This post has been thoroughly updated. Look for the red font. When you see it — it means BAD.
Hilton has stealthily raised redemption levels on most of its Category 1-2 hotels. Sometimes you still have decent values despite the rate hike, but in many cases, these sweet spots are gone. We can lament about the hotel programs insatiable appetites for squeezing every cent out of their members points, but this is where we’ve been going for quite a while. At least airline programs (most of them) have some common sense and keep the base redemption levels (25,000 miles domestically) unchanged for decades. It’s important to them to show customers that it’s realistic to get value for their miles.
Hotels, it seems, doesn’t feel this way anymore, and it’s Hilton that leads the charge.
In my previous post, I enlightened bored you with some suggestions on how to use the $250 Hilton Resort annual credit from the Amex Hilton Aspire card. My point was that if you are not allergic to traveling to places other than prime destinations, you can find some great values despite the $450 annual fee.
To reiterate something that I’ve said before, Hilton Honors is a severely devalued program, but that’s true about most hotel programs, nowadays. The important things to understand are these:
- What are Hilton Honors points worth today?
- And how do you derive good values from the program that’s gotten so bad it’s even kind of funny?
As a reminder, you can get $100,000 points with the Amex Hilton Aspire card plus another 100,000 points from the Amex Hilton Business card, and by the time you’ve met your spending requirement you will bank at least 221,000 points (3x is the minimum earning with either card, and you will need to spend $4,000 on the Aspire and $3,000 on the business card in the first 3 months to get the bonus).
Of course, if you’ve never had an Amex Hilton card, you can apply for more cards; see here.
It’s my strong opinion that the best values from the Hilton Honors program are either in the cheapest or the most expensive properties. Which is why I’ve mostly focused on the 5,000 and 10,000-point hotels (former Categories 1 and 2) and the most expensive hotels (former Categories 9 and 10). Think I’m way off? Good! What are Hilton Honors points worth to you? Please share in the comments.
Keep in mind:
I’m looking for hotels in more or less interesting places (not just at cheap ones).
Although there are exceptions, most of the bargain-priced hotels are not in central areas and can be located in business parks or remote places.
In some cases, you can build your whole trip around them (e.g. Russia, Poland, Malaysia).
However you value Hilton points (I value them at around 0.5 cents), make sure that the cash price including tax is not cheaper than redeeming points, otherwise pay cash. Also look into other hotels or even vacation rentals – remember that loyal members come last.
The Hilton point-redemption prices are fluid, so please don’t yell if your own findings are different.
- I used this Google map for finding cheap Hilton properties (it’s outdated, incomplete, and needs to be verified with Hilton, but it gives you a general idea).
The cheapest Hilton Honors redemptions
Merida in the Yucatán Peninsula is not as well-known as Cancun and Riviera Maya, but it’s a safe, lovely city with great colonial architecture, festivals, museums, and Mayan ruins; and beaches and cenotes (swimming holes) are just a short ride away. Merida is definitely on my list, and I expect to like it better than Cancun. That and a couple of 5,000-point hotels don’t hurt, either. The cash rate for either property is usually around $70-$80 before taxes.
- Hampton Inn by Hilton Merida 5K per night
- Hilton Garden Inn Merida 5K per night UPDATED 9.30.18: 10K
Guadalajara is a very interesting city too, with a beautiful historic center, totally worth visiting, from what I’ve heard.
- Hampton Inn by Hilton Guadalajara/Expo 10K per night
- Hilton Guadalajara 16-30K
Seems to be a well-reviewed hotel, probably worth 16,000 a night if you can find the lower-priced dates that work for you.
Do you know Mexico well? Hilton has a lot of cheap (5K-10K) hotels in Mexico. Check out this page to explore the country and build your own itinerary around Hilton hotels.
The thing about Panama City is that hotels are relatively cheap. I’ve stayed in Panama City at 5-star hotels for only about $100 on at least a couple of occasions. However, for 10K points a night, each of these two hotels can fit the bill, especially with free breakfast.
- Hilton Garden Inn Panama 10K per night
- Hampton by Hilton Panama 10K per night
Bogotá and Medellin
I’m planning a trip to Colombia, and researching my options. This Bogota Hampton looks pretty nice, but Usaquén is far away from the central district of Candelaria where most of the touristy activities are. On the other hand, I hear the cabs and Uber are dirt-cheap there. As to the Medellin Hampton, it’s located in El Poblado — the most exclusive neighborhood in the city.
