Hilton elite status review (Elite status now easier to earn with program updates due to COVID-19)

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Imagine if every time you visited a Hilton hotel, you got the red carpet rolled out for you with free room upgrades (when available), bottles of water and bonus Hilton Honors points.

With Hilton status, you can enjoy all of these perks and more each time you visit one of the chain’s hotels. And you might be surprised how easy it is to earn and maintain this elite status. It’s a perk of every one of the best Hilton credit cards, including the Hilton Honors American Express Card, Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, though which status level you get depends which card you choose.

Here’s a look at all the levels of Hilton status, and what perks each of them offers. I’ll also share tips on the easiest ways to earn each status tier. And, give you a rundown of the temporary changes to Hilton’s loyalty program that have been made in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

With four levels of Hilton elite status, which is most worth the effort to earn it and what are the differences? (Photo by tupungato/iStock by Getty Images)

Hilton’s elite status response to COVID-19

Hilton has relaxed its rules for elite status in 2020 due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. All elite status that has expired on March 31, 2020, will now be extended to March 31, 2021. Even better, if you manage to earn Hilton elite status this year, your status won’t expire until March 31, 2022.

In addition, Hilton is also freezing points expiration through December 31, 2020. Normally, Hilton points expire if you don’t earn or redeem anything in 12 months.

And just this week, Hilton announced that all stays completed from Jan. 1, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2020, will automatically roll over and count towards 2021 – 2023 Hilton elite status. This is good news for anyone who may have completed a few stays before travel came to a halt. And given the uncertainty of the next few months, it’s nice to know you’ll have a longer period of time to work toward earning status.

Hilton status tiers

With Hilton elite status, you’ll get an upgraded experience for all stays at Hilton hotels and there is no cost to get started. Here is what you can expect from each level of elite status.

Member tier

As the base tier for all members, you need to sign up on Hilton’s website for their rewards program.

  • Member discount (a lower room rate exclusively for Hilton members)
  • Earn points toward free nights (10 points per dollar at most hotels)
  • No resort fees on award stays
  • Digital check-in and digital key through the Hilton app
  • Free standard Wi-Fi
  • Late checkout
  • Ability to transfer and pool points with friends and family for free

This is the base tier that you get just for opening a new account. There is absolutely no reason that you should be staying at a Hilton hotel without enjoying these perks because, again, it costs nothing to sign up. Plus, if you are earning points anyway (which of course you want to), then you want to set up this account.

Silver Status Comes Complimentary With the Hilton Honors American Express Card Which Earns You Benefits Like Late Checkout and Free Water Bottles in Your Hotel Room
Late checkout is offered at the base Member elite status tier. (Photo by monkeybusinessimages/iStock by Getty Images)

Overall, there isn’t anything too exciting about this tier. The most notable benefits are free Wi-Fi and late checkout. It is actually surprising that Hilton offers late checkout for all members as a base-tier perk. Many other hotels reserve this benefit for a higher level of elite status.

The member discount isn’t anything to get too excited about. It usually matches the price you find from online travel agencies like Priceline or Hotels.com.

You will earn 10 base Hilton points per dollar you spend during your stay on room charges (including expenses charged to your room) except at Tru and Home2Suites, where you’ll earn 5 Hilton points per dollar. Since Hilton points tend to be worth about 0.5 cents each, this is about 5 cents per dollar in value during your stay.

Hilton Silver status tier

Complete any of the following during a calendar year:

  • Everything from the Member tier
  • Earn 20% bonus Hilton points (12 total points per dollar at most hotels)
  • Receive the fifth night free on award stays of five or more consecutive nights
  • Two free bottles of water
  • Elite-tier rollover nights

Silver elite status is relatively easy to earn. It’s available after four stays with Hilton (which could be as few as four nights if you spend one night per stay). The easiest way to maintain Silver elite status is by having the Hilton Honors American Express Card, which offers complimentary Silver status as long as you keep the card open. Plus, this card has no annual fee (See rates and fees), so there is no reason to ever close it.

The 20% bonus Hilton points per dollar on Hilton hotel stays helps you earn your next free stay even faster. This tier also introduces elite-tier rollover nights, which makes it easier to maintain your elite-status tier the next year.

For example, say you stay 15 nights this year at Hilton. Because only 10 nights are needed for Silver status, the five “extra” nights will roll over and give you a five-night head start going into the next year.

The Hilton Garden Inn Belo Horizonte costs only 10,000 points per night, so for 40,000 Hilton points, you can stay five nights here, thanks to the fifth-night-free perk. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)

Another huge perk that we love with this tier status is the fifth night free perk on award stays. If you use Hilton points to book a stay of five or more consecutive nights, you can enjoy the fifth night free. So on a five-night award stay, it only costs the amount of points for four nights.

Hilton Gold status tier

  • Everything from the Member and Silver tiers
  • Earn 80% bonus Hilton points (18 total points per dollar at most hotels)
  • Free room upgrade when available (up to Executive room type)
  • Complimentary breakfast at all hotels
  • Unlimited milestone bonuses

The Hilton Gold status elite tier is arguably one of the best deals in all hotel elite-status tiers. It packs tons of benefits and perks and is still attainable for folks who travel somewhat frequently.

There is a ton of value with this elite-status tier. All of these perks will significantly improve the quality of your stay at a Hilton hotel.

