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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, published tomorrow, will be my subjective view of what is of particular merit. Our overview of Accor Live Limitless from last weekend is here.

Hilton Honors covers 7,000+ hotels globally under 19 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, Spark (economy) and Motto (group focused).

The Hilton Honors website is here.

Hilton Honors review

What is the geographic spread?

The European properties are mainly branded Hampton and Hilton with a growing number of DoubleTree, Curio and Waldorf Astoria sites. I think that Hampton is now the biggest brand globally.

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 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) 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, including an intriguing one in Snowdonia.

Curio Collection has a strong niche in encouraging luxury independent hotels to join the Hilton ‘system’, although the churn rate seems fairly high. The most recent high profile UK Hilton opening, Lost Property St Paul’s in London, is part of Curio.

How does Hilton Honors work?

Do I use them?

I do.  I currently have Hilton Honors Diamond status although it will lapse in 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. My stays in 2022 were more prosaic – Hampton Stansted Airport (review) and a couple of stays at Hampton York – but totally satisfactory.

In Autumn 2020 during the pandemic I spent around 30 days working out of Hilton hotels in London on their cheap £30-£40 ‘day room’ rates, but that’s another story …..

Hilton Honors review

Other properties I personally like include Conrad New York Downtown where I have stayed three times on a redemption – it has HUGE rooms by NYC standards as it is ‘all suite’. It now has an ‘all suite’ sibling in Conrad New York Midtown, photo immediately above.

For families, we 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 at Waldorf Astoria The Caledonian in Edinburgh in 2019 which suffers from being constrained by its historic building.

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.

What are the elite 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 (F&B cash credit in the US), 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 (F&B cash credit in the US), 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 Honors review

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 seven (for Gold) or 12 (for Diamond) nights in that time.

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

Reward stays DO count towards earning status.

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 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.

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

Some limited service brands, not present in the UK, have a lower earning rate of 5 points per $1.

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:

Is Hilton Honors the best hotel loyalty scheme?

What are Hilton Honors points worth?

We have an article dedicated to working out what Hilton Honors points are worth which you can find here.

Our mid-case valuation is 0.33p per point but you can do a lot better.

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 120,000 points – and usually 95,000 points – for a standard room at the top Conrad or Waldorf Astoria hotels irrespective of the cash rate. The Waldorf Astoria Maldives has a cap of 150,000 points on some days.

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.

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.

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). Previous years had 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 24 months of no activity on the account – see the scheme rules here. This is generous by industry standards. Pre-covid it was only 12 months but it has now been permanently increased.

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. This is will offer you a poorer ‘pence per point’ return than a standard redemption, however.

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 Atlantic).

If you assume that 1 Hilton Honors point is worth 0.33p on average, then you would be sacrificing 3.3p of free hotel stays to gain 1 Avios. This is a poor deal given we that value an Avios at around 1p.

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 allows you to pass points from one person to another for free.  They do not need to share your address or surname. This is a very handy feature which allows you to hoover up points from friends and family members in your account, or to move points to the account of the person with highest status if booking a reward.

What is my personal opinion of Hilton Honors?

Part 2 of this article explains how Hilton Honors works and gives my personal opinion on the pros and cons of the programme.

Comments (64)

  • NorthernLass says:

    The HGI Snowdonia is now taking bookings again but prices seem to be around £200 pn, even mid-week, which looks a bit optimistic. It’s not tempting me at that price, anyway!

  • Stian says:

    “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)”. Is this still true, after the recent Radisson devaluation?

  • Ian says:

    Stayed over 70 nights last year with Hilton, mainly thanks to their double night bonus in the last couple of months.

    I get upgraded on the majority of hotels, although some basic hotels don’t do upgrades (not mentioned in the article) – but even in Home2 Suites, I find the standard rooms of high quality with cooking facilities etc. So I don’t need any upgrade as I have a sofa and large room.

    Other Hilton hotels have given me everything from Presidential suites down.

    If you have issues, then the diamond desk is usually good to sort out issues.

    I like the roll over of nights, so this year I started with 40 nights already from last year, so need to stay just 20 nights. Already done 11, so just 9 to go.

    Now will I continue with Hilton once I reach Diamond? Actually probably not.

    Not because I don’t find the quality good, but I will probably secure status elsewhere.

