This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express
If you’ve ever been a road warrior, chances are you’ve experienced first-hand how valuable hotel elite status is thanks to the variety of on-property perks it conveys to frequent guests. However, it can be challenging to peg a specific dollar amount to these perks. Today I’ll continue the 2017 update of my series that evaluates each of the major hotel programs and attempts to quantify the value of each tier of elite status. After covering Marriott/Ritz-Carlton, SPG and Hyatt, I’ll now move onto the Hilton Honors program.
Before getting into the numbers, I want to stress that these calculations are just one way of deciding which program is best for you. You may disagree with my valuations for specific perks, or you may have a preferred hotel for work that makes Hilton a less-than-viable option. Feel free to adjust the numbers at which I arrived to reflect your typical travel patterns or preferences.
Like my past analyses, this post also provides valuations for each status level after meeting the requirements and continuing to qualify each subsequent year. I understand that some readers may be shopping for a new hotel chain to earn their loyalty or may be looking to travel more in 2017, in which case you might be starting from scratch with no status. If that’s you, check out the spreadsheet I’ve included toward the end of the post to estimate the value you’d get as you climb the ranks of the Hilton elites.
Finally, I’m using similar assumptions to my previous entries to arrive at my final numbers for the Hilton Honors program:
- You complete 20% more stays than the minimum required for the given level.
- You spend an average of $150 per night.
- Your average stay is 2 nights.
- Your stays are split evenly between full-service properties (like Hilton and DoubleTree) and limited-service properties (like Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites).
- None of your stays take place at Home2 Suites.
As always, be sure to modify these assumptions if your travel patterns differ during a typical year.
Two final reminders… like the earlier posts, I’m using TPG’s most recent valuations for any bonus points you’d earn, with Hilton points pegged at 0.6 cents apiece. In addition, I’ve rounded all of the numbers to the nearest $5 to simplify the final calculations.
So, all that being said, how much value can you get out of the Hilton Honors elite status program? Here’s my analysis:
Hilton Honors Silver ($50)
The lowest tier in the Hilton Honors program is Silver status, which is typically earned after 4 stays or 10 nights. It’s also included as an automatic benefit on both the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card (no longer open for new applicants) and the Hilton Honors Card from American Express. For this analysis, I’ll assume that you complete 5 stays covering 10 nights, split evenly between full-service and limited-service properties.
- 15% point bonus ($15): As a Silver member of Hilton Honors, you’ll earn 15% more points than a regular member, which works out to an additional 1.5 points per dollar spent at most properties (0.75 extra points at Home2 Suites). With 10 nights at $150 per night, you’re spending $1,500 each year, taking home 2,250 bonus points, worth $13.50.
- Fifth night free on award stays ($30): While both Marriott and Starwood Preferred Guest allow all members to enjoy the fifth night free on award redemptions, Hilton restricts this to elite members. This could save you anywhere from 5,000 points for a Category 1 hotel to 95,000 points for a high season Category 10 hotel (or $30 up to $570 based on TPG’s most recent valuations). However, you probably won’t earn enough points as a Silver member to utilize this very frequently, so I’ll assume a conservative value at the low end of that spectrum.
- Two complimentary bottles of water per stay ($5): The final perk granted to Silver members is a pair of free bottles of water for each stay at most properties (excluding Hampton, Homewood and Home2 Suites locations). I’ll peg this at $5.
Hilton Honors Gold ($980)
The second tier in the Hilton Honors program is Gold status, which is typically earned after 20 stays or 40 nights. It’s also included as an automatic benefit on both the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card (no longer open to new applicants) and the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express, and it’s also granted to holders of the Platinum Card from American Express. For this analysis, I’ll assume that you complete 24 stays covering 48 nights, split evenly between full-service and limited-service properties.
- 25% point bonus ($110): Gold members will earn a 25% point bonus on paid stays, resulting in an additional 2.5 points per dollar spent (1.25 extra points at Home2 Suites). With 48 nights at $150 per night, you’d spend a total of $7,200, giving you an additional 18,000 Hilton points, worth $108.
