This is the first on series that will go through the pros and cons of the major hotel programs based on my personal experience. Over the past ten years, I have had somewhere between 250 to 300 nights at Hilton properties worldwide and have obviously learned quite a bit of the program along the way.
Overall, I think that Hilton has a solid program, but it takes a long time to get your points up to a level that makes it sense to redeem.
What do you think that are strengths and weaknesses of the Hilton’s program? Leave your opinions below.
– Quick email turnaround time
– Stays rarely post incorrectly
– Number of properties in the United States
– Nice mix of brands
– Reasonably priced awards at high end properties when staying for 6 nights or longer and AXON awards
– Double Dipping with airlines
– The number of partner airlines
– 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
– Diamond desk can be less than helpful at times
– Overpriced awards in the lower end properties
– Somewhat confusing brands Hilton vs DoubleTree. What makes Waldorf-Astoria?
– Inconsistency within a brand i.e. Hilton
– Diamond benefit inconsistency
– Somewhat lacking international presence i.e. China
– Quite a few dated properties
– Missing a hip brand
– No cash back for hotel bookings
– Missing on some markets – international presence not that great
– Budget brand missing
– Dull properties
– Very few benefits of being Diamond over Gold
– Lack of lifetime status
– No real social media representatives
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 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 luxury to lower end.
Hilton has Conrad and Waldorf Astoria on the high end.
Hilton, DoubleTree, and Embassy Suites on the middle.
Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites on the lower end.
Reasonably priced awards at high end properties when staying for 6 nights or longer and AXON awards
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 airlines
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.
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 has always number of rate and airline related promotions going. It is sometimes difficult to keep track on them.
Hilton Guest Assitance
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.
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 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 very good value.
Stay/night credit for award stays
Hilton doesn’t 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 party in cash and party 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
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.
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 bed & 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.
Somewhat confusing brands i.e. Hilton vs DoubleTree? What makes 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 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 team from Starwood that had been working on the W concept but the court 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 to 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.
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.
I have had an overall good experience with Hilton HHonors. Some years, I have quite a high number of stays and the following year can hardly qualify. Hilton had extremely good promotions year ago on the fourth quarter, but not so in 2012.