The basics of Hilton HHonors Gold and Diamond status

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Earlier in the week Citi unveiled the details of their new Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card, which comes with HHonors Gold status for as long as you have the card, and HHonors Diamond status for any year in which you spend $40,000 on the card. I’ve received quite a few questions as to whether the difference between Gold and Diamond status warrants the extra $40,000 per year of credit card spend, when you could otherwise get Gold status just for having the card and paying the $95 annual fee.

I think the first thing to note is that $40,000 worth of spend is hardly “wasted” on this card, since you earn three points per dollar spent, plus bonus points in select spend categories. Valuing Hilton points at 0.8 cents each, that means you’re getting a return of 2.4 cents per point, which is about the best of any card out there for non-bonus category spend, in my opinion. Furthermore, if you spend $10,000 on the card annually you get a free weekend night certificate, which can be redeemed at some pretty pricey Hilton family properties.

With that in mind, let’s discuss the basics of Hilton Gold and Diamond status:

Qualification requirements (if not earning status through credit card):
Gold: 16 stays, 36 nights, 60,000 base points (equivalent of $6,000 spend)
Diamond: 28 stays, 60 nights, or 100,000 base points (equivalent of $10,000 spend)

Points bonus for hotel stays:
Gold: 25% bonus on base points earned
Diamond: 50% bonus on base points earned

Executive lounge access:
Gold: Access to the Executive lounge only if you get a room upgrade to the executive floor
Diamond: Access to the executive lounge regardless of whether or not you get upgraded to the executive floor


Breakfast spread in executive lounge at Conrad Hong Kong

Room upgrades (at Conrad, Hilton, and Doubletree properties):
Gold: May include the next-best available room from the room type booked. Upgrades may also be rooms with desirable views, corner rooms, rooms on high floors, rooms with special amenities or rooms on executive floor.
Diamond: Same as the above, plus upgrades may include suites. That’s not to say the hotel has to upgrade you to a suite if it’s available (like with Starwood, for example), but the terms and conditions do allow for upgrades to suites at the hotel’s discretion (which is a recent development).

Additional hotel amenities (at Conrad, Hilton, and Doubletree properties):
Gold: 1,000 HHonors bonus points per stay OR complimentary continental breakfast
Diamond: 1,000 HHonors bonus points per stay AND complimentary continental breakfast

Internet access:
Gold: Complimentary in-room internet access to the highest speed wifi offered
Diamond: Same as above

There are also some benefits at Hilton’s other brands (Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites, etc.), ranging from bonus points to junk food, though there’s very little difference in what’s offered to Gold and Diamond members, so to keep things simple we’ll leave that out of the equation.

So “big picture” the major differences between Gold and Diamond status as I see them are as follows:

  • Diamond members are guaranteed executive lounge access, while it’s on a space available basis for Gold members (based on whether or not they get upgraded to an executive floor room). As a Gold member I’ve received an upgrade to an executive floor room every time there was one, along with corresponding lounge access. That’s based on only about a dozen stays, though, so I’m not suggesting everyone else will have as much luck. But it’s certainly worth something to be guaranteed lounge access, especially for a longer stay in a city that’s expensive.
  • Diamond members may get better room upgrades, benefits, and treatment at hotels. The terms and conditions state that Diamond members may be upgraded to suites, while it doesn’t say the same for Gold members. So at your run of the mill Hilton chances are you’re not getting a great upgrade either way, though I think the more elite heavy and “nice” the hotel is, the bigger difference you’ll see between the two elite tiers. For example, Diamond members occasionally report receiving suite upgrades at the Conrad Tokyo and consistently receive upgrades to harbor view rooms at the Conrad Hong Kong, while that’s often not the case for Gold members. Furthermore, some hotels will offer special amenities to Diamond members but not Gold members. The Conrad Koh Samui, for example, offers Diamond members a complimentary 60-minute massage for two, which they don’t offer Gold members.

The way I look at it, the other differences are insignificant for someone looking to achieve the status based on credit card spend. For example, Gold members have to choose between breakfast and 1,000 points, while Diamond members get both. I value 1,000 HHonors points at $8, so that’s hardly a reason to put $40,000 of spend on a credit card. The same goes for the difference in points bonuses you earn for your hotel stays, which are insignificant unless you plan on making dozens of stays at Hilton properties a year.

So is it worth putting the $40,000 of spend on the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card? Not surprisingly, my answer is “it depends.” Here’s the closest thing I can give to a “fair” answer — if you’re not a huge credit card spender, it’s probably not worth going for Diamond status, since you’re probably better off focusing on meeting the minimum spend on credit cards you’re churning.

