What is Hilton Honors elite status worth in 2021?
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If you’ve ever been a road warrior, chances are you’ve experienced firsthand 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 benefits. Is a suite upgrade really worth the (often) massive premium hotels charge? And how much is complimentary breakfast really worth?
Today we’ll dive deep into one of the major hotel loyalty programs to address these items (and more). The goal is to help you determine one thing: Is it worth pursuing elite status with the Hilton Honors program?
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How I developed these valuations
Before getting into the numbers, it’s critical to stress that these calculations are just one way of deciding which program is best for you.
You may disagree with our 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 we arrived to reflect your typical travel patterns or preferences.
Like the airline portion of this series, this post also provides valuations for each status level after meeting the requirements and continuing to qualify each subsequent year.
We understand that some readers may be shopping for a new hotel chain to earn status once travel resumes. If that’s the case, you might be starting from scratch with no status.
If that’s you, check out the spreadsheet we’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, for all hotel programs we’re evaluating, there are a handful of assumptions we’re making to ensure consistency across the various programs:
- You qualify based on completing 20% more nights than the minimum required for the given level.
- You spend an average of $150 per night on eligible items.
- Your average stay is 2 nights.
We’re also making the following assumptions specifically related to the Hilton Honors program:
- 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 and Tru by Hilton properties.
As always, be sure to modify these assumptions if your travel patterns differ during a typical year.
Two final reminders: Like our airline guides, we’re using TPG’s most recent valuations for any bonus points you’d earn, with Hilton points pegged at 0.6 cents apiece. In addition, we’ve rounded all of the numbers to the nearest $5 to simplify the final calculations.
Things to consider before chasing Hilton elite status
There are a couple of other things to keep in mind before chasing any type of hotel elite status — let’s take a look.
Does Hilton have properties where you travel the most?
Thankfully, Hilton has a ton of properties both here in the U.S. and abroad. You’ll find these properties everywhere from large cities to alongside expressways, so in most cases, there’s a Hilton wherever you are in the world.
Regardless, it’s in your best interest to double-check the properties you travel to most and where you’d like to travel post-pandemic.
Verify that there are both Hilton properties in or around your destinations that match your type of travel. For example, if you travel to Detroit frequently and stay in luxury hotels, make sure one of Hilton’s luxury brands has a presence there.
If you find Hilton doesn’t have your desired type of hotel near the places you travel most, consider pursuing elite status with a program that does.
The ease of earning Hilton status with credit cards
Hilton Honors status is by far the easiest hotel status to earn with a Hilton credit card.
This means a couple of things for travelers. One is that you may not find it worthwhile to chase elite status organically with Hilton.
Instead, you can simply open a Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card that awards Diamond status and other benefits upon approval. Sure, you have to pay the $450 annual fee (see rates and fees), but that’s a solid deal compared to paying for hotel stays outright.
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.
Likewise, The Platinum Card® from American Express includes Hilton Gold and Marriott Gold status for as long as you hold the card (enrollment required). Having access to mid-tier status at two of the world’s largest hotel chains is a huge benefit that gives you a ton of flexibility when on the road.
So many cards offering Hilton elite status also means there are a lot of elite members out there. This can make upgrades more competitive and other benefits harder to achieve.
Consider how much you value Hilton Honors points
You’re going to walk away with a solid stash of Hilton Honors points whether you’re earning status organically or through a credit card. So, you should make sure you value Hilton Honors points before chasing Hilton elite status — otherwise, you could be left with a stash of points you can’t use.
Hilton prices award nights dynamically. This means the price of a hotel stay can vary based on demand, cash pricing or any other number of factors.
We’ve seen Hilton awards range from very reasonable price to astronomically high, like a one-night stay at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi that costs 701,000 points per night.
Again, we value Hilton Honors points at 0.6 cents per point, but you may value them differently. I recommend that you create your own valuation by averaging together the redemption value of redemptions you’re likely to make with your Hilton Honors points.
You can do this by finding the cent per point value of these redemptions and then averaging them out. To do this, first find the points and cash cost of a hotel stay. For example, a one-night stay at the LondonHouse Chicago costs 49,000 points.
