Why You Can Never Find Free Hilton Hotel Award Nights Online & How To Fix It!

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I love how easy it is to earn Hilton points!  Sure, it costs 50,000 Hilton points for a top category 7 free Hilton night, but it is so easy to earn Hilton points.  You can earn hundreds of thousands of Hilton points just by credit card sign-up bonuses.

Even better – anyone can get Hilton Gold status and get free breakfast and internet just by having the Citi Hilton Reserve card (along with 2 free weekend nights and other perks).  This comes in very handy and saves you time and money when using those Hilton points for Big Travel with Small Money at Hilton hotels.

But I often get comments or email from readers that they tried searching for free nights at a Hilton online, but they could not find ANY free nights.

Here’s The Trick!

Always start your search for free Hilton award nights when you are logged out of your Hilton account if you do not have enough points for the length of your stay.

Why?

If you search for free Hilton nights when you are logged into your Hilton account, but you don’t have enough points for the stay, you will often see a message which says that there are no free nights available (even when they really are free nights available).

An Example – Logged into Emily’s Hilton Account

For example, Emily has 4,052 Hilton points in her account.  This is much less than the 50,000 Hilton points needed for 1 free night in London.

She logged into her Hilton account and tried searching for 2 nights in London from October 9 to October 11, 2012.

But, as expected, she didn’t find any free hotel nights!

Step 1 – Log into Hilton.com

Emily logged into her Hilton account at Hilton.com

Step 2 – Search for Awards

She then searched for 2 nights in London from October 9 to October 11, 2012.

She clicked the box which said “Use Hilton Points” and then clicked the blue “Find It” button.

HIlton Honors Awards

Click “Use Hilton Points”

Step 3 – Search Results (No Availability Found when logged-in)

Despite searching for free hotel nights, Emily was shown results for paid nights.

HIlton Honors Awards 2

Only Paid Availability Appears

She then clicked the “Book a Room” link and received a message which said: “There are no HHonors Reward Certificate rooms available for 09 Oct 2012 – 11 Oct 2012 at The Trafalgar London.

HIlton Honors Awards 3

No Free Nights Available

She clicked on each of the 27 London Hilton hotels and got the same message – that there were no award nights available!

But don’t worry – all you have to do is search for free Hilton nights when you are logged out of your account if you don’t have enough points for the length of your stay.

The Fix – DON’t LOG INTO YOUR Hilton Account!

Let’s see what happens when we search for the same dates as above, but without signing into Emily’s Hilton account.

Step 1 – Do NOT Log Into Hilton.com

Go to Hilton.com, but do NOT log into your account!  If you are already logged-in, click on “sign-out

Step 2 – Search for Awards

Search for 2 nights in London from October 9 to October 11, 2012 (the same dates in the above example).

Don’t forget to click the box which says “Use Hilton Points

Then click the blue “Find It” button!

HIlton Honors Awards

Click “Use Hilton Points”

Step 3 – Search Results (Lots of Availability Found!)

You will see free night availability for all the 27 Hilton hotels in London!

HIlton Honors Awards 4

Free Nights Now Appear for Same Dates!

If you click “Book a Room” you will see the different room types.  Look out for standard room redemption for 50,000 points (Category 7 redemption example).

HIlton Honors Awards 5

Standard Redemptions Are Usually Better Value

The premium room rewards are often not worth the extra points charged.  If you want to actually book the room, you would need to earn the points required and then log-into your Hilton account to book the room.

Bottom Line:  The Hilton website is quirky.  You usually have to be signed out of your Hilton hotel account so see free night availability if you don’t have enough points for the length of your stay.

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40 responses to “Why You Can Never Find Free Hilton Hotel Award Nights Online & How To Fix It!

  1. Interesting quirk for Hilton. How far out before your stay do you typically look and when are usually the best times, assuming you are redeeming HH points?

  2. I have had success booking standard rooms and then calling the hotel to get a free upgrade to a premium room. I have tried it twice and it worked both times.

  3. I had the same question as Grant.

    So stay logged out of Hilton and Delta. Got it.

  4. Excellent Tip. Very helpful..thanks!

  5. I was having the same exact problem yesterday and couldn’t find a fix for it…and now you answered it! Thanks!

  6. Is there a way to transfer my wife’s HHonors points from her account to mine for free, like SPG? We have the same address on our accounts.

    • @Grant @Lively – I try to book as soon as I can book. Availability changes often, so always check back.

      @Greg – Do you just call the hotel after booking and ask for an upgrade? Do you have elite status with them?

