Shopping portals vs. triple HHonors points when booking via app

This fall's Hilton HHonors promotion began last month and offers double Hilton HHonors points for stays between September 1 and December 31 after registration. This promotion has become pretty standard: book with Hilton directly, stay at any of its properties and receive double base points for your stay. I have taken advantage of essentially this same promotion in the past and I plan to take advantage of the current version in a few weeks. However, earlier this month, I received an email from Hilton HHonors offering to sweeten this deal.

The enhanced offer

  You can earn triple Hilton HHonors points when you book via the Hilton app...but should you?

You can earn triple Hilton HHonors points when you book via the Hilton app...but should you?

The enhanced promotion offers an additional HHonors point per dollar if you make your reservation via the Hilton HHonors mobile app. You need to register for the promotion before you check out on an eligible stay during the promotion period. Per the FAQ, "if you registered prior to October 4th, you will not have to register again to earn Triple Points for stays booked in the app. Triple Points can only be earned from October 4, 2016 through December 31, 2016."

...but should you book via the app?

Triple points sounds pretty good! Normally my post about such a promotion would end here. It would be a no-brainer to take advantage of an extra bonus point. However, I actually won't be earning that third point. Why?

Because I would have to book through the Hilton HHonors app. No, I don't have anything against apps and would gladly rebook my current Hilton reservations via the app if I wanted the third point. The reason I won't do that is because I can get better value by booking through a shopping portal which I can't do if I book through an app.

What is a shopping portal?

A shopping portal allows you to link to various merchants, including hotel chains, from its website and awards you with some sort of additional reward for doing so. These portals don't cost you anything as these sites earn money for referral commissions. The type of reward depends on what portal you use.

Cash or Gift Card Awards

Travel Points and Miles

Note: If you want to register for these sites, I would appreciate if you use the links above. I will get a referral bonus with some of them and you will get a signup bonus with the eBates link! 

That's a lot of portals and that's just a few of them! So how do you know which one is the best one to use? Well, that varies from merchant to merchant. There are also promotions at times that offer bonus cash or points which are not available on all portals. The best way to check which portal offers the best deal for a merchant you are shopping is a site such as Cashback Monitor or evReward.

Finding the best portal deal

Let's use Cashback Monitor to see what offers are available for Hilton. First we need to define the value of the additional Hilton point so we are sure we get more value going through a portal. Per The Points Guy monthly point valuation, a Hilton HHonors point is worth 0.5 cents. That's a return of 0.5% for each dollar spend on a Hilton reservation. Let's see if we can do better on shopping portal.

  Cashback Monitor search results for portals offering rewards on Hilton reservations

Cashback Monitor search results for portals offering rewards on Hilton reservations

Searching for Hilton from the main page, I see the list of available offers. The search results page divides the portals based on the type of reward offered: Cashback, Travel Miles/Points, Credit Card Points, Other Reward Points. I have already setup my Cashback Monitor account with the values of various points and miles so the screenshot reflects the percentage return as well as the number of points or miles. I can immediately see that the best return is from the Giving Assistant portal. I am not familiar with that site but I do often use the second highest returning portal, iConsumer, which is offering 5.8% cashback on Hilton purchases. If I wanted miles instead of cash, I could forgo some return and opt for 2 American AAdvantage miles per dollar spent on my reservation. Either way, both offer far more value than the extra Hilton HHonors point. Note, even if you go through a portal, you are still booking through the main Hilton page and will be eligible for the double points promotion as well as other perks available by booking directly with Hilton.

Let's use iConsumer as I did when I made my last Hilton reservation. You simply click on the Cashback Monitor link to iConsumer. That takes you directly to the iConsumer portal and then on to the standard Hilton page. So long as you don't leave that page once you have linked via the portal, your reservation will qualify for the portal rewards. Once you complete your stay and pay your bill, the rewards will post to your portal account or to your loyalty account for portals such as American, Delta or Chase Ultimate Rewards. Some portals post faster than others and sometimes awards are missed, so it's best to keep your reservation email just in case you need to follow up with the portal. 

Summary

While the triple Hilton HHonors points promotion looks good, the fact that it requires booking via an app means you lose out on an opportunity to get more reward value on your reservation. By going through a shopping portal, you get more valuable cash or points as well as any hotel promotions or perks associated with booking directly with the hotel website.