Hilton Introducing 72 Hour Advance Elite Upgrades And Digital Key Sharing

Loyalty programs are really two separate components married together: recognition and reward. There’s an elite program to treat your best customers better, an a points program to offer a rebate on spend. Hilton’s rebate value is low, though spend with Hilton using a Hilton co-brand credit card can be pretty good. And Hilton’s elite program is weak.

  • Top tier elites do not even get guaranteed late check-out

  • And there’s no promise of suite upgrades -if a standard suite is available at check-in, and a hotel doesn’t give that suite to a Diamond member, the property hasn’t done anything wrong under the rules of the program. With Hilton hotels are allowed to upgrade to suites but they do not have to.

The sweet spot of the Hilton program has been that Gold status is basically a giveaway level. It comes with the primary consumer credit card, and is a throw-in with the Platinum Amex. And Gold status comes with breakfast (when there’s no lounge access). Diamond benefits aren’t especially differentiated from Gold.

Hilton has introduced a food and beverage credit in lieu of elite breakfast where club lounge isn’t available (and at chains where breakfast isn’t provided free to everyone). That runs through December 31. I hear it’s being extended. The concept is amazing (use the credit for a meal other than breakfast, use the credit for room service) but the amount is too low and doesn’t cover the least expensive items in major cities. At some hotels it won’t even cover a cup of coffee with tax if you tip (which is expected).

Hilton has tested confirmed suite upgrades for Diamonds so when I heard they were adding a new advance upgrade benefit I figured surely we had to finally see suite upgrades. No such luck.

Instead Golds and Diamonds will be notified of space available ‘enhanced room’ upgrades 72 hours in advance and will be able to select a room from the new upgraded room category through the chain’s mobile app. The ability to select your own room is a nice benefit of the mobile app, but means you aren’t working any schmooze magic with the agent at check-in. This is potentially an improvement, but also disappointing, because there’s no promise being made that available suites will be offered to Diamond members.

They’re also adding key sharing to their digital room key feature, so that a guest can give their key to (for instance) someone sharing their room. That’s a technological advance as well. One area where Hilton relatively excels is in their mobile technology.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Sorry Gary, but the food and beverage credit is completely crap. At minimum it should guarantee breakfast (as the program has always been strong in this area) and allow people to “trade” their breakfast credit for these low value dollar-off credits if they wish. As it stands now, it’s nothing more than a cost saving measure.

  2. I don’t see any “space available” upgrades being made available at high-end properties 72 hours before check-in. After all, there are a lot of last-minute bookings at airports and big cities. Resorts might be different since very few people are booking a trip to Hawaii or wherever on two or three days out.

  3. BTW. This has been a persistent problem at Marriott. Marriott’s upgrade policy says eligible elites are entitled to the best available room or suite at the time of check-in. Check-in is now 2 days before arrival through the mobile app. However, some properties refuse to honor this and instead insist that upgrades are determined at physical arrival, not mobile check-in. Depending on the property’s adoption of mobile check-ins, it is physically possible to arrive at a hotel having checked in through mobile app and not actually visit the front desk. Other properties use the mobile app check-in as basically Kabuki theater and still require a guest to undergo all the formalities at the front desk.

  4. @ FNT Delta Diamond — Marriott hotel managers generally lie about upgrades. The company is useless because they do not honor their elite benefits. I gladly take my business to any other hotel company, and I encourage others to do the same.

  5. This concept that one program is better than others is pure shit. My priorities aren’t the same as another’s. Personally I found Hyatts program worthless, but I respect those that love it. To each his own. Let’s stop the badgering of a program because it doesn’t “work” for you.

  6. There’s the joke about the guy who died and was allowed to do a two-week stay in Heaven and in Hell. The devil treated him royally and said Hell was given a bad rap. So, the guy chose Hell. Upon his return, it was fire and brimstone. The guy asked the devil what happened. “Before, you were a prospect. Now, you’re a guest.”

    Hotel loyalty programs are an illusion. Everything seems to be “at the discretion of the property.”. They resist granting benefits. It is truly a dirty, dirty business.

    I’ve found a different path.

  7. It is time push back forcefully against the plethora of misinformation that this site has been peddling for years about Hilton Honors, a program that the host clearly does not understand or know much about.

    Hilton’s rebate value is low

    You need to go back to grade-school math for continuing to promote that canard that was widely panned when it was initially posted.

    It does not take a genius to understand this: Hilton “rebate” towers over the competition’s because of this single most important factor that directly determines “rebates”: the number of points earned per spend, which Hilton Honors awards the most of and, importantly, must include all sources points (co-brand CC, promos, elites bonus, etc) that your widely-panned post that you keep linking to every time you make the bogus claim conveniently or, more likely, ignorantly left out.

