I tried out the new Hilton Honors ‘breakfast’ benefit — and I’m a fan
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A few weeks ago, I was reviewing my credit card tracking spreadsheet when I realized I had a couple of unused perks on my Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. First, I had a pair of Hilton free-night certificates, and one of them was going to expire on Jan. 3, 2022. In addition, I hadn’t used any of my $250 Hilton resort credit for the year — which would reset as of Oct. 28, my account anniversary.
The information for the Hilton Aspire 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.
And when I remembered that I also had a targeted Amex Offer for $50 off a $250 purchase at Hilton Hotels, Curio Collection properties and Canopy hotels, there was only one thing to do: plan an impromptu trip with my family.
After some research, we landed on the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa in Florida — a three-hour drive across the state from our house. We snagged a standard room for the weekend with those two free-night certificates on my account. The stay would’ve otherwise set us back nearly $1,000, including a $35 resort fee that Hilton Honors (thankfully) waives on award stays.
However, I was also interested in putting the program’s new breakfast benefit to the test. I have Hilton Honors Diamond status courtesy of my Aspire card, and this would be my first stay at a property where I’d receive a daily food-and-beverage credit as opposed to a complimentary continental breakfast.
And after one stay, I’m a big fan.
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In the past, I always felt obligated to eat breakfast in the hotel restaurant, since it was a perk of my status and a decent way to start the day with a full stomach. That said, a number of these meals were far from outstanding. Sure, many properties would allow us to enjoy a full, hot breakfast with no upcharge — but this often consisted of a buffet with the option to add a made-to-order egg dish or omelet.
Even putting aside coronavirus-related concerns with a shared buffet, that’s still not exactly an inspiring option.
To make matters worse, these restaurants would sometimes close down their offerings mid-morning. We like to have a leisurely start to the day in our room on vacation — with a cup of coffee, the news and some quality family time. Setting an alarm or feeling rushed to make it to a less-than-stellar breakfast before it closes at 9:30 a.m. or something isn’t our idea of relaxation.
Now, that “pressure” to eat the complimentary breakfast is gone — replaced with a much more flexible perk that was simple to utilize.
Since our room was ‘free’, we knew that we needed to spend at least $500 on property to make the most of the Aspire card’s resort credit ($250) plus the Amex Offer ($50 off $250). As a result, we made a dinner reservation at The Deck at 560 — the hotel’s restaurant — for 7 p.m. on Saturday in the hopes of catching a beautiful sunset.
While the weather left us disappointed, the food (and service) did not.
Our ceviche starter was delicious, and my wife’s grouper entree was terrific. Meanwhile, I tucked into cioppino for my meal — an Italian seafood stew served in a creamy, tomato-basil-coconut broth with crusty garlic bread. And it was simply outstanding.
But our server was the best part of the experience. Jonathan was friendly, knowledgeable and very attentive (without being overbearing) throughout the meal.
With a bottle of wine, the pair of desserts we took back to the room plus tax and tip, our bill came to roughly $215 — and at checkout, $24 of that cost was wiped from our folio — effectively a discount of over 11%. Of course, 11% isn’t life-changing but $24 saved is $24 saved.
The next morning, we were up a bit early, and since the property was full, we couldn’t get a late checkout. A friend had recommended a local brunch spot (Doreen’s Cup of Joe), so we again weren’t interested in a full breakfast at the hotel. However, there was a small market just off the lobby, so I grabbed an egg wrap to share and hold us until we sat down at the restaurant. We also picked up a pair of Diet Cokes for the drive home and a jar of gummy bears for our daughter.
The total cost was $25.68 — of which $24 was taken off my final bill.
All told, we enjoyed $48 worth of food and drinks during our two-night stay ($12 per person per day) — but instead of being forced into a specific use, we got to pick how and when to spend it. We saved $24 on our fantastic dinner, and then spent less than $2 out of pocket for a pre-brunch snack plus drinks and goodies for the car ride home.
It’s true that the on-property market was pricey, but the grab-and-go option was exactly what we wanted — and it allowed us to enjoy yet another outstanding meal (this time off property) that we would’ve missed if we had been “forced” into breakfast at the hotel.
And that’s the entire point of this perk: offering flexibility for guests to pick the food-and-beverage options that work for them.
Sure, there are some properties out there where the daily credit won’t cover the breakfast for those who still value that perk, and a single anecdote isn’t enough to declare this change universally better for Gold and Diamond members. It’s also worth noting that this new credit only applies to U.S. locations — international properties still provide free breakfast (and those are generally much nicer).
Nevertheless, my first experience using the new perk was quite positive — and I’m already looking forward to trying it out again on my next trip.
Featured photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy.
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