Hilton Diamond status: more like cubic zirconia, amirite?

Back in more naive times, I wrote about how excited I was to have top-tier Diamond status in the Hilton Honors program. After almost a year as a Diamond, I can officially say that Hilton Diamond status is pretty much worthless. It’s not even that Diamond status is particularly bad, it’s that both on paper and in practice, it’s barely better than Gold status. I keep expecting Hilton to devalue Gold status, since it’s very easy to earn (you get it with the $95-per-year Hilton Ascend card and/or with the Amex Platinum), and the benefits — free breakfast, occasional room upgrade, and a 50% bonus on points — are better than any other hotel’s mid-tier status.

I went into the year with a bunch of Hilton stays planned, so I was really looking forward to upping my travel game with Diamond status. Here’s a quick summary of each stay, and what I got by having Diamond instead of Gold:

  • Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam: no points since it was an award stay, possible upgrade to preferred room (not a suite)

  • Conrad Chicago: around 4000 points due to the Diamond 100% bonus

  • Hilton Denver City Center: around 1700 points

  • Aleph Hotel Rome (Curio): nothing

  • Hilton Molino Stucky Venice: possible upgrade to preferred room, around 4000 points

  • Conrad NYC: nothing

The fact that I didn’t score a single upgrade to a suite is pretty disappointing. I’m sure I could have argued with the check-in person at each of these hotels, although arguing with someone over elite benefits isn’t really high on my list of things to do when on vacation. I did try to wrangle something from the Conrad Chicago, and they offered to sell me an upgrade to a room with a better view. So much for Diamond status scoring automatic upgrades to the best available room.

The upgrades that I did receive were to preferred rooms only, and I can’t say definitively that I wouldn’t have received the same upgrade if I only had Gold status. One interesting anecdote: I received a letter outlining my elite benefits when I checked into the Aleph Rome hotel, and it mentioned Gold status at the top. I reminded the check-in agent that I had Diamond status, and she gave me a new letter that was exactly the same except for saying “Diamond” at the top. So as far as room upgrades were concerned, having Diamond status may have gotten me onto a higher floor here and there, but other than that, it’s pretty worthless.

Of course, that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy my stays at these hotels. They were all really nice, and the Waldorf Amsterdam, Aleph Rome, and Hilton Venice had incredible breakfast buffets. The fact that you get full access to these buffets with lowly Gold status is nuts, and even after I cancel my Aspire card and lose Diamond status, I’m still going to go out of my way to stay at Hiltons due to how good Gold status is.

That’s right, I said I’m going to cancel my Aspire card at the end of the year. It’s still a good card, but it’s not worth $450 per year to me anymore. The $250 airline credit and free weekend night are nice, but even if I value the airline credit at face value, that means I’m essentially paying $200 for a weekend night. I’m sure I could come out ahead if I managed to book an expensive hotel on the weekend, but I’d rather save the cash and be able to use it on a room any day of the week. Plus, it’s not like they make those weekend night certificates easy to use.

The other benefits are of limited use to me… at best with Diamond status, I’ll earn a few extra points. I don’t have any plans to stay at a Hilton resort next year, so the $250 resort credit will be wasted just like it was this year. Finally, the $100 on-property credit at Conrad/Waldorf properties is similarly pretty useless.

Is the Aspire card right for you? I’d say yes if any of the following is true: you earn 100,000 base points a year staying at Hiltons (meaning that Diamond status would get you an extra 50,000 points over Gold), you plan to stay at a resort at some point, or you routinely stay at Conrad or Waldorf hotels on the weekend. For me, since most of my Hilton stays are award stays, it just doesn’t make sense.

In the end, I feel I got plenty of value out of the Aspire card in the first year ($500 in airline credits plus a free weekend night that I used at the Conrad NYC and the 100k sign-up bonus), so I’m not too sad that Diamond didn’t work out. It’s a bummer that I couldn’t get a single suite in six tries, but it’s not the end of the world… just the end of my time as a Hilton Diamond member. Has anyone else had better luck with Hilton upgrades?

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9 thoughts on “Hilton Diamond status: more like cubic zirconia, amirite?

