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

In my other post today, I outlined ‘the facts’ of the Hilton HHonors 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, upgrade and internet), generally give status benefits if booking via a third party, good UK coverage, strong pipeline of new openings across Conrad, Waldorf-Astoria and Hilton

Weak points – devaluation in 2013 made redemptions poor value at high-end properties, UK Hilton-branded hotels dated

Hilton Venice

The longer version:

Let’s hit the good points first.  Hilton HHonors offers the best mid tier status of any of the hotel schemes.  Once you have a Hilton HHonors Gold card, you will receive free continental breakfast, free upgrade and a room upgrade of some sort at most of the 10 Hilton brands.

Whilst you can’t get Hilton Gold for free via a credit card in the UK (unless you spend £10,000 on the Hilton Visa), Hilton does offer regular promotions.  These generally involve giving you instant Gold for a short period and extending it for a further year for just four stays.  This is a decent deal.

I am also impressed with the way that the portfolio has been refreshed in recent years.  The Hilton brand has effectively been abandoned for new builds (fine by me) in favour of impressive new upscale Conrad and Waldorf-Astoria hotels and decent Hampton Inn budget properties.  I would rank Hampton Inn above Holiday Inn Express and indeed most Holiday Inn properties.

I still defy anyone to explain the difference between a Conrad and a Waldorf-Astoria though.  Doubletree and Hilton suffer from a similar identity crisis.  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?

I have a Hilton Gold card, and am happy to move across a slug of Amex Membership Rewards points when a suitable redemption opportunity comes up.  I liked the Conrad New York last year and we are trying the new Doubletree Jumeirah Beach in Dubai later this year.

If you’ve got Hilton Gold and you (generally) avoid staying at the 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 these days.  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.

But then they messed it up …..

The Hilton HHonors devaluation in February 2013 was one of the most aggressive ever seen.  Overnight – albeit with warning – top properties jumped from 50,000 points to a crazy 95,000 points.

By contrast, InterContinental and Marriott – which have a similar earning structure – stick to 45,000-50,000 points for their top-end properties.

I saw a great story last year where the owner of some New York Hilton properties blamed falling occupancy on these changes – no-one wanted to redeem at his hotels anymore.  When even the hotel owners hate your programme, you have issues.

The newly opened Waldorf-Astoria in Dubai does not even offer standard rooms for redemption – only ‘Premium Room Rewards’ have been available so far.

There are some ‘sweet spots’ left, though.

‘Cash and points’ redemptions, when available, are decent value.

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.  Long term, the benefits are not great, but the sign-up deal is impressive.

I am certainly not going to go out of my way to earn Hilton points.  However, if an option comes up for a good value redemption (which is rare these days) then I would be happy to transfer over some Amex Membership Rewards points to book it.

What is the best hotel scheme? - Hilton HHonors - The Facts
'Credit Cards Update' updated for February - summary of best deals
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  1. Wozza2404 says:

    I noticed a distinct lack of upgrades last year as a Gold. I spoke to a manager of a property in Dubai who told me that suddenly practically every other guest had Gold status; it was just too easy to obtain. They’d therefore stopped giving the big upgrades, and often lounge access, to Golds.

    Once I hit Diamond again, it all started back up. The same manager told me he was writing to Hilton to try and get what sounded like a BA style CIV score included next to a status, to show your annual “worth” to the chain. This would be great for me, no doubt very bad for many others.

    Without lounge access (which saves considerable money in the Middle East for me), Gold loses a lot of its value, making Diamond suddenly seem a lot better option.

    Perhaps how it should be.

    • MaltaPointsTom says:

      I am Hilton Gold, and on my last three bookings (2 x London and Istanbul) I have been almost instantly given an upgrade (i.e. via a link on the confirmation email) to an executive room. It’s there eStandby option, but the cost for the Exec room upgrade has always been nil.

      I do agree Hilton Gold is far too easy to get via alternative means now, compared to what you need to do to get it through hotel stays. Little wonder that Hilton are treating Golds with less awe than they used to, although I seem to have been lucky.

