5 ways Hilton Honors should improve its loyalty program
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. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
I know many Hilton Honors loyalists who think that Hilton is best. Some love that you can gain top-tier Diamond elite status as a credit card benefit. Others are thrilled that the program waives resort fees on reward stays. And, everyone is happy that elites get a fifth night free when booking with points.
Although I have Hilton Gold status and my husband has Hilton Diamond status, I can’t say we’re loyal to Hilton Honors. After all, we spend most nights with other hotel loyalty programs. And, we often choose Marriott Bonvoy over Hilton Honors due to one specific elite perk. So, there’s certainly room for the Hilton Honors program to improve and capture more of my hotel nights.
Today I’ll consider how the Hilton Honors program could improve. I’ll start this article by describing what I love about the Hilton Honors program. And, then I’ll discuss five ways in which the program should improve its loyalty offering.
Get the latest points, miles and travel news by signing up for TPG’s free daily newsletter.
What I love about Hilton Honors
What I love most about the Hilton Honors program is that it provides a solid offering regardless of your status level. Besides the entry-level Member tier, there are three elite tiers: Silver, Gold and Diamond. So, let’s first examine the highlights and requirements of each Hilton Honors elite status tier.
Tiered elite perks
The base Member tier provides a few perks. These perks include waived resort fees on award stays, free Wi-Fi and choosing your room. My sister-in-law was thrilled to find she could choose a high-level room when she stayed as a Member at a Tru hotel in downtown Denver. And, Members can earn and redeem with Hilton Honors partners as well as book Hilton Honors Experiences.
You can earn Silver status with four stays, ten nights or 25,000 base points in a calendar year. Or, you can snag Silver status as a perk of the Hilton Honors American Express Card. Either way, Silver status provides a fifth night free when you book with points. And, Hilton provides Silver members a 20% bonus on base points earned from stays.
You can earn mid-tier Gold status with 20 stays, 40 nights or 75,000 base points in a calendar year. But, you can also get Gold status as a cardholder of the following Hilton Honors cards:
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
And, Gold status provides the following extra perks:
- Free continental breakfast for you and a guest
- 80% bonus on base points earned on stays
- Space-available room upgrades up to the executive level
Finally, you can earn top-tier Hilton Diamond status with 30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 base points in a calendar year. But, you can also get Diamond status as a perk of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. And, Diamond status improves upon Gold status with:
- Executive lounge access
- Space-available upgrades up to one-bedroom suites
- 100% bonus on base points earned from stays
The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
My favorite parts of Hilton Honors
As you can see, there’s a lot of value to be found in the Hilton Honors program. In particular, I love that:
- Even Gold members get free breakfast
- Lounge access for Diamond members
- Silver, Gold and Diamond members get a fifth night free when booking a standard room with points
- Relatively consistent upgrades that often appear before check-in for Gold and Diamond members
- Hilton Honors credit cards that provide status and solid earning rates
- Good earning rates for members when booking directly with Hilton
- No resort fees on award stays
But, although the Hilton Honors program has a lot of positives, it can still improve. So, now I’ll describe five ways in which the program should improve.
1. Offer complimentary upgrades at all brands
Hilton Honors gives Gold members space-available upgrades up to the executive level. And, Diamond members can get space-available upgrades up to one-bedroom suites. Hilton says, “if we have a better room available, it’s yours.”
My husband and I have received some great upgrades due to his Hilton Diamond status and my Gold status. For example, the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Penang upgraded us to a one-bedroom suite. Meanwhile, the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Fiji upgraded us to the property’s best room category: a premium ocean-view bure.
But, there have been some notable Hilton stays in which we weren’t upgraded. And, in most cases, the hotel didn’t upgrade us due to an exclusion in the Hilton Honors terms. According to the terms, the following Hilton Honors brands don’t offer complimentary upgrades:
- Embassy Suites
- Hilton Garden Inn
- Hampton by Hilton
- Tru by Hilton
- Homewood Suites by Hilton
- Home2 Suites by Hilton
- Hilton Grand Vacations
Interestingly, these brands are mostly Hilton’s budget-friendly and extended-stay brands. But, especially if you are working from the hotel or traveling with family, an upgrade can make a big difference at these brands.
Granted, you may still be given an upgrade when staying at these excluded brands. But, the Hilton Honors program doesn’t require these brands to upgrade members. So, I generally book at a hotel offering better upgrade chances. As such, Hilton Honors would get more of my stays if it offered space-available upgrades at these brands.
2. Provide compelling promotions
A successful hotel promotion is generally one that changes consumer behavior or increases loyalty. Currently, Hilton has the following offers:
- Double rewards promotion: Earn double Hilton Honors points and elite night credits. Register here.
