Availability: All Hilton brands: Conrad, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Hilton, Home2 Suites, Homewood Suites, and Waldorf Astoria.
Earning Formula: Earn 15 points per dollar spent on hotel accommodations and services at all except Hampton, Homewood, and Home2. Earn half points at Hampton and Homewood and quarter points at Home2. Points expire within 12 months of not earning or spending points.
Alternate Airline Earning Formula: Earn 10 points per dollar spent on hotel accommodations and services at all except Hampton, Homewood, and Home2. Earn half points at Hampton and Homewood and quarter points at Home2. In addition, for every dollar spent at Hiltons, earn one mile on Air Canada, Alaska, American, Amtrak, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, and United; one point per $2 at JetBlue and Virgin America; and other earnings on several foreign lines.
Redeeming Formula: Free nights are based on point "prices" that vary by location, season, and expected occupancy, some at 5,000 but mostly in the 20,000–50,000 point range.
Generosity. Stay eight to 28 nights (average 15) to earn one award night at a comparable hotel.
Membership Benefits: Entry-level benefits include late checkout and no additional charge for your spouse (subject to conditions). The first substantial benefits, at Gold (which requires 40 nights in a calendar year), are access to fitness centers, no-charge Wi-Fi at some locations, complimentary breakfast at Hilton Garden Inn, and room upgrades at Conrad. Earn bonus points up to 50 percent at higher elite levels.
Credit Card: Your best option is HHonors Surpass Card (AmEx), which offers automatic Gold status, 12 points per dollar at Hiltons (but no points on other purchases), and 60,000 bonus enrollment points for a $75 annual fee.