Why You’re Not Nuts To Leave Marriott For Hilton

Filed Under: Hilton, Marriott
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View from the Wing just published a post entitled “To Everyone Leaving Marriott for Hilton: You’re Nuts.”

Gary makes the following points to back up his claim:

  • Hilton doesn’t reward you as well for spending at their hotels
  • There aren’t as many luxury hotels for redemption
  • Top tier elites aren’t entitled to empty suites
  • They don’t even guarantee late check-out
  • Hilton Honors is the SkyPesos of hotel loyalty

He also acknowledges that the two areas where Hilton is better is that they give away status more easily, and that they offer elite breakfast at all brands.

I strongly disagree with Gary’s points, with a few caveats, so here’s my (friendly) rebuttal to him.

I’ve been frustrated by the Marriott & Starwood merger

When Marriott first announced they’d take over Starwood, I was so impressed. They introduced reciprocal status matching and fair points transfers from day one. They took their time with integrating programs, and I appreciated that.

Then all of a sudden they seemed to be in a rush, and this August they merged programs. I get this is a massive task they’re undertaking, as we’re talking about a loyalty program with over 100 million members.

But it has been a complete mess, and ultimately it’s not our problem that they chose to make this business decision. As a customer I only have so much patience. I don’t want to spend thousands of words sharing all the ways in which I think this has been a mess, but suffice to say I’m not happy.

My “big picture” take

I’m not suggesting everyone should leave Marriott for Hilton. Quite to the contrary, I continue to spend 100+ nights per year with Marriott… for now.

Rather I think it’s not worth going out of your way to earn Marriott status anymore. If you’re someone who easily spends 50+ nights per year with Marriott and is happy, great.

If you’re a leisure traveler who was previously going out of your way to stay at Marriott properties, break the cycle.

I’ll add the further caveat that this advice is ideal for those in the US who have access to the Hilton Aspire Card, which gives you top tier status for basically nothing.

Hilton will give (almost) everyone Diamond status

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has a $450 annual fee (Rates & Fees), but offers four incredible benefits:

  • A $250 annual airline fee credit
  • A $250 Hilton resort credit
  • An annual weekend night reward
  • Hilton Honors Diamond status

I value the annual airline fee credit and Hilton resort credit at $450 or so, so that covers the annual fee right there. By my math, they’re basically giving you the weekend night reward and top tier status for “free.”

So I allocate a zero dollar cost to earning that status.

I’d also note that Diamond is actual top tier status at Hilton. At Marriott, Platinum status is really the third tier down, after Ambassador and Platinum Premier.

With that in mind…

Hilton DOES reward you well for your spend

Gary argues that Hilton doesn’t reward you as well as Marriott for your hotel spend:

  • Hilton offers non-elites 10 points per dollar and top tier elites 20 points per dollar, which he values at 0.4 cents each, for a return of 4% and 8% on spend, respectively
  • Marriott offers non-elites 10 points per dollar and top tier elites (75 nights) 17.5 points per dollar, which he values at 0.7 cents each, for a return of 7% and 12%, respectively

Gary acknowledges that Hilton needs to be offering double points to be equal. But the reality is that they are always offering promotions:

  • Between January 1 and April 30, 2018, Hilton offered 2,000 bonus points per stay, and 10,000 bonus points after every five stays
  • Between May 1, 2018, and September 9, 2018, Hilton offered double points at all properties
  • Between September 10, 2018, and the end of the year, Hilton offered triple points at luxury properties and resorts, and double points on all other properties

Meanwhile Marriott’s promotions have been abysmal.

The point is, as a Diamond member with Hilton I’m earning a minimum of 30 points per dollar on average. Sometimes I’m even earning 40 points per dollar, and that’s before factoring in the points I earn from credit card spend.

That’s another area where Hilton wins. With the Aspire Card I earn 14x points per dollar spent, the equivalent of a 5.6% return. That’s much better than anything you’ll get with Marriott. And let’s not even talk about all the Amex Offers we see for Hilton brands.

So when all is said and done I’d say that Marriott and Hilton actually offer comparable returns on hotel spend, and Marriott might even have the slight edge, depending on your spend patterns.

Hilton doesn’t have as many luxury properties for redemptions

Gary is 100% right here. I will say that I think this is an area in which Hilton is improving greatly. I had an excellent stay recently at the Conrad Bora Bora, I’d love to stay at the Conrad London, Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, and many more.

Conrad Bora Bora

But here’s my bigger issue. How many of Marriott’s luxury hotels will actually be attainable for most members going forward when redeeming points?

As a reminder, let’s take a look at Marriott’s award chart come 2019:

Yes, redeeming at the St. Regis Maldives, Al Maha Dubai, etc., all sounds amazing, but those rates are really high. In peak season we’re looking at 100,000 points per night at these hotels.

The St. Regis Maldives is beautiful, but 100,000 points per night is a lot

At a valuation of 0.7 cents per point, a 100,000 point free night is costing you $700 worth of points. Add in a fifth night free and you’re averaging $560.

Hilton may not have as many high end properties, but they’re a much better value. 95,000 points per night is the max cost. At a valuation of 0.4 cents per point, you’re redeeming $380 worth of points for a stay there. Add in a fifth night free, and you’re averaging ~$304 per night. That’s a huge difference in terms of attainability.

