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

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This is the first of our overview series of the main hotel loyalty schemes. Each scheme will be covered over two posts on consecutive days. One will list the basic facts of the scheme  – basically ‘How does Hilton Honors work?‘ – the other will be my subjective view of what is of particular merit.

Hilton Honors covers 5,200 hotels globally under 14 brands – Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Hilton, Hilton Grand Vacation, Embassy Suites, DoubleTree, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites, Hampton Inn, Canopy, Curio, Tru, Tapestry Collection and Home2Suites brands. The Hilton Honors website is here.

What is the geographic spread?  The European properties are mainly branded Hilton with a growing number of DoubleTree, Hampton and Waldorf Astoria sites. In general, many UK Hilton branded hotels in the regions are tired and in need of refurbishment although newer openings (Bankside, St George’s Park, Manchester, Bournemouth) are impressive.

DoubleTree, especially the ex-Mint brand hotels in London, is well regarded despite technically being one rung below the main Hilton brand. After a few years of stagnation, there have been a number of high-profile hotel openings recently – Hampton (a budget brand with free breakfast and free internet) is seen as having most potential and they are now popping up across the UK.

Do I use them? I do.  I currently have Hilton Honors Diamond status until March 2019 following the ‘stay eight times in 90 days’ challenge.

I reviewed paid stays at the impressive Conrad Tokyo and Waldorf-Astoria Beijing last year. We reviewed (click the links for the article), via free stays arranged by Hilton, the impressive Hilton Tallinn Park, Curio Ibiza, Curio Boston and Hilton Paris Opera recently.

Other properties I personally like include Conrad New York (photo below) where I have stayed three times in the last few years on a redemption – it has HUGE rooms as it is ‘all suite’. We also visit the Hilton (was a Waldorf Astoria) Syon Park outside London occasionally with our children – they also went to the impressive Hilton St Georges Park at the National Football Centre in Burton-upon-Trent a couple of years ago.

HFP has also looked positively at the Hampton at Gatwick Airport which is directly at the North Terminal as well as Hilton Heathrow Terminal 4, the new Hampton at Stansted Airport and the Hilton Garden Inn at Hatton Cross / Heathrow.  Click the link for our review of each of these hotels.How does Hilton Honors work?

Elite membership levels

The base point numbers below are the ones in force from early April 2018 when the system is tweaked:

Silver – requires 4 stays or 10 nights. Benefits are 20% bonus on base points, free bottled water at most brands.

Gold – requires 20 stays or 40 nights or 75,000 base points. Benefits are 80% bonus on base points, guaranteed upgrade of some sort – often to the ‘best’ room in the same category, free continental breakfast (most brands), additional bonuses from 40+ nights per year.

Diamond – requires 30 stays or 60 nights or 120,000 base points. Benefits are 100% bonus on base points, guaranteed upgrade of some sort, free continental breakfast (most brands, Waldorf Astoria now included from Jan 2018), free high-speed internet, guaranteed lounge access, additional bonuses from 40+ nights per year.

Hilton has been running regular status match promotions over the last couple of years. The current version is here.  You get a match for 90 days and will retain the status if you complete four (for Gold) or eight (for Diamond) stays in that time.

Reward stays DO count towards earning status. They even count towards the status match promotions mentioned above.

All elite members receive ‘fifth night free’ when booking reward nights, effectively a 20% discount on a 5-night stay.

Suite upgrades are NOT an elite benefit.

British Airways offers free Diamond status to Gold Guest List members of British Airways Executive Club which requires you to earn 5,000 tier points in one year.

The full table of elite benefits is here.  Hilton was well regarded for providing elite status benefits even if you have booked your room via a site such as Expedia – this is no longer the case. You will not receive anything, neither points nor benefits, if you book via a third party website.

There have been recent developments of note at Hilton regarding benefits.  Waldorf Astoria hotels now offer free breakfast to Diamond members.  You can transfer your points to friends and family without charge.  Long-term Diamond members can also now request a one-off rollover of their status without the need to formally requalify which is handy if changing jobs, taking maternity leave etc.

