The Case for Hilton HHonors Gold

Louis believes he caught the premium travel bug after attaining KrisFlyer Elite Gold and occasionally being upgraded while shuttling between the UK, Singapore and Japan (in economy class). These travels have led to a wonderful marriage, as well as a burning desire to maximise his frequency of travel in business class or better.

He travels with a gryphon plush toy, Griffles, which often stands in for him in vacation photos. Griffles continues to amuse (and confuse) air stewardesses, hotel staff and just about everybody else, all around the world.


To begin, yet another PSA: The Hilton group is currently having a 40% flash sale across Asia Pacific. The sale ends at the end of 9 Dec 2016 SGT and is valid for stays completed from 8 Dec 2016 to 17 Apr 2017. This represents great value, especially if coupled with ongoing points promotions (currently until 31 Jan 2017). It’s a great time to book some regional travel or staycations!

apac-dec-flash-sale

Anyway – once upon a time, when I was first introduced on the MileLion Facebook page, I was referred to as ‘a Hilton man’. It’s been almost three months since, so I figure it’s about time for me to get to work on bringing balance to the Force coverage of competing hotel loyalty programmes on this site.

First off, a confession: The number one reason I’m currently concentrating on Hilton properties is really to maximise the use of my Diamond status obtained through the insanely generous but now-defunct status match offer. I’ve also not been patronising the other major chains (e.g. SPG) much so I might not actually know what I’m missing!

That said, I was pretty happy back when I was a HHonors Gold member, and still recommend the programme to friends considering pledging their allegiance to a particular hotel chain. For me, it really boils down to three main factors: easy maintenance, decent benefits and generous bonuses.

Easy Maintenance (for VI cardholders)

VI HHonors Gold

I don’t travel for work very often, so I actually find it difficult to earn status with any hotel programme. Thank goodness for fast track / status match options! Aaron’s previously covered various options available for a number of programmes – my favourite remains the 2 stays (or 4 nights) fast track with a Visa Infinite.

The nice thing about this option is that you can trigger it even before your current status expires – for example, if it’s expiring in Mar 2017, it’s possible to kickstart the VI fast track process now such that you have Gold seamlessly extended until Mar 2018.

A VI is not necessarily the easiest card to apply for, but if you value the benefit(s) enough it might be worth considering tying up some assets with the issuing bank in order to get one.

(This is in fact the main reason I keep my CIMB Visa Infinite around. Before 2016 they actually used to grant Gold status instantly without the need for stays – seems like Hilton’s decided they have more than enough status-holding guests now, though!)

Decent Benefits

HHonors tiers
If you compare the fast track options available out there, you might notice that it’s actually easier to attain SPG Gold (and LeClub Gold if you’re willing to pay), but a comparison of these tiers reveals that HHonors Gold is the only one of the lot worth bothering with (to me, at least).

The Points Guy compared different programmes and tiers some time last year and not all that much has changed since then – Hilton and Marriott are often considered to have the best mid-tier programmes. I’ve broken down the key features of the programmes we have accelerated access to below, omitting common features like accelerated point gain and late check-out that they all have:

  Qualification Requirements Express Fast Track Key Benefits
Marriott Rewards Gold 26 stays/50 nights Link existing SPG Gold account
  • Complimentary breakfast
  • Complimentary lounge access
  • Room upgrade – includes executive level and suites
Hilton HHonors Gold 20 stays/30 nights With Visa Infinite, stay 4n or 2 stays at Hilton properties within 90 days (For Conrad, Hilton & DoubleTree)

  • Complimentary continental breakfast
  • Room upgrade – includes executive level
LeClub AccorHotels Gold 30 nights Pay for ibis Business Card for 90 euros (less VAT)
  • Room upgrade (next best available room)
Starwood Preferred Guest Gold 10 stays/25 nights Payment with World Mastercard, 1 stay in Asian Pacific property
  • Room upgrade – no suites

It’s not quite comparing apples to apples – you can see that it typically takes more stays to qualify for HHonors Gold than SPG Gold, for instance. Still, since these are the membership tiers that are available for fast track, it makes sense to compare these (relatively) easily attained membership tiers and see what nets you the best benefits.

To me, the main differentiator between HHonors and SPG Gold is the confirmed free breakfast, and the possibility of being upgraded to executive levels (with executive lounge access). While the latter is not guaranteed by any chance, a fair number of properties tend to be pretty generous and allow access to Golds as well as Diamonds (it helps to do some research beforehand).

I’ve not really tried Marriott or AccorHotels yet as I’ve found these chains to be have fewer properties in the places I tend to go. Although – with the current option to link your SPG to Marriott accounts, this puts Marriott Gold in relatively easy reach. The listed benefits look great and I’m rather inclined to give the chain a try – it probably makes sense to look at the areas you’re likely to travel to and check the availability of properties in those regions.

Generous Bonuses

jhhonorsdriftwood

HHonors Gold members get an additional 25% HHonors points from room bookings. Assuming you have set your account to the Points + Points earning style, that’s a total of 175% of the usual earning rate, or 17.5 HHonors points per US dollar spent. Using OMAAT’s 0.4¢ valuation of HHonors points, that’s about a 7% return in value on your hotel spend.