    IHG is generally very poor in the UK – still waiting for credit from a Voco hotel from December, despite being Diamond with IHG nobody seems to care. Other IHG hotels are pretty dire. But I am sure some good ones exist. Ironically I need to look at the budget newer hotels such as Holiday Inn Express for anything decent.

    But maybe that is true of many chains – they bring in new hotels as budget hotels to compete with Premier Inn (thin walls & small beds) etc.

    I am just as happy in a basic room with a king bed, as I am in a presidential suite. All I need is a bed, somewhere to sit comfortably, somewhere to use my computer and a TV to occasionally turn on.

    I don’t need a Conrad to do that, especially if I am on the road and not on holiday.

    I know what I like in hotels 🙂

    • Lou says:

      Is this where ALL turns out to be a good scheme for you as the rewards scheme isn’t done crazy set up where you’re trying to get best band for buck, but basically knowing exactly what you’re going to get when you spend X?

  • Chris says:

    I agree with Harry, I was a long term Hilton Diamond (expires Mar 23) but it was ultimately the lack of a late checkout that pushed me over the edge and I’ve moved lock, stock over to Marriott

    Hotel made me “enquire again in the morning” then would ultimately only give me an additional 1 hour until 12pm. Only once in an Autograph, where they offered 2pm, that I haven’t been given 4pm at Marriott, and it’s normal proactively offered alongside much better upgrades

    • meta says:

      I actually have a lot of problems enforcing guaranteed late checkout with Marriott. It’s always a fight with the hotels and when I do get it I have often been asked to move to a standard room.

      I always get late checkout at Hilton as a Diamond often extended to 6pm as well. Most recently at Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, I was automatically asked at check-in what time I want the late checkout and the keycard was programmed to work that way.

    • Lou says:

      Currently staying in an Ibis styles. Silver status with ALL. I nearly fell off my proverbial chair when requesting late checkout to be offered my room until 5pm!!!

  • Claire says:

    Love Hilton Honors 🙂 We are Diamond and a family of four. Upgrades are brilliant (in the UK at least) and we ALL always get breakfast no arguments. Best executive lounge is at the St Georges, Burton upon Trent.

  • SammyJ says:

    I’ll be staying at the Hilton Leeds City on Monday, which I hear isn’t the best of the bunch. Already had an email saying we’ve been upgraded (gold through Amex) and will be able to pre-select a room.

    Any recommendations on room choice/floor etc, or are they all a bit dismal?

    • Chris says:

      It’s all a bit dismal from my experience. Hotel lobby/entrance feels like a leisure centre. I mean it’s all fine but it’s not great

      However I think its car park would be a serious contender for worst in the country. It’s a horrible little pokey thing seemingly entirely decorated with paint scrapes of its former victims

    • C says:

      Rooms on the side opposite side to the train station!
      Appreciate that’s vague, highly suggested though as the noise from the station, to the rear quarter and nearest / overlooking it, is very noticeable, and starts early!

      Rooms all generally ok, Double suites are my preference, breakfast is also good.

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      “Any recommendations on room choice/floor etc”
      Any. In the Doubletree one you’ve changed hotels.
      Ironic that the carpark at the Hilton is bad as the entire hotel building looks like a multistorey from the 70s.

    • Neil says:

      Doubletree in Leeds is so much better than the regular Hilton and usually available for a similar price. As a Diamond I am always upgraded and you typically get a couple of drinks vouchers that you can use in the sky bar too

      • SammyJ says:

        Thanks guys. It wouldn’t be my first choice (Malmaison was the same price!) but it’s for an assessment event in the hotel at 8am, so being able to nip up to the room between sessions, not getting cold/wet walking there etc is more beneficial than luxury on this occasion!
        Car park failings noted – we were 50/50 whether to drive or take the train… the train it is then!

    • mvcvz says:

      Yes. Ask to be upgraded to the DoubleTree, which is about 150 yards away as the crow flies. It’s a billion times better in every respect.

  • HH says:

    They’re the only chain AFAIK that waive resort fees and charges on points bookings, which makes them even better value. I just wish Amex would bring back the MR-Hilton transfer bonuses they used to run, though buying points with the +100% promo isn’t so bad for outsized value redemptions.

  • Dave Barron says:

    I currently have Hilton gold via the platinum Amex card. If I cancel do I immediately lose the gold status? Or if I keep the card until 1st March and then cancel would I keep Gold for a further 12 months? Thanks in advance.

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