The same night costs $344.63 after taxes and fees. Simply divide the cash price by the number of points required and multiply that number by 100 to get the cent per point value. In this case, you’d get 0.7 cents per point in value from your redemption.
The math looks like this: 344.63/49,000 x 100 = 0.7.
Doing this for multiple stays will give you a better look at how much Hilton Honors points are worth, based on your travel habits. If this number is lower than TPG’s valuation, you may want to choose another program.
COVID-19’s effect on these valuations
It’s hard to discuss travel in 2021 without mentioning the coronavirus pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected how most of us travel. Travel demand is slowly recovering, but many of us are still spending fewer nights in hotels than in 2019.
If you’re traveling less — and using your elite status benefits less — you’re likely getting smaller value from your hotel elite status.
That said, it’s impossible to know how much you’re traveling during the pandemic. Likewise, the coronavirus vaccine is starting to roll out worldwide, which will hopefully help us get back on the road before the end of the year.
These reasons are why I haven’t cut the value of elite status tiers in response to the pandemic. I’m also not taking reduced qualification requirements into account throughout this article since we’ll eventually be subject to the standard qualification requirements.
That said, you should take your coronavirus travel habits and optimism for the immediate future of travel into account when deciding whether or not to earn Hilton elite status this year.
This is a key part of determining whether it’s worth chasing elite status as we continue to move through the pandemic.
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 ($55)
The lowest tier in the Hilton Honors program is Silver status, typically earned after four stays or 10 nights.
This has been reduced to just 5 nights, 2 stays or 12,500 base points in 2021 due to the pandemic. It’s also included as an automatic benefit on the no-annual-fee Hilton Honors American Express Card (see rates and fees).
For this analysis, I’ll assume that you complete 12 nights, split evenly between full-service and limited-service properties.
15% point bonus ($20)
You’ll earn 20% more points than a regular member, which works out to an additional 2 points per dollar spent at most properties (1 extra point at Home2 Suites and Tru). With 12 nights at $150 per night, you’re spending $1,800 each year, taking home 3,600 bonus points, worth $21.60.
Fifth night free on award stays ($30)
Whenever you redeem your Hilton Honors points as an elite member for stays of up to 20 nights, you’ll receive every fifth night for free (up to four free nights). This could save you anywhere from 5,000 points for a five-night stay at a low-cost to 95,000+ points at a higher-end hotel with a high points cost.
This savings is worth anywhere from $30 up to $570 based on TPG’s most recent valuations and gets even higher if you book a 10-, 15- or 20-night stay. 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 free bottled water at most properties (Hampton, Homewood, Home2 Suites and Tru are notably excluded). I’ll value this at $5.
Hilton Honors Gold ($1,255)
The second tier in the Hilton Honors program is Gold status, typically earned after 20 stays or 40 nights or by earning 75,000 base points in a calendar year (which equates to $7,500 in spending).
This has been reduced to 20 nights, 10 stays or 37,500 base points in 2021. It’s also included as a benefit on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card and 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.
80% point bonus ($345)
Earn an 80% point bonus on paid stays, resulting in an additional 8 points per dollar spent (4 extra points at Home2 Suites and Tru). With 48 nights at $150 per night, you’d spend a total of $7,200, giving you an additional 57,600 Hilton points, worth $345.60.
Milestone Bonus ($60)
One of the newest updates to the Hilton Honors program was the addition of milestone bonuses in 2018. Once you reach 40 eligible nights, you’ll take home 10,000 bonus points for every tenth night you stay. So with 48 nights, you’ll take home one such bonus.
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. However, since you’re earning many more points, you’d probably be able to use it more frequently (or at least at higher-category properties). As a result, I’m bumping my valuation up to $75.
Two complimentary bottles of water per stay ($20)
Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
Room upgrades ($480)
You’re eligible for space-available upgrades to preferred rooms at most brands, including Hilton, Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Curio, DoubleTree and Canopy. The published policy indicates that this is “up to Executive Floor room types” and excludes standard 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 as a Gold member at applicable properties, as you’d need to be upgraded to a room with lounge access to enter. It’s also limited to just one room (even if you’ve booked two or more on the same reservation), and each brand or property can determine which rooms to classify as “preferred” accommodations. I’ll assume a conservative valuation of $20 per night at the full-service properties.