- Earn up to 7,500 points after two stays: Earn 2,500 Hilton Honors points after your first stay and 5,000 after the second. Register here.
- Best deal to dream: Get up to 20% off in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa and up to 30% off in Asia
- Save up to 50% off Sundays: Make it a 3-day weekend and save up to 50% off Sunday nights
But, none of these promotions push me to stay with Hilton instead of another hotel loyalty program. After all, elite night credits aren’t useful since the Hilton Aspire Card provides Diamond status as a perk. And, 2x base points on the double rewards promotion isn’t compelling. The promotion that allows you to earn up to 7,500 points after two stays could be useful when stacked with the other promotions. But, even this promotion doesn’t motivate me to go out of my way to satisfy it.
So, Hilton could improve its loyalty offering and attract more stays from its members with compelling promotions. For example, I was historically a fan of IHG’s Accelerate promotion. Although Accelerate nudged me to book more expensive brands or rates in some cases, it was also lucrative. Hilton Honors could offer a similar promotion that encourages its members to try new brands, stay longer or book packages by providing large, tiered point bounties.
3. Make the Points Explorer tool real-time
I’m always looking for ways to stretch my Hilton points. It’s possible to find Hilton hotels for 20,000 points or less in the U.S. You can also find some great Hilton hotels for 10,000 points or less overseas. But, Hilton Honors uses dynamic award pricing. So, the points cost for a stay varies based on the hotel, when you book and your stay dates.
If you know where you want to stay, you can use the flexible dates search function to find inexpensive dates. But, if you are looking for a good deal, you may want to use Hilton’s Points Explorer tool. This tool allows you to select your points budget and region. The tool then returns the lowest and highest points per night for which travelers have booked as of a particular date. But, this date is in the past. So, there may not be any nights currently bookable for the minimum points cost shown by the Points Explorer.
Hilton’s Points Explorer tool is a good start. But, the tool would be more useful if it returned the minimum and maximum award night cost currently bookable. Although adding this feature wouldn’t directly improve my loyalty, it would help me maximize redemptions with Hilton Honors. So, improving the Points Explorer tool could indirectly improve member loyalty.
4. Expand the fifth-night free perk
When redeeming Hilton points for a standard room reward stay of five or more nights, Silver, Gold and Diamond members get every fifth night free. However, Hilton doesn’t waive the actual cost of every fifth night. Instead, Hilton will subtract the average number of points per night for each fifth night.
You can use the fifth-night free benefit on unlimited stays each year. But, you must pay for your stay entirely with points and you can only get four free nights per stay. Additionally, you can’t use this perk on the following:
- Premium room reward stay
- Paid stay
- Points & Money stay
- Stay that is part of a reward stay offer, package or promotion offered by Hilton or any of its partners
Although most of these restrictions are understandable, I believe removing two exclusions would improve traveler loyalty. First off, Hilton should remove the cap of four free nights per stay. Especially as travelers are booking stays for a month or more, removing this cap would help Hilton members looking to redeem points for longer stays. Second, some Hilton loyalists prefer to book premium room rewards that provide more room or a unique experience. So, it would be a customer-friendly move to allow the fifth-night free benefit on premium room reward stays.
5. Offer guaranteed late check-out
Finally, several other top hotel loyalty programs offer elite members guaranteed late check-out until a set time. For example, World of Hyatt offers Discoverists and Explorists 2 p.m. check out and Globalists 4 p.m. check out. Meanwhile, Marriott Bonvoy offers Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite members 4 p.m. check-out. Granted, these late check-out perks aren’t provided at select hotels and must be requested. But, elites with these programs can rely on set late-check out times when staying at most hotels.
Hilton Honors, on the other hand, does offer a late-check out perk for all members. But, this benefit must be requested and is subject to availability. And, the program’s terms don’t state that higher-tier members get better late check-out benefits than members with no elite tier.
One Hilton hotel gave us a 4 p.m. late check-out upon request. But, it’s more common to only be given a couple hours after the stated check-out time. As such, you can’t plan on getting a late check-out when booking your stay. So, my husband and I book stays with Marriott or Amex’s Fine Hotels and Resorts program when we want to be guaranteed 4 p.m. late check out. But, if Hilton Honors offered guaranteed late check-out until a set time for elites, we’d stay with Hilton more.
It’s easy to maintain Hilton elite status through Hilton credit cards and Amex Platinum cards that provide hotel status. Specifically, even if you only stay with Hilton Honors a few times each year, you can reap top-tier status perks. And, Hilton has some other gems such as high earning rates and waived resort fees on award nights. But, the Hilton Honors program could do more to encourage elites to be loyal and spend more nights with Hilton.
Featured image of the Hilton Doubletree Fiji by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees