Marriott Bonvoy vs Hilton Honors: Which program fits your style?
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Formulating a strategy in your miles and points travels is a very important aspect to getting the most travel for the littlest amount of money.
We all monitor the welcome bonuses from the best hotel credit cards and open them if there’s an offer we can’t refuse. No matter which hotel points we’re married to, we’re willing to cheat on them when a good deal presents itself.
Two of the most popular hotel programs are Hilton and Marriott. Earn 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points and 1 free night award after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.
Both of these chains outperform each other in various categories, so let’s take a look at the core benefits of investing in each program. We’ll also compare Marriott Bonvoy credit cards against the best Hilton credit cards to help you decide which are the best fits for your wallet.
Hilton vs. Marriott property footprint
Hilton and Marriott are two of the biggest hotel chains in the world. While Marriott has considerably more properties than Hilton (nearly 1,000), you can be sure that either chain will have a hotel relatively close to your destination:
- Hilton has 18 brands and more than 6,100 properties across 118 countries
- Marriott has 30 brands and more than 7,000 properties across 131 countries and territories
The biggest difference, in my opinion, is hotel brands.
Both chains have an abundance of cookie-cutter hotel brands that offer you standardized service and recognizable aesthetics no matter where you stay. That’s a preference of many travelers who are comforted by an element of familiarity when trotting the globe.
You can achieve the boutique feeling when reserving either chain’s luxury hotel brands. This is where Marriott leaves Hilton in the dust.
There are only a few true five-star Hilton hotel brands:
You’ll find these aspirational hotels and resorts in stunning locations. For example, the Conrad Maldives has an underwater restaurant. And the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem is just outside the Old City. Properties like these are enough to spur someone into collecting Hilton points.
On the other hand, you’ll have notably more five-star Marriott hotel brands to choose from:
Not every hotel in each of these brands is considered five-star (for example, the Ritz-Carlton Cleveland is a four-star hotel), but you’ll guarantee yourself a glitzy hotel experience with them all.
You’ll find exponentially more luxury hotel locations with Marriott than with Hilton. If you’re chasing endless Instagrammable hotel experiences, Marriott is the way to go.
Earning Hilton vs Marriott points
There’s a superfluity of ways to earn both hotel currencies. We’ll cover the most popular in this post, but if you want to learn more, read our guides covering how to earn Hilton points and how to earn Marriott points.
Here are the current Hilton welcome bonuses:
|Card||Intro bonus||Best for|
|Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card||150,000 Hilton points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Terms Apply.||Best for obtaining Hilton elite status|
|Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card||Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership.||Best mid-range card|
|The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card||Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points reward after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership.||Best for small business owners|
|Hilton Honors American Express Card||Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership.||Best for those who don’t want to pay a high annual fee|
The information for the Hilton Aspire card and Hilton Surpass has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Here are the current Marriott welcome bonuses — some that expire in just a few weeks!:
|Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card||Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after spending $1,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.||Best no annual fee Marriott card|
|Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card||Earn three free nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.||Best mid-tier Marriott credit card|
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card||Earn 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points and 1 free night award after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first three months.||Best Marriott card for benefits and perks|
|Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card||Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening.. Offer ends 5/18/22.||Best Marriott card for small businesses|
Hilton offers 10 Hilton points per dollar when staying at their hotels (except for Home2 Suites and Tru, which earn just 5 points per dollar). However, Hilton status will garner the following return rates:
- Silver elite members earn 12 Hilton points per dollar
- Gold elite members earn 18 Hilton points per dollar
- Diamond elite members earn 20 Hilton points per dollar
Again, the exception is Home2 Suites and Tru hotels, which earn half of the above figures.
Marriott also offers 10 points per dollar on hotel spending. But here’s what you’ll receive with each Marriott Bonvoy elite status:
- Silver elite members earn 11 points per dollar
- Gold elite members earn 12.5 points per dollar
- Platinum elite members earn 15 points per dollar
- Titanium elite members earn 17.5 points per dollar
- Ambassador elite members earn 17.5 points per dollar
You can earn Hilton points indirectly with other cards. Miles and points that transfer to Hilton include:
- American Express Membership Rewards points – Transfer American points to Hilton at a ratio of 1 Amex point to 2 Hilton points (and watch for occasional transfer bonuses)
- Hawaiian Airlines miles – Transfer Hawaiian Airlines miles to Hilton at a 1:1.5 ratio. You must transfer in increments of 10,000 Hawaiian Airlines at a time, to create 15,000 Hilton points
- Virgin Atlantic miles – Transfer Virgin Atlantic miles at a 1:1.5 ratio to Hilton points. You must transfer only in increments of 10,000 Virgin Atlantic miles, to make 15,000 Hilton points
The same is true for Marriott, as it’s both an Amex transfer partner and a Chase transfer partner. Both transfer at a 1:1 ratio, meaning you’ll get twice the number of Hilton points for your Amex points than you’ll receive with Marriott. Hilton points are generally worth less than Marriott points, but just something to keep in mind.
Pro tip: DO NOT convert flexible points like Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards into hotel points unless you are desperate. You’ll almost never receive a good value, and hotel points are significantly easier to earn than flexible points. You’ll usually be getting much better value when transferring your points to an airline partner.
