Your guide to Hilton Honors lifetime elite status

Jun 16, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with current information. 

Hilton hasn’t made significant tweaks to its Hilton Honors program recently, relying on the old saying, “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Of course, all of that could change now that the coronavirus pandemic has all but upended the travel industry.

However, one thing I’ve always appreciated about the Hilton Honors program is how easy it is to earn 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

(Photo courtesy Hilton Hotels)
Diamond status includes numerous perks at luxurious properties like the Conrad Bali. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)

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 in order 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.

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 you spend $4,000 on purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership; you’ll enjoy automatic Diamond status as long as you keep your card open.

Related reading: What is Hilton elite status worth?

The Hilton Aspire card is the quickest and easiest way for most travelers to snag top-tier Diamond status. (Photo by The Points Guy)

What are the other benefits of the Hilton Aspire?

If you’re put off by the $450 annual fee (see rates and fees), 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.

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 annual fee of $95 (see rates and 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

Canopy by Hilton Cancun La Isla Azulinda. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)
Canopy by Hilton Cancun La Isla Azulinda. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)

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 would take you just shy of 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.

Here’s what changed. Bonus points earned through eligible purchases, if they post to the card member’s Hilton Honors account between May 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, will be considered base points and will count towards elite tier qualification and lifetime Diamond status.

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. For instance, if you’re a Hilton Aspire or Hilton Surpass cardholder, you’ll receive an 12x Hilton points at U.S. supermarkets through July 31, 2020. These 12x points would be considered base points as part of this promotion.

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.

(Photo courtesy Hilton)
Hilton doesn’t want just anyone to enjoy a lifetime’s worth of perks at luxurious properties like the Conrad Maldives. (Photo courtesy of Hilton.)

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

Bottom line

With a $200,000 lifetime spending requirement or the need to complete 1,000 nights, earning lifetime Hilton Diamond status is something you’ll need to plan ahead for. If you’re fiercely loyal to this brand and show that with your wallet, you can (eventually) look forward to not having to requalify for elite status year after 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 even be thinking about lifetime status, this premium credit card likely belongs in your wallet already.

Additional reporting by Chris Dong.

Featured photo courtesy of the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa, A Waldorf Astoria Resort.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass, please click here.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

This card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 150,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card after you use your new Card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn a one-time $100 statement credit after using your new Card to purchase an Expert Flyer Premium annual subscription ($99.99 plus applicable taxes, followed by automatic renewal) within your first year.
  • Enjoy a free Weekend Night Reward within your first year and every year after renewal.
  • Earn 14X Hilton Honors Bonus Points when you make eligible purchases on your Card at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for eligible purchases: on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies & at U.S. restaurants.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Each year of Card Membership, get up to $250 in statement credits on your Card Account for eligible purchases made directly with participating Hilton Resorts.
  • Enjoy complimentary Diamond status with your Hilton Honors Aspire Card.
  • $450 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.74% - 24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$450
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Good,Excellent
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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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