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

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This is the second part of our overview series looking at the main hotel loyalty schemes.  Each scheme will be covered over two articles 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.

Our other articles looking at how Accor Live Limitless works, how IHG Rewards workshow Marriott Bonvoy works, how Radisson Rewards works and how World of Hyatt works are here.

Hilton Honors covers 6,400+ hotels globally under 18 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 include Signia (convention focused), Tempo and Motto (super budget).  The Hilton Honors website is here.

Hilton Honors review

What is the geographic spread?

The European properties are mainly branded Hilton with a growing number of DoubleTree, Curio, 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 – 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.

Curio Collection has built up a strong niche in encouraging luxury independent hotels to join the Hilton ‘system’, although the churn rate appears high.

How does Hilton Honors work?

Do I use them?

I do.  I currently have Hilton Honors Diamond status until March 2023. I originally got this via a Hilton status match, which I outline here and locked it in for 2021 and 2022 due to Hilton’s generous covid status retention policies.

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 (now gone), Curio Boston (now gone) and Hilton Paris Opera. I even snagged a £55 night at the Hilton on Park Lane in a special birthday promotion. Most recently I spent five nights at Waldorf Astoria Palm Jumeirah in Dubai over Christmas in 2020 using purchased Hilton Honors points.

In Autumn 2020 I spent around 30 days working out of Hilton hotels in London on their cheap ‘day room’ rates, but that’s another story …..

Other properties I personally like include Conrad New York Downtown (very bottom 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’. It now has an ‘all suite’ sibling in Conrad New York Midtown, photo immediately below. We also visited Hilton (was a Waldorf Astoria) Syon Park outside London a few times when our children were younger – they also went to the impressive Hilton St Georges Park at the National Football Centre in Burton-upon-Trent. Whilst we didn’t review it, I was also at Waldorf Astoria The Caledonian in Edinburgh in 2019.

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 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. Hilton Heathrow Terminal 4 has just unveiled a full refurbishment and we will be taking another look soon.

Hilton Honors review

What are the elite levels in Hilton Honors?

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

  • 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), 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 5 (for Gold) or 9 (for Diamond) nights in that time.

Reward stays DO count towards earning status.

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. I am not saying that a Diamond will never get one, but the hotel has no obligation to do so.

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 Centurion Card, which is invitation only, offers free Diamond status.

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.

You can transfer your points to friends and family without charge. I have found this surprisingly useful, especially as transfers can be done online. 

Long-term Diamond members can also 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) 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.

Hilton Honors review

How has Hilton adjusted its qualification levels in 2021 due to coronavirus?

Hilton moved quickly to protect elite members during coronavirus. Most are in an excellent position in 2021:

  • all elite nights earned in 2020 were rolled over into 2021, giving you a head start on elite status (re)qualification
  • status qualification requirements are reduced by 50% in 2021

This was a major move. The changes apply across the board including stays, nights and base points. Many people requalified on 1st January 2021 because they carried over enough elite nights from 2020.

Here are the qualification requirements in 2021 to earn status for 2022:

Previous requirementsRequirements in 2021
Silver10 nights, 4 stays or 25,000 points5 nights, 2 stays or 12,500 points
Gold40 nights, 20 stays or 75,000 points20 nights, 10 stays or 37,500 points
Diamond60 nights, 30 stays or 120,000 points30 nights, 15 stays or 60,000 points

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
  • 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:

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 around 0.35p.

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 has a cap of 120,000 or 150,000 points depending on day.)

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 with a cap below 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 15 months of no activity on the account – see the scheme rules 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.

Irrespective of these rules, all points expiry has been suspended until the end of 2021 due to coronavirus.

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 Atlantic. 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?

What are the Hilton Honors UK credit card partnerships?

Can you get elite status with a UK credit card?  Yes. 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 Points 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 ‘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?

Part 2 of this article explaining how Hilton Honors works, which gives my personal opinion on the pros and cons of the programme, is here.


How to earn Hilton Honors points and status from UK credit cards (September 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 (33)

  • ankomonkey says:

    Hilton Garden Inn Ataturk Airport (and a fair few others – nearly all are 10000 or 15000 a night now) used to be a 5000-point redemption. With free breakfast as Gold and often receiving 1000 points back as well, Hilton has been my favourite hotel loyalty scheme for years.

    Between the redemption price increases and the threat of losing the full free breakfast, I may end up moving to what will be superior schemes like Choice Hotels, La Quinta and Best Western. Hilton will always remain above Accor ALL though…

  • Gary Leff says:

    Cf. Betteridge’s law of headlines, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”

  • Chris Heyes says:

    This is a pure guess because I’ve never thought to ask, daft of me because I knew the Manager of a Hilton
    But I think each Hotel can see your status but also how many points you have ?
    I’m Gold (always Gold) never gone higher or lower, my points total averages around 400,000 to 500,000 and I’ve always been upgraded to a Suite
    3 of us staying (adults) I book into a 3 bedded room and I’m prepared to ring them if site says no 3 bedded rooms for 3 adults, normally rooms say 2 Adults and children
    This year points up to 700,000

    • Jay says:

      OnQ shows the status, lifetime earnings, points, stays, repeats etc etc so hotels can get a really good feel for how serious you are about staying with the brand and will use this info for room allocation and amenity benefits. They can easily see the status match people and often put them at the end of the list for allocations behind those that have put in the hard yards to earn status. If there is one thing you will find in the search history of most PC’s in the back office at some point in time it is ‘Hotel Check-In, Diamond Member’ watch for yourself on You Tube.

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      Certainly can been seen by IHG properties (IHG balance that is and number of previous stays at that property at the very least. Quite often have my balance mentioned verbally or for reasons Unknown handwritten into the welcome
      Letter

    • Ian says:

      Yes they can.

      I have over 500 nights now at Hilton with currently just shy of a million points.

  • Michael says:

    I’ve been Diamond for 3 years now and have never been upgraded.

    • Crafty says:

      Where have you stayed? That sounds very odd. I was frequently upgraded as Gold, let alone Diamond.

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