Not that long ago, Hilton Honors decided that published award charts were a thing of the past. Thankfully, the program uses one on the back end to price awards, meaning that the points price is not simply tied directly to the cash price on any given night. But still, it’s hard to plan an award trip without knowing how many points a room will cost.
Fortunately, Hilton’s Points Explorer tool debuted in February 2019. With the increased Hilton card bonuses, we did some tests to see just how useful this tool might be as you sit down to plan out your next adventure.
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Before the Points Explorer tool was introduced, all we knew for sure was that standard award nights could range from 5,000 to 95,000 points per night, depending on the property (or 150,000 at this resort). This tool can help make it much easier to plan an award stay and figure out how many points you should save up for it.
What Can the Hilton Points Explorer Tool Do?
The Points Explorer tool shows a historic range of the number of points needed for an award at a specific hotel. It doesn’t show what’s available right now or in the future. To see actual pricing, you still need to go to Hilton.com and search specific dates. You can also use the Flexible Dates check box to get an idea of the redemption costs on different nights of the year.
But, seeing the lowest and highest number of points that Hilton Honors members have paid for a given hotel during a recent time period can be useful. When you use the tool, you will see something like this:
Lowest Points per night that our members have booked at this hotel as of June 12, 2020. Current Points per night may vary. Maximum Points per night for a Standard Room as of June 12, 2020. Subject to change.
Related: Choosing the best Hilton credit card for you
How Does It Work?
Visit the Points Explorer page and begin your search. You can research a specific property or see what’s available in an entire city.
You can also filter by hotel brands.
You can quickly see the minimum and maximum award rates Hilton members have paid at various hotels during the prescribed time frame.
How Accurate Is the Point Explorer tool?
The Points Explorer tool shows you what award rates other Hilton Honors members have booked at hotels. It doesn’t mean you can book an award at the lowest rate you see. Sometimes rooms aren’t available at the lowest award rate currently, but other times, you can find rooms for fewer points than the minimum listed on the Points Explorer tool.
Here’s what I learned when searching four different properties in both the Points Explorer tool and at Hilton.com. (At Hilton.com, I checked nearly 12 months of availability at each hotel on my list.)
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
I started by searching in the Maldives, where Hilton has three properties: The Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi, SAii Lagoon Maldives and the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. The minimum and maximum rate at the Conrad was 95,000 points per night, which is accurate.
I checked almost 12 months of availability for the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island at Hilton.com. I didn’t find one date that was bookable for less than 95,000 points.
Related: Where to Stay in the Maldives Using Points and Miles
Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando – Lake Buena Vista Resort
This is a super-popular option for families in Orlando. It’s got an on-site pool, a free shuttle to Disney World and complimentary evening reception open to all guests.
When I searched Hilton.com, I found I could book this property for fewer points a night than what was listed at the Points Explorer tool.
I found dates in September going for 21,000 points per night. That’s not a huge difference from the 24,000 point minimum listed. But if your family stayed at the hotel for four nights at 21,000 points per night instead of 24,000, you’d save 12,000 Hilton Honors points.
And, of course, Hilton Honors elites get the fifth night free on award stays, so if you could book this hotel at 21,000 points per night, you’d actually pay 84,000 points for five nights instead of four. That brings the average per-night redemption rate to 16,800 points.
That said, your rate will vary depending on when you’re traveling.
Canopy by Hilton Washington DC The Wharf
Next up was the Canopy by Hilton Washington DC The Wharf, where rates range from 45,000-80,000 Hilton points per night.
In this case, the current points range at Hilton.com differed greatly from what was listed on Points Explorer. When searching Hilton.com, I found much cheaper rates: as low as 25,000 Hilton points per night in February.
Doubletree Highline Vail
Next up was ski country and the DoubleTree Highline Vail.
Common sense tells you that ski season will cost more points on average than offseason in Vail. In this case, the tool shows us that Hilton Honors members have booked this hotel for as few as 32,000 points per night. In my search of almost a full 12 months, I found a better rate — 30,000 points per night, on some dates in mid-to-late April and throughout May (aka offseason).
Expect to find the 80,000-point rate around Christmas, January, February and most of March. In the fall, rates move between 44,000 and 65,000.
Related: DoubleTree by Hilton Vail review
Earn Bonus Hilton Honors Points
Of course, playing with the Points Explorer tool and searching Hilton.com for award availability is a moot exercise if you don’t have any — or enough — Hilton Honors points to book the trip you want. Luckily, this award currency is pretty easy to earn.
Staying at a Hilton property can certainly boost your account balance, but the easiest way to increase your Hilton Honors balance in a hurry may be to apply for one of the chain’s cobranded credit cards. There are four cards from which to choose.
- Hilton Honors American Express Card: Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of account opening. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 points after you spend a total of $5,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months.
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of account opening. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Points after you spend a total of $10,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months.
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on the Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership.
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: Earn 150,000 Hilton points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
The information for the Hilton Aspire Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Finally, you can transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points to Hilton, though the 1:2 transfer ratio isn’t particularly good in most cases. There are, however, periodic transfer bonuses sometimes available that can sweeten the deal.
Related: 16 best ways to earn more Hilton Honors points in 2021
Hilton’s Points Explorer website is a good tool to use when you are at the beginning stages of researching a points-paid vacation. Current and future award rates don’t always line up exactly with what was available in the past, but previous rates can give you a good feel for what you might find going forward. Start with the tool and also do some cursory searches of real-time availability at Hilton.com.
All screenshots courtesy of Hilton.com
Additional reporting by Ariana Arghandewal
Featured image of the Grand Oceanfront Suite at Conrad Punta de Mita courtesy of the hotel
SPONSORED: With states reopening, enjoying a meal from a restaurant no longer just means curbside pickup.
And when you do spend on dining, you should use a credit card that will maximize your rewards and potentially even score special discounts. Thanks to temporary card bonuses and changes due to coronavirus, you may even be able to score a meal at your favorite restaurant for free.
These are the best credit cards for dining out, taking out, and ordering in to maximize every meal purchase.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
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