A few months ago, Hilton allowed its members the option of cashing out points at half a cent ($0.05) for credit with Amazon. December’s points valuation from The Points Guy (TPG), put Hilton Honors points at $0.06
A few recent posts including one from from Doctorofcredit speculated that Hilton may offer customers the opportunity to cash out points into Amazon at half a cent ($0.5) in value as a permanent benefit. At first I didn’t think much of the offer, then I thought more about it. The more that I think about that possibility, the more appealing it actually becomes.
Hilton, Gift Cards, Airbnb, and Value
Hilton has 5,401 hotel properties around the world. According to Loyalty Lobby, the points per night breakdown of those properties is:
|Number of Points||Number of Properties|
The graph is heavy in the mid range where most (63%) of the properties are 30,000 and 40,000 points a night. For all 5,401 properties, the average points per night is 37,232 per night.
For 1,000,000 Hilton points, I could stay:
27 nights in a 37k a night hotel
That’s nearly a month of stays in a less than mid range hotel, but inside major cities that I travel too, the rates are generally higher than that for properties that I would generally stay at. For this example I’ll use 50,000 and 60,000 point options to create a more likely scenario based on my travel habits:
20 nights in a 50k a night hotel
16 nights in a 60k a night hotel
With that those award night totals in mind, let’s say I cash out a million Hilton Honors points at the .5 cent rate.
1,000,000 Hilton Honors points * $0.005 = $5,000
My main question is what to do with $5,000 at Amazon? You can’t transfer money out of Amazon to a checking account, and it has to be used at Amazon. If you had a massive monthly diaper bill or something like that I could see a large points transfer making some sense, but past that, why would you do it?
I guess if I did have $5,000 sitting in an Amazon account, I’d probably purchase something useful, like travel related gift cards. Reselling merchandise in any form isn’t really my thing as the (financial) float is too long, and overall it’s difficult to scale. However, Amazon only has a few travel gift card options. It looks like Southwest, Airbnb, hotels.com, and Uber are the main choices. Actually the travel gift card options look very familiar to gift cards available at Staples. Out of those selections, Airbnb appeals the most to me.
The average price for an Airbnb stay per night for me is $50 to $60. For $5,000 in Airbnb gift cards at Amazon:
At $50 a night, 100 nights
At $60 a night, 83 nights.
Even if my price per night at Airbnb jumped to $75, that’s still 66 nights, or over 3x more nights than staying at a mid-level Hilton property. Also, Amazon does run some Airbnb (and other) gift card sales from time to time, so getting even more value is quite possible. Also, I’ve stayed at wonderful Airbnb’s in different parts of the world, like Central and Eastern Europe, for considerably less than $50 a night, so getting more than 100 nights from $5,000 in Amazon funds is really feasible.
Let’s say I got really splashy with my Hilton Points and use them for a stay at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. Award night prices for standard rooms start at 95,000 a night and cash prices are around $850. Staying in the Maldives does come with other expenses (like sea planes, etc.), so to keep it simple, I’m just going to say that the cash/retail price is $1,000 per night. With that in mind, for those 1,000,000 Hilton Honors points, I could:
get 10 nights at the Conrad (or roughly $10,000 in cash/retail value)
The paid cash rate or retail value is basically double ($10,000 for a 10 night Conrad stay vs $5,000 in Amazon), but that’s a minor consideration for me, as I rarely actually pay for any hotel stays. I understand and agree, that part of using travel rewards is the opportunity to have experiences that you normally wouldn’t without using points. While I do get aspirational with some redemptions, at this point luxury splurges aren’t my main goals for my earned travel rewards. In a little over a year, I’m considering doing some substantial traveling again. If that does happen, access to more nights via my rewards will be a much more important feature than what the cash or retail price of my lodging is listed at.
Obviously some people love, and at times seem to have to have, fancy hotels. If they stay at an Airbnb, which can be a stretch for some, they might opt for more expensive, splashy properties there too. This example wouldn’t fit them very well, and that’s fine. On the other side of things, some travelers are super budget and value conscious, and would get even more value than I’ve displayed here. This example is kind of in the middle.
Even though I’ve collected a nice chunk of their rewards, there isn’t much about Hilton’s Honors program right now that excites me. At this point, the only things that appeals to me about Hilton’s rewards program are the free nights and elite status through credit card spend, some occasional value stays at lower level properties located in cities that I plan to travel too, and possibly some high end (80,000+ point/night) redemptions at some expensive cash rate locales.
Earning 3x on general spend for all of Hilton’s rewards cards also takes nearly $13,000 worth of spend to get a free night at the average (37.2k) Hilton property and $20,000 in spend for a 60,000 point/night hotel. If those spend levels are achieved via manufactured spend (MS), then that’s likely between $120 and $200 in overall costs, which still may save some money depending on the property, but it’s likely getting much closer to the actual cash rates for those hotels.
At first I was really skeptical of why hearing that Hilton might offer transfers of points to Amazon and potential value that it might hold. If Hilton did offer that transfer option again as a limited time or permanent benefit to its members, I’d probably take advantage of it to get value in a product that I value more than hotel chain stays.