Can Hilton’s Points Explorer Tool Help You Plan a Better Award Redemption?
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Not that long ago, Hilton Honors decided that published award charts were a thing of the past. Thankfully, the program still uses one on the back end to price awards to some extent, meaning that the points price is not simply tied directly to the cash price every 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. With the Hilton card bonuses at increased rates, we did some tests to see just how useful this tool might be as you sit down to plan out your next adventure.
Before the tool was introduced, without doing various test searches, 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, 120k at this resort.)
What Can the Hilton Points Explorer Tool Do?
The Points Explorer tool shows a historic range of the number of award points needed for a redemption 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 for your specific dates, or 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, 2019. Current Points per night may vary. Maximum Points per night for a Standard Room as of June 12, 2019. Subject to change.
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 It?
The Points Explorer tool shows you what award rates other Hilton Honors members have booked at hotels in the recent past. 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 actually started by searching for the Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi but it wasn’t listed — probably because it just opened on July 1. The SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton, also wasn’t listed because it won’t open until Sept. 1, 2019, and remember that the Points Explorer tool shows redemption rates in the recent past.
The only hotel in the Maldives that I could check was the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.
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, so no 91k nights to be found at the moment.
Hilton Orlando-Bonnet Creek Resort
This is a super-popular option for families in Orlando. It’s got a fantastic on-site waterpark with a lazy river and waterslides and guests are entitled to Extra Magic Hours and more at Walt Disney World. You can also walk from the hotel to the upscale Waldorf Astoria next door if you want to sample its dining venues.
When I searched Hilton.com, I found that I could book this property for fewer points a night than what was listed at the Points Explorer tool.
I found dates in August and September going for 43k and 45k points per night. That’s not a huge difference from the 49k point per night minimum listed. But if your family stayed at the hotel for four nights at 43,000 points per night instead of 49,000, you’d save 24,000 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 43,000 points per night, you’d actually pay 172,000 points for five nights instead of four. That brings the average per-night redemption rate to 34,400 points.
That said, many dates rang in at 60,000 points per night.
Hilton Washington DC National Mall
Next up was the new Hilton Washington DC National Mall (where king beds are used in all rooms — not just single bed rooms).
In this case, the current points range at Hilton.com differed greatly from what was listed on Points Explorer. The tool said to expect redemptions going for 55k–70k
However, when searching Hilton.com, I found much cheaper rates: as low as 30,000 Hilton points per night in December.. In September, I saw rates at 46k, 51k, 56k, 61k, 65k and 70k.
The pool at this hotel is currently under renovation and won’t be open until the fall, so keep that in mind if you are considering this property.
DoubleTree by Hilton Vail
Next up was ski country and the DoubleTree by Hilton Vail.
Common sense tells you that ski season is going to 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 44,000 points per night. In my search of almost a full 12 months, I found a better rate — 39,000 points per night, on some dates in mid-to-late April and throughout May (aka offseason).
Expect to find the 80k points per night rate around Christmas, all of January and February, and most of March. In the fall, rates move between 44k and 65k.
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 Card from American Express (Earn 75,000-point bonus after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first three months, $0 annual fee) (See rates and fees)
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (Earn 125,000 bonus points after after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. $95 annual fee) (See rates and fees)
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (Earn 125,000-points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months, $95 annual fee) (See rates and fees)
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express (150,000-point bonus after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months, $450 annual fee) (See rates and fees)
Finally, you can transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points to Hilton, but the transfer ratio (1 Amex Membership Rewards point to 2 Hilton points) isn’t particularly good in most cases. There are, however, periodic transfer bonuses sometimes available that can sweeten the deal.
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.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Amex Surpass, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Business Amex, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Aspire Amex, click here.
Featured image of the Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort courtesy of the hotel
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