Most notable is free complimentary breakfast. The quality of this breakfast will vary on the hotel brand — a Hampton Inn might offer a continental breakfast but the more luxurious Conrad or Waldorf Astoria brands will offer a credit for breakfast at the hotel restaurant.

In addition, you can also expect space-available room upgrades up to an Executive room type. Generally, these upgrades yield “enhanced rooms,” which often are rooms with better views. So paying for a standard room in New York City, you might get moved to the same room but facing Central Park.

Free breakfast is offered at all Hilton hotels for Gold status members, like this continental breakfast plate at the Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea in Hawaii. (Photo by Jasmin Baron)

There are lots of opportunities to earn tons of Hilton points thanks to the 80% bonus points you receive during your stays. There are also milestone bonuses which allow you to earn thousands more bonus points for completing certain amounts of nights per year.

The easiest way to maintain this elite status tier is by having the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass or Hilton Honors American Express Business credit cards. They both offer complimentary Gold elite status as long as you keep the card open. With one of these cards you can enjoy the perks of Hilton Gold status, without needing to build up or maintain 40 nights of traveling per year.

Hilton Diamond status tier

  • Everything from the Gold, Silver, and Member tiers
  • Earn 100% bonus Hilton points (20 total points per dollar at most hotels)
  • Free space-available room upgrade (up to one-bedroom suite)
  • Free premium Wi-Fi
  • Executive lounge access
  • Diamond status extension
  • 48-hour room guarantee
  • Elite status giving

On the highest end, Diamond elite status offers the best perks for Hilton’s most loyal travelers. Getting to this tier requires a lot more travel but Hilton again gives you the opportunity to earn the status by holding a certain card.

The Hilton Honors Aspire from American Express card comes with this complimentary status. Keep in mind that this premium travel card does have a high annual fee of $450 (See Rates & Fees).

Diamond elite members will enjoy better room upgrades compared to Gold elite members. Diamond members can be upgraded to premium rooms, up to an actual suite. In addition, Diamond members have access to executive lounges in Hilton hotels that have them. These lounges are similar to airport lounges, with food and drink plus a quiet and comfortable place to relax and work.

Another notable benefit is free access to premium Wi-Fi. All other status tiers include free Wi-Fi but the premium Wi-Fi option is usually an additional charge (~$7 to $15 per day, depending on the hotel). Hilton describes it as “up to three times the speed of standard internet and ideal for high-definition video streaming and large file downloads.” They don’t guarantee a specific download speed, but they do promise that it is adequate for streaming and heavy internet work.

Diamond members get premium Wi-Fi, which allows you to reliably work and stream with the best Wi-Fi speeds that Hilton offers. (Photo by pio3/Shutterstock)

As with the Gold tier, you can expect to earn lots of Hilton points. Diamond members earn 100% bonus points, meaning 20 total Hilton points per dollar spent at most hotels.

In addition, there is also the option to gift Gold elite status to someone else after you stay 60 nights with Hilton and that same gifted status will be upgraded to Diamond after you stay 100 total nights within the same year.

Which Hilton status tier is the best value?

Overall, we think Hilton Gold status is the best overall value. Silver elite status doesn’t offer that many significant benefits other than Hilton’s fifth-night-free perk, but Gold members enjoy significant benefits which can greatly improve your hotel stay.

Gold status is also easy to get because it is complimentary to cardholders of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass (See Rates & Fees) or Hilton Honors American Express Business (See Rates & Fees) credit cards. Both of these cards have $95 annual fees, which the perks of Gold status easily justify.

In addition, you’ll earn 12 Hilton points per dollar when you use either of these cards at Hilton hotels PLUS base Hilton points (10 points at most Hilton hotels) and the 80% bonus. This means at most Hilton hotels, you will earn a whopping 30 Hilton points per dollar (10 base points + 80% bonus = 18 Hilton points + 12 Hilton points = 30 total Hilton points).  With a value of 0.5 cents per Hilton point this is like getting 15 cents back per dollar.

Pro Tip: Always charge everything to the room. Whenever you go to dinner at the hotel, grab a drink, buy a round of golf or even buy a pack of gum from the gift shop, always ask if you can charge it to your room, because these charges will earn you 10 to 20 points per dollar when paid for as part of your room charges. Plus, you still earn the bonus points from your credit card on top of that.

Bottom line

Hilton offers great value for its elite status members. Getting started is easy, and you immediately receive benefits with the lowest tier.

The Hilton elite status tiers are:

  • Member status: Free standard Wi-Fi, late checkout and more
  • Hilton Silver status: Free bottles of water and fifth-night-free perk
  • Hilton Gold status: Space-available room upgrades, milestone bonuses, free breakfast and tons of bonus points
  • Hilton Diamond status: Premium Wi-Fi, executive lounge access, free room upgrades up to one-bedroom suites

You can maintain any of these status levels by keeping one of the best Hilton cards open:

This offers a great way to enjoy the perks offered by elite status without needing to achieve the minimum number of nights required for that tier.

Do you use any cards to enjoy the perks of elite status? Let me know which Hilton card is your favorite.

For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, please subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets email newsletter.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, please click here

For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass, please click here

For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card, please click here

For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Card, please click here

Meghan Hunter is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, she covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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