If you could spend the same amount for hotel bookings with Hilton compared to the same hotels booked with Bonwi, which would pay off faster in a free night’s stay? We’ll run through the numbers and see.
The Hilton Honors program has been one of the best hotel reward programs in the world for many years running. Now that it’s gone from Hhonors to just Honors, however, recent changes have sliced the earnings potential for most customers.
Until a change that goes into effect this month, you could earn hotel miles plus airline miles, leading to a nice double-dip bonus. Every time you stayed at a Hilton property, you could work toward a free hotel room and also a free flight. Alas, the double-dipping is coming to an end and their program will be just like the others, keeping it all in the family.
If you didn’t choose the airline points before, you could go “points and points” and earn 15 per dollar as a regular customer, 16.5 as a silver elite member. Now the points have dropped by a third.
Earning Points With Hilton Honors
For higher elite members they are better off now, so we see where Hilton’s priorities are. You have to stay 10 times just to reach the lowest elite level, so for most people that’s no applicable. If you get their branded credit card, however, you’re Silver automatically. That means instead of getting 10 points per dollar, you get 12 per dollar. So if you spend $1,000 at Hilton properties, you’ll get 10,000 to 12,000 points. The big payoff is if you practically live at Hilton: if you’re a Diamond Elite road warrior, you’ll get 20,000 points for a $1,000 spend.
You can buy your way there though with premium American Express cards. A Platinum card gets you automatic Gold status, while a Centurion card gets you automatic Diamond status. Pay more for your card, earn more bonus points.
Of course if you were using that regular Hilton Amex credit card for the charges, you would get another bonus on top of 7 points per dollar. Now that $1,000 spend turns into 19,000 points. That should be getting us in free night territory, right?
Earning Points With Bonwi Bookings
With Bonwi.com, it’s less simple on the earnings side, but that’s because the points you earn are variable. You will often earn far more than 1,200 points for a $100 room charge. You could earn enough for a free stay after just two or three nights.
There’s also upside on the redemption part since the payout is not an average of the price paid. Your points may be worth more in some markets than others, so you can cash in faster just by choosing a hotel requiring fewer points. You can sometimes see a payback of 30% on your spend if you pick the right hotels.
Who Gets You to a Free Night Faster?
In our hypothetical example of spending $1,000 with Hilton, you would earn 12,000 points without a Hilton-branded credit card, 19,000 with. So let’s look at what it would take to get there with Hilton and with Bonwi, then see what you can get for your points.
I picked the busy business hub of Atlanta for this example because the city has a lot of Hilton properties across a variety of brands. (Note that you only earn half the points with two of their brands: Tru and Home2. So we have to skip over those. Why, since points are based on dollars spent? We’re not sure.)
If I pick a weekday in May, we could get to around $1,000 by staying at Hilton Garden Inn Millennium Center. By booking with Bonwi, we would earn 23,968 points.
If we book that hotel at Hilton.com, the cost looks to be about the same, though it’s hard to tell since they don’t show taxes and fees until you start actually booking it. If we assume the same amount, you would earn a shade more than 12,000 points.
If we book the Atlanta Hilton without being an elite Honors member, we would earn 12,000 with Hilton or 16,436 with Bonwi. So you’d have a slight advantage with Honors elite level bonus points, but otherwise you’re still earning more with Bonwi.
Using Your Points
So let’s say we want to make it up to our honey for being away for a week and we’re going to take a weekend trip with it. How about nearby Savannah?
If we check what you can get there for the points we earned, here’s what we get:
Hilton Honors – 12,000 points gets us…nothing. The downtown historic district properties would cost us 60,000 points on a Saturday night in June and all we can get for the lowest level of 30,000 is airport hotels. So even if we booked this 5-day business trip three weeks with Hilton, we’d still only earn enough to stay out by the airport.
Bonwi Rewards – 23,968 points gets us…more than 50 hotels to choose from on that same Saturday night in Savannah! Granted, the cheapest ones are roadside motels by the interstate, but it doesn’t stop there. That same airport hotel offered by Hilton for 30,000 points is just 15,640 with Bonwi. Or you can get closer to town with SpringHill Suites. For 18,400, you can get a Fairfield Inn right in the historic district. “Honey, we’re all set!”
Did you notice that last advantage—that you can pick any hotel you want? This is not a loyalty program where you are locked into one corporation’s brand offerings. Earn points with any hotel brand, spend them with any hotel brand—including independent ones.
The Hilton Honors system isn’t bad on the earnings side, but when you go to actually spend those points they don’t go very far. It often takes 60,000 points – which is a spend of $6,000 for a normal person – just to get a night at a regular Hilton business hotel or Embassy Suites.
Book with Bonwi and you’ll get free stays much faster. That’s true compared to IHG Rewards and it’s true compared to Hilton Honors.