Maybe you already earned Hilton Honors elite status through a credit card or by staying at Hilton hotels. Or maybe you’re considering switching hotel loyalty from another program. In either case, you’re probably wondering how Hilton’s elite system works and what benefits it carries.
Here we lay out everything you need to know about the Hilton Honors elite status system, from earning it to using it. Although Hilton is an enormous brand with thousands of properties and 13 individual hotel brands, their elite status program is relatively simple. Still, there are plenty of details to unpack.
You earn Hilton status in any of these ways:
- Earning enough qualifying nights per calendar year at a Hilton property.
- Earning enough qualifying stays per calendar year at a Hilton property.
- Earning enough qualifying base points per calendar year at a Hilton property.
- Having a credit card that offers status as a benefit.
The status earned each way is identical — you don’t get anything special for earning it one way or another. For the first three, you earn 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 2020, you’ll keep it through December 2021. For the fourth option, you’ll keep status as long as you hold the card.
What’s a “qualifying night” and “qualifying stay”? These are earned from bookings not made with points or through a third-party travel agency like Hotels.com or Expedia. In other words, they are cash bookings made directly with Hilton. Here’s a list of Hilton’s brand portfolio, for reference:
- Hilton Hotels.
- Waldorf Astoria.
- Canopy by Hilton.
- Curio Collection.
- Tapestry Collection.
- Embassy Suites.
- Hilton Garden Inn.
- Homewood Suites.
- Home2 Suites.
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).
Here’s what’s needed to earn each of the three tiers:
|Hilton Silver||Hilton Gold||Hilton Diamond|
|Earn this many qualifying stays in a calendar year||4||20||30|
|OR earn this many qualifying nights in a calendar year||10||40||60|
|OR earn this many qualifying base points in a calendar year||25,000||75,000||120,000|
|OR hold this credit card||Hilton Honors American Express Card||Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card||Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card|
On the one hand, it’s nice that Hilton accommodates so many travel styles in its elite status structure. On the other hand, it can become bewildering to track and optimize the best strategy for reaching the next tier (e.g., “should I turn this trip into several stays?”). When in doubt, keep it simple and don’t make “status runs” for Hilton (or any other hotel program) elite status.
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 2020, you’ll get Silver status (which requires 10 nights) and start 2021 with 20 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.
Benefits of the three tiers
Each Honors tier offers increasingly useful benefits, as you’d expect.
Note the big jump between Silver and Gold in the table above. It’s very easy to earn Silver (10 nights), and 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.
Here’s the full breakdown:
|Bottles of water at check-in||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Fifth reward night free||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Room upgrades||None||Up to executive rooms, when available||Up to one bedroom suites, when available|
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 (20%), Gold members earn 8 extra points, and Diamond members earn 10 extra points.
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.
Is Hilton Honors elite status worth it?
Like all such questions, the answer is a resounding “it depends.” But let’s pick it apart.
If you’re considering earning status from a Hilton-branded credit card, keep in mind that the benefits multiply by the amount you actually stay in 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. And if you stay enough at Hiltons to make the elite status pay off, you might earn that status “organically” regardless.
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 “Gold” programs at most other programs. Check out our hotel loyalty program reviews for more info.
How to maximize your rewardsYou want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
- Airline miles and a large bonus: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- No annual fee: The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
- Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
- Premium travel rewards: The Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Business travelers: The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Find the best hotel credit card for you
5 things to know about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card
Earn more points and miles with these 6 strategies