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Hilton is one of the largest hotel chains, with more than 6,800 properties in 122 countries and territories. There are 18 different brands, ranging from the luxurious Waldorf Astoria to the budget-friendly Hampton Inn. Points can be used at all of these properties, and if you have Hilton elite status, you can get a lot of perks when staying at the hotels.
Hilton Honors elite status can be earned the traditional way — by staying at hotels — or by holding a Hilton credit card. If you’re thinking of switching hotel loyalty from another program or have some Hilton stays coming up, you may wonder how Hilton’s elite status works and how it can positively impact your hotel stay.
Here's everything you need to know about the Hilton Honors elite status system, from earning status to using it. The elite status program is relatively simple, but there are plenty of details to unpack.
» Learn more: Which is the best Hilton credit card offer?
Hilton Honors status levels summarized
Hilton has three elite levels: Silver, Gold and Diamond, and a member level (which you earn just by signing up for a Hilton Honors account). As you climb the elite status ladder, you receive all the benefits of the preceding levels, and much more. Here are some of the best benefits of each level:
Hilton Member status: No resort fees on award stays and free Wi-Fi.
Hilton Silver status: 20% bonus points earned on stays, free bottled water, fifth night free when booking a consecutive five-night stay on points and elite rollover nights.
Hilton Gold status: 80% bonus points earned on stays, upgrades, milestone bonuses, and daily food and beverage credit in the U.S. and continental breakfast abroad.
Hilton Diamond status: 100% bonus points earned on stays, executive lounge access (among hotels that offer them), status extension, premium Wi-Fi, 48-hour room guarantee and elite status gifting.
The perks really begin at Silver status, with the ability to book five nights for the price of four when using points. Consider it a sort of 20% discount for five-day stays paid for on points.
Further, when you reach Hilton Gold, free breakfast can be a big money saver, especially if you’re staying in an expensive city. When you reach Hilton Diamond, you can score a free upgrade to a suite and also access Hilton’s executive lounges, which offer perks like free food and drinks during the afternoon. Though, that assumes your hotel has an executive lounge (and many hotels, particularly many within the U.S., actually do not have one).
Earning status is pretty simple with Hilton, especially because holding certain Hilton credit cards makes it possible to automatically earn the highest tier of elite status — without even setting foot in a Hilton hotel.
How to earn Hilton elite status
You earn Hilton status in a few ways:
Hilton hotel stays: Earning enough qualifying nights, qualifying stays or qualifying base points per calendar year at a Hilton property.
Holding a Hilton credit card that offers automatic elite status as a benefit.
Holding the The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express or the Centurion Card from American Express.
Here’s what’s needed to earn each of the three tiers:
Earn this many qualifying stays in a calendar year
OR earn this many qualifying nights in a calendar year
OR earn this many qualifying base points in a calendar year
OR hold this credit card
For elite status earned through hotel stays, you'll maintain your status for the remainder of the year in which you reach it, as well as the entire following year. So if you earn Gold status in July 2023, you’ll keep it through December 2024.
If you receive status from holding a credit card, you will earn your status as soon as you get the card and you’ll maintain the status for as long as you keep the card.
1. Earning Hilton status through hotel stays
The most traditional way of earning Hilton status is by staying at Hilton hotels. You can earn the status through a combination of qualifying nights, qualifying stays or qualifying base points.
What’s a “qualifying night” and “qualifying stay”? Aha, technical terminology to make sure people earning points rightfully earn them. If your friend works for Hilton and hooks you up with free rooms, those won't count toward earning status. Status must be earned through "qualifying" methods, which generally means cash bookings made directly with Hilton. Be careful when booking through a third-party travel agency like Hotels.com or Expedia, as that may not count toward reaching elite status.
Qualifying nights or stays at any of Hilton's brands count toward earning elite status. So sure, you could spend $1,000 for a lavish night at the Waldorf Astoria to earn one qualifying night, but you could also find yourself a sub-$100 Hampton by Hilton room and qualify just as well.
Hilton brands include:
Hilton Garden Inn.
Hilton Grand Vacations.
What’s a “qualifying base point”? These are points earned through the bookings described above. Basically, they’re Hilton points earned through stays but not other means, such as through credit cards, other promotions or elite status bonuses (described below).
