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Hilton Hotel’s loyalty program, Honors, is one of the best in the world. Here’s everything you wanted to know about Hilton Honors.

One of The Largest

Of the biggest hotel chains in the world, not all of them succeed in their loyalty programs. Hilton Honors is best-in-breed for the largest hotel chains in the world. The chain offers more than 6,100 hotels in 119 countries on six continents (no Antarctica properties… yet) spread across 18 chains. This qualifies the brand for the top five largest in the world falling behind Wyndham, Choice, Marriott, and Intercontinental Hotels Group.

The Hilton Honors program welcomes more than 106 million members worldwide every year spread over a million rooms.

Hilton Worldwide Brands

Hilton owns 18 different brands that feature a variety of varied price levels, room types, and features. The brand has “select service” properties like Hampton inn that do not offer a restaurant but do provide breakfast for guests.

Extended Stay brands like “Homewood Suites” offer long-term guests (like consultants) a home away from home with suites that feature kitchenettes and separate sleeping and living spaces.

Luxury brands Waldorf-Astoria and Conrad provide excellent amenities for the top end of the market. Premier locations, infinity pools, and luxury car transfers to and from the airport add to the experience at those properties.

Mid-tier brands like Doubletree and Embassy suites join Hilton brand hotels often in business markets while “Lifestyle” brands like Curio give guests something extra in the form of style and design.

Here is every Hilton Worldwide brand and its appropriate category:

  • Hilton (Full-service, business hotels)
  • Hilton Grand Vacations (Timeshares)
  • DoubleTree (Full-service, business hotels)
  • Embassy Suites (Full-service, business hotels)
  • Curio (Lifestyle)
  • Tapestry (Lifestyle)
  • Tempo (Lifestyle)
  • Motto (Lifestyle)
  • Canopy (Lifestyle)
  • Signia (Lifestyle)
  • Hampton Inn (Select service)
  • Hilton Garden Inn (Select service)
  • Home2 (Select service)
  • Tru (Select service)
  • Homewood Suites (Extended stay)
  • Conrad (Luxury)
  • Waldorf-Astoria (Luxury)
  • LXR (Luxury)

Membership

Simply by joining Hilton Honors for free, members add cost-free benefits to their stay. Even members that rarely stay in Hilton Worldwide hotels will have access to free high-speed internet, a digital room key (accessed by smartphone in equipped hotels), earn points for their stay, and access the best cash rates for stays. 

Elite Status

Get elite status even faster with a Hilton Honor credit card. We did a complete write up on – Why Every Traveler Should Have A Hilton Honors Credit Card.

Frequent guests have special privileges bestowed upon them the more they stay with the chain. There are three ways to qualify for status: nights, stays, or base points. 

Nights

Qualifying based on “nights” refers to nights spent in the hotel. For example, landing on Saturday night and departing one week later will result in seven qualifying nights. A weekend stay the following month will earn two more qualifying nights (Friday night, Saturday night, check-out Sunday morning) for a total of nine qualifying nights. 

Stays

Qualifying based on stays is a little more complex but can be very advantageous for certain travelers who visit many places but don’t stay for long. Each stay in a hotel will qualify as a single stay credit, but each stay must be separated from another.

Pro tip: For example, consecutive nights in the same hotel but booked as different reservations will not qualify as separate stays, however, hotel hopping will. If a guest has an upcoming trip to Chicago, staying near Grant Park for four nights they could move hotels every night to accelerate stay accumulation. The guest would spend the first night in the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Chicago, then move to the Homewood Suites by Hilton Downtown Chicago the second night, back to the Hilton Garden Inn the third night, and spending the fourth night back at the Homewood Suites. Most guests wouldn’t do this but if they did, they’d earn Silver status on this one trip.

Points

Qualifying for status on “Base Points” refers to the number of points given in relation to spend at the hotel. Hilton offers 10 Base Points per dollar spent on the hotel itself, exclusive of taxes or additional fees. If a room at a Hampton Inn costs $110/night, but $8 is local sales tax and $5 hotel tax a guest would be left with a room fee of $97, earning 970 Base Points.

