Is Hilton Honors the best hotel loyalty scheme? (Part 1)

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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 5,700+ hotels globally under 14 main 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.  New brands planned include Signia (convention focused), Motto (super budget) and LXR (luxury).  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 (London 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.  There is also a more modest roll-out of Hilton Garden Inn which targets the same three star market.

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

I reviewed paid stays at the impressive Conrad Tokyo and Waldorf-Astoria Beijing in 2017. 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. More recently we have been to The Graham, Georgetown – part of Hilton’s Tapestry Collection – and the Hilton on Park Lane.

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.

I have been particularly impressed by some of the hotels in the new Curio and Tapestry collections.  Hilton is managing to entice some genuinely impressive independent hotels to join these ‘soft branded’ chains.

Looking at UK airport hotels, HFP has also looked at the Hampton at Gatwick Airport which is directly at the North Terminal as well as the Hilton at Gatwick South Terminal, Hilton Heathrow Terminal 4, the Hampton at Stansted Airport, the new Hilton Garden Inn at Heathrow T2 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 in Hilton Honors

Here is a summary of Hilton Honors elite levels and benefits:

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 – up to Executive room type, free 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 breakfast (most brands, Waldorf Astoria now included from Jan 2018), free high-speed internet, guaranteed lounge access.  Additional milestone bonuses kick in from 40+ nights per year to encourage you to keep staying after you earn or retain Diamond.

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 Platinum Card from American Express offers free Gold status for as long as you retain the card.

The full table of elite benefits is here.  As with all other major brands, you will not receive anything, neither points nor benefits, if you book via a third party website such as Expedia.

There have been recent improvements to Hilton Honors benefits.  Waldorf Astoria hotels now offer free breakfast to Gold and 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) have rolled over 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 60 nights per year.

How do you earn Hilton Honors points?

From April 2018, you have not been able to earn hotel points AND airline miles on the same stay.  It IS still possible to convert lump sums of Hilton Honors points into airline miles.  This change moved Hilton in line with other hotel programmes.

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

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. Currently they are offering double points per stay.

Other Hilton earning partnerships of note include:

the ability to transfer Virgin Flying Club miles into Hilton Honors points at a 2:3 ratio (article here) and

the ability to earn points from the Lyft rideshare service in the US 

How does Hilton Honors work?

How do you spend Hilton Honors points?

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

There are now NO published 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.

However – and this is important – the number of points charged per night is capped. This means, for example, 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 (unless it is the Waldorf Astoria Maldives, which is a law unto itself…) The cap is important because it means that you still receive ‘outsize’ value on redemptions in major cities on peak dates.

One problem with no longer having published reward charts showing the hotel points price caps is that Hilton can, and does, increase the capped cost of a hotel with no notice.  A few weeks ago, all of the 30,000 point hotels in London were increased overnight to 40,000 points, for example.  There are now no redemptions in Central London which cost less than 40,000 points per night.

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 $3,900 before taxes.  This is far more than what Radisson Rewards, the most generous scheme, would require ($2,800). However, regular Hilton Honors points promotions will, in reality, drive down this figure.

Hilton Auctions allows you to redeem your points for concert and event tickets.  There have been some impressive UK events offered via this platform, including an annual private gig (in 2019 it was Jessie J at Abbey Road Studios) and previous years have seen Bastille and One Republic perform.  The partnership with McLaren has also resulted in a number of good events which could only be bought with points.

Do Hilton Honors points expire?

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 Hilton Honors points?

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

However, these ‘Premium Room Rewards’ – which involves Hilton paying the hotel the full cash rate for your room and recharging you in points – give you a lower ‘pence per point’ return compared to ‘Standard Room Rewards’ which come from reward inventory.  Standard rewards are only available for entry-level room categories.

Are ‘cash and points’ redemptions available?

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

Can you convert Hilton Honors points into airline miles?

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.  Since April 2018 you can only earn Hilton Honors points from stays, not miles.  These can be later converted to Avios or another airline in chunks of 10,000.

Hilton Honors UK 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 2 to 3, 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 Hilton Honors points

You can buy Hilton Honors points for $10 per 1,000 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, and which gives my personal opinion on the pros and cons of the programme, is here.