$304 per night worth of points to stay at the Conrad Bora Bora

I’m happy Hilton doesn’t have stronger elite benefits

Gary is totally right that top tier elites with Hilton aren’t entitled to empty suites, and Hilton doesn’t guarantee late check-out. Those are both valid points that I wholeheartedly agree with.

I will say that I think honoring of elite benefits will vary hugely by property:

  • Recently in Bora Bora I wasn’t allowed to check out even a minute late as a Platinum Premier Ambassador (Marriott doesn’t guarantee this benefit at resorts), while the Conrad let me stay in my room until 6PM, when my flight was departing
  • As a Marriott Platinum, good luck getting a suite upgrade at any US business hotel, or at any of the super high end luxury properties, where there are no standard rooms, and therefore are no standard suites to upgrade people to

Here’s the thing — if I spent 60+ nights per year with Hilton I’d want some sort of confirmed suite upgrades, guaranteed late check-out, etc.

But to me, Hilton is in such an incredible sweet spot right now. I’m a top tier elite with virtually no effort, I’m getting breakfast at all brands, I get suite upgrades regularly at non-US properties, and there are quite a few properties I want to try.

Breakfast at the Conrad Bora Bora

Bottom line

I’m not at all suggesting that everyone should be switching from Marriott to Hilton. Rather I’m suggesting that many people aren’t at all nuts to be ditching Marriott in favor of Hilton.

Hilton’s Aspire Card offering top tier Diamond status and all the incredible perks that come along with it is an amazing opportunity. There’s no reason to go out of your way to be loyal to Marriott when Hilton basically gives you top tier status for free. And it’s actual top tier status, unlike Marriott, where 50 night Platinum will soon be third tier status.

So while I’m personally not switching all my business from Marriott to Hilton, I’m loving Hilton more and more every day. They actually offer elite breakfast at all brands (despite giving away status), their website actually works, their redemption rates are more reasonable than Marriott’s (while Marriott charges you $700 worth of points to stay at some of their properties), and they have quite a few properties I want to try.

Stay at Hilton when it’s convenient, and when it’s not convenient use one of the other great options out there for securing a deal on a luxury hotel, whether it’s the Citi Prestige fourth night free benefit, Hyatt Privé, transferring Ultimate Rewards points to World of Hyatt, Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, Virtuoso, or whatever else.

Color me a fan of Hilton nowadays…

Where do you stand in this debate?

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (Rates & Fees).

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  1. I prefer Hilton properties over Marriott. I get more value out of being Hilton Gold than I do being Marriott Gold.

    But I get value by being members of both programs but focus more on Hilton.

    What works best for me probably isn’t best for others so pick and choose and don’t get married to just one program.

  2. Taking a look at HH makes even more sense if you are a Lifetime Platinum Premier Elite with MR/SPG which I’m getting this year! Sick of MR crap so I got the Aspire and I’ll be giving Hilton a good portion of my business next year. Already booked the WA Boca and the WA LV for some work stays I need next year. With Lifetime MR status checking out the other chains and free agent if it is my plan for 2019,

  3. You just gave DCS a very merry holiday. 😉

    It’s also worth explicitly mentioning the widening gap in mid-tier benefits going forward in Hilton’s favor. Marriott devalued Gold, no more breakfast anywhere. Meanwhile HH Gold is easily attainable through CCs and also enjoys the all-brand breakfast perk and fairly consistent Executive floor upgrades.

  4. I’d like your take on Marriott v Hyatt. Although Hyatt’s footprint is smaller, would you (if said footprint aligns with your travels) make that switch? Gary, you and TPG have been singing the praises recently of Hyatt. Like a formal take…

  5. Here is the thing – there is no need to “switch” to Hilton. Hilton is an outstanding program, but

    1) Status is freely available via credit cards
    2) You can earn a lot of Hilton points with a few stays (especially during double points promotions) or through ongoing credit card spend
    3) The credit cards will often give you periodic spend bonuses (such as 20,000 points for 2,000 in spend offered to many customers this fall)

    These benefits can be taken advantage of with just a few Hilton stays a year, as long as you have at least an Ascend card. Road warriors that actually have a lot of stays may be better off qualifying for Marriott Platinum, mainly for the lounge access – Hilton lounge access is very spotty in North America regardless of status. But the point is that many frequent travelers can do both.

    The fact of the matter is that hotel status may not be all that useful to begin with. Hotels give away status, and return on hotel spend with status is pretty good. If you hold a few credit cards and look for the best deal or hotel for your particular stay, you would come our way ahead.

  6. I find both analyses to be far too US-centric.

    (Out of curiosity, what % of your readers are US based? Majority? Absolute majority?)

    The credit card game is not something non-US/UK people can seriously consider. So status via card or aided by a card (spend, elite night credits) is a non-starter.