2. Earn status by holding one of Hilton's credit cards
Many hotel companies offer a middling-tier of elite status automatically for holding one of its branded credit cards. But Hilton is especially generous, in that its credit cards offer high tiers of elite status, just for you holding its card.
The biggest perk of having Silver status is the ability to get the last night free when booking a five night stay on points. If you have a five night Hilton hotel stay coming up and you plan on using points, consider applying for the Hilton Honors American Express Card just to take advantage of the last night free.
Perhaps most impressive is the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. Even though it has a $450 annual fee, you'll earn automatic Diamond status, on top of the card's oodles of other benefits including a complimentary night each year, $250 annual airline fee credit and $250 annual Hilton resort credit, which can easily justify that cost. Terms apply.
» Learn more: Which Hilton credit card should you get?
3. Earn status by holding an American Express card
If you don't want to hold a Hilton-branded credit card (which isn't unreasonable, given they earn Hilton Honors points which are not as flexible as AmEx Membership Rewards), consider a general, premium travel credit card.
The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express both offer automatic Hilton Gold status. Each of the cards come with hefty annual fees, but they provide massive value if you use all the perks.
» Learn more: Is the AmEx Platinum Card worth its annual fee?
If you have the ultra-exclusive Centurion Card from American Express, you get Hilton Diamond status. The card is invitation only and you need to be a big spender, but if you have it, you benefit from top tier Hilton status.
Hilton status levels and benefits at every tier
Each Honors tier offers increasingly useful benefits, as you’d expect. Here’s what you can expect to get as you climb through the Hilton ranks..
Bottles of water at check-in
Fifth reward night free
Up to executive rooms, when available.
Up to one bedroom suites, when available.
What do all those perks mean? Here's a quick rundown of some of the best Hilton benefits:
Bonus points: These are extra points earned from eligible bookings. The base earning rate at most properties is 10 points per dollar spent, so Silver members earn 2 extra points, Gold members earn 8 extra points, and Diamond members earn 10 extra points. The more Hilton points you earn, the more points you have to redeem for a free Hilton night.
Fifth reward night free: All elite members get a fifth consecutive night free when booking with points. There is no limit to how often this benefit is used, though it maxes out at four free nights within a single (20-night) booking.
Status extension: Diamond members can extend their status if they fail to meet the requirements. However, this benefit is only available to members who have both:
Maintained Diamond status for three years, previously. These do not need to be consecutive.
Stayed 250 nights or earned 500,000 base points.
Waived resort fees for stays booked on points: Resort fees can be brutal, but when you book a stay on points, you won't owe them. That can be a huge money saver at properties with mega resort fees.
Lifetime Hilton Diamond status
Plenty of hotel chains offer lifetime status, and Hilton is no different. However, unlike Marriott, which offers lifetime status for each of its elite tiers, Hilton only offers lifetime status for Diamond, its highest level.
To earn Hilton Lifetime Diamond status, you would need to maintain your Diamond status for 10 (non-consecutive) years and meet one of the following conditions:
Stay 1,000 paid and/or reward nights.
Earn 2,000,000 base points.
The Diamond status provided to holders of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card or the Centurion Card from American Express, count toward the requirement, so if you hold one of these cards for the 10 required years, you’ve met the first part of the requirement. The next set of criteria is much more difficult as there’s no way of getting around staying 1,000 nights or earning 2,000,000 base points. However, if you’re a traveler who is able to meet these requirements, you can look forward to Lifetime Diamond status.
» Learn more: The best Hilton Diamond perks
How much is Hilton elite status worth?
Between the bonus points, the breakfasts, the welcome amenities and all the other benefits, Hilton's Gold and Diamond tiers can be pretty valuable — and even the lowest-tier Silver status is better than a poke in the eye.
To determine the estimates below, we performed a comprehensive analysis of the aspects of hotel elite status that offer fairly quantifiable benefits.
By our estimates:
Hilton Honors Silver status is worth $23.
Hilton Honors Gold status is worth $960.
Hilton Honors Diamond status is worth $4,296.
