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If you’re wondering whether it’s worth meeting the requirements for a specific hotel program status, it helps to know what sort of value you can expect as an elite member. Below, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen kicks off the hotel portion of his series on elite statuses by examining how much value you can get with the different levels of the Hilton HHonors program.
Here at TPG we’re constantly asked questions like, “Is it worth it for me to earn ____ status with ____ airline/hotel chain?” This can be a very challenging question to answer, as there are so many factors that come into play when deciding which chain (or elite benefit scheme) is best for you. After wrapping up my series that considered the various elite status tiers of the major airlines in the US, today I’ll shift gears and kick off an update of last year’s series that quantified the value of elite status at the various hotel chains. Our first subject: Hilton HHonors.
Before we get to the analysis, a couple of disclaimers. First, it’s important to note that these mathematical analyses represent just one way of calculating the value you’d get out of a given elite status level. You probably have your own way of calculating how much value you can get from these programs; if you travel exclusively for work and rarely spend time in your room, you may not care about upgrades, and if you aren’t a big breakfast eater, the free breakfast benefit probably won’t matter much either. Just like with any analysis, feel free to adjust the numbers to make it more relevant to your own personal situation.
Second, these numbers are all based on the benefits you’d enjoy after achieving the given status level and continuing to qualify each year thereafter. If you’re starting from scratch or if you suddenly have a drop-off in your travel, the calculations become significantly more complicated.
This brings me to the third and final critical part of this analysis: the underlying assumptions I’m making. To really hit a value for benefits, I have to assume a certain amount of traveling and a certain amount of spending with the given hotel chain. For the sake of the hotel portion of the series, I’m making the following assumptions:
- You complete 20% more stays than the minimum required for a given status level.
- You spend an average of $400 per stay on qualifying charges.
- You spend 60% of your stays at full-service properties (like Hilton and Conrad locations) and 40% at discount properties (like Hampton and Homewood).
As always, be sure to adjust these numbers based on your given travel patterns. Those who regularly travel to larger cities may wind up paying close to $400 per night, while those who typically travel to more rural locales will probably wind up staying in more discount properties. There aren’t many full-service Hilton properties in Central Nebraska, where I used to travel a ton for work!
Three final bits of information: For the sake of this analysis, I’m valuing any bonus points earned based on TPG’s most recent valuations, which peg Hilton points at 0.5 cents apiece. In addition, I’m rounding all of the individual benefit valuations to the nearest $5 to make the math a bit simpler. Finally, I am not including benefits offered to all Hilton HHonors members, like the new chainwide discount or complimentary internet for booking directly with a Hilton channel.
So, all that being said, where do the three levels of the Hilton HHonors program land? Here’s my analysis:
Hilton HHonors Silver ($65)
The lowest level in Hilton’s program is Silver status, which is typically earned after four stays or 10 nights. It is also included as a benefit on both the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card and the regular Hilton HHonors Card from American Express. For this analysis, I’ll base my numbers on completing five stays (three at full-service, two at discount properties) and spending $400 on each one (so a total spend of $2,000).
- 15% point bonus ($15): As a Silver member, you’d earn 15% more points than a non-status member. Since Hilton HHonors gives all members 10 points per dollar spent, you’d take home an additional 1.5 points per dollar, so 3,000 extra points, worth $15.
- 5th night free ($25): Unlike the similar benefit offered by Marriott and Starwood, Hilton only allows elite members to get their fifth night free on award redemptions. Whether or not this has any value to you depends on how frequently you redeem points for a stay of five nights or longer, so I’ll assume a relatively conservative value of $25.
- Complimentary access to fitness centers and health clubs ($20): Silver members can also access fitness centers and health clubs for free, though this would typically only apply at certain full-service properties. For example, the Hilton Chicago ordinarily charges guests $15 per day to access the 16,450-square-foot Athletic Club on the 8th floor, but that fee would be waived for elite members. If you frequent these properties, the value of this perk would increase substantially, but I’ll keep it at a modest $20.
- Two complimentary bottles of water ($5): The final benefit is two complimentary bottles of water per stay at full-service properties, thus excluding stays at Hampton, Homewood or Home2 Suites properties. Since just about all hotels have free water fountains, it’s not the most lucrative benefit. I’ll assume $1 per bottle, so $2 per stay at full-service properties.
Hilton HHonors Gold ($1,310)
The middle level in Hilton’s program is Gold status, which is typically earned after 20 stays, 40 nights or 75,000 base points. It’s also included as a benefit on the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card, the Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express and the Platinum Card from American Express (a new benefit as of October 2015). For this analysis, I’ll base my numbers on completing 24 stays (14 at full-service, 10 at discount properties) and spending $400 on each of them (so a total spend of $9,600).
- 25% point bonus ($120): Gold members earn 25% more points than non-status members. With a yearly spend of $9,600, you’d take home 96,000 base points. A 25% bonus would get you an additional 24,000 points, worth $120.
- 5th night free ($50): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Complimentary access to fitness centers and health clubs ($100): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Two complimentary bottles of water ($30): I’ll keep the same value of $2 per stay, though you’ll enjoy it more frequently (14 stays at full-service properties).
