Most of my travel consists of trips between my home office and our small company’s office in Minneapolis. When there, I mostly stay with friends/family. So, unlike many that travel for business, I really don’t pick up many hotel points and when I do, I’m usually very cost sensitive which makes establishing status difficult if not impossible. Of course, for personal travel we also are trying to use points as much as possible. We do a mix of budget stays and nicer hotels. It really varies a lot. Lately we’ve been in lots of Best Western’s due to their Price Guarantee.
After reading all the great things about Starwood cards, we built up quite a balance there through credit cards. While we enjoyed the stays and even have Gold status courtesy of a now closed Amex Platinum card, I often balked at the points cost for high end hotels and the network’s just not large enough for us.
Everyone was talking about Hyatt the last couple years too… But it’s tough to build up those balances while not staying there consistently have having little paid work travel. Further, like Starwood, their network isn’t terribly large.
I could go on about Marriott or Priority Club/Intercontinental but based on the title you already know the winner for me so let’s get down to why I love Hilton…
Hilton has 3 levels of status. Silver, like the base levels in other programs, doesn’t offer a lot. Gold is their mid-grade status. I first got Hilton Gold by doing 3 stays within 2 months. That was pretty easy as I had a trip to Nashville for work and hotel hopped to get 2 of them. I did the 3rd personally. There are other techniques that come and go like this one.
Of course, you can also get an Amex Surpass card and get gold status free for a year. Spend $20k on that card and you keep Gold status. Spend $40k and you get Diamond status which is amazing if you can muster that kind of spending.
Hilton gold status has real benefits. We are more consistently upgraded with this than we were as Starwood Gold’s (which is the lowest of 2 levels).
I’m looking forward to hitting the big spending goal for Diamond on Hilton. Best of all, Hilton honors status benefits on award stays unlike some other brands.
No other program lets you spend you way to high level status that I’m aware of. This is a big part of why I love Hilton for our needs. And I’m sympathetic to those of you that earn it by stays. Yeah, I don’t deserve it and tip my hat to y’all.
Firstly, Hilton HHonors points are low value. I tend to value them at $.007 each but some go a bit lower. The thing is though, you can earn so many of them.
On the way to gold/diamond status via Amex credit cards, I’ll naturally earn quite a lot of them via spending.
Even without that spending, here’s the amazing thing. As a card churner, I can earn an incredible number of Hilton points with minimal spending goals. Here’s a quick run down without links but with historical offer information:
- Citi Hilton Visa – No annual fee – 50k on spending $1,500 in 6 months – And you can churn this card and even hold more than one open at a time. You can even get 2 in a single day for 100k Hilton.
- Amex Hilton – No annual fee – 60k on spending $750 in 3 months.
- Amex Hilton Surpass – $75/year – 60k on spending $3,000 in 3 months.
- Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines – $79 – 35k that can transfer to 70k Hilton!
- Bank of America Hawaiian Airlines – $79 – 35k that can transfer to 70k Hilton!
- Bank of America Virgin Atlantic Airlines – $90 – 50k that can transfer to 100k Hilton!
So, if you find the right offers and stage things, you can pick up 460k Hilton points and mid-grade Gold status (save that for the year when you’ll actually be using the points). I’d also guess you’d pick up another 20k-30k on spending. Repeat for your significant other (and stage their gold status for a year when you don’t have gold+ status).
When you have status, you can access VIP awards for extended stays. And when you have one of the American Express Hilton cards, you can access AXON awards. Hilton awards are complicated but you can study up here. Expect big numbers. Best to go high end and multi-night.
A big global network makes it easy to stay. Ability to achieve status without a significant number of stays. Massive earning potential to fund those stays that offsets the high cost of those awards!
For example, we stayed at the Hilton Buenos Aires for 4 nights leveraging the AXON discount to drop the price from 160k to 125k. This was when it was a category 6. It’s now the highest tier Hilton as a category 7. The property was in a great location for us, walkable to everywhere we wanted to go. We were upgraded to the executive level as a gold status member and had a somewhat larger room I think… more importantly, we got free internet and access to the executive lounge where we enjoyed free happy hour overlooking the nice rooftop pool and free breakfast. 31.25k/night for this room was a bargain.
For me, I hold my Hilton points back for multi-night (for the discount) premium brand stays (for the upgrades). No other program makes it so rich for a card churner that rarely pays for an expensive room.