EXCLUSIVE: Hilton Starts Selling Upgrades To Gold And Diamond Members

Hilton is making two changes to Honors Gold and Diamond upgrades. Starting today they will be selling upgrades through the app. Beginning November 18 they will process automatic complimentary upgrades at Hampton Inn and Hilton Garden Inn hotels with the technical ability for them to do so.

  • Digital check-in upsells for elites. Honors Gold and Diamond members are supposed to receive upgrades. However, while hotels are allowed to upgrade to suites they are not required to do so. That’s a more limited benefit than what’s offered by Marriott and Hyatt.

    Beginning today, paid upgrade offers that have been tested with base and silver members during digital check-in will be offered to Gold and Diamond members as well. As Hilton explained in an internal document reviewed by View From The Wing, “[t]his will offer Elite members the ability to choose a paid upgrade when they check-in via the mobile app.”

  • Complimentary upgrades at Hampton and Hilton Garden Inn properties. Officially these brands, along with Embassy Suites; Tru; Homewood Suits; Home2 Suites; Hilton Grand Vacations; and Motto, have been excluded from the upgrade benefit under Hilton’s terms and conditions, although some members do report upgrades nonetheless.

    The “Automated Upgrade surprise and delight offer” (which has been available at Luxury, Full Service and Lifestyle brands) will be extended to Hampton Inn and Hilton Garden Inn properties with the technical capability to implement them (those “that can support upgrades globally”) effective November 18. That’s when they will begin processing automated upgrades for arrivals starting November 21.

Four years ago Hilton tested confirmed suite upgrades for top elites, something even IHG now offers. But we didn’t see it roll out. Instead, and with these changes, Hilton is taking more of a direct monetization path.

Taken together, Hilton will be offering:

  • More upgrades to elites prior to check-in
  • And then “the option to choose a further paid upgrade (via Digital Check-in Upsell) when they select their room at time of check-in via the mobile app.”

Some competitor chains, of course, provide those ‘further upgrades’ complimentary rather than paid. However in tests Hilton tells owners that this approach is driving significant revenue,

  • Participating Full Service hotels saw 57% of incremental upsell revenue driven by Elite members.

  • Participating Hampton and Hilton Garden Inn hotels saw an increase of +14% in Hilton Honors Appreciation scores for those awarded an Automated Upgrade, compared to those not awarded.

  • Expansion of Upsell to Elite members is intended to drive incremental revenue into your hotels by offering more guests the ability to purchase an upgraded room via Digital Check-In.

In addition these changes are intended to save hotel labor costs (“drive efficiency for front desk staff”) by “encouraging use of Digital Check-In” and by “reduc[ing] the manual work required at the front desk” while “maximiz[ing] loyalty and revenue through customer choice and control.”

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. Mixed feelings – as a Diamond member I get upgraded maybe 50% of the time (almost 100% at international hotels) so may want to “roll the dice” and see what is available at check in. However it would be nice to confirm the upgrade (if a reasonable price) in advance and I also realize these “sold” upgrades further reduce the inventory that members like I can get at checkin.

    Personally since I never assume I will get upgraded domestically I see it as a net positive where I at least have the chance to lock in an upgrade.

    And for those in my situation that complain about inventory reduction- airlines have been doing this for years so it was only a matter of time and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Marriott, Hyatt and IHG implement something similar

  2. I have a reservation for garden inn in December in nyc and it says upgraded for 10 dollars a day. If I’m reading this correctly this will
    Automatically be upgraded come 11/18

  3. For clarification purposes, Gold and Diamond members will now be offered complimentary upgrades to Hampton and Garden Inn. Will complimentary upgrades still be offered at Hilton, Double Tree, etc or will that no longer be available, and the elite members now have to pay for an upgrade?

  4. Wow. Another significant devaluation for Hilton.

    First Hilton devalued its top-level elite status by bundling it with a credit card. Then the breakfast benefit at North American properties was replaced by a F&B credit that doesn’t cover the actual cost of breakfast. As bad as those changes were Hilton announced the end of daily housekeeping even as it claimed that rooms were cleaner than ever. Now, it’s selling upgrades that elites might otherwise receive.

