The Hilton Honors Rewards Program is one of the great loyalty programs a traveler can join. As a road warrior, you sort of have a choice between Marriot and Hilton and for me, it’s always been Hilton. Nothing against Marriott, but, now that I’ve been w/ Hilton for so long there’s really no point in leaving – which I think is kind of the point of the Hilton Honors program or any loyalty program.
Note: By the way, I was not compensated in any way by Hilton for writing this article. I just like Hilton. That said, there are some Amazon affiliate links and other links scattered throughout where I do get a small commission on any purchase you make. This is no cost to you.
Most hotel chains have a loyalty program, and Hilton’s is known as the Hilton Honors Rewards program. In this article I give you the key highlights of the program and share a few “Hilton Hacks” at the end of the article.
Signing Up for the Hilton Honors Rewards Program
Signing up for the Hilton Honors Rewards Program is straightforward. From the main Hilton website, click on Hilton Honors and you will be directed to a short form to complete. You will need to provide some basic information and create an account.
Hilton will issue you a unique number and mail you some member cards. If you happen to have any pre-existing reservations with Hilton Properties you will likely need to provide the reservation # so you can get them registered under your new “Honors Number.” Or you can provide your number when you check in to the hotel.
Protip: Download the Mobile app too. Some hotels will even let you check in using the app (and it becomes your key card).
Then start using it. The key here is to make sure you include your member number (Hilton Honors Rewards Number) when you make the reservation. If you typically use a corporate travel system (like Concur) to book your travel (or even a travel website like Orbitz, or Travelocity) you can save your number in your profile so it’s added automatically.
Next step? Stay a bunch at Hilton properties and start moving up the rungs of the ladder.
Levels & Benefits
There are 4 levels to the Hilton Honors Rewards Program:
- Member – basically you exist and that’s about it. Aside from free Wi-Fi and points for your stays you are meaningless still.
- Silver – it’s not much better here either, but the one nice thing you get is free water bottles which is actually pretty nice and saves you paying $4.00 for a bottle of water in the lobby.
- Gold – at Gold you are starting to make real progress. The major benefit here (and it pays off with time and money) is free breakfasts everywhere. Save your per diem and get a few extra minutes of sleep. You can also occasionally get upgraded to a nicer room – if available. There are a lot of folks who sit at this level and it’s not a bad place to be, really.
- Diamond – this is the holy grail. To achieve it you have to stay a TON w/ them throughout the year and/or spend a certain amount of money (more on this later). This level is where the perks really kick in. They literally treat you differently (nicer, etc) and you will almost always get an upgrade of some sort. You get access to the “Executive Lounge” if the hotel has one (this is a nice benefit as it’s more free food and some quiet privacy). At this level, Hilton will really try to bend over backwards for you too.
Each level offers increasingly attractive rewards (see the chart below). To move up through the system is easy. Just stay at Hilton Properties. A bunch of times. There’s actually a couple of different ways to get there, but in the end, it’s really just about staying there…a lot!
A major benefit (for me anyway) to racking up loyalty points with Hilton Honors is the earn enough points to stay for free when I travel for non-work reasons.
For example, I put my family up in a ridiculously nice suite in Hawaii at a Hilton Property – for free. We also scored free breakfasts as part of the package. It saved us a TON of money. And they treated us like royalty (the fact I was a Diamond member at the time really helped too). I’ve stayed at countless Hilton properties for free using points. Or booked a room for a family member or friend – gratis.
One additional benefit not clear by looking at the above chart is the higher up the Hilton Honors Rewards system you move, the more points per dollar spent you earn. Here’s how the program currently works:
Again, it’s all about staying more times at Hilton Properties. The more you stay the more your earn – at faster rates.
Moving from Level to Level in the Hilton Honors Rewards Program
How do you get from level to the next? Members can move up levels by passing the different thresholds established for each level. This largely comes by staying more at Hilton brands and is achieved by the number of stays or the number of nights. Meaning you could achieve the next level staying multiple times at a property or by a really long stay (or series of long stays).
Beyond Silver, point accumulation is also used to help move you to the next level. All accumulation has to occur within the year, although there are some rollover rules that apply (see below).
Here’s the details:
- Move from Member to Silver – you need 4 stays or 10 nights.
