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Hilton Honors changes its US free breakfast benefit

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Hilton Honors has decided to make a temporary change to its breakfast benefit at its US hotels.

You should have received an email from Hilton’s CEO this week outlining what the chain is doing to win you back this Summer. There were two versions of this email, and only the one sent to US members mentioned the breakfast change.

From July until the end of 2021, Gold and Diamond members will no longer receive free breakfast in US hotels unless the hotel offers free breakfast to all guests.

Instead, guests will receive a credit to use against food and drink in the hotel.

Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills

The value of this credit will vary by brand and has not yet been announced, but an alleged leaked internal document published on Reddit states it will be:

  • $25 per person for ‘luxury’ brands
  • $12 ($15 in ‘high cost’ cities) per person for ‘full service’ and ‘lifestyle’ brands
  • $10 per person for Hilton Garden Inn

….. for a maximum of two guests per room. Credit cannot be accrued or rolled over from day to day.

Gold members will receive an alternative offer of some Hilton Honors points.

Diamond members will receive the cash credit AND some Hilton Honors points. We don’t know how many points, although it is possible that it is just referring to the standard 1,000 points ‘My Way’ welcome benefit.

It isn’t clear cut whether this is a good deal or not:

  • the credit is unlikely to cover a full breakfast but would allow a handful of items from an a la carte menu (and the ‘free breakfast’ benefit is only meant to cover a continental breakfast, although most hotels turn a blind eye to that rule) – but if the only option is a buffet, you are likely to come up short
  • many US hotels have switched to ‘brown bag’ breakfasts, so a credit which can be used against drinks or an evening meal may actually be preferable to a paltry free breakfast
  • for anyone who doesn’t eat breakfast in the hotel, it is a clear win

Of course, with US travel still blocked, it doesn’t make a lot of difference at the moment. By the time the US opens up we will know what the actual sums are and you will be able to decide based on that whether Hilton should get your business.

How to earn Hilton Honors points and status from UK credit cards

How to earn Hilton Honors points and status from UK credit cards (October 2021)

There are various ways of earning Hilton Honors points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Hilton Honors Gold status for as long as they hold the card?  It also comes with Marriott Bonvoy Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold and MeliaRewards Gold status.  We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.

The Platinum Card comes with a limited time bonus of 60,000 Amex points (converts to 120,000 Hilton Honors points) until 2nd November 2021.

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Did you know that the Virgin Atlantic credit cards are a great way of earning Hilton Honors points? Two Virgin Points can be converted into three Hilton Honors points. The Virgin Atlantic cards are the only Visa or Mastercard products in the UK which can indirectly earn Hilton Honors points. You can apply here.

You can also earn Hilton Honors points indirectly with American Express Gold (30,000 bonus points – special offer to 9th November 2021), the American Express Rewards Credit Card (5,000 bonus points) and – for small business owners – American Express Business Gold (20,000 bonus points) and Business Platinum (40,000 bonus points).

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which can be used to earn Hilton Honors points

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Comments (73)

  • IanM says:

    Surely if you are Diamond you get lounge access anyway and can eat in there?

    • Peter K says:

      If there is a lounge and if the food in the lounge covers your personal preferences/needs.

    • Venturelog says:

      If it’s available.
      Personally I’ve stopped worrying about breakfast. I tend to eat out in my own time and choose good food. More concerned with lounge access being available for diamond at all Hilton’s (which have it) and not exclude like Waldorf.

  • Gb says:

    Do we know when the USA will be allowing leisure travel from the UK again? Currently sweating about a July 12th holiday I booked.

    • Chris Heyes says:

      Gb Your defiantly sweating sorry the travel consensus for the USA is July at the earliest could easily be Aug/Sept depending on Indian variant sorry

      • IanM says:

        Travel consensus means jack sh1t, as does all the hype about the indian variant. 1 August for sure, maybe earlier.