    The math is really quite trivial. It is time to retire that bogus claim.

    And Hilton’s elite program is weak. … The sweet spot of the Hilton program has been that Gold status is basically a giveaway level.

    Wrong again! The “sweet spot” is Hilton Gold because it is the status that matches well with Hyatt Globalist, the most expensive elite status that is inexplicably put on a pedestal by “self-anointed” travel gurus.

    Do you know what is — without a doubt because it is quantifiable as leading to outsized redemption values – the single most valuable hotel loyalty perk? Not the largely useless 4pm checkout “guarantee”, a perk that I have never been denied, including late checkout requests as late as 6pm, in 11 years straight as HH Diamond. I’ll tell you what it is: It is getting every 5th award night FREE. How valuable is the perk? This valuable: I redeemed a 5-night award stay, the 5th night totally free, at Waldorf Astoria Maldives just before the pandemic hit and got a redemption value of about 4cents/Hilton point. That would be like getting 12 cents/Hyatt point, which would be impossible to achieve without the 5th award night free perk! Do you know that Hyatt Globalists are among few top elites that do not get the “5th award night free” perk? No? That is because you never hear about that inconvenient fact when Hyatt Globalist is touted as the ‘best’ status in the business.

    Also, do you know that while the free night that you get on the Chase WoH CC is good only for up to category 4 hotels, the free nights that one gets on the AMEX Hilton Honors Aspire card has no hotel category limitation? The last time I used mine was for stay a Waldorf Astoria Bangkok just before the pandemic, and it was not on a weekend night either.

    BTW, to avoid leaving yet another bogus impression, it is important to clarify that Hilton’s “credit for breakfast” applies only to their properties in the US, which is consistent with the fact that treatment of elites at Hilton properties in the US has always been subpar relative to same in Europe or Asia. For some of us who travel mostly internationally, any changes that affect US properties, like “credit for breakfast”, are largely immaterial.

    This is potentially an improvement, but also disappointing, because there’s no promise being made that available suites will be offered to Diamond members.

    LOL. And Hyatt or Marriott makes such a promise? That sounds to me like an attempt to resurrect the bogus claim that SPG ‘guaranteed’ suites upgrades when available!

    This change by Hilton to notify members of upgrades 72 hours ahead of time is even better than so-called ‘confirmed’ upgrades because there is no limit! In fact, the only change is that the window has been moved back a couple of days. In the past, one could tell that one had been upgraded simply by checking the info on a stay on the arrival day on the HH app.

    I could go on, but the preceding should already tell you that statements like ”And Hilton’s elite program is weak” are totally silly and misinformed. I patronize Hilton Honors, and I am truly glad that it is nothing like World of Hyatt…


  8. Forgot to ‘blockquote’ this at the top of my preceding push-back comment:

    Hilton’s rebate value is low

    As subsequently elaborated, that is a demonstrably bogus claim.

  9. Before SPG merger/acquisition I did view Marriott program similar to Hilton. The new Bonvoy tried to “please” the SPG loyalists but it did not last long. In my view, it is mostly on par with Hilton or even worse in terms of benefits/elite recognition in some markets.

  10. I love the food and beverage credit! Out of the 3 properties I have stayed at recently, 1 was still offering free breakfast and the other 2 said the food and beverage credit on a 1 night stay can either be used the day you check in OR the day you check out. It cannot be split between both days. They said if the night auditor sees that you’ve used any of the credit the day you check in then that counts as your entire credit.

  11. This is interesting. We can see 72 hours in advance what kind of upgrade we’re getting, or not getting, and then cancel on 24-48 hours notice if we don’t like it.

  12. Last year in the middle of the Pandemic I spent probably 40 nights at the extremely empty Hilton Sukhumvit 24. Number of suite upgrades? Zero. (Although I was finally offered an upgrade on the last day of one of my stays, thanks!) I’m up to probably 200+ nights in past 4 years with Hilton, zero suite upgrades.

    It’s a joke.

    Marriott I get a suite every time.

  13. I love the food and beverage credit!

    – Holly

    So do I! I stayed for 2 nights at Hilton San Francisco Financial District in August, and did not bother getting for breakfast. I simply decided to use my F&B credit for booze at the lobby bar in the evenings. When I checked out, I noticed that I’d received a $60 credit for F&B. Cool!

    Anyone who cares to have free breakfast should stay at Embassy Suites or Hampton Inn or the like. I just returned on Sunday from attending homecoming just north of Austin at Southwestern University (class of ’81 or 40 years ago!) in Georgetown, Texas, where I stayed at a Hampton Inn. Hot breakfast was served in a common area, and this being in Texas, no one wore a mask!

