The Hilton smartphone app's best (new?) feature

I don't have a very high opinion of hotel smartphone apps. Frankly, I find them pretty annoying; they constantly require me to sign in with login credentials I can never remember, and all but the simplest room searches are typically impossible. I principally use them to check whether points have posted from my co-branded credit cards and revenue stays.

One bright spot is the Club Carlson app, which allows you to easily search for both award availability and "Points + Cash" availability. That's something that's easy to do each morning while I wait for hotels to open up rooms for award redemptions.

The best Hilton HHonors app innovation

I just noticed this change today and thought I'd pass it along, although it may have been implemented a few versions ago. Hilton has a lot of brands in their hotel portfolio, and each one has different benefits included in standard room rates or provided to HHonors elite members.

As confusing as those differences are, even worse is that the HHonors account management page is notoriously unreliable, so even if you understand the choices you need to make, you're still bound to run into problems trying to adjust all the relevant account settings.

Do you know the difference between a Hampton Inn & Suites and a Hilton Garden Inn?

Neither did I, until I opened the HHonors app and navigated to "My Account" and "Hotel Benefits." There, each brand is listed and you're able to easily select which of each brand's benefits you'd like on your next stay.

That's where I found out that breakfast is included at Hampton Inn & Suites, so as a Gold member I can choose between 250 HHonors points or a bottle of water and a snack with each stay, while at Hilton Garden Inn I have to choose between free daily hot breakfast or 750 HHonors points per stay.

When it matters

Travel hackers typically relish complicated loyalty rules: the more complications there are, the more loopholes are bound to pop up. But Hilton's hellish website and byzantine brand differences just never made it fun to learn the ins-and-outs of the program.

The app's simple interface now lets you easily make split-second decisions like: on a one-night stay at a Hilton Hotels & Resorts property, would I rather get breakfast in town or pocket 1,000 HHonors points? If, like me, you typically sleep through breakfast anyway when on vacation, the 1,000 HHonors points start to look tempting – and choosing them is now just a matter of tapping an in-app sliding button 24 hours before you check in.