So, how *do* you approach suite upgrades as a Hilton HHonors Diamond member?

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While Hyatt and Starwood do a lot to differentiate between mid-tier and top-tier status, Hilton and Marriott are kind of the opposite — they don’t do enough to differentiate between mid-tier and top-tier status.

Last year I got the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card (affiliate link), which comes with Hilton HHonors Gold status for as long as you have the card. That’s a huge benefit for a $95 annual fee, given that Gold status gets you complimentary internet and breakfast/lounge access. As far as I’m concerned those are the single most valuable hotel benefits, and justify the annual fee after just one or two stays.


Conrad Singapore Executive Lounge

But the card also offers Diamond status after spending $40,000 on the card in a year. While having the card for Gold status is a no brainer, for the better part of a year I’ve been pondering whether it makes sense to put $40,000 of spend on the card for Diamond status. As far as I’m concerned the two most valuable benefits of Diamond status are as follows:

  • Gold members only get access to the club lounge if they get upgraded to a club room, while Diamond members are guaranteed lounge access (though it’s worth noting that if you don’t get upgraded to the club level as a Gold member you get restaurant breakfast, which many would consider superior).
  • The terms & conditions of the program give Diamond members suite upgrades at the hotel’s discretion. This is different than Starwood where Platinum members get guaranteed suite upgrades based on availability at arrival, but instead with Hilton it’s entirely at the hotel’s discretion. I don’t think there are many Hilton Diamond members getting suite upgrades anywhere close to a majority of the time, though.

In retrospect I should have probably just been happy with Gold status, though I had started working towards the $40,000 of spend before the HHonors devaluation was announced, and at that point figured I might as well go all the way, and now I’m a Diamond member. If it proves worthwhile, great. If it doesn’t, at least I can report back and suggest others don’t go for Diamond status.

I’ve actually had very good luck as an HHonors Gold member. I’ve never been denied lounge access. That being said, I can appreciate the peace of mind of knowing it’s guaranteed. But the suite upgrade benefit is what confuses me, and what I’d love to hear from existing Diamond members about. I also have top tier status with Hyatt and Starwood, and their room upgrade policies are straightforward. Hyatt upgrades you to the best available non-suite, though also gives you four confirmed suite upgrades annually that can be used to lock in a suite at the time of booking. Meanwhile Starwood upgrades you to the best available standard suite at check-in, meaning if a suite is available you’re entitled to it (not saying it always goes that smoothly, but that’s the policy). If you get 50 elite night credits with them, they also give you 10 suite night awards, which can confirm a suite upgrade five days out.

Then you have Hilton, which has this confusing benefit (bolding mine):

Complimentary room upgrades for Gold and Diamond HHonors members 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 Floors, as identified by each property. Room upgrades, for Diamond members only, may also include suites.

The suite upgrade benefit is actually new as of last year. So if my interpretation is correct you receive suite upgrades at the hotel’s discretion. It doesn’t matter whether there are 100 suites available, what matters is the mood of the front desk agent. So, Diamond members, how do you approach suite upgrades at Hilton hotels. Do you:

a) Not care and let them assign you whatever they want?
b) Ask nicely at check-in whether they might have any suite upgrades available?
c) Be a bit more suggestive and say “I noticed online that you’re still selling suites for tonight, do you have any suite upgrades available?”
d) Pull out your Diamond card and pet giraffe, and refuse to move until they give you the presidential suite and waive the pet cleanup fee?

And how often do you actually get suite upgrades?

Staying at my first Hilton abroad as a Diamond member next week, so I want to be sure I’m using the right approach.

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Comments

  1. Can’t help you out, but what would be nice is for some chain to start giving free parking to their top tier elites. The prices are starting to get outrageous, and always cost more than internet.

  2. I hear you @Dbest… Seattle downtown hotel parking is $25-$40 plus 6 to 7 in sales tax. Combine that with a 45 minute wait for your car! I avoid downtown areas.

  3. I guess we usually go for option A. As long as we get lounge access and a king size bed, pretty easy to please. Have been Diamond members for 7 or 8 years and very rarely get a suite, but have never asked either… Have had 3 stays in Europe in the past 3 weeks and only one was a “Junior” suite upgrade–the rest were from our low level points rooms up to executive floor rooms.