- Hampton by Hilton Bogotá – Usaquén 10K per night
- Hampton by Hilton Medellin 16K–20K per night
To explore other cheap Hilton hotels in Colombia check this page.
I’ve heard some great things about Belo Horizonte during my travels to Brazil, but one thing that stood out for me is the Inhotim Contemporary Art and Botanical Garden. It’s about 1-hour ride from Belo Horizonte, but I was told it’s a truly unique place that needs to be visited. No beaches in Belo, but there are beaches in nearby Vila Velha.
- Hilton Garden Inn Belo Horizonte 5K per night
Newcastle: any city that dates back to the Romans, has ruins near a metro station, and has a Hilton hotel for 10,000 points a night is worth a visit, IMHO. That, and Grey Street is (reportedly) one of the most beautiful streets in the world.
- Hampton by Hilton Newcastle 10K per night: UPDATED 9.30.18 — 18K to 20K
There are many low-cost Hilton hotels in Poland, and you can build a whole country trip around them. Kraków is probably the most beautiful city in Poland. A lot of people like it better than the capital, Warsaw, although since you most probably arrive in Warsaw, you might want to spend 2-3 days there anyway.
- DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel & Conference Centre Warsaw: 16K to 30K per night
- Hampton by Hilton Warsaw City Centre 14K to 20K per night
- Krakov Hampton Inn 10K per night
Gdansk on the Baltic sea is a great city to visit, and it has a few decent beaches too, if you travel in the summer. There is a regular Hilton in Gdansk for 25,000 points, but this Hampton has an added benefit of being located between Gdansk and the seaside resort of Sopot.
Hampton by Hilton Gdansk Oliwa 11K to 20K per night
Speaking of beaches, Swinoujscie is another historic Baltic Sea city and a seaside resort in the Northwest of Poland.
Hampton by Hilton Swinoujscie 15K UPDATED 9.30.18: 11K to 15K (summer)
Oswiecim was a small sleepy town, and it would’ve probably remained small and sleepy if the Nazis didn’t rename it into Auschwitz and built a death camp next to it. The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum is 7 minutes away from Hampton by Hilton Oswiecim. The hotel is in the process of joining the Hilton brand and takes reservations starting August 6.
Hampton by Hilton Oswiecim mostly 12K per night UPDATED 9.30.18: 13K to 20 K
The following cities are not very touristy from what I understand, but travel guides indicate they have enough attractions to keep you busy for a couple of days.
- DoubleTree Lodz: 14K to 20K per night
- Hampton Lublin: 12K to 16 K per night
- Hilton Garden Inn Rzeszow 5K per night UPDATED 9.30.18: 10K
Here is the Polish Hilton page.
None of these are in major cities, but all of these cities appear to be touristy enough, and besides, they are in the region of Transylvania, famous for… its historic medieval cities and natural beauty of the surrounding areas. And Sighisoara old town is a UNESCO heritage site.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Sighisoara – Cavale 5K per night UPDATED 9.30.18: 10K
Hilton Sibiu 10K per night UPDATED 9.30.18: 20K
Hampton by Hilton Cluj-Napoca 10K per night UPDATED 9.30.18: 18K to 20K
Lasi, on the border with Moldova, is the biggest city in Romania, yet it’s a university city with Bohemian atmosphere, churches, monasteries, and palaces, and the nightlife is great, too.
Hampton by Hilton Iasi 5K per night UPDATED 9.30.18: 10K
Hilton also has 4 hotels in Bucharest ranging from 20K to 36K points a night, but it seems to me that cash rates are low enough and wouldn’t make it a viable redemption. Check the Hilton “Romanian” page and see for yourself.
Prague it isn’t, but Bratislava has churches, castles, ruins, and a cobbled-street, pedestrian-owned old town with plenty of cafes and bars to refuel. And it’s located on the Danube River, which offers options for sightseeing and leisurely cruises. If that’s not enough, Bratislava is a one-hour train ride from the center of Vienna and about 2.5 hours from Budapest. Don’t know how anyone can go wrong.
- DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Bratislava 10K per night
A 25-minute ride to central Vienna on a free hotel shuttle. ’Nuff said.
- Hilton Garden Inn Vienna South 10K per night
Jerry Seinfeld put Minsk on the map in a fictional movie/musical Rochelle, Rochelle back in the 90s. Remember?
Well, now that U.S. citizens can have a visa-free stay for up to 5 days in the last European dictatorship, you can see for yourself what Minsk is all about. It is, actually, quite a nice city; not big or very touristy, but it’s green, very pleasant, and exceptionally clean. I probably wouldn’t fly all the way to Europe to visit Minsk, but if you are exploring Russia, Ukraine, Eastern Europe, and/or the Baltic states, you might enjoy a short Minsk stay as well (go in the summer).
