This June it was announced that Hilton would be entering into an exclusive credit card agreement with American Express as of January 2018. This saw the introduction of the Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express. One of the benefits of the card, is that it comes with HHonors Gold status for as long as you have the card, and HHonors Diamond status for any year in which you spend $40,000 on the card. I’ve received quite a few questions as to whether the difference between Gold and Diamond status warrants the extra $40,000 per year of credit card spend, when you could otherwise get Gold status just for having the card and paying the $95 annual fee (Rates & Fees).
I think the first thing to note is that $40,000 worth of spend is hardly “wasted” on this card, since you earn three points per dollar spent, plus bonus points in select spend categories. Valuing Hilton points at 0.8 cents each, that means you’re getting a return of 2.4 cents per point, which is one of the best of any card out there for non-bonus category spend, in my opinion. Furthermore, if you spend $15,000 on the card annually you get a free weekend night certificate, which can be redeemed at some pretty pricey Hilton family properties.
With that in mind, let’s discuss the basics of Hilton Gold and Diamond status:
Qualification requirements (if not earning status through credit card):
Gold: 16 stays, 36 nights, 60,000 base points (equivalent of $6,000 spend)
Diamond: 28 stays, 60 nights, or 100,000 base points (equivalent of $10,000 spend)
Points bonus for hotel stays:
Gold: 25% bonus on base points earned
Diamond: 50% bonus on base points earned
Executive lounge access:
Gold: Access to the Executive lounge only if you get a room upgrade to the executive floor
Diamond: Access to the executive lounge regardless of whether or not you get upgraded to the executive floor
Room upgrades (at Conrad, Hilton, and Doubletree properties):
Gold: May include the next-best available room from the room type booked. Upgrades may also be rooms with desirable views, corner rooms, rooms on high floors, rooms with special amenities or rooms on executive floor.
Diamond: Same as the above, plus upgrades may include suites. That’s not to say the hotel has to upgrade you to a suite if it’s available (like with Starwood, for example), but the terms and conditions do allow for upgrades to suites at the hotel’s discretion (which is a recent development).
Additional hotel amenities (at Conrad, Hilton, and Doubletree properties):
Gold: 1,000 HHonors bonus points per stay OR complimentary continental breakfast
Diamond: 1,000 HHonors bonus points per stay AND complimentary continental breakfast
Gold: Complimentary in-room internet access to the highest speed wifi offered
Diamond: Same as above
There are also some benefits at Hilton’s other brands (Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites, etc.), ranging from bonus points to junk food, though there’s very little difference in what’s offered to Gold and Diamond members, so to keep things simple we’ll leave that out of the equation.
So “big picture” the major differences between Gold and Diamond status as I see them are as follows:
- Diamond members are guaranteed executive lounge access, while it’s on a space available basis for Gold members (based on whether or not they get upgraded to an executive floor room). As a Gold member I’ve received an upgrade to an executive floor room every time there was one, along with corresponding lounge access. That’s based on only about a dozen stays, though, so I’m not suggesting everyone else will have as much luck. But it’s certainly worth something to be guaranteed lounge access, especially for a longer stay in a city that’s expensive.
- Diamond members may get better room upgrades, benefits, and treatment at hotels. The terms and conditions state that Diamond members may be upgraded to suites, while it doesn’t say the same for Gold members. So at your run of the mill Hilton chances are you’re not getting a great upgrade either way, though I think the more elite heavy and “nice” the hotel is, the bigger difference you’ll see between the two elite tiers. For example, Diamond members occasionally report receiving suite upgrades at the Conrad Tokyo and consistently receive upgrades to harbor view rooms at the Conrad Hong Kong, while that’s often not the case for Gold members. Furthermore, some hotels will offer special amenities to Diamond members but not Gold members. The Conrad Koh Samui, for example, offers Diamond members a complimentary 60-minute massage for two, which they don’t offer Gold members.
The way I look at it, the other differences are insignificant for someone looking to achieve the status based on credit card spend. For example, Gold members have to choose between breakfast and 1,000 points, while Diamond members get both. I value 1,000 HHonors points at $8, so that’s hardly a reason to put $40,000 of spend on a credit card. The same goes for the difference in points bonuses you earn for your hotel stays, which are insignificant unless you plan on making dozens of stays at Hilton properties a year.
So is it worth putting the $40,000 of spend on the Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express? Not surprisingly, my answer is “it depends.” Here’s the closest thing I can give to a “fair” answer — if you’re not a huge credit card spender, it’s probably not worth going for Diamond status, since you’re probably better off focusing on meeting the minimum spend on other cards.
But if you’re a big credit card spender and a lot of your spend is in categories that don’t otherwise earn bonuses, then this is absolutely worth it.
For $40,000 of spend it’s tough to beat top tier status in a hotel program, a free weekend night, and 120,000+ Hilton HHonors points, in my opinion.
In my last post about the card I used my parents as an example. They own a business where they put $100,000+ per year of business expenses on a credit card, a vast majority of which aren’t in a category that earns bonus points on another credit card. So right now they’re using the Starwood American Express. It’s also a great credit card, though I think it totally makes sense for them to switch $40,000 of spend to this credit card so they’ll earn Diamond status, tons of points they can use for hotel stays, and a free night annually. They wouldn’t otherwise have hotel status, so I think the value of this is huge for their handful of hotel stays annually.
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card (Rates & Fees).