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Hilton hasn’t made significant tweaks to its Hilton Honors program recently, relaying on the old saying, “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And from many perspectives, things aren’t broke(n), as Hilton has noted a surge in Hilton Honors members as travelers “shift their loyalty” (I’ll let you read between the lines and figure out the source of these shifts).
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 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. Today we’re going to take a look at how to qualify for lifetime elite status with Hilton Honors.
Requirements for Lifetime Hilton Elite Status
Given how easy it is to earn Hilton Gold status with credit cards (The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card both offer it to cardholders), it makes sense that Hilton only offers the ability to earn its top-tier Diamond status for life.
Diamond status can be worth thousands of dollars a year thanks to its array of perks, including a 100% bonus, space-available upgrades, guaranteed lounge access (Gold requires an upgrade in order to gain access), free breakfast and more. For a full breakdown of the elite benefits, you can check out TPG Editor Nick Ewen’s valuation of Hilton elite status here.
In order to earn lifetime Diamond status you need to earn Diamond status for 10 (non-consecutive) years and complete one of the following requirements:
- Complete stays totaling 1,000 paid and reward nights
- Earn 2 million base points
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 and keep it open for 10 years. Not only will you earn a welcome bonus of 150,000 Hilton points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership; you’ll enjoy automatic Diamond status as long as you keep your card open.
If you’re put off by the $450 annual fee (See Rates & Fees), you should know that the perks of the Aspire card can more than pay for themselves. You’ll enjoy up to a $250 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.
(Note that if the fee is still too much for you, you could also stick with the Hilton Ascend card and charge $40,000 to it each year to upgrade to Diamond status.)
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 only 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.
And to be honest, that’s exactly the point. 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.
With a $200,000 lifetime spending requirement or the need to complete 1,000 nights, earning lifetime Hilton Diamond status is something for which it’s hard to plan ahead. 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.
Featured photo courtesy of the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa, A Waldorf Astoria Resort.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex Aspire, please click here.
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