Expert Advice

How To Maximize Your Hilton Honors American Express Card Rewards, According To A Seasoned Program Member

Discover how one Hilton Honors™ member travels well — without additional fees

Laurie L
A tropical beach in Key West, Florida

Full transparency: Now that we own five weeks' worth of Hilton Grand Vacations ClubPoints a year, we've become spoiled when we travel. You see, as Elite Premier Owners, we're exempt from booking, cancellation and other fees. So we don't pay a single fee to travel. 

Additionally, as part of my quest to accumulate as many Hilton Honors Points as possible for retirement, we earn our fair share of free night certificates through our Hilton Honors American Express credit cards. 

A couple walking through the lush Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii 

As much as we love the quality of staying with Hilton Grand Vacations when we travel, our surplus of free night certificates gives us the flexibility to vacation in destinations without HGV properties.

All the while, with a bit of strategy, we still enjoy the benefit of no additional fees. 

Typically, we're still on the hook for resort fees if we book outside Hilton Grand Vacations' portfolio. Remember, we've become spoiled. Now I'm hesitant to stay at a property without resort fees. Only the best-in-class properties charge a resort fee, and we've found that top-tier hotels are closer to what we've grown accustomed to through timeshare. 

But don't get me wrong, I don't actually want to pay that resort fee.

"My goal when traveling is to stay at the best hotel while paying the lowest price."

— Laurie L., Hilton Grand Vacations Owner and Hilton Honors Member

Let's get back to how we used our free night certificates. Despite having been once, Key West has always been on our bucket list. It's quite a trek from Iowa, where we live, but it seems like a waste to use free night certificates to stay close to home. So we set our sights on Casa Marina Key West, a Waldorf Astoria™ Resort

Hilton Grand Vacations Owners snapping a selfie at Casa Marina a Waldorf Astoria Resort in Key West, Florida.   

Luckily, I'm a planner and have found that the earlier you book, the more likely you will find a "standard room" available for your certificate. In this case, I was able to book at Casa Marina for Memorial Day weekend. (As you can imagine, booking far in advance is critical for holiday weekends.)    

And since I'm not retired yet, booking during holidays is a plus. I know I already have some days off due to work holidays, no matter what. This means I use fewer vacation days. Finally, booking in advance typically requires fewer Hilton Honors Points

I used three certificates and then booked two nights at 63,000 Hilton Honors Points a night. Just for fun, I always check back to see how much the rate changes after I book. 

For example, two months after we booked, the room was 95,000 Hilton Honors Points a night. A month out, the room was nearly $1,100 a night — assuming a standard room would still be available during a holiday weekend. 

The best part is that I'm not paying for anything out of pocket, not even the resort fee, which they waive when you book using free night certificates or Hilton Honors Points. So always remember to book with all Hilton Honors Points (versus Points plus cash) when staying at a resort with resort fees.

As for this particular trip? It was all about location. Staying at Casa Marina puts you within walking distance of Duval Street, and the resort exceeded our expectations. 

Palm trees and a wooden pathway to a beach on Key West, Florida 

Although it was a holiday weekend, we could still book a kayak tour, a sunset boat cruise, see the turtle rescue and enjoy our favorite activity, a boat tour of Key West. 

You can't beat the opportunity to stay anywhere in the world, Hilton Grand Vacations resort or not. But, with a bit of strategy, you can sweeten the deal without any out-of-pocket hotel costs using free night certificates and Hilton Honors Points.   

We can't wait to use free night certificates in Maui at Maui Bay Villas by Hilton Grand Vacations. In the meantime, we're grateful there are other options as Hilton Honors members.

Read “We Asked 14 Hilton Grand Vacations Owners Why They Chose Hilton Grand Vacations Timeshare, And Here’s What They Said" for more Owner stories.      


Hilton Grand Vacations Explorer, Laurie L.

Laurie L

As an Elite Owner, Laurie has a home-away-from-home at Elara byHilton Grand Vacations, Hilton Grand Vacations on the Boulevard and Kings' Land by Hilton Grand Vacations. She joined in 2013 and says vacations are among the most important things in her life and a big part of her retirement plans. She enjoys traveling with her significant other and friends and is happiest with a bit of adventure (think: helicopter tours and biking trips). 


However, her favorite travel memory is touring an olive oil farm and winery while staying at Hilton Grand Vacations at Borgo alle Vigne in Italy. As a traveler who loves a good deal even more than travel itself, she's your go-to for tips on planning unforgettable trips that won't break the bank. 

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