Hilton Honors Diamond: The Only Top-Tier Status for Me
Over the years, I’ve held various top-tier hotel, airline, and train elite status levels. Yes, Amtrak elite status. Organically obtaining all of these status tiers did provide a sense of accomplishment, as silly as it sounds. But things change.
I’m unable to meet elite status, even low- or mid-tier, strictly through travel anymore. You may have read about my apathy toward airline elite status. I do hold hotel elite status in higher regard. In my opinion, airline elite status is fleeting; I spend way more time in hotels.
However, I can’t meet status through stays, since I use points for almost all of our travel. But I do hold one top-tier elite status: Hilton Honors Diamond. Here’s why I care about holding this top-tier elite status more than any other.
1. Ease of Qualification
While many programs require meeting an annual stay or night requirement to obtain top-tier elite status, I simply bought Diamond status with Hilton. As a holder of the American Express Hilton Aspire card, I was granted Diamond status and many other benefits for the card’s $450 annual fee. Fitting into the lower segment of ultra-premium card annual fees, I appreciate the ease of purchasing the status. Many have stated that elite status degrades when it can be bought, resulting in less exclusivity of said status. From my perspective, that theory can never be definitively proven or disproven. But if I enjoy the status at the amount I pay regardless if it’s diluted, I’m saving the time- and resource-consuming effort of organically obtaining that status.
When I was younger, I couldn’t care less about a full breakfast. I would rather get an extra half hour of sleep than eat breakfast. But in the years since, I’ve embraced it more and more, particularly during travel. I like Hilton’s straightforward policies toward the breakfast benefit. Hilton Honors states that all Gold and Diamond members enjoy complimentary breakfast at all hotels. That’s complimentary breakfast not only to top-tier elites (Diamond), but mid-tier elites (Gold), as well. Pick up the American Express Hilton Surpass for automatic Gold status.
How does that compare to some other chains’ policies for elite complimentary breakfast? Hyatt’s policy is similar to Hilton’s policy, providing elite breakfast at the top-tier Globalist level. In my experiences, Hyatt’s policy has been even more generous than Hilton’s, back when I was last a Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond member (don’t laugh). I understand from Globalists that they continue to be happy with Hyatt’s breakfast benefits.
Marriott? Even if you meet the top status, you aren’t guaranteed complimentary breakfast. I have seen others compose intricate flowcharts and graphs to describe Marriott’s breakfast benefit. I can’t help but laugh every time I see one of those analyses. Of course, I’m not laughing at any individual’s work; I’m laughing at how confusing Marriott has purposefully made the benefit resulting in these niche analyses. I refused to give in to Marriott’s draconian breakfast policies. I’ve been done with Marriott since.
3. Hilton Garden Inn
It just so happens one of my favorite hotel lines (if not THE favorite) is Hilton Garden Inn. Okay, some of you may be thinking, “That’s random.” Let me explain.
At Hilton Garden Inn, each of my stays has been predictable, in a good way. I know I’ll get a certain level of attentive, yet non-stuffy, service. Also, I know I’m getting the all-important cooked-to-order breakfast. On the few occasions something has been lacking, staff has gone out of their way to correct it. Point redemption rates are fairly reasonable. I’ve enjoyed these properties solo and with my family. Personally, I just like the feel of this hotel line. Maybe I’m a square. I don’t need to feel like I’m in a nightclub in order to check in to a hotel.
4. Location, Location, Location
The Hilton portfolio has vast availability domestically and internationally. I reliably know that wherever I fly, drive, or take a train, I can most likely find some sort of Hilton property. While I like Hyatt just as much, and maybe a smidge more, than Hilton, I simply can’t find a Hyatt everywhere I travel.
5. Points Earning
Out of the major hotel brands, Hilton probably gets the worst publicity for points value. And some of that may be justified. I feel like they should just take one digit off of their per-night award rates, so that we could talk about multi-night stays not involving hundreds of thousands of points.