Even if you don’t gain access to the Executive Lounge via an upgrade (or if you’re staying at a property without a lounge), you and one additional registered guest will enjoy complimentary breakfast at most brands that don’t provide it for all guests as part of your My Way membership benefits.
This provides free continental breakfast at Waldorf-Astoria, Canopy, Conrad, Curio, DoubleTree, Hilton, LXR and Tapestry collection. Then you can enjoy a hot, cooked-to-order breakfast at Hilton Garden Inn. Just note that for many of these brands, you must select breakfast instead of bonus points. I’ll value this perk at $10 per night across the full-service stays. At resort properties or upscale hotels, this could easily be more expensive.
Bonus points or other welcome amenities ($35)
If breakfast isn’t your thing, you can always select bonus points at any of the aforementioned brands. However, you’ll also enjoy other small perks at other hotels under the Hilton umbrella, including 500 points at Canopy properties, 1,000 points at Hilton Grand Vacations properties and bonus points or snacks/drinks at Embassy Suites, Hampton, Tru, Homewood and Home2 Suites. I’ll peg these at $3 per stay at the limited-service locations.
Hilton Honors Diamond ($3,025)
The Hilton Honors program’s top tier is Diamond status, typically earned after 30 stays or 60 nights or by earning 120,000 base points in a calendar year (which equates to $12,000 in spending). 2021 requirements have been slashed to 30 nights, 15 stays or 60,000 base points.
You’ll also be upgraded to Diamond status by spending $40,000 in a calendar year on the Hilton Amex Surpass or Hilton Amex Business cards, or you could get it automatically by opening the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.
For this analysis, I’ll assume that you complete 36 stays covering 72 nights, split evenly between full-service and limited-service properties.
100% point bonus ($650)
You’ll earn a 100% bonus on all stays, taking home 10 extra points per dollar spent (or 5 additional points at Home2 Suites). With 72 nights at $150 per night, that works out to $10,800 in spending, giving you 108,000 bonus points, worth $648.
Milestone bonuses ($420)
As noted above, milestone bonuses of 10,000 points kick in starting at 40 eligible nights and then continue for every subsequent 10 nights stayed. Diamond members will earn another 30,000 points after reaching 60 nights in a year. If you maxed these out, you’d take home four 10,000-point bonuses plus the 30,000 point bonus, a total haul of 70,000 points (worth $420).
48-hour room guarantee ($25)
Hilton Honors also provides guaranteed availability for top-tier Diamond members with 48 hours’ notice. This sounds like a great perk, but the policy is filled with exceptions and loopholes (not to mention carrying exorbitant prices). As a result, this perk’s actual usefulness is minimal, so I’ll peg it at a conservative $25.
Fifth night free on award stays ($125)
Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
Two complimentary bottles of water per stay ($50)
Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
Complimentary premium internet ($70)
Hilton Honors 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 whenever I’ve connected to these services, so I’ll peg the value of this at just $1 per night.
Room upgrades ($1,080)
Diamond members enjoy similar upgrade perks as Gold members, but the terms and conditions specifically include suites (“junior,” “standard” or “one-bedroom”). However, this same section also includes the qualifier “may include,” so there’s no guarantee. This is a definite improvement over Gold, so I’ll bump the value to $30 per night at the full-service locations.
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 ($145)
Diamond members will have either additional welcome amenities or a wider selection of amenities from which to choose. Across brands like Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Curio, Hilton and DoubleTree properties (for example), this includes 1,000 bonus points per stay in addition to breakfast and upgrades. However, the benefit is comparable to Gold members for limited-service brands. As a result, I’ll bump this value up to $4 per stay across all stays.
What if I’m starting from scratch?
As mentioned above, all of these numbers represent values for those of you who reached these levels in 2020 and are currently enjoying the benefits across a similar stay pattern this year.
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 four stays (or 10 nights) and earned Silver status. After that, you won’t enjoy additional perks until you reach the Gold and then Diamond status.
