Everything you need to know about Hilton Honors lifetime elite status
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The coronavirus pandemic has made earning elite status much easier, thanks to status extensions and reduced requirements. But those things are temporary and if having elite status is important to you, then you may be looking at ways to earn it beyond 2021.
I’ve always appreciated how easy it is to earn Hilton elite status (including top-tier Diamond) simply by holding the right Hilton credit cards. If you’ve ever wondered what it would take to lock in your Hilton elite status for life and never have to worry about requalifying again, you’ve come to the right spot. Let’s take a look at how to qualify for lifetime elite status with Hilton Honors.
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Requirements for lifetime Hilton elite status
Hilton Diamond status can be worth thousands of dollars per year thanks to its array of perks, including a 100% points bonus, space-available upgrades, guaranteed lounge access (Gold requires an upgrade to gain access), free breakfast and more.
Hilton Honors allows members to lock in top-tier Diamond elite status for life by meeting the following requirements:
- Earn Hilton Diamond status for 10 (non-consecutive) years and complete one of the following:
- Complete stays totaling 1,000 paid and reward nights OR
- Earn 2 million base points
Given how easy it is to earn Hilton Gold status with credit cards (The Platinum Card® from American Express, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card all offer it to cardholders), it makes sense that Hilton only offers the ability to earn its top-tier Diamond status for life. Enrollment required for select benefits.
Related reading: Is it worth earning lifetime elite status?
Does Diamond status from the Hilton Aspire card count toward the 10-year requirement?
Indeed it does. Earning Diamond status for 10 years is a relatively easy feat and can actually enhance your travel rewards strategy. Simply open the premium Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card — with its $450 annual fee (see rates and fees) and keep it open for 10 years.
Not only will you earn a current welcome bonus of 150,000 Hilton points after spending $4,000 on purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership, but you’ll also enjoy automatic Diamond status as long as you keep your card open.
Related reading: What is Hilton elite status worth?
What are the other benefits of the Hilton Aspire?
If the $450 annual fee puts you off, you should know that the perks of the Aspire card can more than pay for themselves. You’ll enjoy up to a $250 in annual airline incidental credit (similar to the credit on the Amex Platinum), up to a $250 annual Hilton resort credit and up to a $100 property credit on eligible stays of two or more nights at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad hotels. Enrollment required for select benefits.
You’ll also get one free weekend night certificate when you open your card and another each year on account renewal. You could even pick up another by spending $60,000 on the card in a calendar year. These awards are valid at just about every Hilton property in the world, and a single one can easily recoup your annual fee in one fell swoop.
If the fee is still too much for you, you could also stick with the Hilton Surpass card — and its more reasonable $95 annual fee (see rates & fees) — and spend $40,000 on purchases on it each calendar year to upgrade to Diamond status.
How to hit the second set of requirements
The second set of requirements is where things start to get tricky and where Hilton is clearly working to keep this lifetime status exclusive for its valuable, revenue-generating customers.
1,000 lifetime nights is a lot, and while paid and award stays are both included, there isn’t much you can do to jumpstart the process. At least Marriott’s various credit cards offer you 15 elite night credits a year to help boost your nightly total over time, but Hilton doesn’t offer anything similar.
Earning Diamond status organically requires 60 nights a year (or 30 stays, but that won’t help with lifetime qualification); if you qualify with exactly 60 nights annually, it will take you about 17 years to lock in lifetime Diamond. Even if you’re a very frequent traveler staying 100 nights a year, this process will still take a full decade.
Unfortunately, trying to earn 2 million base points might not be any easier. “Base points” are the 10x points you earn on your hotel folio and exclude any points transfers, milestone bonuses or elite multipliers you might receive on top of that. Earning 2 million base points would therefore require you to spend $200,000 on your Hilton stays over the lifetime of your relationship with the brand.
While this isn’t entirely inconceivable for a business traveler frequenting more expensive properties like Conrads or larger (expensive) cities, this is not something that most budget-conscious award travelers will ever be able to obtain.
Related reading: Best ways to earn points with the Hilton Honors program
Credit cards that can help you hit lifetime elite status
Amex made waves in early May by announcing limited-time perks and bonuses for select cardholders. The trio of Hilton consumer credit cards — the Hilton Aspire, Hilton Surpass, and the Hilton Honors American Express Card — were among the products affected.
This will only help you with earning towards the two million base point requirement. However, it can be a significant boost, especially if you’re getting close.
Normally, this regular spending on non-Hilton stays would not count towards lifetime elite status at all. The same is true for any other bonus category or even non-bonus spending.
Is it worth it?
At the risk of sounding painfully obvious, lifetime status is meant to reward a lifetime of commitment to a single hotel chain and (hopefully) a lot of spending over that period. It isn’t designed for those who utilize shortcuts to pick up elite status with a given program. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with leveraging published, above-the-line strategies to make your stays more rewarding and comfortable. Just don’t expect a hotel chain to grant you that status for life without some significant business.
So is it worth meeting the lifetime qualifications? I don’t think so, only because it’s so easy to get with the Hilton Aspire card.
Related reading: The best hotel credit cards
With a requirement of $200,000 in lifetime spending requirement or 1,000 nights, earning lifetime Hilton Diamond status requires planning. If you’re fiercely loyal to Hilton and show that with your wallet, you can (eventually) look forward to not having to requalify for elite status every year.
However, until then, you can enjoy all the same benefits of Hilton Diamond status for a fraction of the cost by simply opening the Hilton Aspire card. If you’re loyal enough to Hilton to be thinking about lifetime status, this premium credit card likely belongs in your wallet already.
Additional reporting by Chris Dong.
Featured photo of the Conrad Bora Bora by Summer Hull/The Points Guy
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