What is the best hotel scheme? – Hilton Honors – The Opinion

In my article yesterday, I outlined ‘the facts’ of the Hilton Honors loyalty scheme.  This post is my personal opinion, highlighting areas where I think you might want to focus.

The 10-second summary:

Strong points – best mid tier status of any scheme (free breakfast and a ‘preferred’ room of some sort), good UK coverage, strong pipeline of new openings across Conrad, Waldorf-Astoria and Hampton, good credit card earn options, Hilton @Play looking promising, guaranteed lounge access for Diamond

Weak points – some UK Hilton-branded hotels dated, risk that the revised redemption model turns 100% revenue based, regional differences in how status members are treated

Hilton Venice

The longer version:

Let’s hit the good points first.  Hilton Honors offers the best mid tier status of any of the hotel schemes. Once you have a Hilton Honors Gold card, you will receive free continental breakfast and a ‘preferred room’ of some sort at most – not all – of the Hilton brands.

You can get Hilton Gold for free if you spend £10,000 on the Hilton Visa.  You can also status match your existing mid-tier hotel card and get upgraded for 90 days, with an extension if you hit a stay target.  Hilton Gold is also free if you hold an Amex Platinum charge card.

I am also impressed with the way that the portfolio has been refreshed in recent years. We have seen impressive new upscale Conrad and Waldorf-Astoria hotels and decent Hampton budget properties.  I would rank Hampton above Holiday Inn Express and indeed most Holiday Inn properties.

The core Hilton brand is also seeing a resurgence with impressive new openings such as Tallinn and Paris Opera which we reviewed last year.  The Curio brand, which is attracting leading independent hotels to sign with Hilton, is also looking promising – here is our review of Gran Hotel Montesol, the boutique luxury Ibiza hotel.

There are still some identity issues in the portfolio.  I defy anyone to explain the difference between a Conrad and a Waldorf-Astoria.  Why is the very nice Venice hotel branded as Hilton?  Why did the Waldorf-Astoria Syon Park get downgraded to a Hilton whilst offering an almost identical product?  Why is there no real distinction in the UK between Hilton and Doubletree?  Indeed, why are UK Doubletree properties superior to Hilton when the opposite is meant to apply?

There are also variations in how status members are treated.  Due to the huge number of people holding Gold status in the US via credit card offers and the like, you won’t get much from a property there.  On the other hand, a Gold travelling in Asia can often do very well for upgrades and benefits.

I was recently happy to move across a slug of Amex Membership Rewards points at 1:2 when a suitable redemption opportunity came up in Tokyo.  I got almost 0.5p per point which meant almost 1p per Amex point, which is very good.

The Hilton @Play ‘redeem points for experiences’ scheme continues to improve.  It isn’t yet on a par with SPG Moments but it might still get there.

If you’ve got Hilton Gold and you avoid staying at the most dated UK Hilton properties, you will probably have a decent stay.

Interestingly, top-tier Hilton Diamond status is generally seen as having only modest value. Unless you stay at hotels with a lounge, where you are guaranteed access, you get little extra at most places than a Gold.  A better strategy may be to secure your Hilton Gold requalification and then focus on achieving mid-tier status with another chain.

How will the 2017 redemption changes impact Hilton Honors?

In the short term, everything looks OK.

(Well, just about everything.  If you exclusively booked ‘cash and point’ redemptions in the past, you will now be far worse off.  Those redemptions were pretty hard to find at most decent hotels, however, and they are not a major loss as far as I am concerned.  I know that some people disagree.)

Hotels which were disproportionately expensive as a redemption are now cheaper, and you will get something between 0.33p and 0.45p per point

You can mix cash and points depending on how many you have

The cap on the maximum number of points needed for a redemption means that most (not all, I know) hotels are cheaper or the same price as before

The UK Hilton HHonors credit card is a fantastic deal allowing you to claim a free night at ANY hotel once you’ve spent £750.  The card is even looking more attractive for long-term spending these days.  2 Hilton points per £1 – worth 0.66p to 0.9p, roughly – means you get a better return than most Visa or MasterCard products.

