Changes to Hilton Honors this year: no more double-dipping but elites treated better

Introduction to the Hilton Honors program

GUIDE: Program Guide
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
TIME TO READ: 8 minutes
POSTED: February 7, 2018
UPDATED: February 16, 2018
LOYALTY PROGRAMS: Hilton Honors

Hilton Honors points are a useful major points currency to consider if you have an affinity for the Hilton Hotels chain.

In this guide, we cover key hotel locations, status benefits, transferring points between programs, and how to get the best value from earning and redeeming Honors points.


Changes made in the first half of 2018

1. No more ‘Earning Style Options’—goodbye Points & Miles

Hilton are simplifying how you earn points by scrapping their ‘Earning Style Options’, with all members being able to earn only Hilton Honors points from April 2018 onwards, i.e. there will be no double-dipping.

The official statement is that this is an ‘enhancement’. Base members will continue to earn 10 Points per dollar spent (5 at Home2 Suites by Hilton and Tru by Hilton) and, starting April, elite tier bonuses will increase for Silver (20%), Gold (80%) and Diamond (100%) members.

While the Points & Miles earning option will disappear, you’ll continue to be able to convert your points into miles with participating airline programs at current rates, including Qantas and Velocity Frequent Flyer.

We’ve got more information on this later in the guide.

2. Gold & Diamond member breakfast at Waldorf Astoria

Breakfast or a food and beverage credit is now offered to Gold and Diamond members as a new MyWay benefit at Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts.

Remember, you can select your MyWay benefits by logging in at the Hilton Honors website, and then scrolling down to ‘My Profile’ which should be on the left-hand side of the page.

Click on ‘MyWay Hotel Benefits’:

Hilton-myway

then scroll down to ‘Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts’, which should be at the bottom of the page.

Hilton-waldorf

If you’re a Gold member, you’ll be able to choose between 1,000 bonus Hilton points per stay or the continental breakfast for two.

If you’re a Diamond member, you’ll already get both, so you don’t need to select anything.

This change is effective immediately, which is great news for those elite members who have stays planned at Waldorf properties in the future.

3. Milestone bonuses

From April 2018, Hilton Honors members will earn 10,000 bonus points on every tenth night once they reach at least 40 nights in a calendar year. Once they hit their 60th night per year, they’ll receive an additional 30,000 bonus points.

Hilton-points

For example, this is how many Hilton Honors points you’ll earn if you’re spending 70 nights at their hotels per year:

  • 40 nights: 10,000 bonus, qualify for Gold status
  • 50 nights: 10,000 bonus
  • 60 nights: 40,000 bonus, qualify for Diamond status
  • 70 nights (and so on): 10,000 bonus

Total: 70,000 points

This is a permanent change, and will reward those who earn Hilton Honors status the hard way—through stays. This is also likely where the ‘missing points’ are being redistributed under the new spend earn structure—Base and Silver members are earning less, so that Gold and Diamond members can earn more.

4. Elite Rollover Nights

From April 2018, Silver, Gold and Diamond members will be able to rollover nights earned beyond their current elite tier requirements to count towards their elite tier status the following year.

Hilton Honors currently require 10 nights for Silver, 40 nights for Gold, and 60 nights for Diamond. Under this change, if you stay 20 nights in one year, you’ll now be able to keep Silver status for two years.

5. Gifting elite status

Guests who stay 60 or more nights in a calendar year will be able to gift Gold status to anyone they like—a friend, family member or a spouse. If you stay 100+ nights, you can gift Diamond instead.

Our take on the changes

Overall, I think that these changes are generally positive:

  • It’s a bummer that the Points & Miles earning option will disappear, though the extra points earned under the milestone bonuses should mean that Gold and Diamond members who earn their status through stays will come out about even if they’re planning to exchange their points for miles. Admittedly, these are the members that Hilton are wanting to reward the most
  • The free breakfast at Waldorf properties for Gold and Platinum guests is a welcome new benefit
  • The elite rollover nights will benefit all those who earn status through stays
  • The ability to gift elite status will be positive, though not so useful if the member is already spending those nights with the person they’d otherwise gift the Gold or Diamond status to

Locations

Hilton has a massive global reach of hotels with its ten hotel brands, including 23 in Australasia.

A full list of properties is available from the Hilton website.

Elite status

Honors offers four status tiers in the following order (from lowest to highest): Blue, Silver, Gold and Diamond.

You can find more information about the status tiers and benefits on the Honors website.

It’s worth it to join the program just to get free internet and late-check out (where available).

Then, if you hold Silver or above, you’ll get the fifth night free on award redemptions of five or more nights, which comes in handy for longer stays.

If you have Gold, you’ll start getting into free upgrades and breakfasts, with Diamond members enjoying Executive Lounge access.

Honors Blue

Requirement: just enrolment in the program

  • Complimentary Internet
  • Late check-out (where available)
  • Express check-out

Honors Silver

Requirement: 4 stays or 10 nights

In addition to Blue benefits:

  • Fifth night free for Standard Room Reward stays of five nights or more
  • Complimentary access to fitness centres
  • Two complimentary bottles of water per stay
  • 20% points bonus from April 2018

Honors Gold

This is the one to aim for—it’s where the tangible benefits start to be seen.