  14. Many people, including Gary, don’t seem to understand how suite upgrades work at Marriott or Hilton. If you check in and one is available you ARE NOT entitled to that room. On a one night stay when you check in that evening sure (and I usually get an upgrade at both under that circumstance) since it would sit empty.

    However for multi night stays where there is a reasonable chance of selling the room they are under no obligation to give it away and frankly doing so would be a disservice to their franchisees and shareholders.

    People are so focused on what they can get they don’t seem to understand practical business issues. SMH

  15. The Hilton breakfast credit is garbage as it does not cover the cost of breakfast. Hilton should make it the choice of a credit OR a free breakfast. Or scrap it.

  16. Notwithstanding bogus claims by self-anointed “travel gurus” that programs that they to wish to convince their readers are “superior” guarantee suite upgrades, @AC is technically correct in essentially stating that there is no such guarantee because hotels are under no obligation to give a suite away , especially if there is a reasonable chance that it can be sold for revenue. However, overseas, where I routinely score suite upgrades on multi-night stays, properties, especially high-end ones, will usually upgrade a top elite, often proactively, if a suite is available.

    Case in point:
    I returned on October 9 from a 7-night revenue stay at DoubleTree by Hilton Rome Monti, a brand new property located near some of Rome’s most ancient attractions. On the way from FCO airport to the hotel, I’d checked my stay on the HH app and noticed that I’d already been upgraded from a King Superior room that I’d booked to a King Deluxe room — a 60€ value, which I was happy with. Then I decided to see if any suites were available for sale, and there were none. Therefore, I knew that my chance of getting a complimentary Diamond suite upgrade was low.

    When I checked in at the hotel, I still did as I always do when not proactively upgraded to a suite and requested one. The very nice lady checking me in looked to see what she could do for me, and confirmed what I already knew: no suite upgrade available. Then I asked her whether there would there be suites available during my 7-night stay to upgrade me into, and she checked and said that there would be for my last 5 nights and that she could ask the manager if I wanted to be upgraded then. I said that would be nice. I went out to have dinner, when I returned, the same young lady was still at the front desk and she told me that the manager had approved my upgrade to a junior suite in a couple of days. If I wished, I should have my things ready and they would help me move. I told her that I would managed, which I did two days later. As my overseas stays tend to be relatively long, being upgraded to suite for part of a stay as happened at this DoubleTree has happened quite a few times. It simply says that many properties overseas do not play games with upgrades. They try to do it by “the book.”

    What no one should believe are bogus claims by self-anointed “travel gurus” that their preferred programs “guarantee” suite upgrades while Hilton Honors does not, which, therefore, makes “Hilton’s elite program weak” . Hogwash.

  17. BTW, how many rewards points did I earn on that 7-night revenue stay at DoubleTree by Hilton Rome Monti? This many (cutting pasting from my account) :

    2021 Power Up Promotion: 24,011
    Diamond Elite 100% Bonus: 24,011
    2021 Power Up Promotion – Hilton Honors Credit Card: 24,011
    Base Points: 24,011
    Total for hotel stay: 97,044

    Add to that at least $2,401 * 14 = ~34,000 in HH AMEX Aspire bonus points
    and my total points for just that one 7-night stay is: ~130K,i.e., a rebate large enough to afford a one-night stay at some of Hilton’s most aspirational properties, costing at least $2K a night!

    Why so may points? Well, because Hilton has an ongoing Q4 promo that awards Hilton Diamond 54x:

    $2,401 * 54 HH/$ = ~ 130K.

    That is like getting ~45K Hyatt points, but when is the last time Hyatt offered such a lucrative promo in recent memory, if ever? In the absence of a promo like HH’s Q4, a Globalist would have to spend $6,900 (vs. my $2,401) on a stay to earn~ 45K WoH points!

    It is why the claim that Hilton’s rebate value is low, which I debunked up-thread, is just pure bunk.

    There should remain little doubt that a plethora of misinformation is being peddled about Hilton Honors, especially on this site.

  18. @AC is wrong. Read the Marriott Bonvoy terms and conditions. If I check into the Renaissance Aruba today and a suite is available for all four nights of my stay, I am entitled to receive it. The problem is Marriott doesn’t specify an upgrade priority, which means it isn’t a given that an ambassador gets an upgrade before a platinum. Supposedly, Marriott recently started sending a daily email to the general manager of each hotel with the names of arriving ambassadors and, I believe, titaniums. However, I have not confirmed this is happening at every hotel or only certain brands. But two GMs have told me about it.