However, in my opinion, Hilton more than compensates for this by making points extremely easy to earn. My favorite category for earning is 6x with the American Express Hilton Surpass at grocery stores, which also counts toward a free weekend night anywhere once $15k annual spend is met. While I don’t have paid hotel stays, those who do will be happy to know that a Hilton Aspire cardmember can earn 34 points per dollar when taking into account their Diamond elite status and cardmember bonus. Of course, periodic Hilton promotions earn additional points.
Another credit card shout-out: American Express is very generous with Hilton credit card welcome and upgrade offers.
6. Hilton Diamond Status Elite Recognition
I continually feel like my Hilton Honors Diamond status has been recognized throughout all of my experiences with their properties. I haven’t kept copious notes of my stays, but I feel like I have received upgrades on the majority of my visits. The most memorable (but not necessarily most opulent) example of this was when we were upgraded to the Napua Tower at the Grand Wailea on a points stay for a basic room. I’m sure others have great upgrade stories.
Another note: while Hilton Honors program terms state Diamond status provides complimentary breakfast for the member and one additional person, my kids routinely receive it, as well. Lastly, I have received complimentary late checkout every time I have asked for it.
Hilton Honors Diamond Status – Final Thoughts
These are the primary reasons I only hold top-tier elite status with Hilton Honors. I’d also like to make one more quick plug for Hilton Honors’ mid-tier status, Gold. In the few years I haven’t held Diamond, I’ve definitely been happy with my experiences as a Gold member. I recall being happier with Hilton Honors Gold status than top-tier status with some other hotel programs.
Do you value Hilton Honors Diamond and Gold elite status? How does it compare with your experience with other hotel brands’ elite programs?
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We’ve been Diamond for several years. The breakfast and upgrades are very good but we really like the Executive Lounge. Free Happy Hour is great. We especially like the Hilton Heathrow T4 location. We have stayed there at least 15 times over the past few years.
Thanks for reading and the Hilton Heathrow recommendation!
With Lifetime Diamond at Hilton, its obvious that I have a lot of head in the bed nights over the years and I do love me some Hilton. Along the way, I have stayed at a lot of Marriotts, IHGs, but few Hyatts. As you said, just about anywhere you go domestically or internationally, there is a Hilton. I have a couple of the Hilton Amex cards to get those points in everyday buy and at the Hiltons. So, yeah, Hilton Diamond is my only elite status in hotels these days after retirement.
Oh, I love the comment about Train Elite status, and while I don’t have that, I did do the PDX-Sacramento overnighter on Amtrak and in looking for a hotel, found Hilton’s Embassy Suite’s Riverfront and was treated like royalty upon my arrival and departure. As I said, I do love me some Hilton.
Thanks for reading and your comments. The Coast Starliner route, correct? I love that route and will have to check out that Embassy Suites property you mentioned. I’m a big fan of the Empire Builder and California Zephyr Amtrak routes, as well.
As a Hilton gold through my business platinum Amex card, I’m pretty happy. The difference in benefits from gold to diamond is more nuanced than other programs, so gold is good enough for me. With Hilton as my number two behind Hyatt (Globalist), this just works.
Thanks for the comment! I agree that Hilton Gold provides solid mid-tier status. In my experiences, room upgrades have been more routine at the Diamond level, although I recall getting upgraded with Gold as well.
The unfortunate truth about Hilton: lounge access and breakfast in the US/Caribbean are mediocre experiences. They are much, much better in EU and Asia.
Agreed! In my opinion, the truth you told applies to many other domestic hotel and airline brands, as well.
I too have the card and love the Diamond elite status. The free breakfast and club/executive lounge access have more than paid for the annual fee for the Aspire card on many trips. The free weekend night certificate is icing on top of the cake.
All great points! Thanks for reading.
HUGE Hilton Honors fan. After working my way to Gold the old fashioned way (stays), I was invited to apply for the Surpass card. Instant Gold status! As far as I’m concerned, I’ve earned it because I put “boots to the ground “ in the past. Thinking about upgrading to the Surpass card for Diamond status, but I’m the COVID-19 era, I’m holding off until things get better. When they do, I’m heading back to Hilton in a big way.
Before upgrading your Surpass to the Aspire, I would first recommend receiving a welcome bonus via a new Aspire card application (if you haven’t already). You could save upgrading to the Aspire for future years. Thanks for reading!