The benefits of joining a hotel loyalty program seem obvious. Take for example, the Hilton HHonors program, where simply signing up automatically gets you free in-room wifi, best price guarantee, and digital check-in any time you stay in a Hilton (which oh by the way includes all Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Embassy Suites, Hampton, DoubleTree, Waldorf Astoria brands, among others). And that’s before you’ve even earned any points. Not too shabby!
But earning enough points to qualify for a free room may seem like a pipe dream for those who don’t travel frequently. Well the good news is there are plenty of ways to earn more points quickly other than hotel stays; and there are valuable benefits and ways to cash in on smaller point values that you probably haven’t realized. We are using the Hilton HHonors program as an example since just last month we were able to see firsthand some of the benefits members get to use, but it’s important to note all hotel groups offer their own loyalty/rewards programs. You have to do the research and see which hotel group’s locations, price points, and rewards make the most sense for you.
Let’s dive into this web of goodies and rewards… shall we?
1. Getting a Co-Branded Credit Card Earns You More Points Faster
First and foremost, unless you have a job that requires a lot of travel (think consultants or sales people), you’re probably not staying in hotels often enough to earn enough points that reap rewards like free hotel stays. But what you probably ARE doing is regularly spending money–whether it’s on groceries, transporation, or movie night with your girlfriends. You’ve got to make the money you spend work in your favor, and get a credit card that earns points for your hotel rewards programs instead of using your debit card for these daily transactions (just be sure you’re paying off the balance every month)! That way any time you are spending money, you are earning points that will aid you in the cost of future travel. Six months worth of groceries just may get you that free night at a hotel for your best friend’s destination wedding.
Hilton HHonors, for example, has credit card partnerships with Citibank and American Express, among others. Every dollar you spend earns you a point. The more you’re spending, the greater chance you’ll be bumped up to a higher rewards status, which also means more points per stay. So higher status equals more points equals earn rewards faster. See how it’s a fun little game you have to make work in your favor?
2. Take Advantage of Promotions
In addition to using a partner credit card to earn extra points, most hotel loyalty programs run promotions throughout the year. For instance, right now with HHonors you can earn double points through the Double Your HHonors promotion. So any hotel stay you have during the promotion period is getting you twice as many points as it usually would.
But it’s important to note that just because you are a loyalty member doesn’t mean you are automatically signed up for the promotion; you have to sign up for each new promotion online every time one runs. So make sure you’re in the know about when these are going on by registering for email alerts for whatever program you are on. It’s also important to remember that in order to earn these points, you have to book through the hotel itself, whether by phone or online. No third party booking site reservations will qualify you for points. Kind of a bummer, we know, but that’s how it works. Plus, you’re already getting guaranteed best price by being a rewards member, so it’s nothing to worry about.
3. Take Advantage of the Travel Benefits
As we mentioned, simply being a rewards member is going to get you benefits when you travel. Let’s start with not having to wait in line to check in when you arrive at your hotel; with the Hilton HHonors app you can check in on your phone as you’re heading there from the airport. Similarly, you can forgo paying any fees for wifi access in your room–it’s free for loyalty members. Complimentary room upgrades and access to food and beverage are just a few of the other perks you’ll experience when you’ve signed up. That’s right–some hotels have an entire floor with free snacks and drinks just waiting to be enjoyed! Complimentary cocktail hours are another occasional treat! Free vino? Don’t mind if we do.
4. Utilize Your Points for More Than Just Travel
It seems obvious you’ll get travel perks when you sign up for a loyalty program, but what a lot of people probably don’t realize is that hotels have started partnering with entertainment, sports, and food and beverage partners to offer unique experiences to their members. Just last month, Hilton HHonors organized an intimate dinner and tasting with The Macallan scotch in the dining room of the historic Palmer House Hilton hotel in Chicago for some of their most loyal members. Guests at the dinner enjoyed a four course meal, ending it with the special treat of tasting a rare 30 year Sherry Oak whiskey (a bottle that retails for almost $3000!).
Later that evening, the hotel put on a private Hilton@PLAY concert featuring EchoSmith and Andy Grammer–attendees were treated to an open bar, a buffet of treats, and front and center access to the stage. There couldn’t have been more than 300 people in attendance, giving the audience an up close, intimate concert experience. How did those in attendance get to be there, you wonder? By cashing in their points for tickets. Tickets can be “purchased” by either bidding or simply cashing in at a certain point value, similar to how an eBay sale works.
5. Enjoy Discounts and Benefits with Travel Partners
Many loyalty programs partner with other travel companies to add additional benefits for members. Airlines and car rental companies are just two examples where you can be earning points for hotel stays or cashing your points in for miles and putting them toward flights with your favorite airline! Make sure to thoroughly read through the “Ways to Earn Points” section of your loyalty program sign-up; it may seem like a lot of small print, but the more educated you are on how the system works, the faster you’ll be cashing in the rewards.
For example, the HHonors program has a partnership with Avis car rental; by renting one of their cars (at a participating location, of course), you’ll earn 1,500 extra HHonors Bonus Points and save up to 25% on the rental itself. That’s a win win in our book.
Are you already signed up for rewards? Have you figured out how to get the most bang for your buck or are you still learning how it works? What are some of the best rewards you’ve gotten to experience?
This post was sponsored by Hilton HHonors, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.