Hilton credit cards vs Marriott credit cards
We’ve already talked welcome bonuses, so let’s hit the most valuable ongoing perks of each card.
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express:
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card:
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card:
Enrollment required for select benefits.
Where Hilton really shines is with its Aspire card, especially since it offers an annual free weekend night certificate that can be used at nearly any property around the world — think the Waldorf Astoria Maldives or Conrad New York. If you stay at one of these luxurious properties you can easily get $1,000+ in value. And if you can take full advantage of the Hilton Aspire’s benefits like airline fee credit and the resort credit each year, it’s nearly like you’re getting paid to hold the card. Enrollment required for select benefits.
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
- Free night certificate valid at participating Marriott hotels that cost up to 35,000 points per night
- 15 elite night credits each year (stackable with the 15 nights you earn from a Marriott business card)
- 3 points per dollar on the first $6,000 spent in combined purchases each year on gas stations, grocery stores and dining
- Earn one credit towards elite status for every $5,000 you spend.
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card:
- Free night certificate valid at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program that cost up to 50,000 points per night (certain hotels have resort fees)
- 15 elite night credits each year (stackable with the 15 nights you earn from a Marriott business card)
- Up to $300 in statement credits for eligible Marriott purchases charged to your card each card membership year at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program.
- Priority Pass Select membership, with access to 1,300+ airport lounges (enrollment required).
- $450 annual fee (see rates and fees) Enrollment required for select benefits.
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card:
- Free night certificate valid at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program that cost up to 35,000 points per night
- Second free night if you spend $60,000 or more on your card in a calendar year
- 15 elite night credits each year (stackable with the 15 nights you earn from a Marriott personal card)
- $125 annual fee (see rates and fees)
The Marriott credit cards are solid, each offers its own free night certificate and credit towards elite status. However, it’s probably easier for most travelers to get better overall value from Hilton credit cards.
Hilton vs Marriott elite status
Hilton has a great elite status program. You immediately receive benefits with the lowest tier. Check it out:
- 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
Marriott’s got deficiencies in their programs, but Platinum status (comparable to Hilton Diamond) is better in my opinion:
- Marriott Silver status – Priority late checkout (when available), dedicated elite reservation line (Enrollment required for select benefits).
- Marriott Gold status – Upgrade to an enhanced room (when available), free enhanced internet
- Marriott Platinum status – 4 p.m. late checkout (when available), Lounge access, room upgrade, including suites (when available), annual gift after reaching 50 nights (you can choose five suite night awards)
- Marriott Titanium status – 48-hour room guarantee, United Premier Silver status through RewardsPlus, another annual gift (you can choose another five suite night awards)
- Marriott Ambassador status – Your24 (Choose your check-in and check-out times to cover any 24-hour period during your stay), Ambassador service (your own personal assistant)
As we covered earlier, the bonus points earnings of Hilton and Marriott elite status are comparable. The big difference is in how easy it is to earn these statuses. Both programs allow you to achieve Silver and Gold status by holding certain credit cards. But Hilton gives you the opportunity to achieve their top-tier Diamond status just by holding the Hilton Honors Aspire.
This is a bit of a double-edged sword. Diamond status comes with some really solid benefits, like a 100% points bonus at Hilton hotels and executive lounge access — but benefits like free space-available room upgrades (up to one-bedroom suite) may be worth less because the status is so easy to attain. You’re likely to find fewer space-available upgrades if everyone and their dachshund possesses Diamond elite status. Many say that Diamond status goes a lot further at Hilton properties outside the U.S., so if you frequently travel internationally, Diamond may be the better option for you.
In related news, you can achieve Marriott Platinum status fairly easily by opening one Marriott personal credit card and one Marriott business card. Both come with 15 elite night credits each year, meaning you can achieve Platinum status for 30 nights less than those without these cards. You’ll normally earn Marriott Platinum status after staying 50 nights, so holding these two cards puts you just 20 nights away.
Which program is better?
IN MY OPINION, the Marriott program is a more worthwhile investment. Hilton undoubtedly beats Marriott in a few ways, but Marriott has more of everything you want in a hotel program — more five-star brands, more locations, more unique experiences. Their elite status comes with more concrete benefits, like suite night awards or 40% off your favorite hotel mattress. If you find yourself staying in hotels often enough to achieve Marriott Platinum status, stick with Marriott.
I say this as well because of the ease in which you can earn Hilton status. Simply by holding one credit card, you drink from the same cup as those who religiously stay with Hilton (60+ nights annually). You can receive suite upgrades when available, free breakfast, late check-out, etc. But expect the treatment to be watered-down, as many other guests likely have the extremely accessible top-tier status.
You’ll also find more versatility when using Marriott points. For example, you can:
- Transfer Marriott points to airlines at an unoffensive rate
- Use Marriott Points Advance to reserve a room even if you don’t yet have the points
- Redeem your points for a seven-night stay at a hotel, as well as a whole bunch of miles (known as a Hotel + Air package)
Let us know which hotel chain you like more and why! And subscribe to our newsletter for more comparisons like this delivered to your inbox.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Business card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business card, click here.
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! :)