    Furthermore, internationally, Hilton and Hyatt are no-shows. Over half of Hyatt’s footprint is Hyatt House/Place in USA and their SLH partnership is off to a very slow, very unimpressive start. Hilton too has the bulk of its portfolio in only USA and UK and heavily biased towards the low and mid end (Total Conrad+Waldorf still around….50)

    Furthermore, we need to be more objective with benefits. Marriott doesn’t do breakfast at Courtyard, Moxy, AC, Ritz, Edition etc, so lets add them all together (should be under 1000 flags) and remove them from Marriott’s total. What you are left with is still a larger number of breakfast offering properties than Hilton….with a better geographic and price spread. So while in theory the benefit isn’t as good, in reality its better.

    Marriott’s price and geographic footprint is so far ahead of others at this point that they can absolutely pull the rug out from actual implementation of their (theoretically good) loyalty program (as they are doing).

    Lastly, Hilton is having its own IT issues. It recently had an “upgrade” for faster posting of stays which had the exact opposite effect. Long term though, I have more faith in their IT than Marriott’s.

    I’m not sure the bulk of membership diligently registers and follows promo (though I’m sure most elites and everyone in the points game does), so that’s another win for Marriott.

    In Hilton’s camp, there is……honesty!

    They are honest and transparent about elite benefits. For anyone in USA or UK, they are a real alternative.

    Also Marriott pretty much nuked no blackout nights recently. Now they do have blackout nights, I think believing otherwise is overwhelmingly optimistic.

  7. *Correction: Total number of Courtyards is closer to 1150, subtracting those and the other brands from Marriott’s total brings us almost to Hilton’s total, so right now they’re about even in terms of breakfast offering footprint.

    Also the pipelines do not seem to favour closing the gap between the chains. The biggest ones have stronger pipelines, in many ways pulling ahead of the smaller guys like Hyatt.

  8. There are Waldorf Astoria hotels or Conrad hotels in the vast majority of cities that I frequent so I am very content with the Hilton luxury portfolio .

  9. This is a stupid post. Lucky isn’t “leaving” Marriott for Hilton. Just using free status at Hilton.
    Who doesn’t like free stuff?

    Leaving means making many stays at Hilton, which Lucky is not planning on doing.

  10. The value isn’t worth it to me. Paying 25-50% (or more sometimes) to stay in Marriott over Hilton is not worth any potential “status” or comps of having status with Marriott. I prefer Hilton for most of my trips because of better price points.

  11. I am so dumb because I don’t know what $250 Hilton resort credit is. Is that credit towards a Hilton property that is designated as a resort? Is it toward resort fees?

  12. Why aren’t you entitled to suite upgrades as Hilton Diamond? The wording in the T&C, both Marriott and Hilton, is pretty much similar. I don’t get suites offered proactively at all Hilton properties, but after asking nicely (or not so nicely), i always get a suite upgrade, if a suite is available. Don’t see any difference here.

  13. @Lucky: If you know how to get any Hilton property for ONLY 95,000 points, please let me know. I can’t ever find a property that I want to stay that has a standard room for 95,000. You mentioned the Waldorf Amsterdam. So I picked a random date in July next year. Guess what? They only have “premier” rooms for a mere 480,000 points per night. Then I played with flexible dates and from May 16th to December 25th there is not a single standard room available so unless you spend 488,000/night you won’t be able to redeem points there. That has always been my experience with Hilton.

  14. For most people, especially road warriors, far more stays will be done at low end properties in medium sized areas. And Hiltons properties here are just a better and more constistent experience.

    When what you really need for your two night business trip is a decent room with a decent bed, decent shower and decent breakfast – Hilton nails that far more than Marriott or Starwood do

  15. Pretty much done with Marriott. I’ve been with Hilton these past nine months. Ya, they only are SkyPesos but I currently have 800,000 of them, which consist of decent bonuses for stays, purchases, and travel. Easily spent $15K on the Ascend card and they tossed me a free night.

    Using two free weekend nights at the Hilton in Sedona soon after returning home, where rooms start at $300/night plus taxes. That’s over $600 worth of stay for having two of their cards. Three months later, we’ll have a nice stay at the Athens Hilton in Greece. Several 5th night free stays this year, tons of points, and a good number of decent properties. At the low-end, I’ve found Hampton’s and Homewood’s quite nice and enjoyable as well, and they serve quite a bit more than a pathetic breakfast sandwich.

    Their online systems are much better and have been dead accurate for me on posting points calculating bonuses, etc. My only complaint about their online system is the fairly quick timeout after a short period. No problem, use the system or get the hell off. Bottom line is that Hilton’s loyalty program works! Can’t wait to see Flueck get Flushed! As for Marriott’s top IT guy, is he still around?

  16. It seems to me from reading Flyertalk, most of the people who have had the most problems with Marriott since August are the people that have refused to integrate into the Marriott program. The people who have not continued to use only the SPG site or app. I was previously about 2/3 Marriott and 1/3 SPG, I combined programs at my first opportunity and have had absolutely no problems getting my stays accounted for, use points for stays, etc. that I see others have had problems with. To me it makes sense that the better IT going forward would be with the program (Marriott) that will remain. This year I will be Plat w/ ambassador, with 100+ nights and 20k spend. Previously I had never been more than Platinum in either program.

