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.
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 (review here).
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 …..
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 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:
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.
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?
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.
How to earn Hilton Honors points and status from UK credit cards (February 2023)
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 Premium and MeliaRewards Gold status. We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.
The Platinum Card from American Express
30,000 points and unbeatable 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 (20,000 bonus Amex points)
- American Express Rewards Credit Card (10,000 bonus Amex points)
and for small business owners:
- American Express Business Gold (20,000 bonus Amex points)
- American Express Business Platinum (40,000 bonus Amex points)
The conversion rate from American Express to Hilton points is 1:2.
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.)