Posted by Ric Garrido

Hilton HHonors announced increases to the stays, nights and base points elite qualification requirements for HHonors Gold and Diamond membership effective January 1, 2013.

HHonors Gold elite requirements as of January 1, 2013:

  • 20 stays, up from 16 stays.
  • 40 nights, up from 36 nights.
  • 75,000 base points ($7,500 in hotel spend), up from 60,000 base points.

HHonors Diamond elite requirements as of January 1, 2013:

  • 30 stays, up from 28 stays.
  • 60 nights, no change.
  • 120,000 base points ($12,000 in hotel spend), up from 100,000 base points ($10,000).

There are no changes to the credit card qualifications for Gold and Diamond elite with HHonors American Express and Visa cards available with membership and spend thresholds.

Analysis:

This really does not seem to be a major change for HHonors Diamond elite members who normally qualify on stays and nights. The fact that award stays count for elite status makes two additional stays for Diamond not that big a deal, especially with Points & Money awards and the opportunity to pick up cheap Hampton Inn stays in most places around the USA.

The increase to 20 stays from 16 stays for HHonors Gold is quite a bit more expense if you normally qualify for Gold elite on a minimum 16 stays. Hilton HHonors seems to be providing incentive for HHonors Citi Reserve credit card membership for $95 per year with the card benefit of HHonors Gold elite status as long as you are a cardmember.

The real penalty is imposed on HHonors elite members who qualify on hotel spend. Increasing Gold elite from $6,000 in spend to $7,500 to earn 75,000 base points seems unreasonable to me. That increases the average spend from $167 per night to $187.50 per night when comparing the $7,500 spend level to the 40 nights level for Gold qualification. Both stays and spend increased 25% and means an average spend of $375 per stay when comparing the cost of earning Gold elite by spend vs. stays.

Stays, nights and spend are three different ways to earn HHonors elite status. I already viewed the spend requirements as the least favorable way for most leisure travel members to earn status and now they raised that bar even higher. The change is probably not as big a deal for business travelers.

Diamond elite qualification is even more confusing when compared to the threshold for Gold. $12,000 in base spend for 120,000 points is equivalent to $300 per stay at 40 stays. This means a Diamond member averaging $300 per stay on 40 stays qualifies for Diamond by both standards, yet this is an average spend less than the $375 per stay for 20 stays and Gold elite. If HHonors had kept Gold elite at $6,000 spend or 20 stays then this would mean $300 per stay would reach $6,000 after 20 stays and be equivalent to the average spend rate for Diamond elite qualification at 40 stays or $12,000. 

Note that I am only comparing average spend and stays as an analytical exercise. You can qualify for HHonors on spend or stays or nights. I just find it interesting that the changes to Gold elite qualification seem tougher on members who qualify for Gold elite staying at Hilton properties compared to the changes to Diamond elite qualification in 2013.

Ric Garrido, writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. You can follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.

10 Responses

  1. It’s like they are nudging you to get the credit card, which I don’t really get since you have less incentive to stay then.

  2. And folks like us from overseas won’t be able to get that credit card.

  3. Hilton devalued the points after getting bought out by the VC firms, now this. Frequent travelers need to vote with their wallets and let Hilton’s financial owners know they have gone from one of if not the most lucrative to one of the least lucrative of the majors. Personally, my pecking order: Marriott (strong promotions and easy challenges to get status), Carlson (properties are general middling but overly generous on giving away points), Starwood (slow year promotions wise except for free breakfasts but was good before), Hilton (second major program downgrade in recent years) My suggestion is going into 2013, Diamonds try for a status match with one of the better programs.

  4. @Ric: Glad you’re keeping such an eagle eye on Hilton’s changes to their program. I might not have known about this without reading your blog.

    @Mike: Really liked your list! I’ll have to check out Carlson’s loyalty program and credit card, based on what you said. Do they have as many properties around the world as other hotel chains?

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  10. The category that no one seems to include in the ratings is property locations/desirability. I’m Hilton Diamond and I’ve got to tell you that their vacation options stink. My family is all about the Caribbean and in that case, Hilton is getting crushed by the Marriotts of the world. If you like the beach and you prefer Florida over Turks and Caicos or the US Virgin Islands, then you’re in the right program. Otherwise, it would be nice to include this category in the evaluation to get a decent perspective. Personally, I’m looking to switch teams……

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