  17. Welcome to the Hilton Fan Club, Lucky. I love Hilton. Also, unlike the previous post, I would disagree with one of your readers. Hilton has a very strong presence in Asia, so there are a lot of benefits to be had there as well besides the US and UK.

  18. I think one problem that everyone always forgets in these discussions about how Hilton’s top properties “are only 95,000 points a night” is that actually getting them for 95,000 points a night is a pipe dream. Hilton seem to be worse than AA releasing saver availability.

    Just looking at the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam for any random day during the summer – the cheapest I can find is 386,000 points for ONE night. Now tell me that’s better than Marriott or Hyatt, both of which have standard rooms available (at 60k and 25k points respectively) AND even if they run out of standard rooms, the cost for a higher level room is marginally more points, where as Hilton is charging almost 400% more!

    It’s just not feasible redeeming for high end Hilton properties for most people – even planning way in advance. The only reliable value in the Hilton program lies in their mid-tier properties like formerly independent hotels now branded as a DoubleTree, cool hotels in secondary cities, and some of the Curio collection, a Hilton Garden Inn for the family, etc. Basically anywhere you can ACTUALLY redeem points at a standard rate that won’t be impossibly out of reach for anyone that doesn’t have millions of Hilton Zimbabwe Points.

  19. I gotta agree that this seems a silly post. For one, I was able to check out at 5 pm from the StR Bora Bora. As if one example makes a patter, not so much, but neither do the Bora Bora examples cited here. For two, there are nowhere near the aspirational properties with Hilton as there are with Marriott—it isn’t even remotely close. For three, the horrendous 100K redemption at the most aspirational Marriott properties is about EXACTLY the same as between the PREVIOUS SPG redemptions of between 90-105K points in SPG equivalent currency. And Marriott elites earn even more with Marriott now than we did with SPG (Plat Premier and Ambassador now earn 17.5 points per dollar, while SPG Plat 75 and 100 night elites earned 12 points/dollar equivalents.

    Marriott still is far and away the best by far, and still far and away miles ahead of Hilton if you love staying at the most aspirational luxury hotels. Yes, Marriott has IT issues…but those haven’t had a single impact on a single one of my actual stays at a single Marriott property yet. Not one.

    Yes, Marriott IT glitches are annoying. But they don’t change the quality of hotel stays despite the hysteria to the contrary.

    On the other hand, may I please encourage all the Marriott naysayers to switch right over to Hilton now…and spare me the added competition for upgrades with the superior Marriott luxury properties. Cheers!

  20. I think you also need to factor in shopping portals……Marriott participates in several whereas Hilton does not except for the AMEX offers which you alluded to.

    UA,AA,DL all return 2-4 airline miles per dollar spent at Marriott properties, and eBates typically has other offers as well.

    To me, this offsets the additional Hilton points earned through promos, which I’ll admit are typically much better than ones offered by Marriott.

  21. I agree with you, Lucky and, as I read the analysis, I’m once again reminded by how much better Hyatt is than its bigger competitors. I can only make it to the top tier at one chain (not counting Hilton with the Aspire card) and Hyatt is hands down the best choice for me. Now that SLH are available on points and Two Roads are joining soon, I don’t know what needs to happen for me to switch from Hyatt to someone else

  22. No resort fees on Hilton reward nights. No such assurances with Marriott, right? Adds up on a five night stay.

  23. Same post as view from the wing. Every time one posts something, the other ones posts the same thing. So ridiculous…

  24. Very well said. With your current evaluation of 0.7 and TPG of 1, the majority of their properties not worth to be booked using points. I would say Marriott’s new points should be reduced to 0.5 as it is not very valuable.

    The other thing is their Luxury card is not that impressive. They need to improve its perks to be competitive or discontinue. They had the opportunity to role out an impressive product but they failed miserably.

  25. Well written post Ben. Blog seems to have been in a slump lately but I wholeheartedly agree with pretty much everything.

    I actually prefer the Hilton brand to Marriott. I feel like Marriott will eventually ruin all the former SPG properties as well. While Hyatt is an awesome brand they’re so ass backwards I’ve given up on them. Hilton it is.

  26. Marriott program is The fatal attraction chick. Started out hot and exciting, then turned crazy.

    2019 play

    Marriott lifetime plat as of 2018
    Hilton Aspire for Diamond
    Hyatt – 48 nights plus 15k on card plus 5 nights from card.

    Only hard goal are Hyatt nights. Rest is situational for most bang for buck via points, fhr, promotions, location, promotions.

    Before the Marriott program craziness I would not have bothered with Hyatt. That is min 50 nights a year Marriott losses.

    Marriott paid a premium to acquire STarwood, because Starwood had premium customers – loyal with above average income and discretionary time/spend.

    I suspect Marriott will take a write-off on this acquisition in the next few years as many disgruntled SPG members seek alternatives to Marriott. Every 1,000 customers such as myself cost Marriott $10,000,000 in lost bookings. Those numbers add up fast in a competitive environment.

  27. Yes, I like Hilton too. Had gold with both Marriott & Hilton for couple of years. Now gold will not be free breakfast, so need to go for Marriott Platinum. It is same amount of nights though. Like both programs, but love the ease of getting Hilton elite status. Getting Aspire card soon. Am half & half with both programs. Got upgraded to Presidential Suite at one Hilton hotel, but think luck. Like Hilton programs. Their promotions are much better than Marriott. Still like both programs but agree with Lucky.