  4. I generally don’t ask for a suite, but I have been upgrades to a “junior suite” numerous times without asking….although SPG & Hyatt members wouldn’t call them suites at all. The few times I’ve asked for a real suite upgrade, I have received them. So I’m 100% when asking. But if you don’t ask, you won’t get it.

  5. Sounds like it’s closer to Marriott Platinum which is to say never or at least almost never. Unless the benefit is enforced by the program it may as well not be there.

    About free parking – that just isn’t going to happen, at least not in cities like SF and Seattle.

  6. The Hilton in Savannah used to give Diamond members free valet parking but I agree, you will never see it in a major city where parking is $40-$50 a day comped.

    As for suite upgrades – I laughed when I saw your post… good luck is all I have to say.

  7. I spent a year as a HH Diamond in 2012 and did a few international stays, mostly in spots where a Hyatt wasn’t available or practical. I didn’t come close to requalifying, so back to Gold I went.

    I never received an upgrade to a full suite as a HH Diamond, but 100% received renovated or ‘prime’ rooms, corners, etc.. Once had a junior suite. Breakfast is a great amenity, obviously, with my favorite being at the Conrad Brussels. Service was personable across the board, but I didn’t receive a great deal of special attention as a Diamond. I most certainly don’t demand it, and I’m perfectly happy being left to myself, but I really appreciate it when it comes my way.

    Overall, I am much happier directing the lion’s share of my hotel spend to Hyatt, where I feel far more ‘rewarded’ for my business as a Diamond. In my opinion, HH Gold is the best mid-tier status for the benefits, even better that it can be attained by simply holding the HH Amex. With the recent HH devaluation, you don’t get nearly as much in return for $40k annual spend on the card. Accordingly, I think the Diamond-by-way-of-spending benefit is diluted substantially, since the on-property experience of HH Diamond is unspectacular vis-a-vis Gold, in my view.

  8. I’ve been either Gold or Diamond with Hilton for the last 15 years or so and to be honest, I’ve not seen any appreciable status-related difference with regards to on-property treatment. I’ve gotten upgrades to suites at about the same rate, even when the benefit doesn’t specifically include them for Golds. Granted, pretty much all my stays are international rather than in North America, but there is no real difference even on my smaller sample of North American stays.

    That said, I rarely actually want a suite if I am traveling alone, so I almost never ask for one. I much prefer having a decent room with lounge access. In that respect, I tend to use tact B, but with respect to an Executive Floor room rather than a suite. Usually gets them to at least check, and sometimes gets me the upgrade I was due that had been inadvertently overlooked.

  9. I got upgraded to a ‘Junior Suite’ 2-3 times last year as a Diamond member, without asking for an upgrade or do the ‘DYKWIA’. Be nice to the front desk staff and maybe flirt a little bit, the latter usual works!

  10. my approach is to write to the property before hand and ‘remind’ them of the benefits of a diamond member. but only when on vacation, while on work i don’t need more than a room!

  11. Been Diamond for almost a decade. At the old Tysons Doubletree I was always upgraded to a suite but otherwise, nada. I think Diamonds getting upgrading to suites is an urban myth. US lounges are awful, I can’t imagine anyone pays for access. Boston Logan is a perfect example- a few hours a day they toss some generic cookies, cheese squares and apples in a corner and put out a few bottles of soda. That’s it. I’m on the fence about pursuing Diamond this year, haven’t been putting spend on any of my HH cards. Asian/European lounges are excellent but with the devaluation it’s hard to justify spend or stays beyond Gold.

  12. I was a Diamond for 6 or 7 years. I did get some good upgrades, but I am now Hilton Gold and I do not see a tremendous difference

  13. Ben –

    Slightly OT, but per the image you post above your earning preference is points and points.

    Why still points and points, after the devaluation?

    Thanks,

    Lark

    PS I did a Diamond challenge ending last June (20 or 21 nights in 90 days, from Marriott Plat.)

    I have since stayed in Hiltons (all levels except resorts) about 30 nights. I don’t think I have received a suite upgrade once. Sometimes I get a nicer room.