    Marriott has been selling upgrades to suites after booking (sometimes literally right after booking) for around four years, but nothing this egregious.

    Hopefully, this doesn’t get implemented at competing hotel brands with better and more defined upgrade policies.

    Of course, I’m not sure a suite at a Hampton Garden Inn in Green River, Wyoming, is really worth the extra money.

  5. @AC: Marriott already sells upgrades at some points right after booking. You can also essentially “buy” an upgrade with the suite night award certificate, assuming you can find a property where they work. Don’t forget that Marriott properties are now selling suites on Airbnb instead of giving them to elites. Marriott doesn’t seem to require individual properties to sell their suites through Marriott. If a room category isn’t bookable through Marriott then it isn’t upgrade eligible. Additionally, I know of several franchise-operated Marriott properties that only book suites through the on-property sales office. That means there are no suite upgrades, unless you’re a super-regular customer or there’s a service recovery.

  6. The problem is the hotels business culture changes from upgrading the guest to fleecing the guest at every point of contact like a used car salesman or time share sales person
    They will be less likely to upgrade and focus on only selling
    Simply put Hilton executives are whores street hookers disguised as a hotel company
    That will be extra for a happy ending on your reservation sir or otherwise I have the room next to the elevator or should you prefer facing our premium sanitation pick up areas

  7. If Hilton wants to encourage more use of Digital Check-In, one feature to add would be a way to provide the code to a second cell phone. Whenever my wife and I check in, the Digital Check-In is active on my phone, but we still have to stop at the front desk to get a keycard for her. She wants to be able to come and go from the room on her own.

    I remember seeing something on the app a year or more ago that said they were working on it. But if it ever got done, I missed it.

  8. AC has it right. I am Diamond and never expect a meaningful upgrade in the US. Luckily my business travel takes me to Latin America and Canada often and the upgrades are significant. Any improvement for US properties are welcome.

  9. @OSUBuckeye83 – Hampton and Hilton Garden Inn have been *added* to the brands where complimentary upgrades are supposed to be provided, no brands have been removed.

  10. DCS will be here soon to tell you about how Hilton suite upgrades are actually a thing

  11. @Jay – exactly. I can’t believe all the people on here outraged over this “devaluation” and some say they are done w Hilton. As a Diamond I rarely get a meaningful upgrade domestically (I don’t consider a higher floor, corner room, etc to be an upgrade).

    Basically if you likely won’t get upgraded anyway as a Diamond member you aren’t losing anything and now have the chance to lock in an upgrade which I will certainly consider based on the price.

  12. Pretty much meaningless to me. 90% of my travel is work related so I cannot buy upgrades. When I travel for fun I use points so I am already looking at upgraded rooms. I only stay in Hampton Inns and HGIs when they are the only option available. Will upgrades with them be nice? Sure. However, at many of those properties an upgraded room consists of a whirlpool bath stuck in the corner or a room big enough to stick a sleeper sofa in.

    @Randy O – When I check in with the app and select digital key, I have the ability to share the key with up to four other people. I believe this has been the case for 3 or 4 months now.

  13. So why don’t they just say we are eliminating complimentary upgrades? Do they think we are stupid?

    Marriott did it, they just won’t admit it. IHG never did gave upgrades. Hyatt still does it but they will probably give up if no one else does it.

  14. @Berk – you could buy them on business trips but are just too cheap to spend your own money. Every company I worked for let me pay for upgrades (airline or hotel) provided I re-record the amount being expensed to the company by that amount. Personally if I was still traveling like I did (retired after close to 40 years of heavy travel) it would be worth me paying for the upgrade depending on the room offered and the cost. I never had a problem spending my own money on business trips for things I wanted and it amazes me how many refuse to do so (even things like not tipping if they can’t get reimbursed for it)

  15. @rjb – Hyatt does for Globalist but I’m Explorist and rarely get a material upgrade. I can see Hyatt implementing a paid upgrade option for all levels below Globalist while keeping complimentary upgrades for the top elites. Of course the paid upgrades would reduce the chance of a Globalist getting it but that may be the way it is.

  16. Even less of a reason to bother with status at Hilton. I have been Diamond for years, but now just choose the best hotel and if that happens to be a Hilton, I book the room I want/need and don’t ever wish for an upgrade as it’s very unlikely it will happen, particularly domestically. Just book what you need and don’t worry about any empty promises from hotel chains. Their whole status is just garbage these days.

