Middle Age Miles’ good friend JV13 has been a terrific supporter of the blog, and he’s very excited about starting to use credit card benefits, points and miles to travel for less. He was recently approved for an Amex Hilton Aspire card. We prioritized the Aspire for JV13 (even though it runs counter to conventional “5/24”-related advice) because he has significant work travel where he stays in Hilton-family hotels in the normal course. The Hilton Diamond status that comes with the Aspire, as well as the increased 14x points earning for spend at Hilton hotels and the card’s other benefits, provide him with immediate, tangible positive results.
After getting the Aspire, JV13 sent me a question that I thought was worth a short article on Middle Age Miles. Experienced points-and-miles aficionados would know the answer to this question. But Middle Age Miles has a lot of readers who are just dipping their toes into the points-and-miles waters, and I thought this could help them.
Here’s the question from JV13:
I am about to book a hotel stay with the Hampton Inn for Saturday night and will pay using the new Amex [Hilton Aspire] card. Does it matter if I book it by logging onto my Hilton Honors account, which is what I normally do, or should I log onto my Amex account and book through the Amex Travel site? I can check prices and see which is better but I wasn’t sure if I get any added benefit (or points) by using Amex Travel. I am signed up for the Hilton Honors promotion already. Thanks!
Good question, JV13. And great on signing up for the Hilton Honors promotion to earn even more extra points!
The answer here is straightforward – Definitely book through the Hilton site!
In short, the general rule is to always book direct with the hotel chain if possible. When you book through most third parties (including Amex Travel), you won’t earn points or elite night credits, and you’re not entitled to receive elite benefits (some hotels may be nice and extend elite benefits anyway, but that’s a one-off).
The first relevant portion of the Hilton Honors Terms & Conditions is paragraph 3 under “Accrual of Points”:
3. A “stay” is defined as … Specifically excluded from the definition of “stay” are the following types of ineligible stays: …
* third party websites bookings (irrespective of rate paid); …
Hilton Honors Points (or stay credit) may not be earned (including as a My Way benefit) for or during ineligible stays, including without limitation, folio charges incurred during ineligible stays….
Another provision, under “Hilton Honors Amenities for all Members, including Silver Elite, Gold Elite, and Diamond Elite Members,” covers elite benefits:
On-property benefits are not awarded in the following circumstances: …
* Booking ineligible stays, (as defined in the Accrual Of Points section) unless hotel contract has specific benefits included.
In addition, we find that we’re almost always able to get a better rate by booking a discounted rate directly with the hotel, particularly for Hilton stays. AAA and AARP discounted rates are accessible on Hilton.com to anyone who spends a few dollars on membership in these organizations. And if you have a corporate code that you’re entitled to use, you can probably save even more (and often get a more favorable cancellation policy).
Another small thing when booking Hilton-family hotels is that you can go through a shopping portal to earn a little cash back. Standard cashback rates for Diamond members are only 1% at the two portals we use most, Ebates and TopCashback (referral links to sign up). (You might be able to earn a higher percentage if you use another portal and/or you’re not a Diamond member.) That’s not a huge amount of money, but we never want to leave cash on the table!
One Possible Exception
When I write an article like this, especially one that provides a strong and straightforward answer, I always like to play devil’s advocate for a moment to think about whether there are any exceptions. Here, I came up with one – if you’re (a) very skilled at obtaining and using discounted Hotels.com gift cards; (b) also skilled at navigating the Hotels.com reward program and using those rewards; and (c) a person who doesn’t have or use elite benefits or is staying exclusively at places where elite benefits don’t make too much difference (like a Hampton Inn, where breakfast is included for everyone) – then maybe you could do better using Hotels.com. That’s a very narrow exception.
I’m going to say that almost everyone would come out better by booking direct through Hilton.com. I believe it’s a virtual certainty that direct booking is better if you hold an Amex Hilton Ascend or Aspire card and/or have elite status with Hilton (especially Gold or Diamond).
So our advice is still to just keep it simple – book direct with Hilton.com.
What do you think of our answer to this reader question? Do you have an approach that you think is better? We look forward to hearing from you in the Comments!
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