How can you quantify this climb up the ranks?
Just like I did for the airline elite status series, we’ve attempted to answer this by converting the above calculations into a value per night and per stay, as follows:
- Hilton Honors Silver: $55 / 12 nights = $4.58 per night, $55 / 6 stays = $9.17 per stay
- Hilton Honors Gold: $1,195 / 48 nights = $24.90 per night, $1,200 / 24 stays = $49.79 per stay
- Hilton Honors Diamond: $2,605 / 72 nights = $36.18 per night, $2,605 / 36 stays = $72.36 per stay
(Note: Both the Gold and Diamond numbers above remove the milestone bonuses since those are earned in their entirety at specific night levels. However, those are included separately in the below calculations.)
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. Since the program allows you to qualify on both nights and stays, I’ve created sections for each.
Simply input the number of nights and stays you expect to complete in 2019 in the corresponding boxes. If your average stay is typically at or below my average above (2 nights), pay attention to the section labeled “STAYS.” If, on the other hand, you typically stay for 2 or more nights at every hotel, use the top portion labeled “NIGHTS.”
For example, you’ll see that I have pre-loaded 75 nights and 25 stays into the spreadsheet. With these numbers, you’d want to use the top portion (“NIGHTS”) to quantify your path to Diamond.
As the spreadsheet indicates, you’d get no benefits for the first 10 nights, enjoy Silver benefits for the next 30 nights (at a rate of $4.58 per night), then enjoy Gold benefits for the next 20 nights (at a rate of $24.90 per night) and finally enjoy Diamond benefits for the final 10 nights (at a rate of $36.18 per night).
You’d also take home several milestone bonuses: 30,000 points for reaching 60 nights and four 10,000-point bonuses for reaching 40, 50, 60 and 70 nights.
In other words, if you currently hold no status with Hilton and plan on spending 75 nights in 2019, you’d get approximately $1,207.71 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.
How can I make my own calculations?
Of course, the above assumptions may not fit your typical travel patterns at all. As a result, I’ve set up a second Excel spreadsheet to help you come to your own determination of how much Hilton Honors elite status is worth.
The document is easy to use. Just input the following items based on your 2021 plans in the highlighted cells:
- Number of nights (cell A2)
- Number of stays (A5)
- Average nightly rate (A8)
- A credit card from the drop-down box, if applicable (A11)
- Percentage of nights in full-service properties (A14) — note that this will automatically adjust the percentage of nights in limited-service hotels
Be sure to leave the two “Status” boxes alone, as these will populate automatically based on your previous information.
Once you have all of those details set, look at the total value calculation (cell D8) to see just how much value you can get out of the program this year.
As an example, you’ll notice that I’ve preloaded 35 nights, 12 stays, a $200 average nightly rate and the Hilton Aspire as the credit card.
Even though this stay activity would only get you Silver status, the Aspire Card includes automatic Diamond status — which is reflected in cell A23 and thus included in the calculations. With this stay/night/spending activity in 2021, you can expect to get $1,503 worth of value from the Hilton Honors program.
Is it worth it?
Given these values, is it worth pursuing elite status (or the next tier of elite status) with Hilton Honors? As with any analysis we undertake 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 — especially post-pandemic. 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 regularly. 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, all three of Hilton Honors’ status levels are available through credit cards, either as an automatic benefit or through spending. 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 many different factors 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) and even started handing out top-tier status via the Hilton Honors Aspire Card.
Nevertheless, the chain has extensive geographical coverage and many different brands to choose from, making it an attractive option for many travelers.
If you’re considering shifting some (or all) of your business to Hilton Honors in 2021 and beyond, I hope this post has given you a framework to help make that decision. Just make sure to run your own valuation to see if Hilton Honors elite status is right for you.
Feature photo by Thierry Dehove Photography/courtesy of Hilton
Screenshots courtesy of Hilton.com
Additional reporting by Andrew Kunesh
This is The Points Guy’s permanent page about Hilton Honors elite status, so you can bookmark it and check back regularly for the latest information. Keep in mind you may see some reader comments referring to outdated information below.
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