You don’t need me to tell you what Hilton is – it is probably one of the best known hotels (or hotel groups) in the world. Being a US-based hotel group, it has massive footprint in the North America continent, as well as many other locations. Hilton has got a decent number of properties in the UK and some other European countries.
In general, Hilton’s brands fall into the following categories:
- Luxury: Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Curio
- Upscale: Hilton, Doubletree
- Midscale: Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton
- Family-oriented: Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites etc.
Considering how frequently merging and acquisition are happening in the hotel industry, Hilton is keeping a surprisingly compact portfolio here. It only has a total of 18 brands at this time, many of which have such a small footprint that they may not even count as independent brands.
[Membership Tiers and Benefits]
Hilton’s loyalty program, called Hilton Honors, has the following membership tiers:
- Blue: achieved upon registration. Free wi-fi if book direct and also late checkout upon availability.
- Silver: 4 stays / 10 nights / $2500 spend. 20% bonus points and two free bottles of water per stay.
- Gold: 20 stays / 40 nights / $7500 spend. Silver benefits plus 80% bonus points in lieu, room upgrade and free continental breakfast.
- Diamond: 30 stays / 60 nights / $12000 spend. Gold benefits plus 100% bonus points in lieu, free high-speed wi-fi and access to Execute Lounge where available (excluding Waldorf Astoria).
All members, including the free Blues, enjoy the “second guest stays free” benefit. This is particularly useful in countries like Japan where double occupancy is significant more expensive than single.
In order to qualify for or keep any elite status, you need to meet the corresponding criteria in a calendar year. For benefits details please click here.
Hilton’s Gold status is usually deemed as the best “mid-level” hotel status out there. It guarantees free breakfast for two people in all brands, and although the term says continental breakfast, most hotels outside North America will offer you full breakfast, but you may be limited to having it in the executive lounge instead of the main restaurant.
You also get room upgrade as a Hilton Gold, although not guaranteed so it can be hit and miss – in general hotels in Asia are the most generous, followed by Europe and then North America. It’s also written in the t&c that as long as you are upgraded to an execute room, you are guaranteed executive lounge access.
On the other hand, Diamond members don’t get much more than Golds. The main addition is high-speed internet and guaranteed executive lounge access. It also says that suite upgrade is reserved for Diamonds only, but in reality it’s pretty much at each hotel’s discretion and not set in stone.
For elite members there’s also this thing called Milestone Bonuses: Starting from the 40th night in a calendar year, you get 10,000 bonus points (which we’ll talk about later) for every 10 nights you stay. Upon reaching 60 nights you can gift someone a gold card, and a diamond card for 100 nights.
There are a few ways to get Hilton status faster:
- Credit cards: some countries issue credit cards that come with Gold or Diamond status. In the UK you can apply for an American Express Platinum card that offers you Hilton Gold immediately.
- Status Match: there is an official status match website from Hilton. You must hold elite status with Hilton’s competitor and then stay 10 nights / 18 nights within 90 days to get Gold / Diamond.
- Status Challenge: Hilton regularly offers status challenge programs to certain groups where you can get Gold status after as little as two or four stays.
You earn 10 points per US dollar for your spend in Hilton group hotels. This includes what you originally pay for the room, and also food & drinks and other incidental spend which are charged to the room. You can earn points for up to four rooms as long as they are booked under your name.
You can buy points from Hilton’s official portal as well. The regular price is $10 for 1000 points, although there are frequent promotions that halve this price.
There are various credits card available using which you can accrue Hilton points via daily spend.
The main purpose of Hilton’s points, of course, is to redeem for hotel stays. Hilton has a kind of weird “mixed” redemption system: on the one hand it is revenue-based, meaning that the points needed is proportional to the cash price of the room; on the other hand there is (at least for now) a cap for each hotel, so the points required will not exceed this cap.
The lowest cap is 5,000 points per night, whereas the highest is 95,000 traditionally. There are a couple of very high end properties (e.g. the Waldorf Astoria in Maldives) with a higher cap than this.
For the revenue-based system, you are looking at roughly 10,000 points for every $50. For example:
This standard room is selling at $128 (Best flexible rate incl. tax), which times 200 should be 25,600 points, which is not too far off from the 28,000 points charged.
In general, Hilton’s points are best used when the cap is met – this nowadays mostly happens at top-end properties or in peak seasons. For example, the Conrad Maldives can be had for 95,000 points per night, which converts to $475 using the revenue-based formula:
But the standard room (Beach Villa) costs $700 in cash even before tax kicks inn. Even better, you can book a Water Villa at the same price. This is not usually the case though, as non-standard rooms use a different formula (“Premium Rewards”) and are much more expensive point-wise, as you can see above on the right.
Since this mixed dynamic-pricing system was introduced, Hilton’s hotels no longer have official redemption categories, which means they can increase, or even remove the cap without giving any notice.
One benefit for Elite members (Silver, Gold and Diamond) is, if you book 5 consecutive nights at the same hotel using points, you get a 20% discount. This is usually advertised as “5th night free”. For example, if a hotel costs 20,000 points on average per night for your 5-night stay, you pay only 80,000 points in total.
Hilton also has a points pooling feature, so you can share points with your friends and family if you need to plan a big trip.
Hilton runs regular sales globally:
- North America: usually 20% off
- Europe, Middle East and Africa: 25% or 30% off
- Greater China: 25% or 30% off
- Southeast Asia, Korea and Japan: up to 50% off
With the “second guest stays free” benefit, Hilton can represent very good value for stays in Japan.
Hilton usually has a dedicated point promotion each quarter, in the form of double/triple points, or 2000 bonus points per stay etc.
There are occasionally miles promotions as well: in addition to Hilton points, you get airline miles per stay too.
Today Hilton Honors remains one of my favourite hotel loyal programs, the main reason being its very generous elite benefits. It’s sad to see the program devalue after dynamic pricing was introduced, but I guess when you win some, you lose some.