton often prices their top tiers at (95K)

  10. @Joe — It is a good and fair point. However, it is a point that needs to be kept in mind by self-anointed ‘travel gurus’ who tout their preferred programs while disparaging others that are truly lucrative for folks who can benefit from them. Yes, points that most folks earn through general credit card spend pale in comparison to points that are earned through revenue stays or miles that are earned by actually flying. It is not better or worse. It’s just the way it is. I am willing to give everyone a break if the tendency to disparage some programs while touting others based on MADE UP STANDARDS would stop and we all realize that individual circumstances vary widely, such that the miles/points game is “different strokes for different folks”…

  11. @Rich — Going away is a binary operation. If you go far far away, you will see that I too will go away, and we’ll both he happy 🙂

  12. @DCS. Get a life! I’ve seen you rant on these threads over and over but this one takes the cake. For god’s sake Lucky complimented your favorite program and you had to go on a rant about HIS personal opinion. Remember this is his blog and these are his opinions. If you want to set the tone, get your own blog.

    I’ve been a Hilton Diamond for as long as the tier has existed (since the 1990s) and either you are the most obnoxious guest in the world, begging for upgrades on arrival and late checkout for every stay or you’re lying.

    I mostly get decent rooms and occasionally get a nice upgrade and I have boatloads of points to use when I can find time to actually take a vacation. And you know what, I usually get in late at night and get up early in the morning and check out and go to work. Last time I had a Presidential Suite I walked through the living room to the bedroom, worked at the desk and went to bed. What does it matter anyway unless you’re staying a few days?

    And who gets upgraded to a suite in resorts on long trips except you? I don’t want to be the guy who begs for upgrades. It’s obnoxious and unseemly. If I want a suite, I’ll pay for it and not worry about it. And don’t tell me you don’t beg — I’ve stayed over 1500 Hilton nights. I know what you’re getting if you’re not begging or paying – decent rooms, the executive floor sometimes and the very occasional suite. So back to my point – either obnoxious or a liar.

    And to the point others have made – My second program is Marriott. They consistently treat me better as a gold than Hilton does as a diamond. But I find it easier to find a good Hilton in the places I go – the Marriotts either aren’t there or are frequently sold out when Hiltons have availability (hmm… wonder why?). So while I’m loyal to HIlton I know what I’m getting and I don’t apologize for their warts, which are many and have gotten substantially worse since they went private.

    So, DCS, go start your own blog and leave us alone or you can keep driving traffic to Lucky’s site and he can laugh all the way to the bank.

    And this is all I have to say in this thread.

  13. @AD — You are either an impostor claiming to be a HHonnors aficionado or someone who does not play the miles point game with a “full deck”. Either way, your “experience” is of little value without any proof to back up any claims that you make.

    FWI, I do not beg for upgrades because “begging” is not in HHonors T&C, which simply say that I will be upgraded to a suite if there is availability. All I simply do is to ask point-blank if a suite is available, unless it’s a stay a higher-end properties like Conrad Hong Kong or Waldorf Astoria Beijing or Shanghai, where get upgraded without asking., Or at the iconic Rome Cavalieri, where I scored a DOUBLE upgrade to a Corner Suite just this past week, with full Imperial Floor privileges (free full breakfast at a W=A in the West!)

    I do not need to start my own blog any more than I would ask you or anyone else expressing their views in a PUBLIC forum to start their own — something that neither @Lucky nor @Gary Leff, the hosts of the blogs I frequent regularly, would do because, unlike you, they know how the medium works. Dissenting opinions are not verboten!

    Unless you have something specific you’d like for me to address (I mean something substantive with facts and figures and not your opinion), we’re done here.

    …BTW, are you a double imposter, i.e., a poster masquerading as another? Either way, unless you show evidence that there is an intelligent life form behind the screed, we’re done.


  14. DCS in all his glory. Lonely and can’t enjoy his Italian vacation so comes here to rant and rave and do Hilton point calculations nobody asked for and absolutely nobody cares about.

    Just a sad, sad individual.

    @AD – there is no shortage of examples he’s posted himself where he most definitely harassed the FDC to get a better room. “Full deck” indeed.

  15. In my opinion these promotions won´t work on award stays, because an award is not considered as a eligible stay by Hilton. Therefore you don´t get 5.000 points.
    “If at least one night of the Member’s stay is a reward stay booked with HHonors Points, the entire stay is considered a “Reward Stay” and no HHonors Points may be earned, except that if Member is using Room Upgrade Rewards, any money spent on the original reservation will earn points and/or miles consistent with these Terms.”

    Also the money spent on the room rate portion of Points & Money Rewards will not be considered an eligible folio charge for which points will be issued.

  16. Sorry dude, but nobody here believes you, DCS. As AD noted, you are either obnoxious, or a liar. Nobody anywhere gets free upgrades all the time no matter what. It goes against probability. Your claim of unlimited upgrades ignores the rules of availability and the differences in personalities behind the front desk (plenty of service reps get off on denying things). I’ve stayed in many Hyatts and many Hiltons as platinum/Diamond and gold/Diamond, and I’ve been given comp upgrades and denied comp upgrades under all 4 iterations.
    Based on your history here, I think it’s more likely to be the obnoxious side. Even then your claim just doesn’t sound probable unless you are actively ensuring suite availability before check-in. (Hence, if you ever were to be denied or there plain was no availability, you wouldn’t complete the stay so that your claim would still be valid)

    Different strokes indeed. Lucky’s “disparaging” (if you can even call it that) of Hilton is based on his experience and what benefits him. The fact that he is prolific in the industry is most likely what grinds your gears, since he can influence people in one direction. It doesn’t change the fact that it is his opinion- but you argue like his opinion is being stated as fact.