Decent new hotel openings and the ease with which you can now obtain Hilton Gold means that I am more positive about the company than I was two years when I last wrote an article like this.  My future support will depend on whether they retain the cap on points charged for redemption or move, mistakenly in my view, to a fully revenue based model.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Back in the Etihad First & Business Class lounge, Heathrow Terminal 4
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Comments

  1. Again my major gripe is with the Lifetime Diamond criteria of 1000 nights!
    I am on my 17th year straight at Diamond but only circa 800 nights earned as my stays are almost always single nights. No discretion at being way over on one criteria but short on the other.

    • If they wanted it to be 800 nights they would have made it 800 nights.

    • They are not very helpful if there are issues with status, their status match programme had an error which counted nights as stays so showed I had qualified and then it changed a couple of days before the closing date leaving me short a few stays and not enough time. Their customer service was useless.

  2. My diamond status was downgraded to silver on 31st March, despite receiving an email from Hilton some weeks before stating I would be downgraded to Gold. I made further (non-refundable) bookings based on this info but Hilton are refusing to honour (no pun) their email.

    • Very poor form as they are clearly at fault. I wonder why companies do this, as clearly they destroy so much goodwill. Allowing refund or honoring Gold status costs them very little, are the right things to do, and one can argue they are contractually bound to do so.

    • Have you thought of taking the risk of just not checking in and disputing the credit card charges? Worth telling Hilton in advance this is what you will do? Especially if you have written confirmation on Gold soft landing.

      • The individual hotels won’t care what Hilton told you, and will report the unpaid bills to Hilton. This will cause Hilton to suspend your account, causing loss of all points and forfeiting any redemptions that you have yet to stay.

        So if you have no points and no upcoming reservations, then it is doable, otherwise no.

  3. As others have mentioned a few examples, can we have a wee poll on favourite good value Hilton properties (doesn’t have to redemptions)?

    Some if these are pre Brexit vote….

    1. Conrad Maldives Rangali cert & 76k points
    2. Waldorf Astoria NYC, cert
    3. Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh £129 sale rate (inc breakfast)
    4. Dunblane Hydro DBB for 2 = Flash Sale £89
    5. Reykjavik​ Nordic £69, as Gold got exec lounge + spa Inc massage

    • Doubletree Sheffield Park £68 or 10,000 points and 20% off food as Diamond.
      Hilton Stucky Molino, Venice (picture at top)

      • James67 says:

        Tried to get Stucky for months now without success, remained a premium room reward for our dates. In the end switched our stay to Milan with daytrip each to Venice and Como. Will try again for weekend in Venice next year.

    • Genghis says:

      Not been there yet but surely the DT in KL is up there? 10k HHs? I’ll be visiting in a couple of weeks’ time.

    • WA NYC is now closed.

      Conrad New York, as an all suite hotel, is the best option (and I’m there in June for my 3rd points stay).

    • James67 says:

      If value, no brainer…Aberdeen 1, 2, 3, 4 and soon to be 5 in any order.

    • Peter K says:

      A less glam than some other options but Hilton Cardiff. £78 upgraded to exec room as Gold with lounge access having great views of Cardiff castle and complimentary afternoon tea style canapes plus evening snacks.

      • We’ve been twice to the Cardiff Hilton and on both occasions found the EL poor for both afternoon tea and evening candles. Mediocre breakfast in the lounge, poor food selection in afternoon and evenings and same brand red, white and rose wines or bottles of Heineken but great view. First room was spacious, second not so. Car park very costly I thought at £25 per night. Ideally placed for city centre.

  4. On the face of it there is not much difference between Gold and Diamond (except for lounge access where there is one). I always feel, however, that as Diamond I will get the upgrade before a Gold. In practice, of course, it is not that simple. Each property will have its own policy (remember that most do not belong to Hilton) and also the whims of the person deciding who gets upgraded.
    Probably most important there has to be a better room unsold for the same period as your booking.