      @Mary @Jonathan – Glad you found it useful!

      @Isac – You can transfer points, but there is a fee of 0.25 cents per point, which isn’t worth it.

  7. I have had a question since you got me hooked on miles and points. When I have gone in to Hilton and looked for awards sometimes because you do not have enough points it tells you it would cost you some outrageous amount to purchase the miles needed. What am I missing? I mean who is going to spend thousands to purchase the points. It is cheaper to pay the rate. Sorry, still working out newbie kinks.

  8. Earlier this year I joined HHonors and ran into this exact problem. At first I thought, wow hilton has no rooms available anywhere these points will be worthless. Then by accident I searched for rooms being ‘logged out’ and the rooms showed availability. Crazy

    MMS, does Hyatt work in a similar way? If you don’t have the points in your account to cover the transaction, they will not show you availability?

  9. Great tip! Thanks! I have a question that is slightly off topic but still hotel booking related. I am having some trouble finding Starwood hotels with the cash and points option. It seems like a lot of them don’t offer cash and points, just one or the other. Do you have any tricks on how to find availability?

    • @Christine – You’re right that buying points from Hilton isn’t a great value. But often times folks search for awards before signing up for a credit card bonus to see if there is hotel availability in the places they want to stay.

      @MYRflyer
      – Unfortunately you can’t search for Hyatt awards if you don’t have enough points, so you will have to call them.

      @Jasmine – Starwood pays hotels less for cash and points redemptions, so hotels aren’t eager to release cash and points awards unless they think they will have unsold rooms. Sometimes, you do have better luck by calling SPG or the hotel, but I wouldn’t count on it.

  10. Wow, never knew this. Very interesting!

  11. Thank you for the quick response! I thought my eyes were deceiving me or I was doing something wrong. Today this is what I saw You will need to purchase 113,991 points for $2,619.73 Oh my the room rate is 239 per night. By the way I just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I stumbled across your website last year which in turn brought me to mommypoints. website. I have a over 500,000 points and miles. I have a companion pass(until the end of 2013) and have travel to Nashville, Chicago and next up San Francisco for taxes only and of course my hotels stay have been free. I know lately you have been taking some slack but your info has allowed me to travel to cities in the U.S. I thought I would never see. Once I finish my Southwest bucket list, I will graduate to Europe and other fascinating places! I really appreciate you. I hope to someday to participate in a DO and thank you in person! Happy Traveling!

  12. I had discovered this myself before too, so I kind of lost my faith in HHonor program. I thought that their award availability was limited, so I didn’t think Hilton credit cards were valuable. Anyway, back to the story, I’ve now realized that Hilton don’t show availability unless you have enough points to afford it.

  13. Related topic: Several years ago I stayed a few times at the NY Hilton on 6th Ave. The paid rooms were in a better floor and had better service. The time I had a free “points” room, it was on a worse floor that had much worse cleaning service. I mean, the trash/food on the hallways at 9 am was there at 5 pm when we got back, even though there were cleaning ladies around. I was too busy to take the time to complain. I’ve always wondered if others had similar experience with the redemption rooms in Hilton. Thanks to MMS I now have enough points for free rooms again.

  14. @D and Christine….I completely agree! Never doubt what you are doing b/c there are a ton of us out there that truly appreciate everything you do. Your quick response to questions is wonderful and the patience you show towards all of us is again appreciated. I am sure there are many of us who would love to buy you and Emily dinner as a thank you if we ever get a chance to meet. You could eat for free wherever you go! Now THAT is big travel for small money 🙂

  15. This isn’t an error on Hilton’s part. Since Emily doesn’t have the required amount of points to book a night, Hilton will say there are no available nights. So searching while logged out would should availability because they don’t know how many points you have.

    This is like shopping for a house for $100K but you’re looking at million dollar houses. If the real estate agent knows you only have 100K to spend, they won’t even bother showing you the million dollar house 🙂

  16. Haha I never realized it was a quirk because I never log-on until before purchase!! lucky! 😀

  17. Darius…Correct, I book the standard room using points. Then, I call the hotel directly and ask for the upgrade. As we are a family of six, I’m a fan of Homewood Suites which usually offers 2 bedroom suites and free breakfast. Both times I asked for the upgrade, it was for a 2 bedroom suite.

  18. Does this apply to the free weekend night certificates from the Citi Hilton Reserve card as well? Is there something separate that shows if you can use them, or is it just if a room is available you can use it? Thanks.