Below are the elite tiers and their required number of nights/stays/base points to attain the status level. 

  • Member (General, sign up online, at a hotel or over the phone)
  • Silver (10 nights/4 stays/25,000 base points)
  • Gold (40 nights/20 stays/75,000 base points)
  • Diamond (60 nights/30 stays/120,000 base points)

The benefits available to elite members are some of the most generous of all major hotel groups. 

Hilton elite benefits (courtesy Hilton Honors)
Hilton elite benefits (courtesy Hilton Honors)

While Diamond status is clearly the best, it’s not always practical for leisure travelers or those who don’t travel often for work. Gold status offers the very best of the rest of the chains for mid-tier status. 

Hilton Honors Best Benefits

Of the myriad benefits that Hilton Honors offers its guests, some stand above the rest both with respect to the Honors program and in relation to competing programs from other chains. 

Breakfast

Gold and Diamond Honors members receive complimentary Continental breakfast at every Hilton brand that offers it whether that is in the restaurant, executive lounge, or in the lobby. 

Waldorf-Astoria Bangkok breakfast buffet Credit: Kyle Stewart
Waldorf-Astoria Bangkok breakfast buffet Credit: Kyle Stewart

Some hotels like Hilton’s Select Service brand, Hampton Inn, offer free breakfasts to all of its guests. However, other full-service brands will offer either a full breakfast amenity, a partial amenity in the form of limited selections from the “Continental” menu, or a credit toward any breakfast purchase. 

The Hilton Waikoloa in Kona, Hawai’i makes no distinction between Continental and full breakfast for Gold/Diamond members. The popular Hilton Bonnet Creek in Orlando near Disney World offers an “upgrade” option whereby Gold/Diamond members can help themselves to limited buffet items to avoid an additional charge or upgrade their breakfast experience for just $4/person/day. 

Upgrades

Diamond members receive unlimited upgrades from standard rooms up to one-bedroom suites. Many Gold members report receiving these as well, though it’s not a stated benefit. Some Diamond members have also been spoiled with even more elaborate suite upgrades. 

Upgrades are subject to availability at check-in and based on the entire length of the stay. If a guest is scheduled to stay five nights but a suite is available just four nights, it’s unlikely the guest will be upgraded to avoid moving the guest when required. 

Receive upgrades to suites like this one. Credit: Kyle Stewart
Receive upgrades to suites like this one. Credit: Kyle Stewart

Award Nights Count

Unlike redeeming airline miles or car rental free days, Hilton Honors members earn stay and night credit even on award nights. That’s an amazing perk!

Shortcuts to Higher Hilton Honors Status

While the way to status is clear in the traditional senses, there are many ways to obtain Hilton Honors status without compiling the minimum requirements. 

Hotel Hopping

I mentioned under “Stays” a method called hotel hopping. This method can reduce the total number of required activity per status level to just the total number of stays. By moving hotels every night during a multi-night stay, guests can reduce the total number of nights required. That offers Honors Diamond level for as few as 30 nights.  

Gifting

One of the best Diamond benefits is the ability to gift status to another guest. This also works as a shortcut for the recipient. It’s as simple as calling Hilton Honors customer service (the status level will route a Diamond guest to the “Diamond Desk”, an elite customer service team) and requesting the benefit used for a person the Diamond member chooses. The Diamond member should have the awardee’s Hilton Honors number to expedite the process. 

Challenges

While often targeted, Hilton sometimes extends “status challenges” to members without status or at a lower tier. Challenges offer reduced requirements to achieve a status tier. This is often equivalent to just over 1/4th of the requirements in a 90-day period. Past challenges have offered Diamond status for completing 18 nights in a 90-day period. 

Multiple Room Nights

Some families book more that one room for their stay when bringing family or friends along. Members can earn Base Points on up to two rooms per night. Traveling workers can also book for their co-workers to earn more base points accelerating status earning. 

