Pros and Cons of Hilton HHonors

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It is time to revisit the Pros and Cons of Hilton HHonors based on the developments of the past 12 months.

Pros and Cons Hilton HHonors

What do you think are strengths and weaknesses of the Hilton HHonors program? Leave your opinions below.

You can access Hilton HHonors webpage here.

Pros

– Quick email turnaround time

– Stays rarely post incorrectly

– Number of properties in the United States

– Nice mix of brands

– The number of partner airlines

– Breakfast

– Never ending promotions

– Promotions with airlines (NEW)

– Hilton Guest Assistance

– Many discount programs i.e. MVP, Corporate Benefits Employee Offer, Europe Government and Gold medal rate

– Best mid-level elite status Hilton Gold

– Diamond treatment at properties in Asia

– Nice mix of properties: Hampton Inn/HGI vs DoubleTree/Hilton vs Conrad/WA

– Promotions to get Gold status

– Benefits usually honored on third party bookings & opaque stays (Priceline/Hotwire)

– Award types

– Stay/night credit for award stays

– Points & Money Awards

– Lifetime status (NEW)

Cons

– Diamond desk can be less than helpful at times

– Overpriced awards in the lower end properties

– No premium internet access for Gold and Diamond members (NEW)

– Seasonal award pricing

– Points requirements within the award category can vary

– Stealth devaluation made easier

– Non-participation properties for global promotions (NEW)

– Unannounced category changes

– Best Rate Guarantee (NEW)

– Somewhat confusing brands Hilton vs DoubleTree. What makes a Waldorf-Astoria?

– Inconsistency within a brand i.e. Hilton

– Diamond benefit inconsistency

– Missing on some markets – international presence not that great (ie. China)

– Quite a few dated properties

– Missing a hip brand

– Budget brand missing

– Dull properties

– Very few benefits of being Diamond over Gold

– Lack of lifetime status

– No real social media representatives

– Aggressive at expiring points for non-activity

Pros and Cons Hilton HHonors Brands

Positives of Hilton HHonors

Quick email turnaround time

I have found out that Hilton is one of the better companies at replying to emails that I have sent them. The reply usually comes within a few hours of sending it. They also don’t force you to use a web form but you can just use a regular email address i.e. gold@hilton.com or diamond@hilton.com.

Stays rarely post incorrectly

Hilton has been very good for posting stays and points correctly. I rarely have to remind them about a missing stay or points that have not been posted. Even then, I don’t have to fax/email them a folio, but they can see the revenue amount on their system.

Number of properties in the United States

Hilton has a very good coverage within the United States. It has a properties in most of the smaller markets as well. You can almost always find a brand within a Hilton portfolio like Hampton Inn that is geared towards the smaller markets.

Nice mix of brands: Hampton Inn/HGI vs DoubleTree/Hilton vs Conrad/WA

Hilton has a nice mix of brands from the luxury to the lower end.

Hilton has Conrad and Waldorf Astoria on the high end.

Hilton, DoubleTree, and Embassy Suites in the middle.

Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites on the lower end.

The number of partner airlines

The number of partner airlines for double dipping is extensive. The only one that is missing is the Southwest.

Breakfast

Breakfast is one the strengths of Hilton HHonors program. You will have continental breakfast from Gold upwards. There are only very few limitations mainly at Waldorf Astoria properties.

Never ending promotions

Hilton rarely, if ever, has a period when they don’t have a global promotion going on. Also, there are often other promotions that you can combine.

Promotions with airlines (NEW)

Hilton is very aggressive with airline related promotions. The ones with the fixed number of miles per stay makes more sense for short and inexpensive stays.

Hilton Guest Assistance

Not all the stays are perfect and sometimes they might be even disastrous. One of the strengths is the Hilton’s Guest Assistance program. If the hotel screws up and don’t fix the post stay issue, Guest Assistance will issue a Be my Guest certificate that you can then use to pay for any Hilton property and the offending property gets charged for it.

Many discount programs i.e. MVP, Corporate Benefits Employee Offer, Little League, Europe Government

You can use several discount plans to make the Hilton stays affordable. I have mainly used the Corporate Benefits Employee offer, but there are others available as well.

You can access MVP offer here, Corporate Benefits Employee offer here, Little League Offer here, Europe Government offer here and Gold medal rate here.

Best mid-level elite status Hilton Gold

The Hilton HHonors Gold status is very easy to get through numerous promotions and fast track offers that I have also written about here. The Gold status will get you a complimentary internet access and breakfast and/or Club lounge access.

