You Do You, Hilton – How I’m Managing the Wildly Random Elite F&B Credit

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Hilton Food and Beverage

Hilton Food and Beverage Credit

One of the wackier elite benefits unveiled in recent memory is the Hilton food and beverage credit.  Opinions within and beyond Miles to Memories have vary.  Mark has been an overall fan of the changes for his situation.  I’ve been a bit more measured, taking the “it could have been worse” approach.  Plenty of others dislike the changes; perhaps it’s easiest for them to just call it a devaluation and move on.  Through it all, I’ve been trying to make sense of the whole thing with each stay, including a few recent ones.  I’ve clarified my feelings on the credit and how I plan to reconcile the benefit moving forward.  After resetting the Hilton food and beverage credit, I’ll describe how we used it on two recent stays and my future plans.

What is the Hilton Food and Beverage Credit?

Originally launched as a temporary replacement, late last year Hilton predictably extended the food and beverage credit through all of 2022.  Perhaps it can still technically be called temporary, but I think it’s safer to call it a permanent change.  Hilton’s handy graphic concisely explains the credit for Gold and Diamond members:

Hilton Food and Beverage
Source: Hilton.

At the highest end properties, a party of two receives $50 daily.  Stays at most other chains top out at $30 daily, and $36 in select markets.  Hilton Garden Inn enthusiasts, which includes this writer, must reconcile a $20 daily for two people.  In and of itself, this graphic presents a fairly straightforward benefit.  But in practice, properties interpret it very differently.  And customers get the fun of keeping track of it all!

And that’s where we go next, dear reader, with my family’s two recent stays.

Our June 2022 Hilton Food and Beverage Credit Experiences

Hilton Garden Inn, Columbia, SC

My wife, two little girls, and I stayed five nights at this property and had plenty of time to optimize our credit.  Coming into the stay, I knew we’d use up the entire credit at breakfast.  Indeed, the predictable, cooked to order breakfast is one of my favorite features of Hilton Garden Inns.

At check-in, the agent notified that the $20 credit must be consumed daily and can be used for breakfast or dinner at The Garden Grille & Bar.  I asked if the credit could be used for items in the hotel store but was told that it wasn’t redeemable there.  Obviously, the property didn’t want to make the credit that easy to use.  Hilton’s hunting for breakage.

No surprise, we opted for daily breakfast for the four of us at The Garden Grille.  We ended up with bills a bit over $30 daily.  With gratuity, that ended up close to $40 daily, approximately $20 out of pocket daily during the stay.

Hilton Food and Beverage

The Foundry, Asheville, NC

I enjoyed a two night stay here last fall and had no problem using the credit.  This June trip with the whole family changed the credit optics a bit.  The front desk agent advised that the $30 daily credit could be used at Benne on Eagle restaurant, The Workshop Lounge, or the hotel’s store.  It turns out the Hilton food and beverage credit is redeemable for anything at the store, including items that are, ahem, neither food nor beverage.

This stay was also two nights, and the wife and I used the entire first credit for two local draft beers and a cocktail while listening to live music at The Workshop Lounge.  Our bill with gratuity came to about $35.   With our other activities, drinks the second night or breakfast the next morning didn’t fit.  Just before checkout, my wife selected a unique, locally-made shirt.  The total cost was $30, perfectly wiped out by the second credit.

My Keys For Managing the Credit

After several stays in a variety of Hilton brands since the credit has rolled out, I’ve finalized my keys for managing the benefit.  You may notice I didn’t use the term maximize.  I know that there will be times I don’t use this benefit in the most economical manner.  I do know that I’ll effectively use it to augment, to a varying extent, all of our stays.

  • It’s On Me:  I must clarify the exact terms of the individual property’s food and beverage credit at check-in on each Hilton stay.  Likewise, I must ensure it’s appropriately applied prior to finalizing my folio at checkout.  Not coincidentally, I always check out in person.
  • Each Experience Stands Alone:  I can’t expect the same benefit application ever.  I must expect each hotel will handle the benefit differently.  Otherwise, I’m setting myself up for disappointment.  The expectations bar will remain low, but I’ll leave room for a pleasant surprise.
  • You Get What You Pay For:  I won’t limit the credit to items and experiences which avoid me going out of pocket.  I keep an open my mind to credit uses that are unique to the property, enhancing my local experience.  From my perspective, paying a bit for that while saving a few bucks with the credit is a net win.
  • Appreciate The Improvement:  Mark nailed it when the credit first rolled out.  The traditional elite breakfast credit, which he sometimes didn’t get to use, is now more flexible for use throughout the day and is perceivable as an improved version of the benefit.
  • Get Over It:  Program changes happen.  Pining for days and benefits gone by is futile.  I’ll embrace the credit that I’m currently entitled to, even if it may have been better in the past at a given property.