From April 2018, elite nights (but not elite stays) will rollover if you achieve more than is required to renew your current tier level but not enough to be promoted.  You can also gift status to a friend if you stay more than 6o nights per year.

Earning points

From early April 2018, Hilton is removing the one unique earning offering it had.  You will no longer be able to earn hotel points AND airline miles on the same stay.  It WILL still be possible to convert lump sums of Hilton Honors points into airline miles.

The new system, which has the benefit of being a lot simpler, is:

10 base points per $1 plus a bonus of 20% for Silver, 80% for Gold and 100% for Diamond

This is how it compares, assuming you currently do ‘Points and Points’:

Base member:  currently 15 points per $1, will become 10 points per $1  (down 33%)

Silver member:  currently 16.5 points per $1, will become 12 points per $1  (down 27%)

Gold member:  currently 17.5 points per $1, will become 18 points per $1 (up 3%)

Diamond member:  currently 20 points per $1, will remain 20 points per $1

This is not an improvement.  No-one wins and some people lose badly.

On the positive side, Hilton Honors is always running a major promotion so your average number of points earned per stay will always be higher than the numbers quoted above. See our ‘Hotel Promos‘ page for any current offers. They have been focusing on double points for the last few months although at present they are offering 2,000 bonus points per stay.

If you work for the public sector in the UK, Hilton offers an aggressive discount scheme which offers room discounts of up to 30%.

How does Hilton Honors work?

Spending points

Hilton Honors launched a major reorganisation of redemptions in February 2017.

There are now NO redemption categories. Previously, redemption rates for hotels ran from 5,000 points in Category 1 to 95,000 points in Category 10.

Under the new structure, the number of points required is based on the cash cost of that particular night. The ‘pence per point’ value varies by hotel but is usually within the range of 0.33p to 0.45p.

Importantly, you can pay with ANY combination of cash and points. If you have 80% of the points for a free night, you can use those and pay 20% of the cash price on top – or vice versa.

The number of points charged per night is capped based on the nightly redemption price under the old Hilton scheme. This means that you will never pay more than 95,000 points for a standard room at the top Conrad or Waldorf Astoria hotels irrespective of the cash rate that night.  This means that you still receive ‘extra’ value on redemptions in major cities on peak dates.

Elite members receive the 5th night free on standard room redemptions.

Hilton has also ‘Premium Room’ redemptions. In general, you should ignore these. They usually involve Hilton effectively buying your room for you from the hotel, at a fixed exchange rate of around 0.2p to 0.3p per Hilton point. This is poor.

A typical 4 to 5-star 70,000 point redemption would typically require a Gold member to spend $4,500. This is more than double what Club Carlson would require. However, the regular Hilton Honors promotions will, in reality, drive down this figure.

Hilton Auctions is a new initiative which allows you to redeem your points for concert tickets. It is not as well developed as Starwood’ SPG Moments although the odd good event does appear.  Last year there was a private concert by OneRepublic at Abbey Road Studios which many HFP readers attended.

Points expiry

Points expire after 12 months of no activity on the account – see point 13 here. This is quite tough. You could reset the counter by transferring some Amex Membership Rewards points across or buying 1,000 points. Use a tool like Award Wallet to keep track of expiry dates.

I wrote a full article on how to stop your Hilton Honors points expiring.

Can you upgrade using points?

Under the new structure, you can book any room category you want and use whatever combination of cash and points you prefer.

Are ‘cash and points’ redemptions available?

You can book any room category you want and use whatever combination of cash and points you prefer.

Airline redemption options

Hilton Honors points can be transferred to a large number of airlines including British Airways and Virgin. The ratio is a pathetic 10:1, however (6.7:1 for Virgin).

Can I earn Avios directly without collecting points?

