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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Citi HHonors Hilton Reserve CardHilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express

Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen writes about a major update from the Hilton HHonors program.

Last July, my first Weekly Wish column laid out my desire for Hilton Honors to implement a lifetime status program. After all, Hyatt Gold Passport, Marriott Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest all offer members a way to earn status for life. Hilton clearly had some catching up to do.

Well, it appears that my wish has been granted! In December, a Hilton Honors company representative posted a teaser on FlyerTalk about upcoming Lifetime Diamond status, and today, we now know exactly what the qualification criteria will be.

Hilton HHonors has FINALLY added lifetime status benefits. Read on to see if you have qualified!

Initially, Lifetime Diamond Status will be offered to HHonors members who met both of the following criteria as of December 31, 2014:

  1. Have maintained Diamond status for at least 10 years (Don’t have to be consecutive)
  2. Have completed paid stays totaling at least 1,000 nights

If you’re shy of these marks and hit them in the middle of the year, your Lifetime Diamond Status will start at the beginning of the following year.

This information has just been posted on FlyerTalk, and Hilton will also be sending e-mails to those who have qualified, so if you think you’ve earned it, be sure to check your inbox today! Unfortunately, only paid nights count, so if you typically have a bunch of award stays in a given year, you may be further away from Lifetime Diamond status than you think.

If you do qualify, you’ll be sent a Hilton Honors Lifetime Diamond card:

LTDIA_MemberCard 2

You’ll also be sent a pair of Bowers & Wilkins P5 noise canceling headphones:

Hilton Lifetime Diamond headphones

Finally, you’ll be able to select a $100 gift card from one of three retailers: Bloomingdales, Sak’s Fifth Avenue, or TUMI (you can make your selection through the Hilton Honors gift portal).

If you’re based outside the US, you’ll be sent the membership card and headphones, but instead of the gift card, you’ll get Hilton Honors points equal to $100 in local currency that can be used in your local Hilton Honors Shopping Mall.

Redeem your Hilton Honors points and revel in your new lifetime status at the Grand Wailea in Maui.

Yesterday, I had a chance to speak with Mark Weinstein, Global Head of Loyalty and Partnerships, about this enhancement to the Hilton Honors program. “We’re really excited to be rolling this out,” he said, adding that the plans have been in the works for some time. “We know from our members that [lifetime status] is extremely important to them and a key driver in their decision to stay loyal to a program, but we wanted to make sure we got it right. It really was just about getting the right selection criteria in place and being able to honor the commitment that we are making for a lifetime.”

He went on to say that the criteria is meant to strike a balance between “being as welcoming as possible to those who are loyal to [Hilton Honors] over the years, but at the same time keeping the right level of exclusivity in the program.” After all, even 10 years of Diamond status at exactly 60 nights per year would still come up well short of the 1,000 night threshold.

Some other key questions he was able to answer:

1) Why don’t award nights count toward Lifetime Diamond Status? The goal was really to “separate out those folks that do a good amount of paid business with [Hilton].” While award stays do count toward yearly elite status qualification, the program wanted to target the “most elite of elite travelers” and again maintain the exclusivity of the new tier.

2) Will there be a way to track your progress toward Lifetime Diamond Status? As of right now, no. The main focus was on getting the new tier rolled out, and they will continue to make operational adjustments during this first year (and beyond). For now, Weinstein says status will be tracked on their end.

3) Will there be any additional benefits to Lifetime Diamond members? Not when it comes to hotel stays, though individual properties will see the status in their systems. “The program is a consistent Diamond experience,” Mark says, “so they’ll get the same VIP benefits” as regular Diamond members. The one added benefit will be a dedicated phone number with “priority handling” for Lifetime Diamond members.

4) Any plans to add other lifetime tiers, like Lifetime Gold? Not right now, though they will continue to evaluate the program and make changes as needed.

You can qualify for lifetime status with 10 years of Diamond status and 1,000 paid nights.

My thoughts

This announcement is (in my opinion) long overdue, and I have to credit Hilton Honors for not only adding this option, but also making it relatively attainable. This is in sharp contrast to Hyatt’s Lifetime Diamond program, which requires 1,000,000 base points ($200,000 in qualified spending).

Of course, we’d all like these qualification thresholds to be lower, especially when compared to other chains. Marriott offers top-tier Lifetime Platinum status at 750 nights (though you also need 2 million points), and Starwood Preferred Guest Lifetime Platinum requires just 500 eligible nights plus 10 years of Platinum Status.

I also wish that Hilton included a Lifetime Gold option, though with both the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve and Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express granting automatic Gold status, I can see why the program is restricting lifetime status to the Diamond level.

Finally, excluding award nights (which do count toward yearly elite status qualification with Hilton) is also a big blow.

All that being said, this clearly is a great addition to the Hilton HHonors program, and I think that the criteria is reasonable. After all, lifetime status is meant to reward long-term loyalty, so requiring at least 10 years of top-tier status along with 1,000 nights accomplishes that. It’s too bad that I’m short on both accounts…for now, at least!

Any newly minted Lifetime Diamonds out there? What are your thoughts on this new status?

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