    I love it when they tell you you have have been upgraded, but when you get to your room it does not seem like a upgrade at all…

    Although my Marriott stays trended down last year, they gave me complimentary Plat for this year, and I have been starting to move back over to Marriotts…

  14. @ Lark — Hah, to be honest I haven’t even given it any thought post devaluation. I do still value five HHonors points more than one airline mile, so I’d rather do “points & points” than “points & variable airline miles.” As far as “points & fixed miles” go, I guess I value 500 airline miles at about 2,000 HHonors points, so for stays of less than $400 I should choose that. Well, at least assuming it’s at a property that offers 500 miles and not 100 miles.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  15. as gold I never got lounge access – ever. as diamond i got a suite upgrade at waldorf park city, which was amazing, and of course now always get lounge perks. of course their points are worthless now so I’m booking Park city for next year and moving to hyatt.

  16. When travelling for work I generally don’t care, so go with a) and concentrate on making sure I get as quiet a room as possible. Will go to b) only when travelling with wife/family and it matters to me.

    Totally property dependent. I’ve had good luck getting suites at some properties in the US(Waldorf New York, Checkers LA, Hilton Hawaiian Village) and pretty much zero at others (Capitol Hilton, 15 stays in a row without one at the Palmer House, until I sent a polite email to their flyertalk rep asking what their policy was when I got upgraded for my next stay). I’ve also had some upgrades in hotels I could care less about getting upgraded in, such as the Doubletree Pittsburgh and Hilton Pasadena.

    Benefits work better in Asia in my experience, with terrific rooms at the Conrads in Hong Kong and Bangkok. I’ve not got enough experience in Europe to judge.

  17. I was at the Doubletree by Hilton in Kuala Lumpur as a Gold last year. The staff said the best they could “upgrade” my normal room was to a room on the Executive Floor. To get a suite, I would have had to have Diamond status.

  18. Well none of these lovely CC shortcuts over here in UK so I’ve had to maintain Diamond the hard way 🙁 If I want to try and be sure of a good room then I tend to contact the GM in advance – I only do this on special trips, not just routine ones, but have had great success doing so as Diamond.

  19. We’ve been Diamond for several years and have only been given a suite a handful of times a year. I think one factor no one is mentioning is the length of stay. Every time we have been given a suite has been on one of our shorter stays of 1-2 nights. The one exception was The Skirvin in OKC where they have us a beautiful suite for about 6 consecutive weeks.
    We usually go with A or B….

  20. I don’t feel that there are many incremental benefits for being Diamond vs. Gold. I have gotten a suite maybe once. I generally get pretty good treatment when I stay at full service Hilton properties, but almost never get an upgraded room. It does mean that Diamond is close to worthless. Another reason to get rid of the credit card after I use up my HH points, booked before the deval.

  21. I’ve been Diamond since 2002 and just in the past 2 years have seen more suite upgrades. My normal hotel is the Conrad Singapore. I would say 50% of the time I get a suite. I was at the Conrad Chicago in Feb for 3 nights and they gave me the Presidents suite. The Conrad Bali has always upgraded me.

  22. As a gold I got suites at 2 different hiltons in the phoenix area. Both were very nice. Didnt ask or expect it in either case. In Munich we were placed on the lounge floor which was nice to get free drinks and food.

  23. Seems like I received more suite upgrades the last couple of years when they were trying to win business, but now the upgrades are not as frequent since the hotels are busier and the devaluation is in force. Might drop back to Gold next year.

  24. Option A for my husband. He has been Diamond for six months and hasn’t received an upgrade to a suite yet.

    What matters to him is the guaranteed lounge access.

  25. I have been Hilton Diamond since year 2010. Last year, after being badly abused by Double Tree Niagara Falls (in Canada), I decided to give up hilton status (already had 28 stays for a gold status into 2013). However, Hilton still gave me a Diamond in year 2013. But I have not made a single stay in Hilton this year.

    During my past 3 years Hilton Diamond, I was never given a suites upgrade even if I occasionally travel with my family — I never asked for it, either. I don’t think Hilton is willing to automatically give you a suite upgrade. However, many hilton hotels gave me free breakfast, not only for me but also for everyone I put in my reservation. The most impressive was Hilton Back Bay in Boston, that told me over the phone I could only get 1 free breakfast but actually gave me 6 free breakfast buffet (I brought relatives and parents, too) every day.