  17. I’m having trouble reconciling 2 statement made. On the one hand, “Gold and Diamond members are supposed to receive upgrades”, and on the other hand hotels “are not required to upgrade to suites”. If you leave out the “to suites” the two seem to directly contradict each other.

    Therefore, I can only conclude that hotels ARE required to upgrade (if available) but not necessarily to a suite.

  18. @Randy O: The ability to share the digital key has been around for over a year. It’s an option in the digital key. The person that you are sending the message to must have the Hilton App on their phone.

    In the US I have not really seen any upgrades to Hilton or any other hotel chain for that matter in years. When travelling with my wife I have usually been contacting the hotel directly and asking for a paid upgrade if using points/certs.

  19. Went to my app to see about buying a Diamond upgrade. NOTHING there on the subject a 3 PM Central??????

  20. Diamond for many years. This is a devaluation wrapped in mendacious euphemisms. I am done with Hilton. Denying your most loyal customers upgrades with the hope you can squeeze a few pennies out of another customer is the last straw.
    Hilton’s malfeasance shouldn’t surprise us given their recent tweaking of the breakfast benefit and failure to clean rooms daily.

  21. @rjb: Hyatt’s upgrade policy is actually worse than Marriott in two ways. First, Hyatt limits upgrades to standard suites. That is technically worse than Marriott’s which, with a couple brand exceptions, is best available room or suite period. Second, Hyatt excludes suites at Hyatt Place from suite upgrades. In many markets, a Hyatt Place is the only Hyatt. So, effectively, globalists going out of their way to stay at a Hyatt Place in a market without a full-service Hyatt have no suite upgrade benefit.

  22. I fail to see what is new in this post. Hilton has always offered members, including top elites that would be still be upgraded at check-in, the opportunity to purchase room upgrades up to 1-bedroom suites at a huge discount after they make a booking. Could the novelty here be that it is now being offered at all-suites properties? Big deal!

    Moreover, Hilton Honors’ highly innovative automated global upgrades went live months ago, as I and other credible sites (e.g., Loyalty Lobby) documented with copies of room upgrade email notifications, and is not just launching as implied.

    Lastly, there is this ridiculous claim that I won’t attempt to debunk yet again a length since the burden of proof is on the one who keeps making the demonstrably bogus claim…

    Digital check-in upsells for elites. Honors Gold and Diamond members are supposed to receive upgrades. However, while hotels are allowed to upgrade to suites they are not required to do so. That’s a more limited benefit than what’s offered by Marriott and Hyatt.

    …except to launch this “tactical” nuke that goes BOOM! and obliterates the claim:

    “If we have a better room available, it’s yours – up to a 1-bedroom suite.”
    — Hilton Honors Diamond members suite upgrade benefit (program website)

    “Gold, Diamond and Lifetime Diamond members are eligible to receive a guaranteed room upgrade 72 hours prior to their arrival based on hotel availability, and member status/tier is the first criteria considered.

    Hotels cannot opt out of providing this benefit, which is currently available at the Hilton brands where space-available complimentary upgrades are currently offered as a Hilton Honors member benefit.”
    — Hilton Honors Loyalty Executive

    See that? There is no way for anyone with an ounce of gray matter between the ears to keep making the claim that this site keeps repeating, unless its credibility is so totally shot it no longer pretends to have any…

    Marriott BONVoY’s so-called promise?

    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.

    That’s resounding!


  23. @FNT Delta Diamond “That is technically worse than Marriott’s which, with a couple brand exceptions, is best available room or suite period. ”

    That is not the instruction Marriott gives to its hotels, just sloppy language on their consumer-facing website.

  24. It all depends on pricing . If it’s a reasonable amount per night to lock in a nice upgrade , then could be ok . BUT if it’s like the Nor upgrades that one can opt in to but only find out if available at check-in , then I will pass. The Nor upgrade options that I have received are usually outrageous per night upcharges or just laughable . Time will tell . Can’t wait to see the feedback / experiences with this program .