Requirement: 20 stays, 40 nights or 75,000 Honors Base Points (or see automatic status with credit card and frequent flyer programs below)

In addition to Silver benefits:

  • Complimentary room upgrade (where available) at Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Tapestry, Curio, DoubleTree and Canopy properties, including Executive Floor Lounge Access if upgraded to a room that usually has access to the Lounge
  • Complimentary breakfast for two at Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Tapestry, Curio, DoubleTree and Garden Inn properties, OR bonus Hilton points
  • 80% points bonus from April 2018

Honors Diamond

Requirement: 30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 Honors Base Points

In addition to Gold benefits:

  • Diamond status extension for eligible members
  • Guaranteed room availability when bookings are made at least 48 hours prior to arrival
  • Premium high-speed internet access at some hotels
  • Executive Floor Lounge Access at Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Conrad, Tapestry, Curio and DoubleTree properties
  • Complimentary breakfast for two at Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Tapestry, Curio, DoubleTree and Garden Inn properties, AND bonus Hilton points
  • Ability to gift Gold or Platinum elite status to anyone, providing you have earned your status through stays
  • If you have had Diamond status for at least three years and have either earned 500,000 points or stayed a total of 250 nights, you can extend your status for one year for any reason
  • 100% points bonus from April 2018

Get Gold status with these credit cards and frequent flyer programs

American Express Platinum Charge

You’ll automatically get Honors Gold status if you are an American Express Platinum Charge cardholder.

Macquarie Honors Visa Card

This $295 annual fee card offers instant Honors Gold status and an upgrade to Diamond status if you spend $40,000 in a calendar year.

You’ll also earn 4 Honors points per $1 spend on Hilton properties and 1 Honors Point per $1 on everything else.

In our opinion, the earn rate and redemption value you can get from frequent flyer-linked credit cards (like the cards from American Express and Citibank mentioned here) generally derive greater value per point than that which can be earned on the Honors Visa card.

Velocity Gold

If you are a Velocity Gold member, you can choose between Gold status with either Honors or IHG Rewards. We recommend the former as IHG Gold doesn’t really offer many benefits.

Note that whichever you choose, you will only get for one year, and then you have to qualify within the hotel loyalty program to retain that status level (even though you may continue to hold Velocity status).

Velocity Platinum

If you are a Velocity Platinum member, you can choose between Diamond status with Honors, or Platinum with IHG Rewards. Again, we recommend the former as IHG Platinum doesn’t really offer many benefits, in particular breakfast or Executive Lounge access.

Again, you will only get Diamond for one year, and then you have to qualify within the hotel loyalty program to retain that status level.

Honors status matching

Honors usually offer status matching from other hotel loyalty programs to try to attract your business. Here is the current status match promotion, which will run for all of 2018.

Earning points with Honors and airline programs

You’ll earn Honors points on your stay based on how much you spend, with a bonus of 15-50% (20-80% starting April 2018) depending on your status tier.

On top of that, a unique feature of the Hilton Honors program (disappearing in April 2018) is that it allows you to ‘double dip’—you can choose to earn miles with your preferred frequent flyer program (Points & Miles), or a bonus serving of Honors points (Points & Points) for each stay.

Most frequent flyer programs are partners, however, the following are the ones most relevant to travellers from Australia and New Zealand, with the earn rate for Velocity members higher than that for other programs:

  • Velocity (2 points per $1 USD spent)
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer (1 point per $1)
  • KrisFlyer (1 point per $1)
  • Asia Miles (1 point per $1)
  • British Airways Executive Club (1 point per $1)
  • Etihad Guest (1 point per $1)

Buying points

Points promotions from Honors can represent good value for topping up points balances for specific redemptions, but these offers aren’t usually great for using speculatively.

You can purchase a maximum of 80,000 Honors points before bonuses each calendar year.

If you’re a new member, there is a waiting period for buying points of either:

  • 30 days after enrolment if your account reflects activity (a hotel stay or earning of points through a Honors partner); or
  • 90 days with no account activity

Transfer partners

American Express Membership Rewards points transfer to the Hilton Honors program at a 1:1 ratio.

Redeeming points

With Honors switching up its redemption model in 2017, it remains to be seen where the best value redemptions now lie.

We expect redemption pricing to either stay relatively the same or drop, meaning that the best value may still be found at the extremes—low category hotels that are otherwise a little pricey, or high category hotels that are super expensive if paid for in cash (think: The Maldives).

Before the changes, 5,000 and 10,000-point hotels like the DoubleTree by Hilton Cairns and DoubleTree by Hilton Alice Springs offered good value, and even though the category pricing structure is being replaced, these links are still active and can direct your focus to these types of properities:

Take in stunning and relaxing Esplanade and Sea views from your own spacious balcony at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cairns.

The Doubletree by Hilton Cairns

At a global level, as to be expected, you’ll find cheaper pricing in less popular or cheaper destinations at off-peak times.

Remember, if you’re a Silver member or above, you’ll get your fifth award night free on stays of five nights or more.

Bear in mind that points bookings come with booking flexibility and free refunds, so make sure you factor that in your price comparison.

Though if it looks as if you won’t be earning enough points to redeem for nights, make sure you exchange what you have for frequent flyer points before they expire.

Current offers

You can find the full list of Honors offers here.

Summing up

If you haven’t already, start by joining the program for free here.

The best value to be had from this program come April 2018 will be saving up your Honors points for stays.

When it comes to redeeming, you’ll get the best value from redemptions at low category hotels as well as quite expensive ones, plus remember you will get your fifth night free if you are booking a longer stay and are an elite member.

To get Gold status, have a look at getting one of the three credit cards mentioned above.

And, as always, keep an eye on your inbox and the Point Hacks website for current offers and bonus points promotions from Honors and other loyalty programs.

All images courtesy of Hilton and associated brands.

Changes to Hilton Honors this year: no more double-dipping but elites treated better was last modified: February 16th, 2018 by Matt Moffitt