    I was mistreated by Double Tree twice. Going forward, if I again choose Hilton, I’d avoid Double Treet whenever possible.

    As a Marriott platinum since 2011, I did get suites upgrade a few times a year (my feeling is marriott hotel gave me free upgrade when I checked in late and they still had suites available).

    After I earned starwood platinum in Feb 2012, Starwood always put me on Suites floor and always gave me access to club lounge. They made me happy. However, after almost each stay, I most likely need to question on their reward calculation. On average, out of 10 stays, they made mistakes in at least 8. They wasted me a lot of time to argue and get them straight. I complained so many times but they apologized and repeated theur mistake again tomorrow.

  26. I’ve been Diamond for 2 years

    Last week at Dubai Residence Jumeirah Beach, I requested 1 studio for my wife, me and the twins, expecting to go to the next level which was a 2-bedroom suite.

    I got an email from the hotel asking what do I need, and I mentioned the upgrade, they said “it is subject to availability”.

    On my way to the airport I checked and there were plenty of 2 bedroom suites.

    On arrival I got 3-bedroom suite upgrade! not bad at all.

    Other properties is one level upgrade, like in Conrad Hong Kong, Hilton Singapore, Conrad Miami.

  27. I feel like I received better “room” treatment when I was Gold. I was upgraded about 75% of the time. And the 25% of the time I wasn’t, someone mentioned not being able to upgrade due to sell out or whatever and apologized profusely.

    Since being Diamond…0% upgrades and 0% mentions of not being able to upgrade due to the hotel being busy or whatever. But they sure as hell love to say “thanks for being a valued diamond member!” I don’t feel very valued!!!

  28. I was normally upgraded to a suite in Asia; although, once I was downgraded to a suite below what I had booked and offered no appology when I called them out on it.

  29. Just ask “Is there any reason why a suite upgrade is not available for me today please?”

    Only genuine reasons will be given by competent staff.

    If staff less than helpful, just ask if it would improve your chances if you spoke to a manager if they are not authorised to do it. Managers do not like the hassle of being called in for such matters, and their staff know it.

    Do all this with a smile on your face and address them by name.

  30. Lucky, enjoy your international Hilton stay. I stayed at the Hilton Nagoya a few months ago as a Gold and they treated me better than I have ever been treated in a hotel.

  31. I,ve been a diamond member for just over 6 months, and found i have ben upgraded 8 times out of 10 stays, this has mostly been at sheffied hilton , and manchester deans gate, I also find some of the hotels at london have been really helpful, and if they have not had an upgrade, its usually an early/late check out, shame about the points deval, but 5th night free is good, overall I find hilton great, also in uk, 2nd room discounted if for kids, thx craig and liz saunders.

  32. Was a Gold for years and Diamond for the past 4. I’ve received more benefits as a Gold than I have as a Diamond. As a comparison, I’m Platinum with SPG and have never not received an upgrade! If my travel ever drops, I’m letting my Diamond status go first since I can’t point to one benefit I’m receiving over Gold…..

  33. Gold does seem like the sweet spot at Hilton. Breakfast, Internet, and elite treatment virtually at the same level as Diamond. You still need a chain like Hilton, Marriott or Choice in your portfolio because of their sheer size, SPG & Hyatt simply aren’t everywhere, but SPG & Hyatt have better top elite trreatment.

    One other complaint I have about Hilton vs. SPG & Hyatt, is that at SPG & Hyatt 4pm late checkout is a guaranteed benefit (except at resorts), while at Hilton it is only “on request”/”if available”. Even as a Diamond in a city hotel which likely has late arrivals and in a normal room, I’ve been told that the latest they can give me is 2pm. (Of course later is available if I’ll pay extra.) Top elite treatment just isn’t that good, nor are the points…

  34. I was upgraded to a large suite at the Venice (IT) Hilton on a points stay. Also, to a palace suite (huge) at the Waikaloa Hilton on another points stay, both as a Diamond.

