Since my first trip to Paris, when my husband and I used frequent-flier miles to fly free, I’ve been hooked on loyalty rewards. Initially, I earned them through frequent-flier miles, or hotel stays that I made as a corporate traveler. Then, I discovered I could earn even more points through credit card purchases. While I have had different ones over the years, I’ve settled into using the Hilton Honors American Express. I find that the largest travel expense I have are the hotels, so I opted for a hotel card over an airline card.
Hilton Honors has four status levels: Member, Silver, Gold, and Diamond. Higher levels receive more rewards. Hilton bases your level on the number of nights you stay each year in their properties unless you have a Hilton Honors American Express Card. Then you can earn points that will increase your status level by making purchases on your card.
I have the basic blue American Express, where American Express doesn’t charge you to have the card, but you do pay interest on unpaid balances. However, they have other cards with annual fees and higher benefits. This article will focus on the Hilton Honors American Express card without yearly fees.
While there are many ways to earn and use Hilton Honors points, here are some hints and tips on how I most often earn points and spend them with my Hilton Honors American Express Card.
The Hilton Honors American Express Card Automatically Provides Silver Status
Silver status gives you a 20 percent bonus on Hilton Honors Base Points earned from your Hilton Honors stay. The more points you earn, the more your status increases, and the higher your status, the more points you earn. With Gold Status, you receive an 80 percent bonus on Hilton Honor Base Points, and with Diamond Status, you make 100 percent more.
When you spend $20,000 on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn Hilton Honors Gold status through the following calendar year. Note that eligible purchases don’t include items you’ve returned or credits you’ve received. Also, this doesn’t include interest charges and buying cash equivalents like purchasing a prepaid credit card.
That said, with each increasing level, you receive additional benefits.
Maximize Your Earnings With Bonus Points
Different types of purchases receive different bonus point multipliers. For example, when you charge at a Hilton hotel or resort, you can earn 7 times Hilton Bonus Points for every dollar you spend on your American Express.
Pro Tip: To maximize this, if you eat in the hotel restaurant and charge it to your room, you will have more points than if you used the card to pay for the meal directly to your American Express.
When purchasing at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations within the United States, you’ll earn 5 times the bonus points and 3 times the points on the rest of what you purchase.
Take Advantage Of The 48-Hour Room Guarantee
In a conversation with my husband, he mentioned that he wanted to stay in a hotel after the big game. I agreed and delegated the reservations to him. A few hours later, he informed me that there were no rooms to be had anywhere. I couldn’t believe it and decided to check myself, as I have more experience dealing with reservations.
When I called after providing my loyalty number, the reservation assistant asked which brand I preferred. I said, “Since there’s a big game, wherever you have availability.” After being offered several choices, I made a reservation and was all set for the big game weekend. I asked why I could get a reservation, and my husband couldn’t. They explained that as a Diamond-level member, I received a room via the 48-hour guarantee.
Since it was 48 hours in advance, Diamond members had priority over other members for reservations. This is a valuable benefit — but be aware there are some restrictions on it.
When One Night Isn’t Available, They May Still Have Two Nights Available
When you request to reserve a room for one night and are told there aren’t any rooms available, it may mean they don’t have any reservations for only one night. Ask if they have two nights open. Although I know it’s counter-intuitive that if they don’t have one night available, they might have two, this is sometimes the case. Just ask. This works even if you aren’t using loyalty points.
Stay In The Same Hotel For Five Nights
Beginning with the Silver tier, you only pay for four nights with your points and get the fifth night free when you book using points. So, for the most return, use your points when staying in the same hotel for five or more consecutive nights.
For example, if you’re road tripping and staying only one night in one hotel before moving to the next, it’s better to earn points and spend the points on hotels where you’ll stay at least five nights.
Save On Resort Fees
Hotels often add resort fees onto their published rates. While resort fees vary, this can quickly add up to $25 to $50 more per night than the published room rate. However, Hilton doesn’t charge the resort fees when you pay for your stay with 100 percent reward points. So, your visit is completely free.
Save On Foreign Transaction Fees
International transaction fees, also known as foreign transaction fees, are fees charged when you travel overseas and make a purchase or process a transaction that uses an overseas bank. These fees typically occur on every purchase and are approximately 3 percent of your purchase.
As a frequent traveler, I soon learned that foreign transaction fees are costly. Hilton Honors American Express doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees when you buy something outside the United States on your card. But be aware, you may find that a particular merchant or ATM will still have a fee.
Run All Your Expenses Through American Express To Achieve Maximum Points
Take stock of how you are currently paying your bills. Are you using a check or debit card? Are you using an electronic funds transfer (EFT)? Consider switching to pay for everything on your American Express Card. I pay my rent, cable TV, mobile phone, electricity, and groceries, to name a few, with my American Express Card.
I pay for everything I can with my card and then pay the outstanding balance weekly. Of course, I could choose to do so once a month and keep my money longer, but I can control things better weekly rather than monthly.
Be Aware Of Your Other Credit Card’s Status
Having a backup credit card is a good safety net if you’re traveling and you experience fraud or lose a card. So, while I’ve been using my Hilton Honors card to rack up thousands of free points and funnel all my purchases to it, I recently found some of my other cards have gone into inactive status.
For example, when my backup Visa card expired, I didn’t receive a new one. When I called to inquire why, I discovered I hadn’t used it in over three years, and it had become inactive. Since not every establishment takes American Express, especially in Europe, I find it necessary to have points-earning cards other than American Express. So don’t be surprised. And keep track of your backup card’s active status.
Pay Off Your Balance Monthly
Finally, an essential tip is to pay off your total balance monthly. The Hilton Honors card works for me because I am careful to pay off my balance in full each month. If you don’t, the interest rates make this an undesirable deal. If you have a card without an annual fee, the card company makes money through interest paid on unpaid balances. So be sure to pay your monthly balance on time or early to avoid interest to make earning points on the Hilton Honors card economical.
Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.