  1. Biggie F

    My experience as a fake (Aspire) Hilton Diamond this year has been the same as yours — same exposure, same (non)results. Could have had the same widely-varying breakfasts as a Gold (I think). The distinction between Hilton Diamond and Hyatt Globalist struck me last month in two separate one-nighters in MAD: With Hilton, the room was fine, but it warn’t no suite, and in some weird ways could have technically been a downgrade; whereas the Hyatt folks gave a great suite upgrade without asking (or without TSUs) — I’m definitely in the two-separate-toilets > two sinks camp — and would have given an even better one (terrasse, too) if we had been willing to wait another hour. Anecdotic, to be sure, but what isn’t in this travel hacking universe?
    Rather than go into another diatribe on the uselessness of a non-plan-ahead, non-guaranteed, grudgingly-given-if-given-at-all late checkout policy at Hilton, I’ll agree with you on Aspire and Diamond status as follows:
    1) If you don’t plan to use the $250 resort credit and you have an Amex Platinum for other reasons — so that you don’t need to pay the $95 AF on the Ascend to get Hilton Gold — then, yeah, the hollowness of Diamondhood makes the Aspire a non-keeper.
    2) But if you don’t have Hilton Gold through an Amex Plat, then that’s an additional $95 you will have to pay if you don’t keep the Aspire. Which is essentially a $95 benefit to Aspire. I did the $15,000 spend this year on the Ascend for a free weekend Hilton night, but that was only because the first $10,000 got me another free weekend Hilton night because of the timing of my anniversary date and the switchover early 2018 from Citi to Amex. Not going to keep Ascend when anniversary date comes around again, because $15,000 spend on that card for a free weekend Hilton night only isn’t a good investment of good spend given that I already have Hilton Gold through Amex Plat (and/or will keep Diamond through Aspire).
    3) Whereas if the Hilton qualifying-as-resorts-hotels are in your normal travel rotation — they are in mine — then the Aspire is a “hold” (and the Ascend is a “ditch”), even though Hilton Diamond does not appear to be a qualitative improvement over Hilton Gold.

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  2. Jeff

    Man,
    I’m a “fake diamond” as well but got there via promotions and status matches.
    My experience has been way different. My first real “experience” at a Hilton was at the Logon in Philadelphia. Big special trip with my family and parents.
    Weeks of planning and the Sheraton we were in was a dump. Late at night trying to figure out how to improve our accommodations without completely emptying balances and landed on the Logon.
    Upgraded us to a suite, which was huge given my very pregnant wife and 2-year-old, and also gave us a *lot* of vouchers for the high-dollar restaurant to ensure we could all (parents included) enjoy breakfast every morning. They also treated us extremely well, despite it being obvious that we were not, say, their typical financial demographic.
    My parents still talk about that “amazing experience” to this day, and I shifted a lot of stays to Hilton’s since.
    I’ve found that culturally Hiltons seem to hire eager-to-please employees who are a point of difference against other chains. I almost always get upgrades to suites and am baffled when I read about others’ poor experiences with status. The Logon changed my mind about Hilton, but all my experiences since have validated it.

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    1. Windbag Miles

      I appreciate the counterpoint, although if a loyalty program can’t provide a reasonably consistent experience for members, that in itself is a failing. I think Hilton could remedy this by offering Diamonds a limited amount of guaranteed suite upgrades, but this would probably not be feasible for a status level that can be earned simply by holding a credit card.
      When they originally announced the Aspire, I expected them to come out with a “Super Diamond” tier to keep their actual loyal elites happy, something more in line with what Hyatt offers Globalists. Maybe they don’t want to devalue the existing Diamond tier so close to launching the Aspire card with Amex, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened at some point.

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  3. Stan

    Much better chances at upgrades in Asia especially in Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Macau. Consistently upgraded whether at Hilton, Conrad or HGI. The worst was at the former Hilton Shanghai, but it has been rebranded to a local brand. Good riddance.

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  4. frfrgm

    I have been Hilton Diamond for quite a few years, earned via a credit card, not stays. I think I have gotten one single suite upgrade ever. I totally agree that there is virtually no difference between Diamond and Gold status and that it is not worth any extra effort or expense to reach Diamond

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  5. Farnorthtrader

    Not going to go into all of the suite upgrades we have received as diamonds, but we also stayed at Hilton Molino Stuckey. We booked a king view room on a premium reward for less than the price of a standard room award, then we were upgraded to a top floor canal view suite.Not sure what the difference is, but maybe they can see your points balance? From your linked posting, it sounds like you spend them as fast as you earn them, whereas, my wife and I each have in excess of half a million points in our accounts. Also, in regard to that linked post, we have never had a problem with redeeming our free night certificates, and we have redeemed 28 of them over six years (at least part of the reason we still have so many points). Wow, I hadn’t previously totaled them. That is a lot. The average rate for the free nights we have received is $629.51. We will also use both of our first two years resort credits (paracas peru and Del Coronado san Diego), and the airline credits, putting the value, outside of the diamond benefits, at about $1100, so the Aspire is a keeper for us.

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