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

In my article yesterday, 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 and almost certain upgrade), generally give status benefits if booking via a third party, good UK coverage, strong pipeline of new openings across Conrad, Waldorf-Astoria and Hampton

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 and a room upgrade of some sort at most of the 12 Hilton brands.

You can get Hilton Gold for free if you spend £10,000 on the Hilton Visa.  If you are willing to fib, you can also get it via a four-stay fast track promotion like this one.

I am also impressed with the way that the portfolio has been refreshed in recent years. The Hilton brand has mainly 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.  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?

I have a Hilton Gold card via their credit card, and I am happy to move across a slug of Amex Membership Rewards points at 1:2 when a suitable redemption opportunity comes up.  This generally means a redemption which offers a better deal than the usual 0.3p per Hilton point which would only value my Amex points at 0.6p.

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 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.

Has Hilton overcome its devaluation?

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 80,000 to 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.  Marriott is guilty of ‘category creep’ (keeping its points structure the same but quietly moving more and more hotels into the most expensive tiers) but it is nothing compared to what Hilton did.

There was even a well-reported press story in 2014 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.

There are some ‘sweet spots’ left, though.

‘Cash and points’ redemptions, when available, are decent value.  Some premium redemptions offer value if the hotel is having a promotion on this type of reward – I booked Conrad New York last year on this basis.

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.

There are a handful of Hilton properties at just 5,000 points per night, including the Hilton Salalah beach resort in Oman which we reviewed recently.  The only UK hotels at 5,000 points are the Hampton Corby / Kettering and the Hampton Newport.

The 10,000 point level is more active – the new Hampton in Sheffield is just 10,000 points per night as is the Hampton Derby, Doubletree Sheffield, Hilton Newport, Hampton Newcastle, Doubletree Newcastle Airport, Hampton Derby and Hampton Liverpool Airport.  A full list of Category 2 hotels at 10,000 points per night is here.

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, but it does happen) then I would be happy to transfer over some Amex Membership Rewards points to book it.

(To see our list of current Hilton promotions, click here to visit our ‘Hotel Promos’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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  1. James says:

    Should add that although the advertised benefit is a free continental breakfast, I have always been awarded a full breakfast so far since being gold.

    Also I recently stayed at the Hampton Liverpool airport. Rooms were selling for £99 last minute, but was able to book a cash and points redemption for £23 + 4000 points which I was pretty pleased with. I was shocked at how nice it was actually! Certainly better than some Hilton branded properties I’ve stayed at!

    • I’ve found that the HbH at Liverpool Airport can sometimes just be a few pounds more than paying for parking on it’s own and there’s certainly nothing wrong with the rooms, check in your bags at the airport in the morning then walk back for breakfast before checkout, it’s really convenient. Strangely, I have stayed there twice and been put in the same room both times.

  2. Gregor says:

    If I book a cash & points redemption, do I earn any points on the cash spent?

    • No you don’t earn on the cash element of a C&P redemption.

      It does count as a stay towards earning requirements if that’s beneficial to you.

  3. Jamsey says:

    I arrived in Kula Lumpur last night and was going to book the Hilton! Ended up booking the Intercontinential as I am platinum ambassador, got no upgrade, no welcome gift, basic internet and one drink voucher for a beer! Room was dirty and dated! Had better service at a holiday inn express and the hotel itself is no better than a holiday inn at best! Never really had time to complain as it was my first Intercontinential stay as a play ambassador as only just got it! I’m going to complain now I’m at the airport and had time to think, best to complain ihg or the hotel direct?

    Moral of the story, wish I’d stayed at Hilton!

    • Hilton in KL is VERY nice, outside airport train stop and shares pool with Meridien. Stayed there about 9 years ago.

      • avstar says:

        Doubletree KL @10k points per night FTW. One of the sweet spots in the hilton programme.

    • Stated at the DT KL last year and got everything thrown at me. I’m Gold

    • I am sorry to hear about you bad experience,
      was it a reward stay or a paid stay?
      I am afraid that IC KUL does have a bad reputation on flyertalk…sounds like they have never improved.
      On the other hand, the 2 Hilton properties are very nice at KUL, hope you have better experience next time!

    • Flyoff says:

      If you want to complain I would always give the hotel the opportunity to resolve the issue first before complaining to the hotel chain.

      The Le Meridien next door to the Hilton is also a nice and has a good Executive Lounge.