  28. Hilton is good when standard awards are available, they are usually roughly 0.5cent/point.
    Also Hilton has been quite generous at least from 2015-2018 with lots of triple or quadruple point promotions plus few extra bonus points for Diamond and Amex Hilton card holders.
    However, some of the Hilton properties I used points on have become significantly more expensive, up to 222% increase. Marriott also has far more international properties due to SPG integration, and some SPG properties have been discounted a lot more to MR members as they used to cost 3X MR points. (former SPG members may not feel the same.)
    It is probably best to have points with both if possible. Personally though, I may spend most of my work stays with Marriott simply because my next vacation destinations have very few Hilton properties…

  29. Just about all of the pro Hilton logic is based around the free Diamond status with the Aspire card. If only we non-US customers were so lucky. Don’t get me wrong, I am a long term Diamond and very pro Hilton (i.e. very satisfied with my benefits) but it is so incredibly unfair that I have to earn my status with nights in beds while it is offered for “free” to anyone with a US address. Hilton really needs to address this enormous disparity.

  30. Merry Christmas.
    This is a much better post than Gary’s. I’m not in the USA (wish I was) but in the UK the highest status we can get with a credit card is gold. Even though I’m PP with Marriott I don’t like them as a company.
    They don’t do as they say (blackout dates, constant changes to t&c’s), their customer service sucks. There is supposed to be a best room guarantee, but at the last hotel there were suites available they flat out refused to let me have one so in practice I’m not sure you can rely on Marriott. The breakfast scenario is too complicated. Gold is now absolutely worthless, so if you can’t do 50 nights with Marriott I’m not sure why you would bother with them at all
    Marriott aren’t bad but I’ve been underwhelmed. My stays at Hilton have been less but bang for buck they have been equal to or better than Marriott so next year I’ll do a diamond challenge and switch nights over to them. Marriott won’t miss my few nights, but if we all do it they will get the message. They remind me of British Airways, they have the capacity to be better, they just don’t want to.

  31. — Hilton doesn’t reward you as well for spending at their hotels
    — There aren’t as many luxury hotels for redemption
    — Top tier elites aren’t entitled to empty suites
    — They don’t even guarantee late check-out
    — Hilton Honors is the SkyPesos of hotel loyalty

    you forgot two items:
    — Hilton doesn’t reach out to match Marriott status.
    — Hilton is not a Virtuoso preferred supplier

  32. Overall I agree that Hilton’s elite status is easier to attain and the overall service seems to be consistent with Hilton. I have the Hilton Aspire card and have certainly leveraged the Diamond status. Having said that, one thing Hilton needs to do is to upscale some of their properties, Marriott/SPG now has Aloft, Moxy, Four Points which are usually cheaper but much more modern and cheerful properties. Compared to that, Hilton’s embassy suites, Hampton, Homewood etc are now all very dated. Even DoubleTree is a hit or miss.

  33. Just as a side note, if you’re a Centuroon member, you’re already at Diamond status whereas you’ll have to work to be at the top tier of Marriott

  34. I agree with you. I had to push hard to get the upgrades I would get as plat with marriott. I won’t go out of my way to stay with marriott anymore once I go below plat since any status below plat is pretty much useless. Also the redemption values aren’t that great. Easier for me to earn hilton points in bulk than marriott.

  35. What´s the sense in being loyal to hotels? I`ve got a silver level on Marriott and Hyatt without even trying. A gold with Hilton and a Platinum with IHG and they´re all equally worthless. Yes, here and there you get a free breakfast if you´re lucky and maybe some marginally better return with points, but what about all the hassle of being loyal to a hotel chain and driving to the other end of the city because… I get why you can be loyal to an airline but hotels? Seriously?!

  36. In short, anyone who is dissatisfied with a loyalty program has good cause to switch regardless of the analytics.

  37. Lucky
    Your valuation of hotel points is wrong from a point of credit card spend
    For 1$ spend –
    You can get 2c cash back on Capital One card or Citi or Fidelity
    You get 2 Marriott points = so cost is 1c now (used to be 0.7 w SPG card) and you may get 0.7c value at most
    You get 3 Hilton Honors point, so cost of HH is 0.7c = probably 0.5c value if Amazon goes through full time
    The cost of a Hyatt point is 2c if you use their card and 1.4c if you use a freedom unlimited

    Of all hotel chains, to the average guy collecting points from their loyalty card, Hyatt is best for value of redemptions – you do not lose much but you have limited foot print

    For the traveler staying with OPM – other people’s money for work, then the freebies discussed above may make Hilton and Marriott better values

  38. Decent analysis… I come down on the Marriott side and still think you earn more value in the end for stays. I don’t use my Marriott points unless I get a cent of value, and I am about to do a stay for 2 cents.

    Marriott is great for business travelers… lots of them and great earn on spending OPM.

    I can see what you are saying about the Hilton card and the casual traveler, that makes sense.

