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A couple of months ago, Craig wrote an interesting article about Hilton Honors, arguing that earning elite Hilton Honors status the ‘hard way’ (ie. by actual stays!) was a waste of time/money. His main point was that although Hilton status is good to have, there are almost always easier ways of achieving it via status challenges and matches. It’s a compelling argument, but I do think there are circumstances where earning Hilton Honors status by putting in the nights can actually make a lot of sense, so I thought I’d share that perspective too.
How do you earn Hilton Honors status the hard way?
First things first, here are the stay requirements for Gold and Diamond status:
To achieve or retain Hilton Honors Gold status, you need to earn either:
(1) 20 stays in a calendar year, or
(2) 40 nights in a calendar year, or
(3) 75,000 Hilton Honors Base Points in a calendar year
To achieve or retain Hilton Honors Diamond status, you need to earn either:
(1) 30 stays in a calendar year, or
(2) 60 nights in a calendar year, or
(3) 120,000 Hilton Honors Base Points in a calendar year
A “stay” is defined as one or more consecutive nights in the same hotel, irrespective of the number of times you check in and out.
I’m going to focus on Hilton Diamond status in this analysis, because you can get Gold simply by having an Amex Platinum – and that’s almost always going to be a better option than committing 20 stays/40 nights per year to one hotel programme.
Why earning Hilton Honors status the hard way can make sense – assumptions:
We’re going to have to set some assumptions here, but I don’t think they are unreasonable ones to make (let me know in the comments if you disagree though!):
- Frequent traveler (60+ nights away per year) who likes staying at chain hotels and appreciates status perks.
- Already have Hilton Diamond status from previous status match
- Aiming to re-qualify for status with nights rather than stays
- Happy to stay at lower category properties (at least some of the time)
I’m going to make one further assumption (which, I would argue, is actually implied by the list above): you would be spending a significant number of nights with Hilton this year even if you weren’t chasing status. I think that’s fair, because if you’re a frequent traveller who likes chain hotels and has Hilton Diamond status, surely you’d be taking advantage of that status right now, regardless of requalifying for future years.
The exact number of nights we should assign is more debatable, but I think something between 20-30 wouldn’t be unreasonable. We’re therefore really looking at what value, if any, you might get from the additional 30-40 nights required to hit 60.
Hilton Honors offers something called ‘Milestone bonuses‘. Members receive:
- 10,000 point bonus when reaching your 40th night.
- An additional 10,000 bonus points every 10 nights after that, with no cap.
- Another 30,000 points bonus at 60 nights
In total, if you stayed exactly 60 nights in a year, you’d get 60,000 bonus points. Given that we’re using the assumption that 20-30 of those nights would be with Hilton regardless of aiming for 60 nights or not, 60,000 averages out at 1,500-2,000 bonus points per additional night.
Diamond members also receive 1,000 bonus Honors Points as a welcome gift for each stay at Conrad, Curio, Hilton, Doubletree, Waldorf Astoria, Canopy and Tapestry brand hotels. They can also choose between 250-1,000 Points at other brands like Hampton and Hilton Garden Inn, instead of picking a free drink/snack etc. Assuming your stays include a variety of brands and durations, 10,000-15,000 bonus points seems a reasonable total, so about 250-500 bonus points per additional night on average.
Hilton Honors also always has some sort of bonus points promotion on and it’s important to remember that nights paid for using Hilton Honors Points trigger any fixed points bonus in the same way a cash stay would – and they count as qualifying nights towards status too.
Last quarter you could effectively earn 3,000-4,000 bonus points per night and right now you can earn 2,250 per stay, plus double points. Your precise bonus earnings would depend on the specific promotion and how many of your stays were paid for with cash (and how much they cost) vs how many were booked with points. That said, with a bit of planning, I think averaging 3,000 bonus points per night from promotions would be a conservative figure.
Add all the above together and you would be looking at earning something like 4,750-5,500 bonus points per night on average for each of the additional 30-40 nights with Hilton that you’d be making over and above your normal 20-30 nights.
What’s the point of all this?
Obviously, for most people, 5,000 bonus Hilton Points per night wouldn’t be enough in itself to make aiming for Diamond something they would want to ‘mattress run’ (though it’s technically possible if you could find a very cheap or decent Category 1 hotel).
The thing is though, we’re not talking about about a ‘pure’ mattress run. The scenario I originally laid out was that of a frequent traveller who already has Diamond status and who would spend 20-30 nights with Hilton anyway this year. The question for that person would be whether they would rather spend 30+nights with other hotel chains (or airbnb etc) rather than with Hilton, and I think there’s a convincing set of reasons for someone in that situation to stick with Hilton:
- They get to enjoy Hilton Diamond benefits on all those 30+ extra nights this year. Honors Diamond might not be quite as stellar as top level status with Marriott or Hyatt, but it does get you free breakfast, lounge access, and (often quite good) upgrades. Other chains tend not to offer straight top-tier status matches, so you’d have to do without elite benefits for at least some of those nights if you switched to other chains.
- They would definitely re-qualify for Diamond status, whereas relying on a status match or challenge that is available this year to still be available next year is risky.
- They would likely earn ~150,000+ bonus Hilton Honors Points in total (with Hilton’s 5th night free award policy, that’s almost enough for 40 free nights at a Category 1 hotel, or 20 free nights at a Cat 2, or 10 free nights at a Cat 3, etc. And remember, those free nights would also help trigger more bonus points next year too of course!
To summarise: Craig is absolutely right that there’s not much point going for Hilton Diamond the ‘hard way’ from scratch – it’s much more sensible to complete a status match first. But, once you have Diamond status (and assuming you are a frequent traveller who would be making use of that status to some extent anyway), it could well make sense to look at the benefits of requalifying ‘properly’.
Note that the analysis above is (for the sake of relative brevity) limited. It doesn’t factor in a whole range of variables like base point earnings (and the 100% Diamond bonus) on cash stays; missing out on other chain’s promotions; whether Hilton has hotels in the places you want to visit; if the Hilton options in those places have competitive rates (cash or points), etc, etc.
Whether sticking with Hilton would really be a good idea or not depends on your own particular stay pattern and circumstances – but I do think it’s worth having a quick think about.