- Move from Silver to Gold – 20 stays or 40 nights or 75,000 Base points (so if you stay at a really expensive hotel you will accumulate more points even if it wasn’t a bunch of nights or stays).
- Move from Gold to Platinum – 30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 Base Points
Usually, I achieve my yearly status by the number of nights as my trips often involve longer stays (3-4 nights per stay which is about 15 or so stays). If you are one of those road warriors who does a lot of destinations per weekly trip you could get there by stays though.
Rollovers: According to Hilton’s Terms & Conditions, they note the following: “Members are only eligible to rollover qualifying nights in excess of those nights required to qualify for a member’s elite status level at the end of the calendar year (Members can rollover nights in excess of 10 eligible nights for Silver, in excess of 40 eligible nights for Gold and in excess of 60 eligible nights for Diamond).” Rollovers are great because they give you a jump on the next year and if you occasionally have a down year (less travel) you don’t want to lose your status.
Hilton Properties – the main ones anyway
Hilton’s family is actually comprised of quite a few different brands – each varying in quality, price and targeted demographic. I’ve highlighted a few of the bigger ones here, and noted some of the less mainstream brands, as well.
- Hampton Inn & Suites (sometimes called Hampton by Hilton): The working man’s hotel. There are Hampton’s everywhere…some are pretty nice. Some are very old and rough. I’ve stayed in some pretty crummy ones before and some really nice ones (like the Brooklyn Bridge Hampton).They all have the same crappy free breakfast though…lol…and are a “pretty” safe bet. However, they are the lower end of the Hilton family and are geared for the road warrior. If you can, find a newer one or one that’s been recently remodeled.
- Doubletree by Hilton: Free chocolate chip cookies! Doubletree’s are hit and miss in my experience, with more hits than misses. Many of their hotels are very nice (great breakfasts usually), but occasionally you will run into a very tired one. I usually check their reviews first and look at some pics.
- Embassy Suites: The Embassy used to be wonderful hotel chain – and in some places the hotel is still very nice. But it’s been my experience that’s it’s a little tired these days. They tend to feature a large atrium interior with rooms surrounding the perimeter and a great breakfast.We stayed at an Embassy in PHX once and it was abysmal. AC didn’t work, and it was so old and tired. Hilton made it right though, dumping a bunch of extra points into my account after I complained. You really got to read the reviews of each Embassy before you book it.
- Hilton Garden Inn: My preferred Hilton property is the HGI (Hilton Garden Inn). in my opinion, they offer the best value with typically clean, newer properties, nice rooms, and a great breakfast (which you can get for free if you have status w/ Hilton).They are often frequented by the business traveler who maybe likes something a tad nicer than a Hampton Inn. I like the one in Franklin, TN and split my visits between there and the Hilton Brentwood Suites when I visit for work (which is often).
- Hilton: This is the stable brand, the original. They tend to be a tad more expensive, and are usually a little nicer. That said, they are also usually a little older. I’ve stayed at some that are in need of a modernization – especially w/ an eye towards some of the modern amenities that today’s business travel needs (like lots of plugs to charge things).
- Home2Suites: A newer property by Hilton that offers Extended Stay accommodations. Think oil rigger in town for 2 months. I’ve stayed at a few and they look really nice online and in the lobby, but the rooms are not nearly as nice. They take a beating. Not bad value and certainly better than an Extended Stay America (ugh!).
Other Hilton Properties
Also: Tru, Hilton Grand Vacations Club, Tapestry, Curio, Conrad, Waldorf-Astoria.
Their nicest brands – the most upscale if you will, are the Conrad and Waldorf series. Really nice hotels. Expensive. But nice. The Hilton Grand Vacations Clubs are fun too, but for some darn reason I always have trouble getting my Hilton Honors # on file with them when I book it (I swear they are trying to gyp me out of my points or something).
Pro tip: if you stay at a HGVC – make sure you give them your Honors # at check in…and then double check at check out.
Final Thoughts on the Hilton Honors Rewards Program
I hope this overview of the Hilton Honors program has been valuable. Personally, I have come to love, enjoy and trust Hilton and they’ve yet to give any reason to leave. If you are a regular traveler or even an infrequent traveler, sign up for the Hilton Honors program and start earning.
Check out this next article on Hilton Honors Hacks!
Bonus: If you are interested in learning more about the history of Hilton and the founder, Connie Hilton, check out these links: