This is the third part of my “Beginners' guide to hotel points” series. Over the weeks I am helping rookies to learn the most important bits of each hotel programme to set them on their way.
Updated: 23rd March 2017.
Hilton, one of the most iconic names in the hospitality industry, has around 4 000 hotels worldwide and ten brands in its portfolio. Its nine brands include Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Doubletree by Hilton, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Home2 Suites by Hilton, and Hilton Grand Vacations.
As a European traveller, you're probably more suited to starting off with Hilton Honors than the other big chains given their presence in the European market, though their points are a lot less valuable than other chains.
Hilton HHonors is divided into four levels:
- Blue — 0 nights or 0 stays per year
- Silver — 4 stays or 10 nights per year
- Gold — 20 stays, 40 nights or 75 000 base points
- Diamond — 30 stays, 60 nights or 120 000 base points.
The full membership benefits for each tier are listed here. I do see Gold providing genuine value in the middle tier loyalty market, because it gives free breakfast, lounge access (therefore free drinks!) and free internet on nearly all stays. I've never had any of them denied in the 3 years or so I've had Hilton Gold.
You earn 10 base points per 1USD you spend, before tax, on hotel overnight rates and other amenities charged to your room e.g. dinner or minibar. So effectively Gold and Diamond cost $7500 or $12000 at the worst case.
Do reward nights count towards elite qualification?
Shortcuts to higher levels:
I wrote a post about free Hilton Silver for Accenture employees not too long ago. The link still works and you can enjoy your status straight away. It also allows a fast-track to gold if you stay 4 times within 90 days.
Hilton Gold used to be notoriously easy to get instantly by having a Visa Infinite credit card. So easy in fact that I found out how to trick their verification system and published the details here (though that offer has since expired). There's currently an offer for certain European resident card holders running until March 2014, though the online tool isn't working so you might need to call them up.
If you're a UK resident, you can apply for a Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa card and for as long as you hold the card, you will be Silver status. If you spend £10 000 in a calendar year you will be upgraded to Gold. There's a neat trick with this though. Since the points and status take around a month or two to post, if you hit your £10 000 threshold in December, you can reasonably expect to be upgraded to Gold in January/February of the following year. And because Hilton award status for “the rest of the calendar year plus the next”, you will effectively prolong your Gold status by another year just by delaying your spending.
And finally Hilton do allow Status Challenges to Gold or Diamond tiers. You need to email HHonors@hilton.com to request it. In 90 days you will need to stay 5 times or 10 nights to qualify for Gold, or 21 nights to qualify as Platinum. The amount of time you will hold the status is unclear though, but you can observe the trends on this page at StatusMatcher
For one guy though, he managed to thread the eyes of many needles and hit Diamond with just £68 of Tesco vouchers.
Staying at hotels
Hilton like to boast about letting customers “double dip” by earning both hotel points and air miles on a stay. True that other competitors don't allow it, but I don't necessarily think this is the best deal.
You earn 10 base points per 1USD you spend on your hotel bill before taxes. Silver members will earn a 15% bonus, Gold 25%, and Diamond 50% on top. If instead of choosing airlines miles as your double dip option and choose HHonors points, you will earn an extra 50% on top of the base points too.
Points and Miles
One of the clearest examples of arbitrage with HHonors is that if you elect “Fixed Miles” as your “Points and Miles” earning rate, you can earn 750 Avios per stay (at most of the brands) if you credit to Iberia, or 500 Avios if you credit to British Airways. Clearly it's a no-brainer to send your miles to Iberia.
Another example (thanks to Nick for raising this one) for short stays, if you prefer to collect HHonors points rather than airline miles, is actually to select “fixed miles” on Virgin Atlantic. As he points out in the comments below, you receive 1000 Flying Club miles per stay, which converts back to 2 000 HHonors points. So if your room bill goes beyond $400USD then you will be better off selection “points and points” to credit to HHonors.
Hilton runs quarterly promotions which you should always sign up for. More often than not you won't see a tangible boost in your points balance, but once in a blue moon (like the latest 2013 Q4 promotion) they do offer genuine value.
Standard Room Rewards
Hilton unilaterally devalued their points in March 2013, showing the world who's boss. Unfortunately for some Flyertalkers, they refused to be bogged down by the cuts and are now posting about the ‘sweet spots' of the new scheme.
I don't recommend spending points at their rack rate at any other hotel, but there are some methods which can still provide some value for money
5th night free
Silver, Gold or Diamond members can receive every 5th night free when they book a stay on rewards of between 5 nights to 20 nights.
Points and Money
The lower categories do offer genuine value for your Hilton points if you select the “Points and Money” option. I can't give you the exact value as this varies hotel to hotel, but expect to pay somewhere between 2 000 — 20 000 plus $30USD-$100USD. Compare the cash you will offset by using the points (not forgetting the currency exchange). If you can get over €0.005 per point then it's already a good deal.
In a nutshell, I don't really see HHonors as a programme where you try to earn and burn loads of points. I simply see them as providing some extra benefits to their higher level tier members. Though since it seems every man and his dog can get Gold, I can expect to see some watering down of benefits in the not-so-distant future.
See our other Hotel Beginners' Guides
Other related posts