Diamond treatment at properties in Asia

All the hotel chains tend to have their top tier treatment at a different level in Asia and the Hilton is no different. I have been very satisfied with the treatment of me as a Diamond member at Hilton family of hotels in Asia.

Promotions to get Gold status

Getting gold status is easy with Hilton. There are normally airline related bonus offers or open fast track offers for Gold only for handful of stays.

Benefits usually honored on third party bookings & opaque stays (Priceline/Hotwire)

You don’t (normally) get stay credit or points for a stay booked through a third party site or opaque channel like Priceline/Hotwire. You do, however, receive the benefits associated with the status.

Award types

Hilton has regular, premium room awards & points and money awards. Depending of the length of your stay and property, the best award can often differ. There has been times when the premium room rewards have been cheaper than regular ones. Also, the points & money awards are sometimes a very good value.

Stay/night credit for award stays

Hilton does not penalize you for staying using awards. You will get points for the incidental spend and you will receive a stay/night credit as well that counts for qualifying for status.

Points & Money Awards

Hilton introduced Points & Money awards in 2012 that allowed you to pay partly in cash and partly points for your award stay. These are sometimes very good value and stretches your points further.

Lifetime status (NEW)

Hilton made an announcement this December that they would launch lifetime status in early 2015. We have to wait for the details, however.

Pros and Cons Hilton HHonors Locations

Negatives of Hilton HHonors

Diamond desk can be less than helpful at times

I have received sometimes very mixed service when calling Hilton’s Diamond line. As a matter of fact, I am no longer sure if they have one. Customer service agents that are less than helpful and that don’t often sound very professional.

Overpriced awards in the lower end properties

Hilton’s strength is NOT awards at your bread & butter Hilton locations over the weekend. You are far better off for paying for these and then redeeming for a grand vacation in Maldives instead.

No premium internet access for Gold and Diamond members (NEW)

Hilton has been very aggressive of offering premium internet for extra cash that is not comped for Gold or Diamond members. The base internet is often so slow and bad that doing anything beyond checking your emails is borderline impossible.

Seasonal award pricing

The point prices for awards now can differ from month to month after the award chart revamp in 2013.

Points requirements within the award category can vary

There is no longer set number of points required for a free night from category 4 to 10. The number of points required for category 7 can be anywhere from 30,000 to 60,000 points per night.

Stealth devaluation made easier

Now that the points can vary within category, Hilton HHonors can do stealth devaluations much easier by just moving it from the low end within the category to high end.

Non-participation properties for global promotions (NEW)

Hilton requires hotels that participate to global promotions to pay extra for the privilege. Some hotels may feel that the business is so good that there is no need to attract extra. In 2014 there was a promo where large chunks of properties were not participating at all. Not good.

Unannounced category changes

Hilton HHonors had a number of interesting properties at 5,000 points per night that were promptly moved to require more points per night. Hilton made no announcements about these changes.

Best Rate Guarantee (NEW)

Hilton has a best rate guarantee, but doesn’t really fully stand behind it. Why offer it and make the T&C’s so convoluted that it is very difficult to match?

Somewhat confusing brands i.e. Hilton vs DoubleTree? What makes a Waldorf-Astoria?

All the hotel chains have this same problem. There are DoubleTree hotels that are better than Hilton’s, although they are supposed to be step below. Also, Hilton has somewhat misused the great Waldorf-Astoria brand and started to slap it on to number of so-so properties. i.e. Naples in Florida.

Inconsistency within a brand i.e. Hilton

What is a Hilton? There are likely Hilton’s that should be Hampton Inns. Most of the time you know what to expect when booking a Hilton hotel, but there are duds out there as well.

Diamond benefit inconsistency

This is greater problem in the North America and to some extent Europe probably because they get a greater share of Diamond guests. Some hotels go above and beyond what is required by the program while others do the absolute minimum required by the brand. It always makes me wonder why some hotels are keen to fly the flag, but unable to deliver the benefits?

Somewhat lacking international presence i.e. China

Hilton’s main strength on the coverage wise is the North American market. The chain has quite limited presence in markets like Asia.

Quite a few dated properties

Hilton has the same problem as Marriott. Some of the brand line up is getting tired and need to be either fixed or dropped.

Missing a hip brand like W or Andaz

Hilton doesn’t have an exciting lifestyle hotel brand like Starwood’s  W or Hyatt’s Andaz. As a matter of fact, Hilton recruited the team from Starwood that had been working on the W concept but the courts intervened.

