I'm sure some of this is old hat to many MP's but I have had so many questions from friends recently about the HHonors program that I decided to put together a primer. This grew into a blog post and I thought I could share it here in case it is of any help. I would welcome additions and suggestions about what I did not cover. Jason --------------------------------------- As a regular Hilton guest, I sometimes take for granted how the program works and how to maximize my points. In posts about my hotel stays, I often make reference to different aspects of their program and how I earned points through various bonuses, spends, etc. But, the reality is that I continue to learn new aspects of the program and have only recently taken advantage of points earning opportunities that I have missed for a long time. So, it should not surprise me when one of my friends asks me about the program and I find out they are missing out on lots of points. While there are occasional posts about Hilton on some of the popular points and miles blogs, it doesn’t tend to get as much attention as programs such as Starwood’s Preferred Guest program or the Hyatt Gold Passport program. For this reason, I have put this post together to walk you through some of the basics of the program and examples of point earning opportunities. Program Basics HiltonHonors is like every other frequent traveler program – it’s free, you can manage it on-line, and, even if you are only an occasional traveler, you will eventually earn some perks. If you don’t have an account, you go to www.hhonors.com and click on the “Join HHonors” button to register. Once this is complete, you will immediately be assigned a HHonors number and pin and will receive a confirmation email from them. The first thing you will want to do is set up your profile and sign up for notices of special promotions and bonus opportunities. I can’t stress this enough. Hilton is constantly running promotions and I have talked to far too many friends who are staying at their properties and missing out on thousands of points. I will give you some examples later in this post. Earning Miles The most basic way to earn points is to stay at their properties. For every eligible dollar of spend on your hotel room (excluding things such as taxes, valet parking, and gift shop purchases), you will earn 10 HHonors points. You will also have to make a decision about your earnings preference with Hilton’s “Double Dip” program. You can earn hotel points or a combination of points and air miles with partner airline companies. For many years, my selection was HHonors points plus Delta Skymiles until I realized I was earning so many Skymiles through my flights and my Delta Platinum Skymiles AMEX, that I really needed the hotel points more. If you choose to earn only hotel points, you will earn a 50% bonus on your base points every stay. For example, you have a two night stay with eligible folio charges of $257. You will earn 2,570 base points plus a 50% “Double Dip” bonus of 1,285 points. Membership Levels and Bonus Points You win you first join the HHonors program, you will have a “Blue” level membership. However, as you stay at Hilton properties you have the opportunity to earn status that provdes bonus points with each stay and other benefits. The elite levels, their qualification requirements, and their bonus earning rate are: Silver – 4 stays or 10 nights in a calendar year – 15% bonus points Gold – 16 stays or 36 nights or 60,000 base points in calendar year – 25% bonus points Diamond – 28 stays or 60 nights or 100,000 base points in calendar year – 50% bonus points For example, if I had Gold status and earned 2,570 base points (as we used in the previous example), I would earn a bonus of 642 points. This would be in addition to the 50% bonus if I have selected “Points and Points” as my reward preference. Diamond members also receive bonus points (in addition to the 50% on base points) as part of their on-property benefits. It varies by hotel chain as follows: Waldorf-Astoria - up to 2,000 points based on your selection of benefits Hilton, Conrad, Doubletree - 1,000 points Hilton Garden Inn - 750 points Hampton, Homewood Suites - 250 points It is possible to achieve elite status through other qualification criteria such as a status challenge from another hotel program, use of specific credit cards, etc. We will cover that aspect of the program in a future post. Hilton and Partner Promotions Hilton regularly runs special promotions that might apply to specific properties, certain time frames, or use of certain programs. This is why it is critical to sign-up for email alerts of these deals. Once you receive an email, it will give you a link to register for the promotion. Once you register, every eligible stay for the promo will automatically receive credit. To illustrate, I will give you some current examples of promotions that Hilton has run during the first quarter of 2012 that have earned me thousands of extra miles. More Points Promo – This is Hilton’s primary promotion during Q1. For every night stayed in a Hilton property, you will receive 