    • David W says:

      Really? I stayed there last year and got the full works from just being Platinum, although I did ‘remind’ them of my status on the booking. I’d go direct to the hotel, I think these things are usually down to the management rather than the parent group.

    • Cradders says:

      I’ve had problems with them too (also as a Plat Amb), and getting them to cooperate was like pulling teeth.

      I complained directly to IHG to get a resolution in the end and made sure that whenever the hotel emailed me, I CC’d IHG.

      I got an outcome in the end, but prepare to be highly frustrated in the interim!

  4. Thunderbirds says:

    Like HFP I’ve sometimes struggled to grasp the desire of hotel chains to generate new brands. I don’t use Hilton myself but a brief look at their website implies they have about 12 different brands. Is there a significant difference between Hampton Inn and Hilton Garden Court..?
    When you say that Hampton Inn are better than HI/HIE is that because most (all?) of the Hampton Inn are new build and the HI/HIE are older? How do you compare new build for both? I try to stay clear of the HI/HIE old properties as the new build are far better. Having said that I’m at the old HI at Armacao de Pera at the moment on a long weekend and, to kill two birds so to speak, as I’m also completing a couple of Set Your Sights targets.

    • Think Square says:

      Hampton Inns have an included (minimalist) breakfast for all guests, and no proper restaurant in the evening, whereas Hilton Garden Inn is closer to a “full service” hotel. In the UK both brands tend to be new-build properties. I’ve never had a bad stay at either.

      The quality of furnishings in Hampton Inns is higher than HIE, which always reminds me of Travelodge.

      As Rob says, most Hiltons in the UK are dated, but there are a few nice modern properties: Belfast, Newcastle/Gateshead, Cardiff, Reading, Wembley. Any others?

    • UK HIX properties are modular built, every room in every hotel the same. This is not the case abroad, I stayed in a HIX in The Hamptons which I would have graded 4 star.

  5. Why is it prepared to fib for the fast track promo?

    • Martin says:

      If you don’t work for Accenture then it’s fibbing, it’s targetted at Accenture employees

  6. What's the Point says:

    My experiences of Hilton brands abroad (especially the far and middle east) has been very very positive. As a Diamond member the onsite benefits are hugely attractive, with room upgrades being sometime a little over the top (2 room suites are not exactly essential when its just the Mrs & I travelling!)

    USA and UK, the treatment is very mixed as Diamond and certainly nothing to write home about.

    Rest of Europe has been ok, better than service and upgrades I get in the UK.

  7. Brian says:

    With regards to four stays for a status upgrade, if you plan to stay for two consecutive nights, would booking these nights under two separate bookings count as two separate stays? Hope that made sense. Thanks

  8. William says:

    If I was to apply for Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa, the voucher last 6 months from issue. But what if I cancelled the credit card, is it still valid and how is it redeemed?

  9. Oh! Matron! says:

    I’ve been a mix of Hilton Gold and Diamond for the last 15 years, and, to be fair, I’ve only really had one bad experience (Hilton Whistler). When Gold, I’d sometimes get upgraded to the exec floor (thus lounge), but, with the exception of Ras Al Khamah and The Hilton near Vancouver Airport, have never been upgraded to a suite. I’ve been lucky enough to have been on a few fast tracks to diamond (especially this year where I’ve 6 stays till diamond, despite not asking for it). As I’ve now got Platinum with Accor, I’m not going to stretch myself to getting diamond again, though. The one good thing about the hilton Brand is almost ubiquitous coverage in Europe (especially the UK) with cheap paid for redemptions: £49 Doubletree / Garden Inn at Heathrow? Yes please 🙂

  10. Robbie says:

    I didn’t know people still considered HHonors a reward program. The key word being reward.

    Each to their own, I guess.

    • Some of the recent airline promos have been pretty good, I thought.

    • Fenny says:

      A free night in the Green Park was definitely worth it. OK, the bonus points and free night were driven by Barclaycard, but I still had to stay in the hotels to get it. As hotels go, Hilton Milan is pretty reasonable for a couple of nights, as is Hilton T5.

  11. What's the Point says:

    Just had a 3 night stay at the Seoul Conrad – very nice hotel indeed.
    What with all the bonuses and Diamond status I managed a whopping 31,360 points out of the stay.

    It cost £350 for the 3 nights.

    This is one of the main reasons I use Hilton so much.

  12. I spent my £750 on my Hilton card some time ago. How and when can I (on average) expect to receive my stay voucher please?