Budget brand missing

Some can argue that the Hampton Inn brand that started as a budget one has increased to be quite expensive in some markets. Hilton is missing a true budget brand like Motel 6 (that Hilton’s parent recently bought) or Marriott’s Fairfield Inn.

Dull properties

You cannot say that any of Hilton’s current brands would be exciting or that you really could be proud of staying at them.

Very few benefits of being Diamond over Gold

Hilton has the best mid-level status and the benefits being Diamond over Gold are not that great. Diamond mainly helps potentially with better upgrades, problem resolution and on-property exceptions like early check ins/late check outs.

Lack of lifetime status

Marriott, Starwood and Hyatt all have published qualifications for lifetime status in each of their programs that is typically tied to number of years, number of stays, and/or amount of points earned/money spent.

No real social media representatives

Hilton doesn’t seem to have real social media team. They might have someone from marketing posting about promotions usually after every body knows about them.

Aggressive at expiring points for non-activity (New)

Hilton HHonors points expire (vanish) after 12 months of inactivity and Hilton doesn’t seem to be sending any reminders about this. You can read more about points expiry here.

Conclusion

Well. Not many changes during the past 12 months. I added two new positives and negatives. The lack of premium internet for Gold and Diamond members is serious disadvantage. It is interesting to see exactly what the lifetime Diamond requirements are going to be.

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  • disqust101

    Odd, I think HH is best for low end if you’re looking for value. Only other program that offers better value on low-mid tier is Carlson thanks to their 2nd night free promo.

    I like HH because you can book almost any room with points, unlike some that only offer standard rooms. So if you have access to lots of low cost points, HH can be a very nice program.

    That said, their Diamond benefits really need to be increased in many markets (Asia is indeed much better). Shameful no high speed internet for Diamond members! How much can that cost? A few bucks a night on average? Skip the crappy promos and just give me high speed internet…

    • Good point about the availability of all rooms using points, although often (not always!) the number of points required for higher category rooms can be rather insane.

  • James Cary-Elwes

    Very lacking in Scandinavian market as well – now that the Oslo DT has disappeared, there’s nothing in Norway, not even the oil hub, Stavanger!
    Personally, I think that HI is pretty low end, and offers great value at 5k points/night in the UK, especially if short a stay or two to maintain status.
    Certainly agree that too many UK properties do the bare minimum for Diamonds, and sometimes don’t even do the bare minimum unprompted! Even flagship properties, such as Park Lane London, have regularly been, in my experience, pretty mediocre.
    Certainly has devalued the WA brand as well, especially places like the Caledonian in Edinburgh, Scotland – mediocre at best! Was just an ordinary Hilton until it was upgraded to WA status with no corresponding improvement in service.

  • mjs

    Some pros you don’t mention of Hilton HHonors:

    1. Added ways they have to earn extra points through surveys, charity contributions, etc. This can help add points quicker but also gives you more ways of reaching a reward if you are a little short.

    2. The upgrades can be excellent– I just hit diamond status but as a gold member I was upgraded 2 levels in Dresden to a Junior Executive Suite during a stay last summer, very nice.

    3. The availability of two types of Hilton credit cards is a benefit both because you can get bonuses and the cards have different qualities (one is useful for travel abroad, the other gives you more points at home for hotel stays).

    4. The program seems to be well run and fair in general.

    5. Their diverse brands sometimes give you more options in the same city to mix up stays if you want– you can stay at a cheaper brand for a night or two to lower your average cost is some cases.

    • Good points. Thanks! I have not added the credit cards aspect to these Pros and Cons (mostly) because they are not available in many markets.

  • James Paul

    I recently notified Diamond desk how I detested the Hilton website’s new “I am not a robot sign in” requirements. This webpage requirement to read scrambled illegible words and letters is annoying and demonstrates to me that Hilton is not in touch with where their revenue stream is. I now call the property directly rather than use this annoying site.

    • Yeah. The Captcha is super annoying.

    • berk

      Well, I hope you also gave them suggestions as to how they can improve security with something less annoying. There have been a number of cases of hackers breaking into accounts and then draining them of points. That’s why it was introduced.

      I find it mildly annoying but would prefer that than the hassle of having my account hacked into.

  • Svalen

    We like the Hilton hotels very much, but being Danish I think there is a big difference within the various promotions HH offers. Most of them are pointed for the US members, and very few – if any – for e.g. Danish members. Have checked this various times with the HHonors, but nothing has been done to remedy this.

