Earlier this year, Hilton revamped and renamed its loyalty program (previously HHonors, now Honors). Among the enhancements to Honors was a new partnership with Amazon, allowing Honors members to redeem their points for merchandise from the online mega-retailer.
It was a compelling idea. With its unrivaled breadth and depth of products, Amazon comes close to being a one-stop shopping spot for anything and everything a consumer might want. So making points redeemable for Amazon merchandise would give Honors points cash-like value in meeting program members’ real-world needs.
Value was both the promise and the question. The tie-up promised enormous value for convenience and flexibility. But how much would Honors points be worth when used to purchase Amazon products?
At the time, Hilton side-stepped the question, either because they were still in the process of determining that value, or because they worried that the answer would undermine the excitement generated by the novel partnership.
This month, the value question was answered, as the pay-with-points option finally went live on Amazon’s website.
Now, when you shop at Amazon, you’ll see a new option, “Use Hilton Honors Points to shop at Amazon.com. Get Started,” linked to a page with instructions for connecting your Amazon and Hilton accounts. Once the accounts are linked, Honors points will be included among the forms of payment shown whenever you shop at Amazon. Points may be used to pay the full amount, or combined with a credit card payment.
So, how much are Honors points worth on Amazon.com? The conversion rate, we now know, is 500 Honors points for $1. In other words, one point is worth 0.2 cents (one-fifth of one cent).
For context, when redeemed for free hotel room nights, Honors points are worth between 0.4 cents and 0.5 cents each, twice the value for Amazon purchases. Which raises the question: Why settle for 0.2 cents per point when it’s possible to get significantly better value?
Hilton’s thinking on this is likely twofold. First, Amazon redemptions are a viable option for program members who don’t have enough points for free nights. It keeps infrequent travelers engaged with the program. And secondly, at the opposite end of the spectrum, for Honors members who have large account balances, Amazon merchandise might be a welcome alternative to yet another hotel stay. If you’re a business traveler who already spends more nights in a hotel than at home, a new set of golf clubs from Amazon might be more attractive than another hotel night, even if the value proposition is less than optimal.
If you’re in the middle, however—a moderately active Honors member, with enough accrued points for one or more free nights—the Amazon option is probably best ignored. It’s more sizzle than steak.
Reader Reality Check
At 0.2 cents per Honors point, do you find the buy-from-Amazon option attractive?
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.