  17. Frustrates the hell outta me that my company forces me to book travel via our corporate travel site using a company Diner’s Club MC. I end up with probably a third of the additional potential loyalty points I could get, as explained in this post. Grrr.

  18. @Joe — Usual nonsense. When they cannot address the razor-sharp, incisive and fact-based comments, they resort to puerile ad hominems.

    I do not care whether anyone in this virtual “lion’s den” that sings the same tune and worships at the altar of the same mediocre programs believes me, when his/her expectations have been shaped by MADE UP standards! But would you, at least, believe your own lying eyes if I showed you what 100% suite upgrades success rate looks like, along with a little accompanying narrative? Check out the link in the next post

    I cannot help it if people either do not know how to take full advantage of their status or they simply have no clue how to play the game with a “full deck”!

  19. @Roland sez: “n my opinion these promotions won´t work on award stays, because an award is not considered as a eligible stay by Hilton. Therefore you don´t get 5.000 points.”

    Wrong!!! All HHonors stays, booked through their website or app are “eligible stays” for promos, be they paid, cash only or cash+points stays. They earn promo points (often with no spend required, but simply for completing, say, 2 nights during a promo period). It’s one of the many features that people do not get about HHonors because they have been brainwashed into believing that mediocre programs that offer no such flexibility are “best in the business!”

    It has been true, like forever, that HHonors makes no distinction between award and paid stays (maybe because hotels do get reimbursed cash for award stays?) when it comes to earning promo points, status recognition, etc, and I can illustrate it starkly.

    Last year, I redeemed points for AWARD stays at Waldorf Astoria Beijing and Conrad Koh Samui. Although they were AWARD stays, I raked in points because there were stackable promos specific for WA and Conrad running at the time:

    WA Beijing 3-night award stay:

    *** Total earned: 27,150

    — Base Points: 5051 (== $505.1 on incidentals)

    Promos at the time:
    — LRM 2K POINTS OFFER: 6000
    — 2015 TRIPLE YOUR TRIP OFFER: 5049
    — LRM 5K POINTS OFFER: 5000
    — Plus the usual Diamond bonus I earn on every stay

    Conrad Koh Samui 5-night award stay:

    ***Total earned: 23,544

    — Base Points: 2096 (== $209.60 in incidentals)

    Promos at the time:
    — LRM 2K POINTS OFFER: 10000
    — LRM 5K POINTS OFFER: 5000
    — 2015 TRIPLE YOUR TRIP OFFER: 3352
    — Plus the usual Diamond bonus I earn on every stay

    See? The LRM 2K/5K promos were specific for WA and Conrad and I did not need to spend a penny to earn the associated promo points because they were not tied to any spend (the TRIPLE YOUR TRIP OFFER required spend, which were my incidentals). One simply had to stay 2 nights (revenue, points-only (like I did) or cash+points). The LRM 2K promo awarded 2K points/night, so I got 10K points for a 5-night AWARD stay, even if THE 5th AWARD NIGHT WAS FREE!!!

    I also had a stay at Conrad Hong Kong during the same trip (and 3 award nights at Hilton Shanghai), which also earned me loads of points, and that was after I depleted nearly 1M HH points for award stays in N and SE Asia.

    Any questions?

  20. @DCS… first…breathe!

    Next, go start a blog! Seriously, you’ve written far more in the comments section than Ben did in the article. I always welcome dissenting opinions and I’m sure I’m not alone on that — so set up a place where we can see what your thoughts are!

  21. @AlexS — Is there anything in my posts that you’d like to address? Or do you wish to reconcile the statements where you at once “welcome dissenting opinions” and and then ask me to “go start a blog!”?

    My thoughts are all over travel blogosphere. In DCS’ comment on November 20, 2016 at 3:44 pm there is a link to my thoughts on and demonstration of “Loyalty Math.” In DCS on November 20, 2016 at 11:27 pm there is a link to my demonstration of and thoughts about how one can get complimentary suite upgrades galore. If you want more, just search for “UA MileagePlus and the Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa: The Loyalty Game’s One-Stop Shop” and you will go to where I raised it just a notch above your garden variety blogposts.


  22. @DCS is correct on many points. Just got back from a points stay in Singapore & 2 locations in Thailand. Redeemed hhonors for 2 of the stays & MR for the third. MR rewards are a joke! No benefit at resorts?!? Ummm what’s the point?? OTH we stacked the double bonus + diamond 50% & my way benefits for quite a few points on amenities for the points stays. The hh properties in SE Asia are top notch & significantly better than other chains. They’ve gotten my vote & stays for the past 10yrs. With DH spg plat there are some good properties, but difficult to redeem & other issues…& now that they are part of MR – forget it – they will take a nose dive.

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