    • The main issue is the lack of competitive credit card offering for those outside of the United States.

  • Jim Record

    The big CON is that Devaluation they rolled out in 2013-2014 where Aspirational Properties now can cost 100% more in points with some moving from 50,000 points a night to 100,000 points a night. You now have to spend more to earn the point necessary for those locations.

    • Absolutely. You have to bear in mind that you earn a lot more points with Hilton HHonors compared to some other chains.

  • Shan

    The amount of points needed for some properties is ridiculous! It makes me not want to stay at Hilton, the perks for diamond members are not good enough to equal out the cons…

  • Shan

    Also the Hilton properties in the USA don’t have very nice concierge lounges, overseas they are much more elegant, have more options, free alcoholic beverages.

    • Same issue with most other chains. The properties in the North America (US & Canada) are often lacking.

  • Yorkie

    We always stay at Hilton when we can, but the experience can be variable. We know the hotels though that will always go above above and beyond, and will always return to these when in that area. The things we particularly like are:
    1) Executive Lounge Access – this is a great benefits particularly if they are offering complementary drinks and food as they often do here in Europe.
    2) No blocking when using HHonors points.
    My main criticism is the absence of credits when booking through a third party and not hilton.com. hilton.com can be more expensive and the price guarantee is too restrictive to be of any value.

  • Lee

    Getting cashback is great 🙂 Currently up to 15% on Hilton’s winter sale 🙂

    Less for US hotels, but still 2%. All counts!

    Happy days 🙂

  • Stanley Alexander

    Worst Experience ever! Will NEVER stay at Hilton again! Encourage You to do the same! Call center for HH Honors is turned into a finger-pointing mess! Guess I will be going back to Marriott!

    Subject: Follow Up- Stay Treatment and Service Issues

    Ms Carolyn Murphy:

    As indicated in my previous call and conversations, I am very upset and disappointed with the level of service received from staff quoting the “bible of Hilton” in policy and filing to provide details on what is being done. I am extremely upset this has occurred after several hours and days of trying to prevent this from happening. As mentioned, I also don’t appreciate the rude and condescending treatment from both Josh and Joel (customer experience manager) who states this could take 7-30 days to be corrected.

    THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE! (see attached-for dismissive email) I expect a resolution of this issue promptly. This experience has been so terrible with your staff treatment, I don’t want to stay at your property again, and personally this experience has ruined my faith and trust in Hilton property brands by damaging your creditability with me the guest. In addition, this has caused my bank account to go negative due to causing my Wal-Mart Credit card payment of 65.00 plus fees to bounce. Fix it !

    Jun 26 at 3:30 PM
    Mr. Cobb,

    Again, this is not clear. Your poor treatment and many different responses make me still uneasy. Again, what you have provided….

    If you use a debit/credit card to check in, a hold may be placed on your card account for the full anticipated amount to be owed to the hotel, including estimated incidentals, through your date of check-out and such hold may not be released for 72 hours from the date of check-out or longer at the discretion of your card issuer.

    Is not changing the fact we have heard 4 different stories of this today. I will not be giving you my card. If you want to run as a pre-paid discount rate and cash let me know or I am going somewhere else. Your actions today make me never want to say at Hilton again as a honors guest this has been very stressful to sit in my office and make several calls. I will not be issuing a blank check for unknown charges.

    Regards,

    Stanley-

    Hide original message
    On Friday, June 26, 2015 3:23 PM, Josh Cobb wrote:

    Good Afternoon,

    As requested, below is a copy of what information is attached to all room confirmation emails and letters. The paragraph right after the “Please Do Not Reply…” states our policy regarding credit cards. I apologize that you have experienced different accommodations when you have stayed at our hotel. Please let me know if there is anything else that I can assist you with. Thank you and have a wonderful day.

    Follow us on Twitter
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    †Visit Hilton.com/guarantee to learn more about our Best Price Guarantee.
    * Service of alcoholic beverages is subject to state and local laws. Must be of legal drinking age. Hilton Requests Upon ArrivalTM items are subject to availability.

    PLEASE DO NOT REPLY TO THIS EMAIL. MAIL SENT TO THIS EMAIL ADDRESS CANNOT BE ANSWERED.

    If you use a debit/credit card to check in, a hold may be placed on your card account for the full anticipated amount to be owed to the hotel, including estimated incidentals, through your date of check-out and such hold may not be released for 72 hours from the date of check-out or longer at the discretion of your card issuer.

    If you need to MODIFY or CANCEL your reservation, click here.