Hilton Food and Beverage

Conclusion

Of course, I’m not deluded (enough) to think that the changes with the Hilton food and beverage credit won’t make me reevaluate future lodging decisions.  I may pick an IHG, Hyatt, Marriott, Wyndham, Choice, or, gasp, non-points hotel over a Hilton in the future based on this benefit change.  But overall, I’ll happily accept the benefits that many of us have easily obtained, thanks primarily to easy elite status from the co-branded Amex cards.  What’s your current opinion of the Hilton food and beverage credit?  How has your opinion changed?

Benjy Harmon
Benjy is a fan of points, miles, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently focuses on roaming throughout the USA expense-free (or close to it). He enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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18 COMMENTS

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18 COMMENTS

  1. We try hard to find Executive lounges on any Hilton stays. There are less and less of them it seems, but they always have free breakfast and usually, some kind of late afternoon/early evening snacks and even, light dinner, most evenings. That way, we can double dip on the FB credit.
    Or simply, book a property that offers these goodies within the stay, like Homewood Suites, which has early evening light dinners Mon-Thursdays.
    Lastly, always scour HH offers/emails/promos. We got an email promo of a $100 per day FB credit at the NYC downtown Conrad. But, we already booked our dates there at the time of the promo. We called the HH desk and they honored the promo, and we got the $150 credit. The $100 promo AND our “usual” $50 per day since it was a Conrad property.

  2. Great article. I, too, have found much variation in how properties allow you to apply the credit. I do enjoy it when you can use it in the pantry at HGI. I like your recommendation to clarify a check-in where you can use the credit. I’ll be doing that from now on
    Amy @turtleshelltravel

  3. My recent experiences taught me to check out in person to ensure that it has been applied in full. It is too much hassle on a road trip to chase it up after, when not applied correctly.

  4. Most definitely a downgrade. This has me searching for other properties when the garden inn used to be our go to.
    Having the hassle of check out and verifying we didn’t get charged just keeps making it worse.

  5. I’m not “getting over it” because while this program did change, it only affected U.S. The rest of the world, the benefit is as it was before. This is a moronic double standard, pure greed on the part of Hilton because domestic demand is through the roof. I guess I should be glad it hasn’t changed everywhere. But then what is the point of elite status then?

  6. I still have my fingers crossed for a permanent implementation that allows for the option of breakfast for 2 OR the daily $ credit. But like you ended, I, too, will probably just have to get over it (:

    • Andrew P,
      I’d love to see both options, as well. Can you imagine how much more confusing it would be at checkout, though? 😉

  7. I need to start checking out in person as Benjy recommends, about half the time I have used Hilton since this downgrade started, I have had to call later to get the credit applied. Although I am one of those who often benefits from this change, picking up a few bucks on some stays isn’t worth the uncertainty and aggravation. Before this change I would check Hilton prices against a couple of other hotels and unless there was a big difference against Hilton I would just stay at Hilton. With this new change, IHG, especially Holiday Inn Express, is my new default. I’ve even stayed at Best Western a couple times on road trips which I never did previously.

    • Michael,
      Bravo to your nuanced approach! Incidentally, I too enjoy Holiday Inn Express and certain Best Westerns.

  8. On my last Hilton stay, I got a nice pancake platter with bacon & eggs on a Doubletree hotel in Alabama. This was better than what we used to get. I know this will vary by hotel like you said.

  9. I don’t like the set-up on international stays. Instead of a credit, some Hiltons offer a measly continental breakfast like the one I had recently in Vancouver, BC. I checked my future international stays and most of them listed continental breakfasts as the only option. Sad. This might be my last go-around with Hilton — at least internationally.

    • Andre,
      Ironically, the continental breakfast is what elites were entitled to under the old program. Indeed, some like the new benefit over the old one.

    • I recently stayed at a Hilton in Reykjavik and also one in Stockholm. I was told the free breakfast included anything on the menu (in Iceland) and the full buffet (including omelette station) in Stockholm. The Stockholm Slussen Hilton even has a separate seating area for VIP and Diamond members. Also got upgraded at both properties without bothering to ask. IMHO international properties (at least in Europe and Asia) have great benefits (at least for Diamond members)

      • I stayed at the Canopy in Reykjavik a year ago when overseas travel first surged, and they had a wonderful breakfast buffet that was offered free to everyone, not just elites. I hope that benefit has survived!

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