  39. A lot of valid points. It’s really dependent on how much one travels, where ones travels and to what luxury standard they want at their destination. Personally I have stayed at Marriott more because of the better option for transferability of points to airlines. I get very good rates when when staying so redeeming points for a $200 Marriott when I can get it for $94 is not a good deal. Rather use most points for airline miles. Marriott is also the only chain that offers a Marriott is the 4 cities I travel in and Hilton has no equivalent hotels. I have 2 years to getting lifetime Platinum status and then will get Hilton Aspire for Diamond status and stay at Hyatts for Globalist. You just have to play the field as it suits ones personal travel. All the chains have their strong points and I don’t feel anyone has a “wrong answer”.

  40. I am late to this mindlessness because since December 11, I have been on the 2018 Edition of my Annual Year-end Asian Escapade (TM).

    I did not read the blogpost by self-anointed “thought leader in travel” which @Lucky did a decent job rebutting here (in fact, I do not intend to read that post because if anything is “nut” it is to keep paying attention to what is written over there).

    I will just address this comment by @Lucky:

    “Gary is totally right that top tier elites with Hilton aren’t entitled to empty suites, and Hilton doesn’t guarantee late check-out. Those are both valid points that I wholeheartedly agree with.”

    Why are you still going on and on and on pushing these claims that have been demonstrated to be either totally bogus (the notion that any loyalty program “guaranteed” their top elites suite upgrades) or largely irrelevant as a top elite perk (guaranteed late checkout)?

    As a Hilton Honors Diamond, I’ve routinely cleared more suite upgrades than top elites in any other program, and I have provided AD NAUSEAM the link to a post where I’d documented clearing like 14 of 14 or 100% suite upgrades in one year! Don’t believe me? Well, consider what just happened to me since Thanksgiving 2018:

    1. Conrad Chicago – Upgraded to a junior suite (I’d posted about this on this site)

    2. Hilton Millennium New York — This was a mattress run I did in order to get the 3 nights that I figured I would need to hit 60 nights for the year after I am done with my Year-end Escapade, which would entitle me to 60K HH points as “milestone” bonus and the ability to gift Gold status to anyone I choose. So, in early December I checked in at Hilton Millennium New York (right across from the UN HQ) for 3 nights and I got upgraded to a full East River-facing suite without a fuss!

    Then on December 11 I started my Year-end Asian Escapade:

    3. Hilton Singapore – I requested and was upgraded to an EXECUTIVE Suite for 4 nights.

    4. Conrad Manila – I requested and was upgraded to a King Suite for 2 of 3 nights (it means that they really had no availability on the one night I got there).

    5. Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund – PROACTIVELY UPGRADED to a Junior suite!

    6. Brand new and absolutely GORGEOUS, TOP-END Waldorf Astoria Chengdu – PROACTIVELY UPGRADED to a King Executive Suite!

    I am right now in Mumbai (BOM) where I paid to stay at a rather bland Ramada Plaza Hotel, then

    7. I will do 5 nights at Hilton Pattaya for the New Year festivities where I bet I will be upgraded to an ocean-view suite (stay tuned!).

    8. My last stop will be at Conrad Hong Kong for 4 nights where I have ALWAYS been proactively upgraded and am sure will be again. Stay tuned!

    So, please stop deluding yourselves into thinking that there was ever a program that did better than Hilton Honors in upgrading their top elites. The claims were always bogus and are more so now after the demise of those so-called “superior” programs!

    Regarding late check-out: I have never been denied a late checkout request in nearly 10 years as a Hilton Diamond, and in fact I have had late checkout requests approved for as late as 6pm (the key is to request late checkouts at CHECK-IN!).

    My personal bottom line: I never thought there would be a day when a travel blogger would be defending Hilton Honors against another travel blogger’s mindless claims, but here we are!

    That is enough to get me to wish you a Very Merry Xmas from sunny Juhu Beach in BOM!

  41. The benefits of getting the Hilton Honors Diamond status for just $450 through the Aspire card:
    — a huge footprint
    — 5 ways to earn status: nights, stays, spend or base points, CC, or CC spend.
    — elite rollover nights
    — guaranteed free continental breakfast on the ‘continent’; FULL free breakfast almost everywhere else optionally in the restaurant, and not just in the Club or Executive lounge
    — guaranteed Executive or Club lounge access where there is one
    — guaranteed upgrade to the Executive floor where there is one
    — unlimited complimentary suite upgrades based on availability.
    — late checkout with no time limit, based on availability [hint: request late checkout at check-in!]
    — put Diamond status on hold
    — C+P awards ‘on steroids’
    — a $250 resort credit
    — a $250 airline credit
    — no resort fee on award stays
    — “Diamond Force” when the chips are down
    — 5th award night free
    — a free night certificate for use at ANY category hotel
    — an additional free night certificate for use at ANY category hotel after spending $60K
    — 10K bonus points after reaching 40 nights, and…award nights count!
    — 10K bonus points every 10 nights after reaching 40 nights with NO CAP
    — 30K additional bonus points when one reaches 60 nights
    — ability to gift Gold status at 60 nights and to gift Diamond at 100 nights
    — ability to pool points with up to ten (10!) people; obviates need to transfer points.
    — Priority Pass lounge access.
    — industry-leading 14X for on-property spend paid with the unmentionable CC.
    — and much, much more.

