There’s big news in the travel hacking world this week: a limited-time offer to earn a lot of hotel points has arrived. To be precise, there are actually two offers, one for an increased signup bonus amount (from 40,000 points to 75,000, which is great), and an even better one that gets you a whopping 100,000 Hilton points.
Oh, and when you get the Surpass card (the one with 100,000 points), you’ll also receive a free weekend night certificate valid at any Hilton property worldwide. Yeah, no kidding!
Several years ago I was a big fan of Hilton and spent at least 25 nights a year at their properties. On my first book tour, probably half of my stays were at Hilton Garden Inns, a comfortable mid-range brand that provides a consistently good breakfast. These days, more of my travel is with Starwood and Hyatt, but I still stay at Hilton properties as a backup.
So, why is this deal interesting?
1. 100,000 points can equal up to 25 free nights
Let’s be totally fair: most people aren’t going to get 25 free nights out of this offer, but it is technically possible. The lowest redemption category for a night’s stay is 5,000 points, and when staying five nights, you get the fifth night free.
Therefore, if you spent all your points at Category 1 properties, you’d get 20 nights free—and if you stayed five nights at the same properties for five times, you’d get 25 nights free. (They don’t have to be the same for all 25 nights, just five nights at once.)
Consider that extreme travel hacking, and some people actually do it. For the rest of us, we’ll probably get fewer nights out of the points because we don’t always want to stay in the cheapest places in the world, and we’re also not likely to stay five nights in a row very often. Personally I very rarely stay somewhere more than two nights in a row.
Still, you should be able to use the points for at least two free nights at properties that would usually cost $300 a night or more (in New York, London, Sydney, or plenty of other expensive cities), or somewhere between three and five free nights if you aim for the middle ground.
2. You get complimentary elite status (either Platinum, Gold, or Silver) with these offers
Hotel elite status gets you perks: free breakfast, upgrades, late check-out, free internet,
a bottle of champagne in your Hampton Inn bathtub, and so on. Cardholders for each of these offers receive complimentary status, but there’s a slight difference between the two.
If you get the Hilton HHonors Surpass card, you get Gold status. This status is legit. You’ll always get free breakfast and other small perks, and most of the time you’ll get a decent upgrade if it’s available.
If you get the Hilton HHonors American Express card, you get Silver status. This status is a big step down from Gold. It basically gives you late check-out and a bottle of water (seriously, they put the water bottle on the benefits list). On the plus side, this card has no annual fee and requires a lower minimum spend ($1,000) to get the bonus.
If you don’t care about status, therefore, you might be better off with the 75,000 point offer, just so you don’t have to pay the annual fee.
Interestingly, both cards will give you a higher status if you spend a certain amount over the course of a year. The Hilton HHonors American Express card will get you Gold status (upgraded from Silver) if you spend $20,000, and the new Surpass card will get you Diamond status (upgraded from Gold, and the highest possible status) if you spend $40,000 a year.
The increased sign-up bonus on the original card and the introduction of the new Surpass card make for the best offer I’ve ever seen for Hilton points.
Finally, it’s totally possible to get both cards—but if only getting one, personally I’d go for the Surpass. The 20,000 extra points are nice, but the free stay (anywhere!) certificate is the real prize that’s well worth the $75 fee.