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!
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)
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!)
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:
||Express Fast Track
|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
||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
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.
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…
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.