  25. Cahn’t make this stuff up!

    That is not the instruction Marriott gives to its hotels, just sloppy language on their consumer-facing website.

    Yeah, right. Hilton Honors makes things crystal clear on its consumer-facing website, as reproduced above, and this site keeps recycling bogus claims based on its own biased interpretation of the program’s statements. Now we are to believe that the site can parse the language in Marriott’s statements to decide that it knows better and what is on Marriott’s consumer-facing website is “just sloppy language” !!!

  26. I hate to be simple-minded but what is the point of having elite loyalty status with a hotel if you have to pay for upgrades? They have already devalued their points so much it is crazy to be loyal to them.

  27. I have been a diamond with Hilton for 15 years and was a diamond/globalist with Hyatt for 34 years. We Hyatt went to the crappy Workd of Hyatt I never stayed there again, went exclusively to Hilton and now with this in top of the food credit, the fact have to make my own bed and empty trash. Bye bye Hilton. When I need a hotel I will now check all brands and if a suite is close to reasonable I will just book it and pay out of pocket. Glad I retired 3 ago with Hyatt and Hilton loyalty only seems to go one way .

  28. @DCS The key words are “Space Available”. I agree they shouldn’t be able to not offer this “benefit”, so many do and try to prove they had rooms available.

    Oh, xxx hotel called said they were oversold and were going to walk people. BOOM as you put it, space isn’t available to upgrade you.

    Now with the new pay for an upgrade, you’re really buying up to a different room type.

    It’s another way to increase revenue and devalue the program. There is no loyalty anymore, it’s all about the $$.

    Just an observation, if you hate this site as much as it appears you do from your posting. Why not unsubscribe and never be seen again? It doesn’t take much grey matter to do that

  29. @DaninMCI — You being simple minded because you are asking questions that anyone who knows the first thing about how the miles/points game is played would not ask, unless they’ve imbibed too much of the kool-aid that’s served up by self-anointed “travel gurus”.

    As I indicated above, and others have indicated about Marriott, Hilton has always offered members the opportunity to purchase room upgrades, up to suites, immediately after they made a booking. Here’s a concrete example:

    Dear DCS, Your reservation for November xx, 2022 at Hilton Playa Del Carmen is already confirmed (Confirmation: xxxxxxxxx).

    Originally Booked Room
    Junior Suite Ocean View – 1 King Bed

    As a special offer, you can use the Hilton Playa Del Carmen eStandby Upgrade® Program to potentially upgrade this reservation for as little as $35 extra.

    As you can see, there is even a name for it: eStandby Upgrade® Program, which has been around for as long as I can remember and is why I asked above what was the novelty in this post.

    What elite members who know how to play the game do is to ignore the offer to pay for an upgrade, as I did last year when I stayed at this same all-inclusive/all-suites property where I even score an upgrade at check-in! Moreover, the eStandby Upgrade® offer can be used to one’s advantage if one requests and is denied a suite upgrade at check-in. Just ask politely: if no suites are available for upgrades, then why I am being offered an eStandby Upgrade® ?!

    Second, it is simply a myth that Hilton honors “has already devalued their points so much it is crazy to be loyal to them.” I am still getting as much “value” out of the program and their points today as I did 12 years ago for my very first Asian Escapade® because I am earning gazillion more points now than I did then !!!


  30. I’m Hilton Diamond and have been receiving paid upgrade offers every time I book … for several years. Don’t think I’ve ever upgraded myself … Hilton often upgrades me when I check in. If I want a special room category … beachfront balcony for instance, I usually book that room initially. Have to wait and see how this all plays out.

  31. My experience is the same as huey judy’s. But here is a question that maybe all you gurus can answer: if the new program “automated 72 hour global upgrades” are made 72 hours prior to check in, aren’t all the upgrades then gone from the system by the time digital check in time arrives…so that then there are none to sell during digital checkin 24 hours prior? Are they eliminating the 72 hour complimentary upgrade program? Are they decreasing the inventory of that program so as to save upgrades to sell on the app during digital check in?? Anyone know the answer?

  32. Am a Diamond & am at the Hilton Atlanta right now & the list of ‘upgrade’ offers that were in the e-mail I rec’d last week included late checkout & connecting rooms for $60 PER NIGHT.

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