In the interest of full disclosure, One Mile At A Time earns a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the below links. These are the best publicly available offers that we have found for each card. Please check out our advertiser policy for further details about the partners we work with. Thanks for your support!
Update: The below links for the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express are expired, but you can learn more about best available offers here.
Update: There’s an exciting Limited Time Offer for the Hilton American Express cards through 5/31/17! The links below are expired, but you can learn more about best offers we’ve seen on these cards!
Update: The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN has exciting new benefits, and a great new limited time offer. Learn more about the current offer here.
I recently matched to Hilton HHonors Diamond status, thanks to the extremely generous status match promotion Hilton was offering. While Hyatt and Starwood are my preferred hotel chains, neither have the global footprint of Hilton (well, I guess Starwood will soon, with the impending Marriott merger). So whether I love Hilton or not, they’re sure practical to have status with.
I’ve long said that I don’t find there to be much of a difference between Hilton Gold and Diamond status. And you get Gold status just for having The Platinum Card® from American Express, Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN, Citi® Hilton HHonors Reserve Card, or Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express. And that’s enough for me.
In terms of pure entitlements, the two differences are as follows:
- Hilton Diamond members get a larger points bonus
- Hilton Diamond members get guaranteed club lounge access, while Gold members get it based on availability (both of the Hiltons I just stayed at didn’t have a club lounge, though, so both Gold and Diamond members would receive free breakfast)
Resident Hilton fanboy, DCS, always extols the virtues of Hilton, explaining he always gets suite upgrades with Hilton.
Which I can’t really wrap my head around, since Hilton doesn’t even promise suite upgrades in their terms. Here’s what Hilton’s terms say about upgrades:
Upgrades for Diamond HHonors guests 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, rooms on Executive Floors, or suites, as identified by each property.
HHonors basically gives properties the discretion to upgrade people to suites if they want to, which is very different than Starwood’s policy of offering suites based on availability, where you receive one as long as it’s available. The Hilton Diamond benefit doesn’t have the same “guarantee,” as it’s within the terms for a hotel to have a dozen empty suites but not upgrade a Diamond member. Because the terms don’t promise suites based on availability, but rather say a hotel may upgrade you to a suite, and that each hotel identifies which rooms they want to upgrade guests to. Those are two very different things.
Nonetheless I asked DCS how he always scores suite upgrades with Hilton, which he kindly shared with me. To me it seems like he’s just really persistent.
So after two stays as a Hilton Diamond member, I figured I’d report back on my experiences, and specifically about whether or not I scored suites.
This is one of the better hotels in Auckland, and has amazing views of the harbor.
We arrived late at night, and were greeted by the super friendly duty manager/night auditor. He seemed to be the only one working, and went so far as personally walking outside to help us with our bags, which I thought was a nice touch.
The check-in conversation went something like below. And let me say that I was trying to be as firm but nice as possible, in the interesting of experimenting to see how Hilton suite upgrades really work.
“Thank you for being a Diamond member, we have upgraded you to a deluxe harbour view room.”
“That’s very kind, thanks so much. I hate to be annoying, but do you by any chance have a suite upgrade available?”
“We have already upgraded you one category.”
“And I appreciate that. I know many hotels will upgrade Diamond members based on availability to a suite. The reason I ask is because I work mostly at nights while he is trying to sleep, so it would really make a huge difference if you have one available.”
That last part was a DCS method, since he explained that he mentions why a suite upgrade would be valuable to him.
He typed away for maybe a minute, and seemed to make a good faith effort to check availability. Before check-in I noticed they were still selling at least two suites for the night. He said “there is nothing available, sorry.” He seemed to be making a good faith effort, and I wasn’t going to push it further.
Now, I suppose in this situation DCS would have pointed out that he saw they were still selling some suites on the website. And while that’s something I used to do with Starwood, nowadays I just don’t like that level of confrontation, so I stopped there.
What’s the moral of the story for this stay? I think I probably could have gotten a suite if I pushed it a bit further, but that was beyond my comfort zone, especially for a program which doesn’t promise/guarantee suites based on availability.
I do think the key to even getting them to consider a suite is to point out that you appreciate the (one category) upgrade, and ask if there’s any chance they’d consider upgrading a Diamond member to a suite.
This one was much easier. We had been upgraded to a suite before arriving at the hotel, at least that’s what the website showed. That might have to do with the fact that the hotel was totally sold out, and it sure seemed like a majority of guests had booked as part of a package tour. So in such an instance it’s only logical to upgrade a Diamond member when you need to make space in base rooms.
What do I take away from this?
If you don’t mind being
annoying persistent, maybe getting Diamond suite upgrades almost all the time is possible. Personally that doesn’t make me comfortable. I know what I’m entitled to as an elite member, and will always stay firm on that.
But I also know what I’m not entitled to, and at Hiltons I’m not promised a suite as long as it’s available. Instead I’m offered a suite at the hotel’s discretion. So in the future I don’t mind asking for a suite, and I think it will increase my odds. But unless I’m willing to truly “go to battle” with the hotels, I don’t see myself getting suites a vast majority of the time.
Still, my overall experience with Hilton has been much more positive than in the past.
Unrelated to the loyalty program, but why are Hilton beds so damn uncomfortable? I’ve noticed this at the handful of Hilton properties I’ve stayed at in the past year. While Westin and Sheraton have super-luxe beds, Hilton has flimsy mattresses which you could totally remove from the bed with one hand. The bed in Queenstown even had a terrible “spring” in the middle of it.
Does Hilton have a brand standard of terrible beds? I don’t get it!
I’ll surely be using my Diamond status more over the coming year, and am curious to see how my experiences are. Overall I’m generally more optimistic about Hilton than I was in the past, and maybe that’s partly because HHonors has really improved significantly over the past year.
Am I ready to dump Hyatt and Starwood for Hilton? No way, but I could see myself staying with them more often, and long term maybe spending $40,000 on the Citi® Hilton HHonors Reserve Card to maintain Diamond status.
To other HHonors Diamond members, what have your recent experiences been like?