    • I found that with Diamond i did always get suite upgrades in ME and Asia, I’d say quite a difference

  5. Also as TripRep pointed out yesterday http://hiltonhonors3.hilton.com/en/promotions/points-and-money/faq.html Points Pooling is due to start soon. This will allow a member to transfer up to 500,000 points per year to others without charge. This will be very useful to a couple where both earn points but one has higher status.
    You will will also be able to use points to pay on Amazon although this will almost certainly be poor value.

  6. Hilton bomonti Istanbul, 14k points.
    Stayed many times passing through Istanbul.
    Always upgrade me to a bomonti suite.
    Exec lounge really good.
    Alcohol 11am to 11pm

    • Crikey, need a strong liver there! Would you recommend it over the Conrad Istanbul Bosphorus?

      Genghis – I’ve heard good things about the 10k HH KL DT (apart from weird goings on in the lounge), I’ll be interested in your summary.

      I’m planning a 5000pt stay in the new HGI in Bali, that’ll be interesting.

      Rob – I’ll do the Conrad NYC on my next visit, does it give free breakfast?

      • I’ve stayed in both,
        Bomonti better than the Conrad imho, the exec lounge much better in bomonti.
        They gave us a renovated suite in Conrad, good, but no where as good as bomonti suites.

      • Genghis says:

        I’ll happily provide comment on DT KL and Conrad Bali on return

        • Great stuff, I’m considering the Conrad Bali after a couple of cheap nights at the HGI Bali.

          I’d really appreciate that, if you could be bothered and if Rob would run it, maybe it could even have a couple of pics as a fourth article for the HFP library….?

          • Genghis says:

            I’ll see if I can be bothered! I’ll leave a TA review anyway and will send you a link on FT with some other pointers.

      • I had a look at the Conrad (although unlikely to stay there).
        There appears to be a special restricted menu for Honors breakfasts.

      • James67 says:

        KL DT is a fantastic value redemption Nice enough hotel with leisure facilities, an ok lounge on top floor, a huge breakfast buffet, nearby metro, useful shuttle service, attached mall with newsagents, pharmacy, restaurants and import supermarket. Also a clear run by taxi to and from airport but without traffic jam. Last but not least reception offered me a cookie almost every time I returned to my room :)

        Is HGI Bali not next to airport or am I confusing it with something else?

        • Yes right on the approach.

          • I’ll be arriving late at night for the first night, considering other options for the 2nd and 3rd eves. Maybe a villa in Ubud and then the Conrad.

          • I’ve said this before but I wouldn’t bother with a single night in each. In fact I’d not bother with Ubud to be blunt.

          • James67 says:

            Agree, worthy of a visit but not a stay. Unless goal is to keep money and points down I’d not stay arrival night at HGI either, any marginal convenience will be outweighed by hassle of moving hotels next day. If paying for the stay a villa beats a hotel in Bali in my view.

          • Genghis says:

            We’ve a villa in Ubud. I’ll PM you after my stay and let you know how it is

          • Genghis says:

            @Leo @James67 I visited Ubud for 5 days in 2009 and loved the place, hence my return. How come it didn’t tickle your fancy?

          • James67 says:

            If any of you looking for a driver/tour guide in Bali, we booked with Wayan Merta and he was superb guide and very nice guy.

          • Genghis says:

            Cheers @James67. Got my drivers booked but will bear in mind

          • James67 says:

            @Genghis, it did but if I go to Bali I’m going for the beach where I’ll stay put and go elsewhere as day trips. Considering going back to Indonesia in September but would like to explore other islands next time.

          • Genghis says:

            @James67. We’ve already got 8 nights on the beach for Mrs G’s benefit. Any longer would be painful for me. Much prefer to do some walking in the countryside

          • James67 says:

            @Genghis, we are thinking about Kota Kinabalu. Might be a good option for you too if you head back to that region again given your interest in hiking.