        • Chris Heyes says:

          IanM I would like to know your sours for August 1st as your sure ?
          Would help a lot of HFPs on here as i don’t think Rob as been given the info yet that you have ?

    • Beardless Hipster says:

      Go to Cancun for 2 weeks, then onwards to the US.

  • Nick says:

    I stay at Hiltons more than any other chain precisely because they have free breakfast for Golds. If the new credit isn’t enough to pay for it then I won’t stay there anywhere near as much, simple as that.

    I do wonder though if this move in the US is less about customer-unfriendliness and more about supporting their hotels in not paying their staff properly. People don’t tend to tip if they’re not paying anything (no bill to add it to), and US waiting staff are only allowed to be paid a pittance if they get enough tips to top it up to minimum wage. So if you make customers pay something, they’ll tip on top. If this is true, it may not spread to more enlightened countries where staff have to be paid in the first place.

    And the Amex thing was blatant marketing. I’m glad they got slapped for it – companies need to learn that customers should have the choice whether to be spammed or not.

    • Jonathan says:

      In the States if you get a “free” breakfast/anything you’re invariably presented with a bill with the cost shown then deducted. The expectation is that you tip at standard rates on the original cost & id be very surprised if that wasn’t pointed out to you, subtly or bluntly!

      • berneslai says:

        Yes. “I’ll just leave this here” as the waiter leaves a receipt with the cost of the breakfast crossed out and a smiley face on the tip line ready for 20% of the original price.

        (Despite the fact that it was a self-serve buffet breakfast and said waiter had done nothing to deserve the tip)

        • Nick says:

          Maybe it’s a psychological thing, but if I’m being given something I’m not paying for then I’m not inclined to tip well on any notional value they choose to assign to it. Maybe I’m alone in this, but I doubt it. And it’s only some hotels that do this, a lot (even in the US) don’t.

          • Mr. AC says:

            Opposite for me. I notice I overtip in similar circumstances, since I got something of value for free, so might as well give some back to the overpaid staff. Same for when I get a big discount via Uber Eats – tend to tip more…

  • geoff says:

    Do they really see this as a ‘way to win us back’? And do they think that only US members stay in US hotels?
    I’m surprised that they even know who is or is not a US member given that even when I am logged in I get adverts for US credit cards – and invitations to join HH!

  • C says:

    Overall, I’m ambivalent. I like the idea of free breakfast, but often don’t end up using it or, on a longer stay, after a few days get tired. This at least provides much greater flexibility, even if somewhat less overall value. Think of all those overnight stays, where one arrives in the evening and then has a flight/meeting early in the morning. It will actually be welcome to use the credit for a drink and snack on arrival (and perhaps a morning coffee), rather than a 10 min rushed breakfast.

  • Terri says:

    Having the free breakfast as a gold is a key reason I book Hilton rather than a competitor hotel. It’s also the reason I maintain gold status – without the breakfast I will go for the cheapest/most convenient whether it be Hilton/IHG/premier Inn.

    I dislike having to trawl round an unfamiliar place looking for somewhere open and decent to get breakfast. No hotel breakfast is a grumpy start to the day. It’s also a time drag – add at least an hour to find somewhere, order, eat and pay. No way is coffee and a sugar laden muffin in my vocabulary as breakfast. In the USA as a family we sometimes head to Dennys and its easily $50+ tax + tip for breakfast for 2 adults and 2 teens – and Dennys is inexpensive.
    I fear Covid cuts in service will become the norm – I will not be rushing to pay Hilton rates for travelodge offerings.

  • Dace says:

    Not surprised. In the US getting the free breakfast is a pain as it is as the staff never want to give it and then go crazy if you do not leave a tip (this happened to me the first time I had it as it was self serve and I hadn’t realised how ingrained their tipping culture was.)