    Any change to the arrival date, departure date or room type of this reservation is subject to the hotel’s availability at the time the change is requested and may result in a possible rate change or an additional fee. For example, shortening or lengthening your reservation is subject to availability and may not be possible at a later date. For more information, please click here to see all the rules and restrictions applicable to this reservation.

    If you have questions regarding your reservation, please contact Hilton Reservations and Customer Care at 1-800-HHONORS (446-6677), click here, or email us at HGIHelp@hiltonres.com.
    Hilton HHonors membership, earning of Points & Miles®, and redemption of points are subject to HHonors Terms and Conditions.

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    Unsubscribing from all marketing email will prevent you from receiving your HHonors Monthly Statement. You can continue to check your account by logging into your profile or by calling 1-800-HHONORS. Outside the United States and Canada, please dial + 800 44 45 86 67 for assistance.

    Notice of Confidentiality: This message and any attachments may contain confidential information. If it has been sent to you in error, please reply to advise the sender of the error and then immediately delete this message.

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    ©2015 Hilton Worldwide Hilton Reservations and Customer Care | 2050 Chennault Drive | Carrollton, Texas 75006, USA

    View online

    Josh Cobb
    Assistant General Manager
    Hilton Garden Inn Minneapolis Downtown
    1101 4th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55404
    P | 612.339.6633

    Dear Mr. Alexander,

    I have communicated with your banking institution to release the held funds. I apologize that we were unable to accommodate your request about forgoing our incidental hold. This is done for every guest, every time. Every hold that we take falls off at check out when the charges are finalized. After that it is up to your bank to release them to you. It normally takes 3-5 business days and could take up to 30. Your bank would also explain how holds work the same way. I have expedited this hold to be removed for you this time, but just for the future please know that we do take holds at check in and we release them at check out.

    I hope you have a wonderful day,

    Joseph A. Aufenthie

    Guest Experience Ambassador
    1101 4th Ave South, Minneapolis, MN 55404
    Direct: 612-367-5963
    Fax: 612-339-6644
    jaufenthie@fhginc.com

    Subject
    Hold Release – Insufficient Information

    Discussion Thread
    Response Via Email (Tina) 06/29/2015 10:29 PM
    Dear Stanley,

    Thank you for contacting Customer Care. We are happy to assist you with your inquiry.

    You recently contacted us to request the release of a transaction hold on your account. In the interest of protecting the customer, we require merchants to provide written authorizations clearly stating that they have no intentions on debiting the said transaction(s) from your account.

    The letter we received does not provide us with sufficient information to honor the request at this time. The letter did not feature:

    • Unable to do a partial release. Indicate transaction amount(s) – listed separately

    As such, at your earliest convenience, please contact and instruct the merchant to submit another authorization letter directly to our department at (866) 309-7443. For your convenience, we have attached a template of such a form. If you choose to use this template, please remember it will be necessary for the merchant to transfer the document onto their company letterhead for it to be complete. If you choose to have the merchant submit the information without the template provided, please see the criteria below.

    The letter should:

    • Bear the entity’s letterhead and be signed by a manager
    • Indicate your first and last name
    • Indicate your full 16 digit card number or first four digits and last
    eight digits of card number
    • Indicate transaction amount(s) – listed separately
    • Have a statement that indicates that the merchant will not capture
    the funds

    For administrative purposes, please ensure that your incident number 150629-007531 is mentioned on the fax cover sheet.

    If there is anything else we can do to help you, please do not hesitate to contact us by replying to this email or by calling the toll-free number listed on the back of your card between the hours of 8am and 11pm EST (Monday-Friday). We would be happy to assist you and we look forward to your timely response.

    Thank you,

    Higher One
    Customer Care Department

    Where is my 100% Satisfaction Guarantee? I think all Social Media and Media need to know about this one! Shame on you Hilton!

  • Andy

    Hi – what does the free ” continental breakfast ” entail for gold and diamond at hiltons and double trees? Is there concierge lounges at hiltons and double trees and /0or hilton garden inns?

    • Hilton Garden Inns don’t have lounges and neither do mist DoubleTree hotels. You will have breakfast at Hiltons at the club lounge or restaurant depending whether the hotel had a lounge and you have access toit.

      • Andy

        Thanks john. When it’s says free continental breakfast at d trees and Hilton hotels – what does that get you In a non lounge hotel?

        • Some hotels give you a full breakfast buffer while others only cold items. Hotels that don’t have a buffer usually have a set menu.