1,000 bonus points. In addition, for every 2 night, weekend stay, you will receive an additional 5,000 points. So, a two night weekend stay would earn your base points, your 50% “Points and Points” bonus, 1,000 points for each of the two nights, and 5,000 weekend bonus points. Facebook 24 Hr. Promo – Back in January, there was a 24 hour bonus event where a weekend stay at an advance purchase rate could earn an additional 2,500 points when enrolled via Hilton’s Facebook page. Up to four different stays could be enrolled for a maximum bonus opportunity of 10,000 points. Delta 2,012 Bonus - With this promo, register and then receive 2,012 Delta Skymiles for every two night stay at a Hilton property during the promo period. This bonus is earned even if you have selected “Points and Points” as your earning style as long as Delta is in your profile as your preferred air partner. Visa Card Text Bonus – In this deal, you simply registered your mobile phone and Visa card agreeing to receive up to 2 promotional texts a week and you earned 1,000 points upon registration and another 4,000 points after spending $100 at a Hilton property on the enrolled Visa. Plus, you could opt out at any point. Get Points Back Promo – After registering, you can receive a 30% point rebate for any award bookings made within the specified period. I had booked some awards totalling 60,000 HHonors points, so I enrolled in this promo, rebooked the award stays, and cancelled the original bookings. After my stay is complete, I will get 18,000 of those HHonors points back into my account. You probably get the point – there are thousands upon thousands of bonus points available and all you have to do is register your HHonors number once for each promo. Earning Points on Multiple Rooms If you have occassion to book multiple rooms, you have the opportunity to increase your HHonors earnings. The program allows you to earn base points for eligible charges for up to two rooms provided that you are staying in one of them. However, you cannot simply put your HHonors number on the second room and expect to get credit. Instead, the charges from the second room have to be transferred to your room and paid under that folio. You may have to be very specific with the front desk clerk or, if necessary, the manager on duty as they sometimes do not understand this process. Since any bonus points are calculated from your base points, the additional points from your second room can dramatically increase your earnings total as it will affect almost every bonus. HHonors Affiliate Credit Cards There are a few credit cards that are affiliated with the HHonors program and provide additional bonus opportunites. Here is an area where I have missed the boat for many years and just recently realized the opportunity to be smarter about how I pay for my stays. For U.S. residents, there are three cards to choose from – two from American Express and one from Citibank. In addition to earning HHonors points for spending with these cards, they often offer bonus points oppportunities. Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express This card earns 9 HHonors points for every dollar spent at Hilton properties, 6 points per dollar in certain catergories such as grocery, gas stations, wireless phone, drugstores, and a few others, and 3 points for all other purchases. You can achieve HHonors Gold status with an annual spend of $20k or Diamond status with an annual spend of $40k. Earn 500 HHonors bonus points everytime you book a reservation on-line with this card. Recent bonuses included 40,000 points for signing up for the card, 20,000 points for $3k in spending in first 3 months, and 20,000 points for referring another person who gets approved for this card. The annual fee for this card is $75. Hilton HHonors Card from American Express This card is very similar to the Surpass card above but earns points at a slightly lower rate in exchange for no annual fee. This card earns 6 HHonors points for every dollar spent at Hilton properties and the same earnings rates as the Surpass card on all other categories. Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card from Citibank This card earns points at the same rate as the non-Surpass AMEX card. You automatically earn HHonors Silver status. There is no annual fee. Like the American Express cards, Citibank offers bonus points. Recently, they offered 40,000 points for $1k in spend in first four months. Other Earning Opportunities Like many frequent traveler programs, Hilton has established affiliate programs with a wide range of partners from major rental car companies to dining programs to FTD to Amtrak. While you are not likely to earn major points through these programs, they are worth knowing about and can be found on this page at the HHonors web site. This should give you a good overview of how you go about earning points. For an example of how this all comes together, check out my recent post about how I earned over 16,000 HHonors points for a $212, two night stay. In upcoming posts, we will look at Elite Status benefits and maximizing award redemptions.