- Fifth night free on award stays ($75): Like Silver members, you’ll also be able to get the fifth night free on all award redemptions during the year as a Gold member, but since you’re earning many more points, you’d probably be able to use it more frequently. As a result, I’m bumping my valuation up to $75.
- Two complimentary bottles of water per stay ($25): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Room upgrades ($480): As a Gold member, you’re eligible for space-available upgrades to preferred rooms at most brands, including Hilton, Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Curio, DoubleTree and Canopy. The policy officially excludes suites, though I have been upgraded to suites before with just Gold status. Unfortunately, this perk is the only way to gain access to the Executive Lounge at applicable properties, as you’d need to be upgraded to a room with lounge access to enter. I’ll assume a conservative valuation of $40 per stay at the full-service properties.
- Breakfast ($240): Even if you don’t gain access to the Executive Lounge via an upgrade, as a Gold member you’re entitled to complimentary breakfast at most properties that don’t provide it for all guests (like Embassy Suites hotels). This includes free continental breakfast at Conrad, Curio, Hilton and DoubleTree plus hot, cooked-to-order breakfast at Hilton Garden Inn. I’ll peg this at $10 per night across the full-service stays, keeping in mind that not all of these brands provide it as a benefit.
- Bonus points or other welcome amenity ($50): Of course, if breakfast isn’t your thing, you can always select bonus points at any of the aforementioned brands through the My Way hotel benefits (full details are available here). In addition, you’ll enjoy other small perks at the other hotels under the Hilton umbrella, including 1,000 points or one in-room movie at Waldorf hotels, 500 points at Canopy properties and bonus points or snacks/drinks at Embassy Suites, Hampton, Homewood and Home2 Suites. I’ll peg these at $2 per stay.
Hilton Honors Diamond ($2,030)
The top tier in the Hilton Honors program is Diamond status, which is typically earned after 30 stays or 60 nights. It’s also granted to members who spend $40,000 in a calendar year on either the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve or the Hilton Honors Surpass Card. For this analysis, I’ll assume that you complete 36 stays covering 72 nights, split evenly between full-service and limited-service properties.
- 50% point bonus ($325): Diamond members earn the highest bonus on base points for stays, taking home 5 extra points per dollar spent (or 2.5 additional points at Home2 Suites). With 72 nights at $150 per night, that works out to $10,800 in spending, giving you 54,000 bonus points, worth $324.
- 48-hour room guarantee ($25): Like the programs I’ve already evaluated, Hilton Honors provides guaranteed availability for top-tier elites with 48 hours’ notice, but as I’ve mentioned already, this policy is filled with exceptions and loopholes (not to mention carrying exorbitant prices). I’ll use the same $25 valuation I used in my previous analyses.
- Fifth night free on award stays ($100): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Two complimentary bottles of water per stay ($50): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Complimentary premium internet ($70): Like most other chains, Hilton Honors now provides complimentary internet to all members of its loyalty program, but Diamond members can access premium networks during stays. I haven’t noticed much of a difference in speeds, so I’ll peg the value of this at just $1 per night.
- Room upgrades ($900): Diamond members enjoy similar upgrade perks as Gold members, but the terms & conditions explicitly include suites. As a result, I’ll bump the value up to $50 per stay at the full-service locations.
- Continental breakfast ($360): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Executive Lounge access ($100): Another key difference between Diamond and Gold status is that Diamond members are guaranteed Executive Lounge access at applicable properties, even when you aren’t upgraded to an Executive Level room. In addition to providing breakfast, most lounges put out an evening spread of hors d’oeuvres, and many international ones include complimentary alcohol as well. Since this only applies to select properties, and since I’ve already captured breakfast in its own category, I’ll peg this at an extra $100.
- Bonus points and other welcome amenities ($100): Diamond members will also have additional welcome amenities from which to choose, including a spa or restaurant discount at Waldorf Astoria locations and bonus points in addition to breakfast and upgrades at Conrad, Curio, Hilton and DoubleTree properties. As a result, I’ll bump this value up to $100.
What if I’m starting from scratch?
