Why Hilton should add a new elite tier above Diamond
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There is lots to love about the Hilton Honors program. Perhaps the best part is how easy it is to achieve elite status. With the right co-branded credit card, you can get top-tier status without even spending a night at a Hilton. Additionally, Hilton just slashed 2021 qualification requirements in half. However, it still has room for improvement.
One potential solution? Introducing a new elite tier above Diamond.
Some rumors were floating around a few years ago that Hilton might introduce a “Diamond+” tier, though that never came to fruition. However, it might be time for Hilton to reconsider this idea.
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Reward those who earn status through loyalty
Let me begin by saying I love my Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and the automatic Diamond status I get with it. Although I typically only spend around 15 nights at Hiltons each year (Diamond status typically requires at least 60 nights), I get the full VIP treatment every time thanks to my credit card.
Even without a co-branded card, it’s very easy to fast-track elite status. For instance, you can earn Diamond status after just 18 nights by completing a status challenge. But it gets even easier than that. Now that Hilton cut 2021 qualification requirements in half, starting January 2021, you’ll only need 15 stays, 30 nights or 60,000 base points to earn Diamond.
However, since all 2020 nights will automatically roll over to 2021 and Hilton is offering double tier-qualifying night credits nights through the end of the year, you can earn status next year by staying just 15 nights at Hiltons by the end of 2020. Even better, this status will be valid through March 2023 since you get to keep the status for the rest of the year that you earn it (2021) and the following year.
This is all great for most travelers — but not for those who actually spend 60+ nights at Hiltons each year.
While I obviously wouldn’t want Hilton to devalue my Diamond status or necessarily make it harder to achieve, it also needs to show recognition to those who earn status the hard way. After all, those are some of Hilton’s most important customers. A tier above Diamond, which wouldn’t have any shortcut opportunities, would allow it to do just that.
Diamond lacks some key benefits
Adding a tier above Diamond wouldn’t necessarily devalue the status. Reason being that some major benefits are currently missing from Diamond that would be perfect for a higher tier.
For starters, although Diamond elites “may” receive suite upgrades, they’re currently not guaranteed, even if there’s availability. Additionally, several Hilton Honors brands don’t offer any complimentary upgrades and some limit them to one-category upgrades only. In 2019, Hilton was piloting confirmed suite night upgrades at booking — a benefit which both Marriott and Hyatt offer to their respective high-level elites — but that has not been rolled out yet.
Similarly, although Diamond members may receive late check-out, it must be requested and is subject to availability. Moreover, the program’s terms don’t state that higher-tier members necessarily get better late check-out benefits than members with no elite tier. Meanwhile, several other top hotel loyalty programs offer elite members guaranteed late check-out until a set time. For instance, World of Hyatt offers Discoverists and Explorists 2 p.m. check out and Globalists 4 p.m. checkout. Meanwhile, Marriott Bonvoy offers Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite members 4 p.m. checkout.
While Hilton is partnered with Lyft, unlike Marriott and Hyatt, it doesn’t have a particularly close relationship with any major airline. On the other hand, Marriott and Hyatt have partnerships with United and American Airlines and provide their elites reciprocal benefits. It would be great to see Hilton partner with an airline like Delta and offer its top customers some form of automatic Medallion elite status. At a minimum, Hilton could offer top-tier elites complimentary Lyft Pink.
Suite upgrade awards, guaranteed late check-out and potential airline elite status would be great additions for a higher status tier without taking benefits away from Diamond.
Match the competition
Hilton Honors currently offers three tiers of elite status: Silver, Gold and Diamond. By comparison, Marriott Bonvoy offers five. Additionally, several chains, such as Marriott and IHG, offer invitation-only statuses. So, adding a fourth status tier would be totally reasonable. None of the other hotel programs’ top status tiers are as easily attainable as Diamond, and as previously discussed, many offer a lot more benefits.
There’s no word on whether Hilton is considering adding a new top tier of elite status to its loyalty program. However, it would be a great way to show recognition to those who earn their status through stays and match the competition in offering key benefits like confirmed suite upgrades and late check-out. As the industry begins the long road to recovery, travel companies like Hilton Honors need to get creative in enticing travelers to switch loyalty for long-term success.
Featured image of The Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy.
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