What are the rules for booking an 'open jaw' redemption flight using Avios points?
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  1. Alan Wan says:

    I have had Diamond status for 3 years now. I get upgraded occasionally but it is certainly not guaranteed.

    • Agree, upgrade not guaranteed at all. Up to the hotel and some better than others, Hilton Kensington last month and got a tiny room….hotel apparently full!

      • Peter K says:

        Definitely. Cardiff upgraded to junior suite. Barbados lied about having nothing available. Manchester airport said they upgraded me but gave me the same room I had booked!

      • Not getting an upgrade was the least of my concerns at the Hilton Kensington. The rooms are horrible.

        • Agree – def in need of an upgrade. Although like the Olympia Hilton, the Exec Lounge and often reasonable rates save it.

      • TokyoFan says:

        Which is why, if you’re really bothered, as you approach the hotel you try to make a dummy booking and see just which rooms they’re still selling (for the full length of your stay). Once or twice (when I *have* been bothered) I’ve had the slightly flustered receptionist reaction – ‘oh I do apologise, we *have* got a better room/suite/deluxe/executive available. Must have been a cancellation(!). Let me change you to that one right now…’

      • Kensington is a disgrace. Needs a major refurbishment

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Its only possible if the better rooms aren’t sold to paying customers.

      Things like FHR or Travel agent booking can also take precedent as they offer guaranteed upgrades to entice bookings.

      tbh apart from lounge access i never saw much difference between Gold and Diamond. Lounge Access is only worth it in certain hotels and many upgrade me to exec rooms which include lounge access to golds anyway

  2. Tilly71 says:

    Depending on timing, you can hold Amex Plat for less than a month and get Gold for over a year.

    • I do it every year for one month

    • Harry T says:

      How does the timing work? I have Plat and I’m looking to downgrade to Green at some point.

      • fivebobbill says:

        Think the Hilton “Year” runs until the end of March Harry, so I think i believe from what others say, if you get status before then, it runs for your current year and all of the following.
        Maybe some of the more experienced could confirm.

        • Yes that’s the case, and you retain the status even if you cancel the Platinum Amex.

        • Genghis says:

          Assuming you hit status on 1 Jan, you get all of the current year, all of the next year and till 31 March the year after that

          • Cormac says:

            As a data point – I’ve just completed another challenge – 10 stays this time as 8 stays status match wasn’t available as I had already done it – status confirmed through to March 2021. Will easily get the cost of my few mattress runs back.

  3. L Allen says:

    Isn’t it a HGI at Heathrow T2 as well? The article needs an update as I’m sure you’ve reviewed it 🙂

    • Added!

    • Yeah, clearly just a cut and paste job from last years article:
      ” (most brands, Waldorf Astoria now included from Jan 2018), ”

      AN article on how brexit will affect points collection if at all would be nice

      • How would it affect points collection? If the pound drops then you get fewer hotel points for stays in the UK as they are based on the USD amount. But cheaper Hilton redemptions at the lower end in the UK as they are also based on a USD value of points. Airfares may get more expensive so revenue-based schemes earn more. That’s about it I think.

        • *IF* the pound drops? LOL with those clowns in control it won’t be long before the pound has parity with the dollar.

      • It’s a heavily updated cut and paste which takes longer to do than a fresh news article!

  4. James S says:

    Link is incorrect for the ‘8 stays in 90 days’, will be interested to read that!

  5. Hilton has deducted an amount of points from my account claiming that was for a stay consumed more than two and a half months ago.I have questioned how could that have happened but they insist that it was a late points deduction.I am ready with a complain,however I do no longer have the booking confirmation as it was such long time ago
    Where do I stand?
    They would not take responsibility for such IT mess and even if Hilton is one of my favourite scheme,this is the kind of think that makes you move somewhere else

    • Roberto says:

      Did you stay there on the night in question? Check your diary and if not, complain. It was only 10 weeks ago so wont be hard to figure out.

      • Hi Roberto
        I did definitely stay and proven the hotel my points booking when they wanted my to pay
        Have not kept a very closed eye on my account after but is this reasonable?
        It was a 15000 points redemption but what if that would have been an 200000 points booking?Would they have gone now and put my account in negative?