- Hampton by Hilton Minsk City Centre 10K per night UPDATED 9.30.18: 17K to 20K
Russia is easy to explore for 2 reasons. First, S7 Airlines, a oneworld member, will take you from almost anywhere to almost anywhere in Russia for 10,000 AA miles in economy and 17,500 miles in business (don’t expect flat beds, though). Seriously, considering the vast distances in Russia, it’s hard to find a better bargain. And for shorter flights, use British miles starting at 4,500 Avios.
And second, Hilton has a lot of low-cost hotels in Russia. I’m going to cover 4 cities, but you must consider hitting more if you have some serious go-time on your hands.
- Hampton by Hilton Moscow Strogino 10K per night (1 hour to Red Square) UPDATED 9.30.18: 15K to 28K
- Hilton Garden Inn Moscow Krasnoselskaya 14-20K per night (30 minutes to Red Square): UPDATED 9.30.18: 15K to 26K
- DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Moscow – Marina from 21K per night, mostly 25-30K (50 minutes to Red Square): UPDATED 9.30.18 20K to 48K
- Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya – from 19K per night, but can go up to 60K (20 minutes to Red Square) UPDATED 9.30.18: 24K to 49K
Garden Inn Krasnoselskaya is the 2nd closest hotel to the center of Moscow; I would consider staying there if you can’t find a room at Leningradskaya.
- Hampton by Hilton Saint Petersburg ExpoForum 16K-20K per night
- Hilton Saint Petersburg ExpoForum: 16K-40K per night
I’ve been asked time and again which is more interesting, Moscow or Saint Petersburg. I always say neither, because I don’t know how to answer that question. Imagine 2 world-class cities that couldn’t be more different from one another — how do you really answer that?
Unfortunately, the only cheap Hilton hotels that claim to be located in Peter (as Russians call it) are really outside the city limits. And honestly, I wouldn’t recommend staying there at all, if they didn’t provide a free shuttle to the center of the city (Mayakovskaya metro station). The journey takes about 25 minutes without traffic.
Still, you’d be much better off using Club Carlson points at Park Inn Pribaltiyskaya or Park Inn Pulkovskaya at 15,000 points each. They are closer to the center, and Club Carlson’s points are worth even less than Hilton’s, anyway.
In any case, whether you’re staying at Hilton or not, don’t fly all the way down to Russia and skip St. Petersburg. It’s only a 1.5-hour flight or 5-hour train ride from Moscow.
Kazan, the capital of the Russian republic of Tatarstan, is over 1,000 years old, and it’s big and historic. If you have time to explore Russia, don’t miss this jewel. You might want to consider a longer stay, perhaps about 5 days or so.
- DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Kazan City Center 10K per night UPDATED 9.30.18: 14K to 17K
Yekaterinburg is also worth visiting. This Ural city is “only” 400 years old, but offers a lot to see and do whatever you’re interested in, be it art, museums, history, architecture, or the outdoors.
- DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Yekaterinburg City Centre 14-23K
UPDATED 9.30.18: The hotel has changed hands (now 4 Elements)
Hilton has so many low-priced hotels in Russia that you might want to check Hilton “Russian” site and see if there are some other places you’d like to visit. Here is a list of 5K-10K properties to give you an idea.
UPDATED 9.30.18: The ones in RED cost more
- Hampton by Hilton Nizhny Novgorod
- Hampton by Hilton Samara 10K
- Hampton by Hilton Ufa 5K
- Hilton Garden Inn Ufa Riverside 10K
- Hilton Garden Inn Ulyanovsk 10K
- Hilton Garden Inn Volgograd
- The sweet spots in the Americas (Merida, Guadalajara, Panama City, Bogota, Medellin, and Belo Horizonte remain untouched for now.
- Ditto for Bratislava and Vienna.
- Poland is a mixed bag, but mostly OK.
- Prices in Romania have doubled.
- Prices in Russia have mostly increased
So, what are Hilton Honors points worth to you now? 50 cents? 40 cents? 25 cents? $1? Have you stayed at any of these hotels or cities? Share with the class.
- Merida by d_hatch
- Bogota by Pichiko
- Newcastle by: Tony Hisgett
- Swinoujscie by: Specjal b CC BY 2.5
- Sighisoara by: Andrei-Daniel Nicolae
- Moscow by: kishjar?
- Saint Petersburg by: Ninara