Battle of the hotels: Why I think Hilton is the best

Feb 16, 2020

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.

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: Podcast: Battle of the Hotels: Points and Miles experts help you decide where to invest your loyalty 

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 

Related: Take our “Talking Points” listener survey.

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.

Infiniti pool and jacuzzi at the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal (Image courtesy of Hilton)
Infiniti pool and Jacuzzi at the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal. (Image courtesy of Hilton.)

In This Post

Elite status

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 $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 $89-per-year (waived for the first year) IHG Rewards Club 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.

Geographic footprint

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.

(Photo by Ryan Patterson)
Hilton’s Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. (Photo by Ryan Patterson.)

Earning points

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

Using points

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.

The Hilton Sharm Waterfalls Resort costs 5,000 points/night. Photo courtesy of Booking.com
The Hilton Sharm Waterfalls Resort costs 5,000 points per night. (Photo courtesy of Booking.com.)

Bottom line

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.

Feature photo courtesy of Hilton.

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.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

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.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • 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.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • 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
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.