Pros and Cons of Hilton HHonors

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Let’s have a look at how the pros and cons of Hilton HHonors have changed in 2013. The major Hilton development in 2013 was the company returning  to the public market after Blackstone took it private in 2007.

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What do you think that 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

– Hilton Guest Assistance

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

– 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)

– Awards types

– Stay/night credit for award stays

– Points & Money Awards

– Awards at Aspirational locations such as French Polynesia & Maldives

– Reasonably priced awards at high end properties when staying for 6 nights or longer and AXON awards

– Double Dipping with airlines

Cons

– Diamond desk can be less than helpful at times

– Overpriced awards in the lower end properties

– Seasonal award pricing (New)

– Points requirements within the award category can vary (New)

– Stealth devaluation made easier (New)

– Unannounced category changes (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

– No cash back for hotel bookings

– 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 (New)

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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 has always number of rate and airline related promotions going. It is sometimes difficult to keep track on them.

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, the 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 and Europe Government offer 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 VIP awards, AXON, 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 recently launched 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.

Awards at Aspirational locations such as French Polynesia & Maldives

The price of these awards went up often by more than 100% during the latest devaluation (read more here)

Hilton hasn’t started (yet) to charge extra for non-standard accommodation, so award stays in places like Maldives & French Polynesia are actually CHEAP compared to i.e. Starwood. The number of points that you need per night is around 50K but it comes down to 37500, when you do multiple night VIP award.

Reasonably priced awards at high end properties when staying for 6 nights or longer and AXON awards

All these changed as well. The same link for detailing these changes (access here)

The awards at the very high end properties when staying for multiple nights are very competitively priced. There are properties like Conrad Maldives, properties in Seychelles or French Polynesia that are very good deal using Hilton points.

Double Dipping with airline

Double Dipping with the airline makes no sense in 2014 due to scrapping the fixed miles option (read more here)

Hilton is the only program that you can always earn both points and airline miles on the same stay – ALWAYS.

This double dipping is somewhat difficult to understand, however, and the default option by Hilton HHonors is points + points. It doesn’t help that if you choose miles you then need to choose between fixed or variable miles and that not all the airlines participate to both.

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.

Seasonal award pricing (New)

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 (New)

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 (New)

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.

Unannounced category changes (New)

Hilton HHonors has 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.

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 extend 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  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.

No cashback for hotel bookings

Some chains are offering cashback for bookings that you make by clicking through their affiliate links but Hilton is not participating in these.

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, I crossed three positives and added five new negatives for Hilton HHonors based on the changes this year. I couldn’t come up with a single positive move that Hilton would have done for its HHonors members in 2013. Let’s hope that 2014 is better, although I am not holding my breath.

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