    • Oxtailsoup says:

      Are you still aiming for GGL Wozza? Free Hilton Diamond.

  2. Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    Don’t forget the points and fixed miles devaluation. That was nearly the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.

    Overall fairly satisfied with HHonors, but I stick around because of one particular property that I like to stay at, rather than the scheme.

  3. How does everyone pronounce HHonors?

  4. Oh Matron! says:

    Great write up.

    I rarely stay in Hiltons in the UK now… Preferring Doubletrees. Much more modern (I’m looking at the Tower Of London, Heathrow and Westminister DoubleTrees), compared to the travel lodges that are the Croydon and Bracknell Hiltons.

    And the Hamptons that are springing up everywhere… Cheap as Chips, and, as you rightly say, better than Holiday inn expresses.

    The Double Dipping is still great, although not as good, and I find it easier than any other hotel loyalty scheme to get to the highest tier

  5. Also, if you have BA Gold Guest List (GGL) status, Hilton will enrol you as Diamond.

    • Good point, will add that.

    • What is BA Gold Guest List status?

      • You need 3,000 tier points a year for 2 years or a crazy 5,000 tier points in one year.

        Main benefit is the ability to ‘order’ BA to open up award space for you and your family when you want it. You can combine this with Amex 2-4-1 and Gold Upgrade For Two upgrade vouchers (given to high level Golds). This is a substantial improvement on the benefit given to normal Gold members, who can also ‘order’ BA to open up seats but must pay a 100% miles premium and cannot use an Amex voucher.

        • Sounds crazy.

        • Thanks. Is it a lifetime status, or an annual thing?

        • Wozza2404 says:

          Annual. If you hit 3k TPs for two consecutive years, you’ll become GGL and you’ll need to continue to hit 3k each year to retain it.
          If you hit 5k TPs in one year you’ll be enrolled as GGL automatically (with no need to have a second year of the same TPs), and this comes with a CCR card. You’ll still need to hit 3k TPs each year to maintain GGL and 5k to maintain CCR, though.

        • This sounds amazing! Unfortunately my employer has a travel ban in place and even retaining silver status is looking unlikely. Are there any clever ways to boost tier points?!

        • The easiest way is fly to the somewhere in the US and break the trip down into segments of over 2,000 miles. So, for example, go to California but change plane in New York or Miami to American. You then do 4 x long-haul flights on the return trip which is, in business, 4 x 140 TP’s.

  6. gnarlyoldgoatdude says:

    My understanding is that Doubletrees (for the most part) are hotels adopted from other chains. E.g. the Heathrow/Cranford Doubletree used to be a Ramada. Aren’t the Jury’s Inns going that way too?

  7. I stayed at a Hampton last week but didn’t earn any points as it was booked through hotels.com

    The stay is showing on my hhonors account though. Is that enough to stop my points expiring?

    • If you spent any money at all in the hotel and got points for that, yes. If not, no.

      • Thanks. I have another stay next week. Sounds like a drink in the bar might be a plan.

        I’m pretty sure I haven’t Otherwise stayed in a hilton group property in the past year, yet I discovered I have 15k points and still somehow seem to be silver…

        Need to think about what I can do with them….

        • For the benefit of anyone else in the same situation…

          We did spend money in the bar, but because the stay was ineligible for points, nothing was awarded for any extra spend (just confirmed by phone that this is Hilton policy).

          Looks like the best course of action is probably to redeem the remaining points for Amazon vouchers before they expire.

  8. Has anyone managed to successfully gain Hilton Gold using the Accenture offer? To get gold, do you need to have 4 separate stays or 4 nights?

  9. Froggitt says:

    Remember 20 years ago when they segmented UK Hiltons into Hilton National and Hilton International? That was the crappy old hotel/sprayed concrete blocks like Watford versus newbuild/shiny like Leeds.

    Then I revisited Leeds a few years ago, and the windows were like the rivers of Babylon, with mould everywhere.

    Now the strategy seems to be let the old hotels fester like a Holiday Inn, and build new under a new brand.