    We are to believe that the status that one gets for “just” $450 and offers the long list of truly compelling perks just provided has “weak” benefits. Yeah, right, ONLY in the “Twilight Zone” that is travel blogosphere and its ‘priesthood’ of self-anointed travel gurus!


  42. I think that Hilton has a huge opportunity in the current environment. Obviously , lot of frustration with Marriott . Hilton should really consider awarding some confirmed suite upgrades and late check out benefits for Diamond. It doesn’t need to be anything crazy – maybe 1 suite upgrade and 1 late checkout award per quarter. Or perhaps allow them to be earned as milestones by nights or base points . A small uptick in this direction might tilt things firmly in their favor . Honors is a great program with outstanding customer service . Marriott is solid but has been falling down on customer service and IT issues .

    One thing I really like at Hilton is that I can redeem points for upgraded rooms and suites – might not be a “value “ but at least I have the option .

  43. Hilton does not need to change their policies simply because self-anointed travel gurus touted the same exact policies for their preferred programs, which have since collapsed, while denigrating Hilton’s. I get upgraded to suites consistently, and I have NEVER been denied a late check-out request. REALLY.

    Hilton Honors has become the dominant and last standing hotel loyalty program by offering a no-fluff, honest, member-centric, and ultimately rewarding program. It has no need to change a thing. Take it as is or leave it…

  44. Marriott/SPG branded hotels are often located in areas of cities that people want to be in more. Marriott/SPG offers better benefits for their elite members than many other brands.
    Marriott/SPG also is a bargain for redemption with their 5th night free, so it’s not really as many points as it looks like.
    Marriott/SPG has a more wide variety of brands within their system to choose from.
    Marriott/SPG also offers to transfer points among family members for free which is a good deal depending on how you work on acquiring and redeeming points/depending on your plan/strategy.

  45. @Iamhere — None of the claims you made about Marriott/SPG are compelling. With respect to transferring points, you are probably not aware that Hilton Honors allows up to 10 people to pool their points, which not only obviates the need to transfer points, but makes it infinitely easier for couples or friends to afford expensive awards.

    Any way you cut it Hilton Honors is simply the dominant and more rewarding program right now.


  46. I’m going to really miss the 4 pm check out. In fact, it’s sometimes the reason I book them. The free breakfast is really important to me and the rare times I’ve used the perk at Hilton, it was awesome. I’m going to be trying many more Hilton properties in 2019 for the breakfast.

  47. Lucky,
    Have you read about the Al Maha now restricting point bookings to room only?

    The new Marriott, Travel Brilliantly while we nickel and dime you!

  48. Nothing anecdotal about my experience. It’s been consistent, unless better than 90% suite upgrade success rate since 2012 is “anecdotal” in whatever you call your business…

  49. I am at Hilton Waikoala. Even though I am diamond they didn’t upgrade me to a suite. I had to pay $40/night extra on top my points just to get a oceanview room.
    Also, the continental (cold) Bkast is only for 2 people even for diamond. Rest is ~$20! For full buffet, it is $12 extra for diamond on top of contonental. There is no afternoon tea or snacks or lounge here.

  50. Going for the chain that provides whatever is most important to you for a particular stay is an easy way to decide. If that’s suites, then whichever has given you the most upgrades this year. If it’s late checkout past 1 or 2 pm and you’ve had a number of stays at both chains, you should already know the answer.

  51. I was asked and denied a late checkout at WA Palm Jumeira in Dubai a few days ago. Diamond member. Per hotel, they are fully sold out. They have a lounge, but I was not allowed. A very long explanation on that, how only few WA have lounges, etc. Was upgraded to the better view, but not a suite. Great breakfast, though. I would say YMMV based on location and time of the year

  52. Forgot to state, the $27/day self-parking fee is NOT waived for any elite member at Hilton Waikola..not much benefit here for top tier Hilton diamond…also NO late checkout..

  53. Interesting article. I will probably sign up for an Aspire card for diamond status for occasional Hilton stays moving forward…

    But, as a frequent business traveler who spends ~100-125 nights a year for work (almost entirely on Marriott), I don’t care much about or understand the importance of suite upgrades or breakfast.

    Breakfast is usually garbage at most hotels outside of the high end brands and even then I personally don’t eat breakfast 9/10 days. How much value should be placed on boards full of carbs, cereal, and runny eggs that were cooked an hour or more before I get there? Give me a solid coffee machine in the lounge or the lobby and I’m good.

    Suites are useless and hold no value unless you have a multi day leisure stay. I actually ask for my regular room when I get upgraded most of the time for business travel.

    I haven’t had any issues with the Marriott Rewards transition, other than they made me lifetime ambassador on accident for a week (didn’t even know that was possible). They have the most hotels in the most locations at most price points and make my life easy when I stay with them. I won’t be leaving Marriott but as lifetime titanium or whatever they’ll be calling it, it’s nice to know I have a decent alternative at Hilton without having to earn the status.

  54. Also hahaha DCS. Hilton status isn’t totally worthless but it’s not some amazing thing, either. It’s fine, and better than nothing. Just like most of them.