No.  From April 2018 you can only earn Hilton Honors points.  These can be later converted to Avios or another airline if required.

Credit card partnerships

Can you get elite status with a UK credit card?  American Express Platinum offers you free Hilton Gold for as long as you hold Platinum, whilst the invite-only Amex Centurion card gives Hilton Diamond status.  The official Hilton Honors Visa card was withdrawn in March 2018.

Is Hilton Honors an Amex Membership Rewards partner? Yes, at a 1:2 transfer rate.

Hilton Honors is also a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club partner – you can move Virgin miles to Hilton at the rate of 1 to 1.5, with a 10,000 miles minimum. As Virgin is a Tesco Clubcard partner, you can therefore convert Tesco Clubcard point to Hilton Honors by routing through Virgin Flying Club, although this is not hugely attractive.

Purchasing and transferring points

You can buy Hilton Honors points for $12.50 per 1,000 (less for larger quantities) via this link. Regular sales offer bonuses of up to 100%.

It is easy to use up small quantities of points you may acquire as you can use as few as 5,000 points to get a cash discount on your next booking.

The new ‘Points Pooling’ feature introduced in 2017 allows you to pass points from one person to another.  They do not need to share your address or surname.

My opinion

My second article explaining how Hilton Honors works – click here – gives my personal opinion on the pros and cons.

(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.)

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Comments

  1. Dougie Forde says:

    I just heard yesterday that my Gold status with Hilton is going on March 31st. Only got it through a status match but I have a Hilton booked for April in Manchester. I am Gold with IHG, will I manage to get Gold with Hilton if I do a match after 1st April?

    • Not clear yet if they will allow people to rematch – we find out in April!

      • Dougie Forde says:

        Thanks for the prompt reply

      • My Diamond status runs out next week and although I get Gold through Amex Platinum, have noticed there is more reluctantcy this year to give lounge access/ get room upgrades to Gold as compared with Diamond, certainly when looking at TA reviews when arranging this year’s trips. Having read that a good number of IHG Platinum status holders have got Honors Diamond through the status match, have gone down that route. The first request was about 3 weeks ago. Having heard nothing, thinking it was due to a technical error on my part I resubmitted another request just under a week ago but still nothing. Has anyone had the same or got any advice on how best to sort it? I’ve got a weekend trip up north at Hilton next weekend and far east trip next month.

        • Relaxo says:

          Yeah I had the same non-response issue when I tried to status match accor platinum to diamond. Sent in docs 3 times through their dedicated website….never heard back. I figured they cut me off since it was the 2nd time i had applied for diamond status match (1st time was successful)

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      When in April? You can still get gold via Amex Plat which can be a quick process.

      • Dougie Forde says:

        Not sure I can justify the fee for Amex Platinum,,,,

        • …. you only need to keep it for a few weeks and you’re banking the bonus and all the other status cards.

  2. Eugene says:

    Got to love the “benefitL of sharing status with a partner once you have done 100 nights! That’s almost a third of your year spent in Hiltons. Might think you’d want to spend leisure time with your partner somewhere else on the planet….

  3. mutley says:

    Lynn, note to self, the Watford Hilton served as the Linton travel Inn in Alan Partridge, its not very good Ah Ha!

    • johnny_c-l says:

      Really??

      I stayed there a few times myself and never recognised it as being familiar. One time I was there a gypsy wedding being held, that was…interesting.

      • mutley says:

        Yes 100%, also the entrance road to nearby Costco was also used (Filmed at night in episode where Alan and Michael are messing about with traffic cones) My wife is in touch with Sally Philips who played junior receptionist Sophie in one of her early roles.

        These days Hertz rentacar uses a suite of rooms on the ground floor and half the car park, it doesn’t look like its been refurbished recently.

    • I remember having our 6th form leavers dinner at the Watford Hilton and thinking it was a nice venue. Then fast forward many years later, went with my now husband to their wedding fair and thought it was an awful venue for any event let alone a wedding (apologies to anyone who has got married/had their reception there). The venue just seemed tired and in major need of refurbishment.

