It is time to revisit the Pros and Cons of Hilton HHonors based on the developments of the past 12 months.
What do you think are strengths and weaknesses of the Hilton HHonors program? Leave your opinions below.
You can access Hilton HHonors webpage here.
– Quick email turnaround time
– Stays rarely post incorrectly
– Number of properties in the United States
– Nice mix of brands
– The number of partner airlines
– 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)
– 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
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. email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.