How Do I Earn Hilton Honors Elite Status from Spending?

Oct 2, 2016

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TPG reader Brian emailed me to ask about earning Hilton status:

“You’ve mentioned that certain Hilton cards offer Diamond status if you spend $40,000 in a year — can you spend that amount on anything, or do you have to spend $40,000 with Hilton to qualify?”

Many travel rewards credit cards offer annual bonuses as an incentive to cardholders. Some bonuses are awarded simply for renewing your account, and usually come as points or free nights that can help offset the annual fee. Other bonuses have to be earned by meeting spending thresholds during the year, and offer perks (like elite status and companion tickets) that can be highly lucrative if you use them to their full potential.

Both the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express and the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card offer Diamond elite status each year when you spend $40,000 on eligible purchases. Things like balance transfers, cash advances and annual fees don’t qualify as purchases, but as a rule of thumb, any transaction that earns points should count toward the spending requirement — in other words, you don’t have to charge $40,000 exclusively with Hilton. That makes sense because you’d already qualify for Diamond status anyway if you spent that amount on hotel rooms.

Knowing that you can earn top-tier status through credit card spending, the crucial question is whether you should. Hilton Honors Diamond status offers some lucrative benefits, but I don’t value it as much as top-tier status from several other major hotels. It’s not a big step up from Gold status, which you get as a standard benefit from either of those two Hilton cards. Unless you regularly visit higher-end Hilton properties, I don’t think you’ll see a marked difference.

Another issue is that meeting the spending requirement has a fairly high opportunity cost. Both cards offer solid earning rates at Hilton properties, but they aren’t among the best options for everyday purchases. Furthermore, Hilton points aren’t particularly valuable, so these cards often come up short even in the bonus categories they do offer. You may get a better return overall by using a card that earns more valuable points at a higher rate.

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Honors Diamond comes with valuable benefits, but it’s not a huge upgrade over Gold status.

You might consider going for the larger bonus if you spend a lot with Hilton each year, or if $40,000 is only a small portion of your annual spending. Otherwise, keep in mind that the Citi Hilton Reserve card also offers a free weekend night certificate when you spend $10,000 in a calendar year. I think that bonus is more worthwhile — the spending requirement is lower and the value is clear — and it’s one of the reasons I keep the card each year.

For more on credit card bonuses and earning Hilton points, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured image courtesy of the Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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