  35. Few folks seem to be answering the question at hand.
    My answer: a) Not care and let them assign you whatever they want?

    I’ve been Diamond for the past 14 years and long ago decided that Hilton’s idea of an upgrade had been downgraded to something along the lines of getting the room with “the new blue curtains instead of the old red ones”. Long gone is the feeling that they actually appreciate my continued business.

    I now use Hyatt as my primary and HHonors only when needed because of their wider coverage. That generally means a Hampton in the small towns. So maybe I’m not qualified to comment on the “new” Diamond upgrades … anytime I’m in a city with a nice Hilton, I’m at the Hyatt 😮

    These comments are for US properties. International HHonors properties have been very good to me.

  36. Sadly, Grand Hilton Seoul does not upgrade its Golds to its lounge, at least my experience lately. It’s been an upgrade only to a higher floor and on the city side = noisy street traffic. When I paid for Club access, it hasn’t been worth it. The lounge food there is not as good as it was six months ago. They seem to not be putting out a variety of selections, nor much of it. I now do my pamper weekends – SPG, Grand Hyatt, or Intercontinental in Seoul.

  37. In my experience staying with friends and business partners who had gold rather than my diamond status, I’ve always gotten the nicer room. It isn’t just suites; it could be it is on a higher floor, newly renovated, and/or on the exec lounge. When you need a 2 bed room, there usually isn’t a suite option so often these are what you get as a upgrade. When staying in a full hotel, it is nice knowing you always will get lounge access.

    Also, the treatment when you have an issue is better when you are diamond. When staying in a hotel where we had an issue with housekeeping not showing up, my friend got ~$50 off the stay, we got the whole $150 stay comped. (and we both didn’t make a big deal – just asked for more towels at the front desk and explained why)

    9 times out of 10 the check in person will tell you if you are upgraded or not. If they don’t, I just ask if one is available; it doesn’t hurt to try! In the end though, it really depends on the occupancy rate of a hotel. If it is a full house, you are going to get the room you reserved. If you are there on a long stay, your likelihood of getting a suite goes down since it needs to be open the whole week rather than a night. It always seems to be you get the presidential suite when staying in a hotel for only 9 hours!

  38. a)

    I’ve been Diamond for about 5 years, and mostly I travel alone for business and I couldn’t care less if I have a suite or not. I just want a decent desk to work at and good internet. In general Hilton in the US does these as well as anybody.

    When I happen to have the family along it can be very beneficial to have a suite so we can put the two year old down and still have some lights on/watch TV. I’ve only requested a suite a few times and gotten it most every time.

    For me the lounge access and free internet are worth A LOT. I generally stay at a couple of properties over and over again and the front desk staff tend to treat me pretty well. For example I can generally get a room even if the hotel is sold out, AND get the room at the corporate rate even though the diamond guarantee is that I’d have to pay the prevailing rate to kick somebody else out.

  39. I was a Gold Member, with Hilton credit card, went for the 21days to diamond, anyway after a couple of missing stays, hilton, went ahead, and gave me diamond after 18 stays/nights, Found the diamond really good, as went to Kona Hilton,and Hilton Vega, and got great room, many thanks to hilton, at kona,Vrgas, great Hotel,s thx Liz

  40. Hilton Diamond is the worst tier ever. period.
    Ever since the got rid of diamond force
    and degraded / changed their point system Hilton is flooded with freeby tier members who got their status in just a few stays, and they are pushing out all their loyal big spenders.
    Hilton needs to seriously replace who ever is in charge their loyalty program now or everyone will be moving to other chains now that treat their best tier members with respect and care

  41. Does anybody know what happened to the e-upgrades one used to be able to register for, in advance? I have several stays coming up and no e-upgrades link is offerd on the reservations page, anymore.

  42. I think it all depends when/where you stay. I am 100% on being upgraded at the Hilton Elara in Vegas with the one last week to a corner penthouse suite. Then when I am in AZ I have always received a suite upgrades as well. When I am traveling on business it is usually just a executive upgrade but I have had great luck on my vacations.