          • Genghis says:

            A friend is heading to Borneo in May so I’ll get a full report. Looks good. I think I need to stop heading to Asia though and mix it up a bit.

          • Ubud town is choked with traffic and drunk aussies even in the middle of the day. I think it’s called progress. Didn’t see the attraction. I stayed in a jungle hotel for a few days but there’s not a lot of countryside you can do in a one night stay.

      • Sergeant Major says:

        HGI in Bali waste of time. Try the Conrad as it is in the south and away from crowded touristy areas (i.e. Kuta and that)

        • Sergeant Major says:

          Also for Ubud, we got a top villa through Kaligo on Virgin points (30K per night for a £700 per night resort), so worth exploring that

  7. We are off to California in the summer any Hilton (diamond)or IHG (spire Ambassador) properties recommended

    Thanks
    Jason

    • I’ll shamelessly piggy back this and ask if anyone has a view on the IC Mark Hopkins or the Beverley Hilton?

    • Nate1309 says:

      Having just done this trip I will post my experience. I am HH Gold via AMEX Plat.
      Hilton union square San Francisco – upgraded to Golden Gate Bridge view room- $20 per day food allowance which was enough for breakfast.
      Doubletree suites Santa Monica – no upgrade – full breakfast buffet, free shuttle to beach.
      Hilton resort and spa San Diego mission bay – upgraded room amazing sunset view – breakfast tokens that could be upgraded for small cost to full breakfast.
      They were a mix of free night certificates, points and cash.
      Stayed in various other hotels along the way too but no chains. Did stay in the Hilton Hawaiian village later in the trip, paid for upgrade to rainbow tower, was well worth it for the fireworks.

  8. My status on Hilton is silver now, downgraded from diamond due to status match of spire elite from IHG last year. Any idea if I can ask for 90 days challenge for diamond status, again based in my 2017 IHG spire elite status. Any recommendation would welcome.

    • I’m in the same boat as you. After having tried this with the staff at the Diamond desk, they were adamant that you could not request a challenge to go from silver to diamond. They said that it’s impossible for their systems to allow a double level challenge.

  9. Just back from Bali
    Stayed three nights in Conrad
    Good points: great exec lounge with beautiful cocktails and afternoon tea
    Nice breakfast in main restaurant
    No upgrade even as a diamond but room over the pool was nice
    Bad points : quite a bit away from things so if you want the Balinese experience I’d stay in two locations.
    Ubud is well worth staying in for two days or even three. Conrad was great to chill out after three crazy days.

    • Genghis says:

      Thanks Paul. Did you book the resort view room? That’s what I booked as from research at least get upgraded to ocean view. I guess I’ll see…

  10. Hilton has stopped you from finding out what redemption band hotels are in without visiting the website of each individual hotel, I wondering if this is another indication they are planning to switch from redemption bands to purely revenue based redemption or if it is just a deliberate way of discouraging members from seeking out the best value redemption.

    As a regular user of Hampton Newport already narked they doubled the cost of redemption at this hotel. Will probably stay at an Airbnb in Cardiff next visit to South Wales.

  11. LaineyLing says:

    Does anyone know if you can buy maximum number of points and have someone gift you additional points? We would like to book a redemption stay (5 nights for 4) but would be short points if just one of us buys the maximum allowance.
    Thank you in advance.

  12. I am seeing posts about downgrading from Diamond to Silver as a result of Status Match from IHG last year. I did the same but I am quite sure it got match for 2 years and my status would remain till March 2018. Is that right? On the main HH account it says based on my activity my status would be lower in 2018. How do we know what date we get downgraded as I have the email that said March 2018.

  13. Also, any news on when we can start pooling points for free with friends and family. It keeps saying April 2017 on the HH website but we are in mid April already.

  14. If I book a reward room 5 nights for 4 in the US do I have to pay taxes? T & c just state you may.

    • I did a 5 for 4 redemption in California in February. Didn’t pay any extra taxes. With points and money redemption you might have to but am not sure.