        • Hi SG, it looks as though you are saying you were charged points twice for this stay? In the “points activity” section of your online account it should show if the points were taken at the time the booking was made (which has always been the case IME). You should then be able to work out whether your balance is now incorrect.

        • guesswho2000 says:

          This is unusual, as points are usually taken at time of booking?

          However, if you did stay, as you said you did, and they haven’t taken the points before, then they’re perfectly within their rights to take them now, even if it’s late, why do you think you should get the room for free?

          • They sent me a proof as I requested ,so yes that is right even if it is ridiculously late!

  6. pixielott46 says:

    free breakfast is at all brands isn’t it? you’ve written most brands

    • pixielott46 says:

      also, how are you going to retain diamond when it lapses later this year. you can’t do the challenge twice. its a one-time thing 🙁

      • I’ve had it twice, others more than.

        Could buy on eBay, but caveat emptor! Had friends successfully do this (with not just Hilton), but you run the risk of account closure if you get busted.

        • Stevie G says:

          So i successfully completed the diamond challenge and it runs out in March 20. I will not be able to retain it as I have not had enough stays. I’ll drop to Gold (Amex Platinum). There might be a chance I can do the challenge again from March or is this not typical? It’s one time only as pixielott states.

          • Cormac says:

            I went onto chat after mine ran out and got a 10 stay challenge- which appears to be freely available to diamond. Requested in May and just completed well within the 90 day term. Renewed now to March 2021.

    • No. Hilton Garden Inn doesn’t give it automatically. At check in, they say choose between breakfast or 750 extra points. The breakfast is cooked to order though, so better than a typical Hilton breakfast. I value 750 points at about £4, so always take the breakfast. Sometimes though, errors are made and I still receive the points.

  7. Had a few issues with stays not posting during my recent status challenge. Two bookings using Tesco vouchers did not post as stays (although a Tesco stay previously back in April did post). One stay at a Hampton using all points did not post as a stay.
    On chat they wouldn’t budge even after several emails etc. Stating T&C’s which don’t specifically mention Tesco vouchers. After a conversation with the UK office they finally posted all three stays as I had a track record of the previous stay in April. They also advised not to book 100% using points but a small amount in cash to ensure the stay posts during the challenge.
    Contacting help on chat I’ve had two different responses regarding the status challenge and 100% redemption’s using points. One agent says it ok and others advice a small amount of cash?
    Is so frustrating, as I haven’t tried to “blag” the system. Not great for customer service when it takes several phone calls before its resolved. Still not clear if 100% points should post, so my remaining stays have a small cash amount.

  8. “However – and this is important – the number of points charged per night is capped. This means, for example, 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.”

    Is this a straight cut and paste repost of a previous article?

    Or do you consider the base accomodation at 120k/night at the WAMI exempt?

    Or (better still) can you secure it for me at 95k / Night 😀

  9. Any stories of Hilton Gold member benefits/upgrades received in Rio? We’re due to stay there in a few weeks.

  10. david dony says:

    My status match has been rejected last week. ( Accor platinum for 9 years)
    First time in 6 years, I had it 3 times in a row.
    Did they change or tighten up the rules?
    Going to Tokyo next year, wonder if I need to apply for American express platinum !
    But after a few email, saying that i should apply on the dedicated web page, I did retry today.
    Let see !

    “Dear David,

    My apologies. We have confirmed that your account had previously received the Status Match offer on March 8th 2017. This offer is valid only once per member, it cannot be used to extend status already awarded under the offer. We are unable to offer you another Status Match offer. We regret any inconvenience this has caused.

    We appreciate you choosing Hilton hotels for your future travels and stays and your ongoing loyalty with us.

    Please let us know if you have any further questions or concerns.

    Thank you for your continuing support of Hilton and the Hilton Honors guest reward program.”

    • Cormac says:

      I also got this reply – ask for a different type of challenge – I got 10 stays for diamond- important thing was you don’t get diamond whilst completing the challenge.

  11. I prefer spg
    Easier to collect points with cc as well

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