  43. I am Hilton hhonors gold, and have had great Success with upgrades…got a SWEET suite at the Conrad in downtown Miami, FL 2 visits in a row, room upgrade at Waldorf in key west, lots more upgrades at Hilton’s and Doubletrees…oh and I ALWAYS ask for it…they have great customer service, and they know Gold and Diamond expect it!!

  44. For business or a quick overnight, doesn’t matter to me whether I get a suite or premier room or not, since I’m usually just in and out.

    For vacations, especially family vacations where more space is needed, I’ve been fairly lucky in getting suites — sometimes very large suites — when they are available. I usually put a note when making a reservation, noting any special celebrations. Upon check-in, I may ask again politely. About an 80-90% success rate.

    The benefit that has saved me the most is having the Diamond Desk assist in getting late cancellation fees waived when plans change unexpectedly.

    I’ve had a fairly positive experience as a Diamond in getting additional perks and great service when at the hotel. I think staff do recognize that Gold can be had fairly easily by anyone with a credit card, whereas it’s significantly more difficult to achieve Diamond.

    What I’ve found is with the new upgrade policy, hotels have not left behind as many “welcome” goodies or presents upon arrival; these used to be left on the regular when I traveled in the past. But I think since they may change your room upon arrival, they don’t leave these as much.

  45. I just it diamond status with HH last year. I had been gold for about 5 years prior. I don’t travel for business, so all the traveling I do is out of my own pocket. For me the Hiltons offer more of a variety and are in more locations that I travel to so I have stayed with HH instead of going to Hyatt or other brands. The major difference I see with Diamond is an automatic upgrade to a better room prior to arrival. As a gold member, I would request a better room when I checked in and most of the time would get it. As a diamond member, I can log into my HH account the morning of arrival and actually see what room they have upgraded me to, usually a jr. suite, or some type of premium room. Because I travel with my own money, I book the cheapest room and hope for an upgrade. I have always at least gotten executive level. I’ve noticed better service as a diamond member too. Free bee’s like drinks and appetizers on occasion which is always nice. As a diamond member I have been upgraded to 2 presidential suites but I have had to ask for the upgrade at check in. (yes I stayed 30+ nights at a hotel last year, not for business. . lol. Traveling is my hobby!)

  46. I’ve been Gold for 5 years and Diamond 2 but find that 9/10 times I get an upgrade of some sort. Probably about 1/5 stays I’ll get a suite, only once have I received a two-bedroom suite and never a presidential suite. I find you need to ask for an upgrade every time and remind the hotel that as Gold/Diamond you are entitled to one.

    I have always requested a suite (usually in the comments section, and also by calling the hotel on check in day in the morning). Many times hotels will tell you its based on availability at check in but they CAN lock in an upgrade and your room number a few hours or even the day beforehand (most front desk agents are just unwilling). I’ve done e-check quite a bit but find only sometimes do upgraded rooms appear here, never suites.

    Someone mentioned the DT Niagara Falls here – I have stayed here a couple of times always booking the basic room type and they are pretty stingy in their upgrades, as a gold and diamond I have never got a suite even when they are available, only a higher floor. I also booked a suite there once, expecting to be upgraded to the next room type up (whirlpool suite), but they refused.

    I think its best to be as nice as possible to the front desk agent and kindly request an upgrade; seems to work for me most of the time.

  47. I have only ever received one suite upgrade as a Diamond member – at the DoubleTree Bristol Cadbury House. The also threw in a full English breakfast rather than the basic continental. This seems to be the norm in Hilton and DoubleTree properties across the UK.

    The worse excuse I ever received was at the Hilton London Metropole. They recognised my Diamond status and explained that as I was booked in an King Deluxe room, the next category up, i.e. room on the Executive floor was located in the older part of the hotel and was not yet refurbished. So although it is a higher grade, I’d have a less favourable room! A+ for honesty. Nothing else positive about that stay.

  48. I recently stayed at an Embassy booked in a two-room suite. I checked in online and picked my room. When I arrived I noticed my booking said walk in shower and wanted to confirm it also had a tub. She said your diamond we can just upgrade you to the executive suite. Very nice, garden tub. Everything will always be subject to availability, that’s any brand. In my opinion you get a lot more bang for the buck with Hyatt but I like the locations Hilton provides and their reward program is worth it, even with the price isn’t sometimes.

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