- Room upgrades ($700): As a Gold member, you’re entitled to a space-available upgrade at Waldorf-Astoria, Conrad, Curio, Hilton and DoubleTree properties. Though the terms & conditions explicitly exclude suites, I have snagged several of these rooms, including the presidential suite just last week at the Doubletree in Sunrise, FL (not nearly as exciting as it sounds on paper). The true value of this depends on many things, including how frequently you get upgraded and how much the upgraded room is worth to you. I’ll assume a value of $50 per stay at full-service locations, which takes into account the fact that you won’t always score these upgrades.
- Complimentary breakfast ($280): In addition to room upgrades, Gold members can also enjoy complimentary breakfast at most full-service properties (excluding many Waldorf-Astoria hotels). Once again, many variables affect the true value of this, including the types of hotels you frequent and whether you’d otherwise pay retail price. I’ll assume a conservative value of $20 per stay at full-service locations.
- Additional bonus points or on-property perks ($30): The final benefit of Gold status comes in the form of additional on-property perks. These generally require a choice between bonus points and some other benefit like a snack (at Embassy Suites and Hampton) or an in-room movie (at Waldorf-Astoria). Since these are similar to the two complimentary bottles of water, I’ll keep the same $30 valuation.
Hilton HHonors Diamond ($2,320)
The top level in Hilton’s program is Diamond status, which is typically earned after 30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 base points. You can also earn automatic Diamond status by spending $40,000 in a calendar year on either the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card or the Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express. For this analysis, I’ll base my numbers on completing 36 stays (22 at full-service, 14 at discount properties) and spending $400 on each of them (so a total spend of $14,400).
- 50% point bonus ($360): Diamond members earn the highest bonus on base points, taking home 50% more points than a non-status member. $14,400 earns you 144,000 base points, so the bonus gets you an additional 72,000 points, worth $360.
- 48-hour room guarantee ($25): As a Diamond member, you’re guaranteed a room within 48 hours, though it’ll likely cost you a pretty penny (and the benefit isn’t available when a hotel is overbooked or during “Extraordinary Demand Dates”). I never once found a need for this benefit, but if the situation warrants it, you might find it worthwhile.
- 5th night free ($75): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Complimentary premium internet ($50): While all Hilton HHonors members now enjoy free Wi-Fi when booking rooms directly with Hilton channels, Diamond members will get premium internet speeds where available. To be honest, I’ve never noticed a big difference since this benefit was added last year, but it can be nice when/if the bandwidth on the standard networks are clogged with non-Diamond members.
- Complimentary access to fitness centers and health clubs ($150): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Two complimentary bottles of water ($45)
- Room upgrades ($1,100): Even though Diamond members should (in theory) get priority over Gold members for upgrades, the benefits do not explicitly state this, so I’ll keep the same $50/stay valuation.
- Complimentary breakfast ($440) Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Additional bonus points or on-property perks ($75): At lower-end properties, this benefit is identical to that of Gold members. However, at most full-service hotels, you’ll get to choose more than one benefit, so it’s actually a bit more valuable for Diamond members.
Is It Worth It?
Given these values, is it worth it for you to push for status with Hilton HHonors? As with any analysis, there isn’t an easy answer to that question, as it entirely depends on your travel patterns. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help make this decision:
1. How much will you be traveling in the future? If you go out of your way to earn a given elite status level, it would be a shame to not utilize the benefits as much as you’d like.
2. What’s the incremental value of one level over another? If you’re close to qualifying for the next level, consider the additional (or enhanced) benefits you’d get. There’s no sense in taking a mattress run to earn status when the additional perks you’d get don’t matter to you.
3. Would you sacrifice price or convenience for elite status? One of the hardest things to quantify in this hobby is whether or not it’s worth booking with your preferred hotel chain if it isn’t the most convenient or cheapest. If you’re attending a conference in a hotel that isn’t your favorite brand, only you can decide whether you should look elsewhere.
While the answers to these questions won’t give you an absolute answer, they can help bring out the key considerations to be made as you’re deciding whether you want to push for the next status level (or whether you want to earn status at all).
Hilton HHonors used to be my go-to hotel loyalty program, but the massive 2013 devaluation shifted my loyalty to other chains. Nevertheless, the program has some intriguing features, especially given the chain’s global reach and terrific redemption options. Keep in mind that everyone has their own way of quantifying these benefits, but hopefully this analysis has given you a framework to apply as you plan your 2016 travel.
For more information about Hilton HHonors, be sure to check out the following posts:
- Which Hilton HHonors Credit Card Can Offer Me Elite Status?
- The Award Traveler’s Guide to Hilton HHonors
- 8 Low-Level Hilton Properties that Make for Awesome Awards
- 8 Hilton Properties that Make for Awesome Award Redemptions
How do you value Hilton elite status?
This card is one of several solid options for Hilton guests, and it offers some outstanding benefits like no annual fee, complimentary HHonors Silver status and getting the fifth night free on award redemptions. This card also lets you upgrade to HHonors Gold status when you $20,000 on the card in a calendar year or complete four eligible stays within the first 90 days of account opening.