But before you’re seduced by eye-popping figures like the $4,000+ in value listed above, you also need to factor in the cost to earn those benefits (or as we call it, the “elite earning rate”). If you're truly earning Diamond status by spending alone, then you're going to have to spend a whole lot. Or, consider if you're earning status another way, such as through one of the credit cards. You could effectively buy your way to Diamond status for just the $450 annual fee on the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. But if you only flex your status once, then you're not going to derive $4,296 of value out of it.
NerdWallet pegged the value to usage based on nights needed to actually earn status, so the $4,000+ in value of Diamond status also assumes you stay at a Hilton 42 nights out of the year (and thus get 42 free breakfasts and all the other benefits to go with it).
Value of benefits
Cost to earn
Elite earning rate
» Learn more: NerdWallet's 2023 Best-Of Awards
Lesser-known Hilton elite status perks
Hilton includes some additional benefits along with its status levels. While some perks like free water make a small difference, other perks are much more valuable.
Hilton has joined some other hotel rewards programs in offering “rollover” nights for elite status. Any extra qualifying nights beyond those needed for the tier you earn in a given year will count toward the following year’s status. So if you stay 30 nights in 2023, you’ll get Silver status (which requires 7 nights) and start 2024 with 23 extra elite qualifying nights.
Notably, this benefit only applies to nights, not the stays or points requirements. That’s another reason to not get too clever splitting one stay into several for the sake of elite status.
Hilton members can transfer points to each other at a 1:1 ratio in increments of 1,000 points and up to 500,000 points. This is a valuable perk, especially if you’re booking a stay with someone who also has Hilton points, and together (but not separately) you have enough points for the reservation.
Points pooling is allowed after you’ve been a member for 30 days as long as you’ve had activity in your account. If you don’t have any activity, you’ll need to wait 90 days to pool. So keep this in mind if you have a Hilton stay coming up and you might need to pool points. Luckily any activity, even buying something through a Hilton shopping portal should count.
If you’re sending points to another member, you’re able to send a total of 500,000 points per year and can make up to six transactions. If you’re pooling points with someone, you can pool up to 2,000,000 points up to six times.
» Learn more: How to redeem travel rewards faster by points pooling
Is Hilton Honors elite status worth it?
The short answer: “It depends.”
There's certainly a big difference across tiers, say Silver versus Gold or Diamond. It’s very easy to earn Silver (10 nights), and — unless you're going the credit card route — relatively difficult to earn Gold (40 nights). This gap is reflected in the benefits; there’s a big value difference between these two, as well.
For example, Silver elites earn 20% bonus points for stays, while Gold elites earn 80% (and Diamond elites earn a whopping 100% extra). And Silvers don’t even get room upgrades or free breakfast, while Golds and Diamonds get both. You could make the argument that Silver isn’t really much of an “elite” status, at all.
If you’re earning status from a credit card: It's easy (and not particularly expensive) to earn Hilton elite status simply by holding one of its branded credit cards. But — and perhaps this is obvious — just realize that the benefits are only valuable when you actually stay at Hilton properties. In other words, you can take the “shortcut” of earning Hilton status through a credit card — but if you’re not actually staying at Hilton hotels, you won’t reap the benefits or value. And if you stay enough at Hiltons to make elite status pay off, you might earn that status “organically” regardless.
That said, between the $250 Hilton resort statement credit and $250 airline fee credit, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card — which offers automatic Hilton Honors Diamond status — can certainly be worth its $450 annual fee. Terms apply.
» Learn more: The guide to hotel status matches
If you’re considering earning status from qualifying stays: If you’ve already stayed at enough Hilton hotels in a year to earn Gold status, then the roughly $3,000 difference in value between Gold and Diamond can be worth justifying chasing Diamond status. That’s especially true if you’re staying at a hotel with an executive lounge where you can take advantage of its meals and beverages, or you tend to book last-minute and the 48-hour room guarantee might turn out to be a lifesaver.
Gold status is the best of any hotel mid-level status: NerdWallet evaluates the elite status programs of the major hotel chains each year. And in 2023, Hilton Gold status won NerdWallet's award for best mid-level status program. That's thanks largely to a generous 80% point bonus and free breakfast offering.
If you’re thinking of switching from another hotel program: Make sure to compare the benefits of the tiers you’d earn at each program. Gold status at Hilton will vary considerably in value from the Gold level at most other programs (and yes, it's better than the rest). Check out our hotel loyalty program reviews for more info.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card