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

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This is part 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 15 main brands – Waldorf Astoria, LXR, 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) and Motto (super budget).  The Hilton Honors website is here.

Hilton Honors overview

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.

How does Hilton Honors work?

Do I use them?

I do.  I currently have Hilton Honors Diamond status until the end of the year following a Hilton status match, which I outline here.

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.

Conrad New York Midtown

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 of Hilton’s status match is here.  You get Gold status for 90 days and will retain it if you complete 10 (for Gold) or 18 (for Diamond) nights 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.

Elite nights (but not elite stays) now roll 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?

For each stay, you will earn:

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

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 ‘Top Hotel Bonus Points Offers‘ page for any current offers.

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?

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.  There are now no redemptions in Central London which cost less than 40,000 points per night, for example.

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.

How does Hilton Honors work?

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.

How does Hilton Honors work?

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.

What is my personal opinion of Hilton Honors?

My second article explaining how Hilton Honors works, and which gives my personal opinion on the pros and cons of the programme, is here.

Comments (46)

  • YB says:

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

  • 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.

  • Egg says:

    I prefer spg
    Easier to collect points with cc as well