  19. As a Hilton Diamond for quite a few years now, I think the program operates fairly well for my needs. I think the 72 hour upgrade notice is decent…I’ll let you know after my next three trips…lol!

    However, what diminishes the program greatly is the utter lack of Executive Lounges (especially in the U.S.). Hilton loves to tout the lounge access in it’s benefits chart…but good luck finding one. And, in the U.S., if you do find a hotel with a lounge…good luck finding one that offers alcohol.

    It boggles my mind that Hampton Inn franchisees are REQUIRED to offer breakfast. Embassy Suite franchisees are REQUIRED to offer breakfast AND an evening reception. But, a Hilton…most any Hilton? Nope…not required. The Waldorf in Beverly Hills? Strike Two. The Conrad in Midtown Manhattan? Strike three annnddd yer out!!!

    My point…the lounge should be a perk Diamond’s get at every hotel Hilton level and above.

  20. @AC is wrong. Read the Marriott Bonvoy terms and conditions. If I check into the Renaissance Aruba today and a suite is available for all four nights of my stay, I am entitled to receive it.

    — FNT Delta Diamond

    You are wrong, as is your language. You are not “entitled” to anything. Instead of sending people to read BonVoy’s T&C on upgrades, please get the relevant clauses and post them here to show us where it says that elites are “entitled” to receive upgrades when they are available, keeping in mind the universally true fact that leaves you very little wiggle room, which is that each property decides what is or is not available.

    You need to start reading more critically blogposts by self-anointed “travel gurus” who purport to know more about what perks are promised and under which conditions than do loyalty programs themselves !

  21. @DCS…you’ll do great as a side hustle of beiong a writer. Have you ever thought of writing as a passiv income based side hustle? Your ambition for creating long-form content shows just right A+. 🙂

  22. Just got back from a trip as a current Diamond/Titanium/Globalist so I cover all three programs fairly well. I am not a self-appointed anything–I am retired and just like to travel. I HATE the credit. $50 at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills didn’t even cover half of a normal breakfast for two. On the other hand, on the same trip we had outstanding, huge, wonderful breakfasts at a Grand Hyatt and a Hyatt, and a pretty decent breakfast at a Marriott resort, without paying anything further (my tips at Hyatt came off the bill too). I hope and pray that the “test” doesn’t travel overseas, since I remember well the excellent breakfasts we’ve had at no additional cost at the Hilton Phuket, the Tokyo Hilton, the Hilton Colombo, the Conrad Maldives, the Conrad Bora Bora–I could go on. With due respect to all commentators, saying that anyone who wants a free breakfast should stay at a Hampton Inn or an Embassy Suites just boggles the mind.

    As far as the likelihood of a suite upgrade, my order is probably pretty similar to many here–Hyatt if a standard suite is available, then Marriott (quite a few suite upgrades but not through SNAs–my best upgrades have had nothing to do with SNAs and some of my SNAs have been same room/better view) and then Hilton (where upgrades for me to nice rooms are common but upgrades to suites are pretty rare).

  23. I’m a big fan of the idea of a food credit instead of breakfast. But what I’m reading is extremely disappointing. A $12 credit in lieu of breakfast at a 5* Hilton is pretty much useless. Essentially, they’re taking away my breakfast perk. As a Diamond, I’m often upgraded, given late checkouts and fussed over by the front desk … but the huge perk for me is access to the executive lounge. I don’t particularly want a 5-course meal for breakfast, unless it’s served until 11am … but if I can nip in and have a continental in the lounge, that’s a big perk. As for ‘guaranteed late checkouts’, that’s ludicrous from a hotel ops perspective. They can’t give you a late checkout if that makes the room unavailable to the next HH big shot, can they? Everybody knows that supervising housekeeping is like herding cats, so I understand the ‘no guarantee’ concept.

  24. Marriott BonVoy T &C for upgrades:

    We’ll do our best to upgrade your room (including Select Suites), based on availability at check-in. Upgrades are subject to availability identified by each hotel and limited to your personal guest room.

    Where in BonVoy T&C is the purported ‘guarantee’ or ‘entitlement’ to a suite upgrade when one is available? Hyatt’s T&C’s are no different. Each property has the last word. Period. You can keep regurgitating what self-anointed travel gurus claim all you like, it does not change that fact.

    I have been a HH Diamond since 2010, and during this period, I am 100% sure that I have scored more complimentary suite upgrades than elites of programs that are purported to have “confirmed” suite upgrades. One year, I publicly documented with photos (on now defunct MilePoint) how I score 12 suite upgrades on 12 separate stays as HH Diamond.


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