  19. I had this issue before, which swayed my decision on going after the Citi Reserve card. Long story short, Hilton cards are still on my ‘to apply’ list, thanks Darius for the tip ^_^

    • @Christine @Jasmine – You’re welcome and thanks so much for your sweet comment.

      @Anita – That could be specific to that hotel in New York. In general, I get the worst rooms when I use Priceline, but my award stays are usually pleasant.

      @Kev – True, but you can see availability on, say, Starwood even if you don’t have enough points.

      @Greg – That’s great! Thanks for sharing.

      @Matt @Jaly – If you can see a standard room available (for example, a category 7 hotel which has a room for 50,000 points) you should be able to book it with the free night from the Hilton Reserve.

  20. MMS, do you have an update to your post about earning 400k+ HH points? Have any of those signups changed?

  21. Hi again, thanks for that, do you mean BOFA Virgin card? And, how often are you reopening the Hawaiian and Citi cards, or are you requesting multiples? Thanks!

    • @Andy – Yes, I mean the Bank of America, AMEX Virgin Atlantic card. You can either cancel and reapply for Hawiian or Citi cards. With Citi, you can apply for 2 personal cards at a time as long as you don’t exceed 2 citi cards every 65 days.

  22. In what way does the Bank of America, AMEX Virgin Atlantic card offer not “work” anymore ?

  23. OK, just read your prior post on the temporary disappearance of the Virgin card. I applied for mine in August, and it came while I was in Europe, so I guess I was lucky in my timing.

  24. 2 questions…
    If can one use their own hotel points to redeem a room, but book it in their friend’s name? (essentially give their friend the room) Like say I have 50,000 pts. My friend “John and wife, Jennifer ” can stay at the hotel I redeem for them as long as when I book the room with points, it’s booked in “John”s name.
    Can one redeem points and yet book a room for someone else with Priority, Marriot, Hilton, Hyatt and Fairfield Inn?
    2nd question-Can you book rooms in another person’s name with FREE NIGHT certificates, or are those ONLY sent to the cardholder in their name? Example-Citi Hilton Reserve 2 weekend night passes, Hyatt 2 night cert, Marriot 2 night cert, Priority annual renewal free night pass etc etc

    • @david – You can add a friend to the reservation as the 2nd guest and let the hotel know that the other guest will check in before you. You may be able to do that with the free night certificates as well, but I haven’t tried it with them as yet.

  25. can you book from a discount site (for example hotwire) and still receive the points for staying at a Hilton Hotel?

  26. can you book from a discount site (for example hotwire) and still receive the points for staying at a Hilton Hotel? (new address)

  27. The real issue is: if you’re Emily with only 4000 or so points and a standard room reward would be 50,000 points/night, logged in or not, you don’t have enough points. What’s the use in logging out only to find that you are sadly lacking in enough points for a free night. Once someone builds up a sufficient cushion of points, this should be a moot point.

  28. Pingback: HIlton Reserve Credit Card | Million Mile Secrets

  29. Pingback: When Do I Get The Free Weekend Night Certificate on the Citi Hilton Reserve Card? | Million Mile Secrets

  30. I’m having the worst time redeeming free weekend night certificates.

    First try was Sydney, Australia. No consecutive day availability as far as the eye could see.

    Second try now is Huntington Beach, California. For some reason, they can’t book me a standard room because they can’t tell how many disHHonor points that is. The reason is that Hilton isn’t in the business of quoting standard room disHHonor prices for the top $$$ hotels. She and I could see how much an “Ocean View” room is online (107,640), but for some curious reason, can’t see how much a standard “Resort View” room is. Oops! Sorry, that means we can’t book it! Fake frowney face!

    It’s absolutely ridiculous. Their excluded properties list is much longer than is shown. They might as well not have an exclusion list and just not quote points for standard rooms, and get away with it that way. That way they can lie and say: “Valid at every Hilton property! Absolutely no exclusions!” (Then again, perhaps having a fake short exclusion list helps dupe people into thinking that they won’t get hassled for booking expensive rooms.)

    As soon as I blow the remaining weekend night certificates, and before the next annual fee comes due, I’m closing the credit card. It’s not worth it. I’m having a much better experience with Marriott.

  31. Alright, well, I called again, and I guess persistence pays off. They booked it for 80,000 points (which is the “starting” quote that shows up when you’re searching by city and have to click on a hotel on the right).

  32. My experience with Hilton Honors has been good and bad. One thing I’ve learned is that it pays to complain. Hilton seems to be spot-on with trying to make up for rude treatment – or no treatment – to their Honors guests. I’ve had many thousands of points restored because of a valid complaint they investigated.