Meetings

Earning by Base Points can be an expensive option. To achieve just Hilton Honors Silver would require $2,500 in hotel spending solely on the hotel charges (not including taxes.) However, when booking meeting rooms, spend can accelerate earnings for those who utilize them. 

Point Valuation

Point value is always personal because each traveler spends their points differently. Some only want to spend points on high-cost luxury hotels while others are trying to avoid paying for meaningless stays along a road trip. 

For example, if a Hampton Inn costs 15,000 points per night or $100, the value of those points (100/15,000) is about 0.66¢/per point. If another member chooses to redeem at the Conrad Maldives for 95,000 points to offset a $1,000/nt room, they can achieve nearly 1¢/point, far better than the Hampton Inn redemption. 

However, as a general rule, Hilton points are generally considered to be worth 0.4¢/point. 

Earning vs. Burning Points

Hilton point values are inflated compared to other programs but that keeps the program in balance because earning rates are also high. For example, there are very few 5,000 point hotel redemptions available, many are 30,000-50,000 for an average $120-200/nt hotel room. 

But the earning rates are also high. Hyatt, by contrast, has many hotels at 5,000-10,000 points, the most expensive hotels in the system are 30,000 points/nt, well below Hilton’s maximum of 120,000/nt. Earning with Hyatt takes longer. Diamond equivalent customers with Hyatt (Globalist) earn just 7.5 points/$1 vs. 20 points/$1 with Hilton. 

It’s important to keep this balance in mind and take advantage of points promotions like this one now offered through the end of 2020. 

Best Redemptions

What are the best Hilton redemptions? Much like the point valuation identified above, the redemption value is often in the eye of the beholder. However, I will offer a few different examples that speak to different values offered to member customers. 

  • Hilton Garden Inn Bali Ngurah Rai Airport – 5,000 points/nt. This Bali hotel is an Honors member favorite. Why? Because 5,000 points are very easy to come by (earning rates are high), yet this bargain happens to be located in paradise. 

  • Conrad Hong Kong – 80,000 points/nt. High above the city on Hong Kong Island overlooking Victoria Harbour, Conrad offers an “old money” luxury feel. The hotel often sells for $400/nt giving an average rate slightly above my valuation. However, the hotel delivers so much more in the way of luxury with butler tea service – call them and they will draw you a bath – and white gloves worn by the staff. 
  • Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek – 50,000 points/nt. This property was recently renovated, offers full-service amenities, and an incredible pool facility complete with a lazy river and views of nightly Disney fireworks displays. The secret value at Bonnet Creek is that property is also a Disney neighbor hotel with access to Disney’s Extra Magic Hours that offer park guests early or late access to the parks when general ticketholders do not. A family utilizing this special perk can often complete as many rides in just 2-3 extra hours as they will when the park is open to the general public. 

Partners

Hilton Honors offers the ability for members to transfer member’s points to a variety of partners to achieve value. 

Airlines

While not the best use of points, when members have more Hilton Honors points than airline miles they may opt to transfer some to airlines. However, this is usually a poor value. 

Amazon

At a rate of $.02/point, Honors points can be used to pay for purchases on Amazon.com. This rate is approximately half the value most guests will receive when they use Honors points to offset the cost of hotels. It’s not ideal, but in the right circumstance, it may make sense. 

Events

Hilton Honors partnered with TicketMaster to offer tickets to general concerts as well as exclusive events. On occasion, these events might be lawn tickets to a popular concert at an outdoor venue offsetting a $40 ticket for 10,000 points. Other times, events can be private cooking classes with a celebrity chef. 

Conclusion

Hilton Honors is an excellent program that delivers some of the best value for its members. As Honors allows earning status by “stays” in addition to night or point qualifications, it is also one of the easiest statuses to obtain. Its excellent global footprint and diversity of brands make Hilton Honors a great fit for every traveler. 

What do you think? Have you earned status or points in the Hilton Honors program? What’s your favorite redemption?