Battle of the hotels: Why I think Hilton is the best
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Editor’s note: It’s no surprise that TPG writers and editors are loyal when it comes to travel. So we decided to do a battle that covers the top four U.S. hotel groups. Check out the episode of the Talking Points podcast to hear us defend our picks. And click on the links below to read which hotels we chose and why.
Further reading: Battle of the Hotels: Why I think Marriott is the best
Further reading: Battle of the Hotels: Why I stay most often with IHG
Further reading: Battle of the Hotels: Why I think Hyatt is the best
TPG's Carissa Rawson explains why she’s sticking with Hilton — thanks in part to its large footprint in destinations around the world, easy-to-achieve elite status and easy-to-use rewards points.
Hilton is the best hotel chain out there because its elite status program is achievable, its hotels are available worldwide and its points are easy to earn.
Hilton made an unprecedented move in 2018 when it launched the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, which offers Diamond elite status to cardholders. I'm talking top-tier, suite-upgrade eligible with executive lounge access and 100% point bonus elite status. Other co-branded credit cards will offer middling elite status, like the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, which grants new cardholders complimentary Marriott Gold Elite status with your card but has a $450 annual fee (see rates & fees). 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.
Of course, not everyone is willing to pay high annual fees to get free breakfast. In that case, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card may be more your speed. With a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95 annual fee (see rates & fees). The card offers complimentary Hilton Gold status, which includes free breakfast, an 80% bonus on points and complimentary room upgrades. Compared to other hotel elite programs, which limit bonuses at 20-25% (Hyatt and Marriott) and offer no free food (Hyatt and Marriott), Hilton Gold status is clearly the winner.
Hilton also offers a unique benefit for Diamond members, allowing them to extend their status for one full year if they have not qualified to maintain their status. To take advantage of this, members must be Diamond elites for three years (not consecutive), have at least 250 stays or have earned 500,000 base points since joining the Hilton program.
Hilton also offers a status match and challenge program, which gives you instant Gold status (valid for 90 days) and allows you to complete nights in order to keep Gold status (10 nights) or upgrade to Diamond (18 nights). Even better, if you time it correctly, the status is valid for nearly two years. I completed this challenge in 2017, when the requirements were fewer, using the Platinum elite status given by the $99-per-year IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card for my match.
Hilton Elite status is incredibly easy to acquire with many cards that offer superior elite status compared to other chains, especially in the middle tiers.
After the Starwood-Marriott merger in 2016, Marriott became the largest hotel program in the world. Hilton trails by a hair with nearly 6,000 hotels in 100 different countries.
Hilton has one of the easiest points-earning programs. If you're trying to build your balance, there are many options:
- Apply for Hilton credit cards, which feature huge sign-up bonuses and earn points quickly. There are four cards from which to choose, two of them are currently offering a 150,000-point sign-up bonus
- Take advantage of Hilton's frequent buy points promotions to purchase Hilton points with a 100% bonus, dropping the cost of your points to 0.5 cents each, which is below TPG's valuation of 0.6 cents each
- Put purchases on your Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, which offers 7x bonus points at U.S. restaurants
- Register for Hilton's bonus-point promotions, like Power Up Your Points, which offers double points on stays or triple if you're a Hilton credit cardholder
Hilton hotels run the gamut, from the 5,000-points-per-night Category 1 hotel to the 95,000-points-per-night Category 14 hotel (and of course, the outlier Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi, which commands an astronomical 120,000 points per night). For those looking to stretch their points, there are more than 100 properties that will run you 10,000 points or less per night, including some fabulous resorts in Egypt.
I'm not arguing that Hilton has the best reward program for high-end elites. It's missing a few perks that others offer, like Suite Night Awards or Hyatt Guest of Honor, but overall Hilton is my go-to hotel chain because of how truly attainable it is. Because of its large footprint in destinations around the world, easy-to-achieve elite status and easy-to-use rewards points, Hilton beats all those other hotel chains.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass Amex card, click here.