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I got an email from reader Tyler, who asked
I have a question for you. I have 300,000+ but I don’t need a hotel room I need airline miles. Is there a good way to trade miles? Hilton gives you 1/10 of the value to exchange miles. Is there a better option?
Great question, and it’s unfortunate that I don’t have better news.
The short answer, in this question, is that there isn’t a great easy way to do that, but I’ll run through a few different options.
Option 1 is the one he described earlier, which is that Hilton offers a transfer directly of 1:10 to airline miles, so 300,000 HHonors points will directly convert to 30,000 airline miles. This is a pretty bad transfer rate, and not one that I would recommend.
Option 2: The other thing I would recommend would be looking at Webflyer’s Mileage Converter website
You can put in the program that you want to convert from and what you want to convert to, and it will give you all the different options to convert. Sometimes by converting to a less common or additional program can give you an unexpected rate. This can be more useful when the points that you have are some of the more flexible ones, like Chase Ultimate Rewards. I plugged Hilton into the converter, and I found tons of un-helpful advice, like transfering Hilton -> Aeroplan -> IHG Rewards -> American can turn those 300,000 Hilton miles into 2,000 American miles. The only useful information was that apparently American has a better deal with Hilton as 300,000 Hilton HHonors points transfers to 45,000 American AAdvantage miles. A little better, but not by much.
Option 3: Unfortunately not useful for the OP who has Hilton miles, but if you have Marriott Rewards points, they have a program where you can use your Marriott rewards points for flight + hotel packages.
Their transfer rate to airlines is also a little better than Hilton’s
Option 4: Here’s where we get into things that are not quite as straightforward. You are technically not allowed to transfer points / miles in many mileage programs, or the ones where you are charge crazy fees. I believe Hilton’s is $25 for each 10,000 points transferred (not worth it). But there’s nothing that stops you from paying points for a hotel room or airline trip for a “friend”.
Now, the easiest way would be to find someone you actually know that has some airline miles and needs hotel points. For example, if I had 50,000 United miles but needed a few nights at a hotel room, then Tyler and I could come to an ‘arrangement’. We can’t really transfer our points, but I would book the airline tickets for him (using his name as the passenger), and then pay for it with my United miles. Similarly, Tyler books the hotel rooms of my choice in my name, and pays for it with his Hilton HHonors points.
Unfortunately, that’s not something I have a need for, and it can be challenging to find someone that does. Flyertalk, which is a website focused on travel blogging, has a forum called “Coupon Connection” that specializes in this kind of barter. However, the forum is private and is only available to Flyertalk users that have been registered for 6 months that have 180 posts. Also, depending on how frequently you do this, you might run the risk of your accounts being suspended. Personally, I have never used this, but I know people that have, and I think doing it occasionally as outlined above wouldn’t be particularly risky, however, buyer beware.
One note to point out is that generally hotel points are not considered as valuable as airline miles, and, among hotel points, Hilton points are one of the less valuable (mostly because it takes so many points to get a room). Ballpark figures are that 1 Hilton HHonors point is worth 0.5 cents, and a United mile might be worth 2 cents. So while a 4:1 ratio is better than the 10:1 ratio you get from officially transferring them via Hilton, it would not be prudent to think of 300,000 Hilton points being equivalent to 300,000 airline miles.
So, what now? (tl/dr) I’ve mentioned a lot of different options, but none of them are probably particularly appealing. So if I were Tyler, what would I do?
- First would be to ask around to friends and see if there are any barter opportunities where I can use my HHonors points for them while they use airline miles for me
- Next option would be to read the Beginner’s Guide here, and once you understand what you’re doing, and your credit is good (check it for free with Credit Sesame), apply for some cards that give airline bonuses. Then you can use your hotel points alongside your new-found airline miles to take several nice vacations
The last three options depend on his work situation
- He mentioned that he does some travel for work that includes hotel but not airlines (as he typically will drive rather than fly). Depending on where he’s going or his company’s travel policy, it may make sense to change his hotel preferences away from Hilton (perhaps to something that is more flexible such as Starwood)
- Also, he mentioned that his company puts their business spending on a Hilton HHonors Card from American Express, which is not a great card to put a lot of spending on. Again, this is definitely something that would depend on your company, but if you’re in a position where you have influence over travel policy, I would recommend something like the Chase Ink Bold or Ink Plus. Those cards both offer great signup bonuses as well as earning Chase Ultimate Rewards, which, like SPG points, are very flexible.
- If your company allows it and you feel comfortable with it, what I prefer to do when I have reimbursable expenses is to put my spending on my own card, and then just get reimbursed with a check from the company.
I know that this is a lot of information but hopefully this helps, and if Tyler (or anyone else) has any questions, feel free to reach out via a comment or on Share or
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