Over the past year in particular, HHonors has been running various promotions that accelerate the accrual of HHonors Points. I’ve highlighted some of these before – but right now, some of the ongoing offers (which can be stacked) include:

If all the stars align and you manage to book a stay in the Asia Pacific region on the Hilton app and pay with an eligible Visa card, you’ll net quadruple points on top of what you usually get, or 47.5 points per USD spent. How does a 19% rebate sound to you? Because that’s what it effectively amounts to – and that’s not including the bonus 5000 points (a US$20 value)!

These bonus points really go a long way towards redeeming additional free nights, and I hope these offers continue through 2017…

Conclusion

There are only so many hotel status tiers available for fast track in our local market, and of the lot, I find that Hilton HHonors Gold is a solid choice.

More recently, Marriott Rewards Gold has become a tempting option since it can now effectively be matched from SPG Gold. Perhaps I’ll reevaluate the situation when my Diamond status finally lapses? For now, I’m probably sticking with Hilton.

23 thoughts on “The Case for Hilton HHonors Gold”

  1. When you guys travel, don’t you like to try hotels that look better or more interesting than a branded hotel?

    I like airmiles like all of you, but I rather book a hotel i am interested in via hotels.com. their reward scheme is good, book 10 rooms, get 1 room back free at the average rate of the 10 rooms.

    1. Usually I’d agree (I used to stick with OTA bookings in the past); however, with fast track status available I’d say it depends. How much do you value the occasional upgrade, for instance? Executive lounge access? I personally rather enjoy these benefits, and I’ve also found it helps to have a corporate HQ to raise issues with, if the actual property is unable to resolve them.

      (I use a similar line of reasoning for flights – when paying for my own flights I typically just stick with whatever’s cheap and convenient. When I previously held (Cathay Pacific) Marco Polo Gold status, I chose to fly on that airline more because I enjoyed the relatively regular upgrades to Premium Economy / Business. But now that I’m a nobody once more, it’s back to Google Flights for me!)

      I’ve also become a little more spoilt in recent years and am willing to pay more for nice hotels in good locations – major chains like the Hilton will usually be able to offer at least one property that meets those criteria, so it’s not like I’m really making compromises in order to to stick with them…

    2. I have 2 issues with OTAs.
      No walk policy and no upgrades.
      That is not worth the savings.
      One of friends had a booking at a hotel that went on strike, the OTA simply refunded the money and had my friend rebooked at another hotel, lower tier and at the higher prices.

  2. My free Hilton Gold will expire in Mar 2017, I think. Would I be able to get it again? Can it be from the same card or another VI card?

    1. My personal experience from 2013/2014 was that you could renew status seamlessly using the same VI card. Nothing in the T&C prohibits this.

      Why not just try it now, and see how it goes? My wife recently activated the VI Gold challenge and didn’t get any email update regarding it; had to email HHonors to check (and they verified that the 90-day challenge had started). She’s currently on a matched Diamond status, so I think it’s highly likely that you can just use the same VI to extend your current Gold status…

    2. I have the same issue. I got my Hilton Gold from VI. I am actually interested to know if we can do status match with any other Hotel Program before my Gold Status expires in 2017. Any readers here have any luck in doing status match?

      1. this was a few years ago but I got my hilton gold matched to ihg. this was back in the day when they didn’t ask for any proof of activity with hilton, just a scan of your membership card, mind you. the rules may have since changed.

      2. I usually check at statusmatcher.com – recent reports indicate successful matces from HHonors to chains like Club Carlson, Best Western, Loews… may or may not be useful, depending on where you travel.

  3. Hi Aaron, I recall there was some hilton or ihg fast-track by credit cards Singapore credit cards. Do you know if it’s still available ?

  4. The HHonors Points 80% Bonus with a minimum 5,000 points purchase is available on purchases made between January 19, 2017 at 12:01am ET and February 17, 2017, at 11:59pm ET. Hilton HHonors™ and Points reserve the right to change or terminate the discount promotion at any time. All purchases must be made through the Purchase page on HHonors.com.

    Good buy?

    1. I personally don’t buy HHonors points, even on sale – you can take a look at this OMAAT post with some illustrations.

      That said, if you already know specifically what you would like to redeem, you can just check if the value you get exceeds 56¢ (US) per point, which is the approximate cost during this promotion.

      (Also, promo was almost over by the time you’d commented, I think!)

      1. I bought 50K points to top up my account to make a specific booking over the Easter weekend. In that case the maths was easy and I saved over a $100.
        I agree with the general consensus that its unwise to buy points speculatively – which is what Hilton would love you to do…

  5. Hi, the 2 stays or 4 nights, is it for every calender year? Eg currently I’m already gold via visa infinite, but expiring soon. However, last year I stayed 6x about 10 nights. Will I continue to be gold? In my app it’s showing 20 stays in 2017 to retain gold. Should I call now or wait to see if my gold is extended? Thanks for advice/info.

    1. It’s per year; not automatic. You’ll need to initiate the challenge again in order to re-qualify.

      There’s been some debate about whether you can continuously request the match, but I’ve not had problems with doing so thus far (have only tried twice, though).

      1. I went on hilton chat, and the CSR told me the same. She did say can re-register yearly though. I’m going to go for it, hopefully have enough stays/night before my gold expires.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.