  55. @Tom,

    Yes. Agree that breakfast and suites are not so important for business travels. I can expense breakfast anyway if not included in the room rate. But for family travel of 4-5 with kids, those two really help a lot and some international properties have very fresh and healthy breakfast options with very nice settings. (e.g. sea view or top floor restaurant) I also agree that hotel chain status is not amazing. Still I feel they are far more rewarding than airline programs like “Aadvantage”…

  56. @Mike:

    Ha! Yes! Thank you for iterating that anecdotes =! empirical evidence. Seems a hard concept for some to grasp. To wit, I was HH Diamond in 2016 after having attained it in 2015. Over the course of the year, I made 12+ stays of 2-5 days each. Received 1 “upgrade” that entire time, and it was to a slightly larger room at the Hilton Orlando, a giant property that didn’t seem remotely full while I was there. Per @DCS’s “logic of anecdotes as data”, Hilton never upgrades elites. ::facepalm::

    Either way, I’ll stay Platinum Elite at Marriott. I like their hotels better, they’re in the cities/neighborhoods I frequent for work/play, and I prefer their points transfer options better. To each his/her own.

  57. Upgrades in the US and Europe for Hilton are a joke. So much better in Asia. I got upgraded to a 1 bedroom suite with mountain and river views before I even checked in today.

  58. the problem with Hilton is that they are quietly raising redemption rates all over the board without any notice. For instance:

    Hilton Garden Inn Rzesow (Poland) – used to be 5000 now 10000

    Hilton Garden Inn Krakow – used to be 5000 now 20000 (!!)

    Hampton by Hilton Minsk City Center – used to be 5000 now 19000 (!!)

    Hampton by Hilton Cluj Napoca – used to be 10000 now 20000

    Hilton Sibiu – I was there just this July (2018) for 10000 a night, now its already 20000

    In fact, I wonder if anybody can find a hilton property today for 5000 points (what used to be category 1). Certainly there are none in the USA.

    Contrary to that, Marriott has 309 properties at category 1 (many of which in the USA) and more than 1100 in category 2 and you can see all of them very conveniently at their dedicated web page.

  59. Great summary, Ben – Gary is way off base here. Marriott/SPG merger has been a complete shambles and their customer service (even at a corporate level) has been woeful. I’m gradually burning my remaining points and happily shifting stays to Hilton and IHG and will likely only stay with them in the future if it’s the only logical option. A shame as I quite liked SPG in the past.

  60. @Omer: “In fact, I wonder if anybody can find a hilton property today for 5000 points (what used to be category 1). Certainly there are none in the USA.”

    There are, indeed, none in the US – the last 5,000-point property (the Hampton Inn at CSG Airport in Columbus, Georgia) rebranded some time ago and is now a Baymont Inn and Suites.

    Based on the last compiled Honors redemption list from LoyaltyLobby in late August, there were a total of 41 properties at the minimum redemption of 5,000 points. Just over half (21) of these properties are in Turkey, with the remainder scattered throughout the world (including five in Mexico; three in Colombia; and two each in Egypt, Romania, and Russia).

    The lowest redemption deals in the US right now (and actually, some of the better redemptions period) are at the old Category 2 level (10,000 points). Though, again, these are limited redemptions (about 45 of the ~150 properties at this level are in the US), these properties are some of the places where it’s possible to squeeze more than a penny per point in value from a redemption, which is rarer and rarer from the Honors program since the categories were eliminated.

  61. @Mike – unfortunately LoyaltyLobby list of August is already dated. For instance: the 2 properties in Romania which the list referred to as going for 5000 namely Doubletree in Sighisoara and Hampton in Iasi are both now at 10000. Same is true of the Hilton Garden Inn Tucuman (Argentina). Same is true regarding Hampton by Hilton Vadodara (India). and this is just samples of a random check. In a nutshell: Hilton is slowly but surely eliminating 5000 points redemptions and soon enough 10000 will be the new “category 1”

  62. @Vineet Some Courtyard hotels do offer free breakfast. I stayed in two different ones in Seoul and both offered breakfast for me (Gold Elite back then). Hong Kong Courtyard offers breakfast to me as well.

    In general, I found the Asian hotels (both Hilton & Marriott, even IHG) tend to give elite members upgrade more consistently then USA hotels, based on my experience.

  63. I personally never really stay at Hilton besides when my work takes me to the US, from my experience it wasn’t as outstanding compared to hotels I stayed at in Poland, Turkey, Romania, Amman, Lebanon and Moscow. Ranging from category 3 (in Istanbul) to category 7 it’s always been better with Marriott. The W hotels are one of my favorites. One thing I noticed is that when I want to redeem nights at Dubai where I live it’s always such a high rate ranging from 75000 a night minimum for a medium categorized hotel! I am thinking to switch to Hilton honors however I think you should stick to what gives you more benefits in the long run for instance Marriott has partnership with Emirates skywards where when I am a gold member on Marriott I earn 3 points for every 1 dollar spent on flights with Emirates, same thing applies with being a gold member with Emirates you earn 1 skywards points every 1 dollar you spend on Marriott. So in any case I am still thinking to give Hilton a try but if anyone has some advice please share it.
    Thanks !

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