    • Doug M says:

      I dislike tipping greatly, but I accept if I visit somewhere I follow cultural norms. In the US it’s not a tip, it’s wages, and that’s why it’s such a big deal to people.
      Most buffets structure it such that there’s still interaction with wait staff, usually coffee or juice is not part of buffet and brought by staff.

      • Brighton Belle says:

        Someone will be along in a minute to tell you the United States is the greatest country on Earth.

  • Jay says:

    Providing a credit for breakfast has been a long running protocol for many hotels in the US, especially where there is a Starbucks in the lobby and a $10 credit was given. IME where a hotel wants to devote from brand standards (which most do to avoid costs) they need to get a Brand Waiver from corporate. Corporate are probably over run with requests so a blanket change is easier for them. Added to that, giving elites free breakfast has always been a thorn in the side of any hotel operator. Many think it is cheap too lay on breakfast but look at the cost of wholesale meat (or cold cuts and salmon on luxury hotels) and add in cost of waste at the end of the daily service and the staff required is has a decent hit on the F&B P&L. If the hotel offers a credit with a guaranteed high margin on coffee and pastries, reduced staff, waste and square footage required it is a no brainer. For many hotels in the US this change won’t affect them as they’ve been doing it for 10 years + and when comparing the quality of a Hilton versus a Hampton (including free breakfast) I think it will drive even harder the demand for the budget end, which tend to be newer properties, low property costs, low staff to guest ratio and a refreshing change to the run down Hilton properties in the US.

    • Lou says:

      Not saying it’s cheap to lay on breakfast, but if it’s no longer ‘free’ with status, what’s going to attract brand loyalty?

      If BA got rid of the lounge access for silver and gold, turned into into paid at £40 entry, but you get a £20 credit, u think you can safely guess what would happen…

    • Russ says:

      Yes but are they saying you can’t have breakfast in the executive lounge either as well for Diamonds? I really can see elite’s access to Hilton’s lounges disappearing and only executive rooms booked with cash having access.

      • Lou says:

        I might have to give my diamond run a serious rethink and maybe just stick with Accor. Reasonably priced mid-market hotels and you know exactly where you stand…

        • Russ says:

          You raise some good points. I dare say those aiming for life time status may be sweating somewhat as well. Ho hum.

      • Jay says:

        I think lounges as part of the Hilton brand will become a thing of the past. It is not a core brand requirement, properties in the UK that once had lounges are shutting them. Properties in the US were shutting them 10+ years ago. It may stay as core feature of Conrad but is very hit and miss with Hilton and as Hilton continue to relinquish direct property leases and management contracts they lose direct control. Hiltons are becoming DT to avoid brand standards (stick a cookie heater in reception and Crabtree and Evelyn in the rooms and you are good to go). New openings are Hamptons and some HGI’s which have a lower cost base to run (most Hamptons run on 2 staff during Covid and c.5 normally … excluding housekeeping which are contracted) but a good standard and looking at the rates some charge versus cost base, provide far higher REVPAR and returns.

      • Jay says:

        Based on Hilton website, the US has 5360 hotels of which 267 are Hiltons of which 81 have a lounge. In total it is reporting 107 lounges, just 2% in the entire US portfolio. 25 years ago the lounge count would be nearer 75% of Hiltons. Hilton is becoming a branding factory where licence and franchise revenues reign supreme and the luxuries of old are assigned to the history books. The mid market is being overwhelmed by Hampton and HGI. At the top end Conrad has never really expanded at the expected rate so will be left with Curio, LXR etc where it is more about an individual experience (a reincarnation of Doubletree but no cookie and more luxurious).

        • Lou says:

          So basically it looks like it will be just for the redemption, and higher status is more points. Hmmm

          • Jay says:

            Room upgrades, more points and F&B credit… all of which cost properties very very little. Corporate are paid for points by the property but corporate don’t pay much to properties for reward nights. IMO they will look to implement a system that can be centrally managed, is not open to property interpretation, will drive on property spend and great fee income for corporate.

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