Of course, as I mentioned above, all of these numbers represent values for those of you who reached these levels in 2016 and are currently enjoying the benefits. However, you may be starting from square one without any Hilton status at all. If this is the case, you won’t enjoy any benefits until you have completed 4 stays (or 10 nights) and earned Silver status. After that, you won’t enjoy additional perks until you reach the thresholds for Gold and then Diamond status. How can you quantify this climb up the ranks?
Just like I did for my airline elite status series, I’ve attempted to answer this by converting the above calculations into a value per night, as follows:
- Hilton Honors Silver: $50 / 10 nights = $5 per night
- Hilton Honors Gold: $980 / 48 nights = $20.42 per night
- Hilton Honors Diamond: $2,030 / 72 nights = $28.19 per night
I then created an Excel spreadsheet that uses these numbers to calculate the value you’d get from the program as you move up the Hilton elite status ladder. Just input the number of nights you plan on completing in 2017 and the numbers will adjust automatically.
For example, you’ll see that I have pre-loaded 70 nights into the spreadsheet. With these numbers, you’d get no benefits for the first 10 nights, enjoy Silver benefits for the next 20 nights (at a rate of $5 per night), then enjoy Gold benefits for the next 30 nights (at a rate of $20.42 per night) and finally enjoy Diamond benefits for the final 10 nights (at a rate of $28.19 per night). In other words, if you currently hold no status with Hilton and plan on spending 70 nights in 2017, you’d get approximately $840.28 of value out of the program.
Again, feel free to update the numbers in the “Base Data” tab of the spreadsheet to include your own valuations of the perks.
Is it worth it?
So given these values, is it worth pursuing elite status (or the next tier of elite status) with Hilton Honors? Just like with any analysis we undertake here at TPG, there isn’t an easy answer to this, as it depends entirely on your individual situation. However, here are a few over-arching questions that can help you arrive at a decision:
- How much will you travel in the future? When you’re pursuing elite status, it’s critical to think about how much you’ll be traveling in the future. If you push hard to earn Diamond, for example, the valuable perks outlined above only apply when you actually travel.
- What’s the incremental value of one tier over another? Many of you may wind up within striking distance of the next tier, so be sure to consider whether the benefits are worth pushing for it. There’s no sense in going out of your way for perks that don’t matter to you.
- How well does Hilton’s geographical coverage match your typical travel patterns? There’s really no point in pursuing elite status with a hotel chain if you can’t feasibly stay at one (or more) of its properties on a regular basis. Fortunately Hilton is one of the larger chains out there, but be sure to consider Hilton’s hotels in and around your common destinations.
- How sensitive are you to price and convenience? There are many tradeoffs in this hobby, and one of the most common is deciding whether to use your preferred airline or hotel chain when it’s not the most convenient or cheapest. Would you stay at a DoubleTree if there was another brand that was cheaper and/or more convenient to where you need to be? If the answer is no, it may not be worth going out of your way to earn elite status with Hilton (or elite status with any hotel chain, for that matter).
- Is a credit card a better option? As mentioned above, you can earn Hilton Gold status automatically with a credit card, and you can also spend your way to Diamond status by charging $40,000 in a calendar year on two of them. As a result, you may be better off simply opening one of those and utilizing the benefits without worrying about qualifying (or requalifying) the hard way.
These questions are also not easy to answer, as there are many different factors that come into play with each of them. Nevertheless, it’s a worthwhile exercise to evaluate your own situation as you decide to determine if Hilton elite status is for you!
Earning elite status with a hotel program is a great way to maximize your stays, and the Hilton Honors program offers some nice perks for its loyal customers. However, it also hands out mid-tier status simply for carrying a credit card with a minimal annual fee (under $100). Nevertheless, the chain does have very wide geographical coverage and many different brands from which to choose, making it an attractive option for many travelers. If you’re considering shifting some (or all) of your business to Hilton Honors in 2017, I hope this post has given you a framework to help make that decision!
What Hilton elite status level are you aiming for in 2017?
Featured image courtesy of the Hilton Moorea.