  4. Matthew says:

    First time in a while I haven’t used the early online check-in facility and just got an upgrade to an Executive room as a Silver member at the Cardiff Hilton yesterday!

    Stayed in a number of different Hilton’s recently. Absolutely dreadful is the Hilton in Croydon. Doubletree in Manchester is very nice while Doubletree in Glasgow is OK.

  5. Cate ⛱️ says:

    I used to like Hilton but they’ve not for us anymore and now running down points because 1) not delivering The Times to our room three days in a trot. Then after I went down one of the desk jockeys separated our paper into the different sections and said I could only have one section at a time 2) not being upgraded because ‘but you already have a nice room now don’t you?’ when we were entitled to an upgrade, 3) this year’s devaluations without telling me, 4) the US Amex Hilton card and, my personal favorite – the annoying ‘TWANG!’ noise on their website chat box you can’t turn off.

    Rant? you betcha 🙂

  6. OT but Hilton related – having a bit of a nightmare getting the Gold upgrade via £10k spend on Hilton Visa, including a three way call with Barclaycard and Hilton at the weekend. Got a stay at Hilton Paris Opera this weekend so would be a shame not to receive Gold benefits (mainly breakfast as this doesn’t seem to be free for all guests anymore).

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • Have they not even acknowledged the £10k spend? Or is it just some long process that’s fallen over? Surprising a 3 way didn’t work.

      I had no problem a few years ago with getting the gold upgrade automatically after spending £10k on my card. I didn’t have to do anything.

      • Yes, they have acknowledged the spend. The problem seems to be that no-one knows why it hasn’t worked or what to do about it. Had a lot of conflicting information. Worrying.

        • Oh dear. I guess it’s not as simple as just pushing a button then. Bit worrying they can’t just manually fix it if they accept the £10k spend has been made. Hope you get it sorted before the weekend.

          My gold is now via amex plat as don’t quite hit £10k spend on the HH visa anymore.

    • Turns out an email copying both UK and Global CEOs swiftly resolved things. Funny that!

  7. AndyGWP says:

    I’m unsure of how strict Hilton is at applying benefits etc, but if I have a two day booking that has been made indirectly, followed immediately by a two day booking that was made directly, can I assume that:
    1) I’ll get points as expected (for the latter two days, but not the first two days), or is it likely they mess it up and give me no points at all?
    2) Also, what are the chances I get the gold benefits (free breakfast) for the whole stay.

    • I think it depends on the Hotel. Some abide by the rules of the program, benefits of status only for stays booked direct regardless of additional direct paid stays added on the end, some will turn a blind eye. I think it also depends on how busy it is during your stay. I would send an email directly to the Hotel saying how much I was looking forward to my stays and asking what to expect when you arrive.

  8. I would have expected to see “Points Pooling” under Purchasing and Transferring points.

    It was a great recent addition if you have 2 accounts earning from stays / credit card.

  9. I like Hilton and have had good experiences using them in the last year or so, just don’t like their redemption rates now, hard to find much value unless you stay at a 10k Hampton or the Maldives!

  10. Damien Keegan says:

    Just used my points for the first time and have booked the London Hilton Metropole for 40,000 + £50 for a King Exec room. Sounded like a good deal given it’s for this Sunday??

  11. If you find yourself doing a halong bay cruise I highly recommend redemptions at Hilton Hanoi Garden Inn – As a diamond I got a suite on both the 1st night and the return night and at 10,000 points, it’s a steal – they even refunded me 10,000 points for one of the nights due to a customer service issue. all reward stays count towards challenges. Also recommend if you are interested in the cotswolds, the hilton doubletree cheltenham, bargain at 20,000 points in summer! Of course the best redemption ever remains conrad maldives but i hv no chance of amassing that huge number of points again. 🙁

    I found the hilton stuky molino venice to be a poor redemption as it was so old.

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