But if you’re a big credit card spender and a lot of your spend is in categories that don’t otherwise earn bonuses, then this is absolutely worth it.

For $40,000 of spend it’s tough to beat top tier status in a hotel program, a free weekend night, and 120,000+ Hilton HHonors points, in my opinion.

In my last post about the card I used my parents as an example. They own a business where they put $100,000+ per year of business expenses on a credit card, a vast majority of which aren’t in a category that earns bonus points on another credit card. So right now they’re using the Starwood American Express. It’s also a great credit card, though I think it totally makes sense for them to switch $40,000 of spend to this credit card so they’ll earn Diamond status, tons of points they can use for hotel stays, and a free night annually. They wouldn’t otherwise have hotel status, so I think the value of this is huge for their handful of hotel stays annually.

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Comments

  1. I emailed my local Citibank to advise them to consider bringing these co-branded cards into Singapore… ;p Hope they will consider in the future…

  2. As a 2 year Diamond, I don’t feel the difference between Gold and Diamond is worth it. I haven’t experienced the treatment I’d expect as a top tier elite. I’m looking and booking elsewhere. Hilton is now my backup hotel.

  3. I used to be Diamond and now have Gold and recently got a nice upgrade at the Conrad in Sanya with a private pool. It is still considered a room though (Villa) and not a suite. I doubt I would have gotten more being Diamond.
    I did only get maybe 3 suite upgrades in about 3 years of Diamond with 2 of them being for business stays where I could care less.
    Also Hilton tends to up sell their upgrades.
    I do agree with your summary, if its easy for you to spend 40k go for Diamond but don’t try to go all out because the differences are not big enough.

  4. One comment about Citi vs. Amex surpass to do this:

    Amex Surpass has 6X gas, grocery, etc. so, if creative, you can get 40k at 6x which is double the points. I just figured out how to pull this off for myself “creatively.”

  5. prob buying visa or amex giftcards at a gas or grocery store and use those cards for the 40k in spend…you then end of with 240000 points.
    There are other things you can do to make it even sweeter 🙂 ..but that is the basics.

  6. @MilesQuest
    Gift cards (not visa cash cards) for other stores bought at my local Kroger grocery stores have been posting as grocery spend. Plus you can really rack up the fuel saver points doing this if you buy gas from them as well.

  7. The question is: how many months can you spend $3333 on “groceries” before you find yourself in an account review? I bet the answer doesn’t get you to 40k in spend…

  8. Lucky, how common are great “cash and points” values at high end properties? (I’ve seen some great values posted in the Boarding Area blogs – for example $350 cash rate, 50,000 points, or 25,000 points plus $79 – but when I browse hotels, I find properties are either not taking C+P, or are offering much less attractive values.)

  9. One more benefit to being Diamond is that they’ll actually kick someone else out of the hotel to get you a room, or at least they will if that person hasn’t checked in yet. In general even when the hotel has had no availability, I’ve been able to get a room. I think they don’t guarantee the rate you’ll be paying, but in my case I can always get them to give me the room at my corporate rate. So on the rare occasion I need to “force” my way into the hotel, I don’t end up paying any more than usual.

  10. “they’ll actually kick someone else out of the hotel to get you a room” They’d best not advertise this too loudly if they want us non-Diamonds to reserve a room with them. I’m Gold, so I assume the person being denied a valid reservation will be someone with no status at all rather than me. I just think this is a lousy way to treat people.

    The same with guaranteed late check out, meaning that someone will end up waiting several hours to check-in because a Diamond was allowed to check out late. I wonder how much of this sort of thing the major chains can do before non-status clients no longer want to book with them?

  11. It is possible that my husband will be spending around 6 weeks in a Hilton in the near future. So he gets to gold status quicker should I have him check in and out every night for the first 16 night to create individual stays or will they count it as 1 big stay?

  12. @ Diane — Consecutive check-in/check-outs at the same hotel count as only one stay, unless he switched properties or left a night gap between the stays.

  13. Value-wise, which one to go with? The AMEX HH Surpass with the 240K HH points, or the Citi HH Reserve with 120K HH points & the elite Diamond status?

    Thank you!

  14. Here’s the trick I think…..if you to be “certain” of the Honors floor then you go for more points because the system allows you to upgrade with points and forget relying on status………

  15. Lucky, if I am travelling with my family and book 2~3 Hilton rooms as a diamond member, does it mean all 2~3 rooms will receive the same possible upgrades? Also, are all of the family members and my companions having access to the executive lounge?

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