Taking Another Look at Hilton, Hyatt, and Diamond Elite Status

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To begin, I must say I’m disappointed I wasn’t one of the lucky ones to receive Hyatt Diamond status. Although I did luck out with Hilton Diamond status.

I realize I’ll likely sound like a spoiled brat whining about something I didn’t get for free. Especially when others have spent much more time and money to actually earn the status. That said, the way Hyatt handled the Diamond status match – from free-for-all to the later restriction to only match SPG Platinum members, and all the missteps in between- was very mishandled.

Booooo

Booooo

Hyatt had an opportunity to capitalize on the SPG/Marriott merger and they blew it – unless you got the match, then you win. I likely would’ve gone out of my way to stay with Hyatt more in 2016 and beyond. This whole thing has left such a bad taste behind that it makes me want to actively avoid Hyatt, and only use them for free award night stays.

Although I think what Hilton is doing is genius, at least from a marketing perspective. And, let’s face it: Hilton has a much larger footprint than Hyatt (4,100+ hotels compared to ~600). And Hilton is in every place there’s a Hyatt with few exceptions.

For example, there are NO Hyatt hotels in Barcelona (where I’ll be in a few weeks). But there were 4 Hilton options:

Furthermore, the next time Hyatt has a Diamond status challenge to stay 12 nights, I won’t even consider doing it (even though you can complete it with only 9 nights if you have Citi Prestige). Why would I spend $1,000 on something so many others got for free?

Anyway, that’s my preamble – just wanted to clear the air here. Again, I completely understand I don’t “deserve” the status in way. It just sucks to see so many get it for free, even though my credentials where enough – at one point – to get me in, too. A case of “early bird gets the worm” if there ever was one.

But now, I’m taking another look at Hilton, as I expect to have more paid stays there, at least for now. And, it’s not as bad as you’d think.

Hilton Diamond Vs Hyatt Diamond

Points earning

Bonus with status

  • Hilton: 50%
  • Hyatt: 30%

Requirements to keep status

  • Hilton: 30 stays, 60 nights, or 120,000 HHonors Base Points
  • Hyatt: 25 stays or 50 nights

Major perks

Hilton:

  • Free breakfast
  • Guaranteed access to Executive Lounges at Hilton, Conrad, Curio and DoubleTree hotels with a lounge
  • Upgrades “when available”
  • 1,000 bonus Hilton points per stay at most hotels
  • 5th night free on award stays

Hyatt:

  • 4 Suite upgrades per year
  • Free breakfast
  • Upgrade to best available room, excluding Suites
  • Access to Regency Club or Grand Club lounge
  • 1,000 bonus Hyatt points per stay, or a welcome amenity

Both have a 48-hour room guarantee, late checkout, dedicated phone line, and premium wifi. 

Hotel categories and points required

Hilton:

Hilton Categories

Hilton Categories

Hyatt:

Hyatt categories

Hyatt categories

Points on $1,000 stay as a Diamond member

  • Hilton: 20,000 Hilton points (10,000 base, 5,000 with Points + Points, 5,000 from status) – enough for a 1-night award stay at a Category 3 hotel
  • Hyatt: 6,500 Hyatt points (5,000 base, 1,500 from status) – enough for a 1-night away stay at a Category 1 hotel

Analysis

There’s a lot to chew on here.

To get it out of the way, the hotel chains are vastly different, and people like them for totally different reasons.

Underwater restaurant at

Underwater restaurant at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island

Hilton has some great aspirational properties:

View from Park Hyatt Tokyo

View from Park Hyatt Tokyo

And so does Hyatt:

To get a night at a Hilton Category 10 hotel, you’d need to spend $3,500 (3,500 X 15 + 50% bonus = 70,000 Hilton points), assuming you find a low-level award for 70,000 Hilton points. (Here’s the points calculator I used.)

And to get a night at a Hyatt Category 7 hotel, you’d need to spend $4,615 (4,615 X 5 + 30% bonus = 29,998 Hyatt points). Over $1,000 more.

What about earning through credit cards?

Hilton has 4 co-branded credit cards. With the AMEX Hilton Surpass (which has an 80,000 points sign-up bonus right now), you earn:

  • 12 Hilton points per $1 spent at Hilton hotels
  • 6 Hilton points per $1 spent at US gas stations, US restaurants, and US supermarkets
  • 3 Hilton points per $1 on all other purchases

That’s probably the best all-around Hilton card. Pair it with Hilton Diamond status, and you’re earning 27 Hilton points per dollar at Hilton (excluding the 50% bonus).

To get an award night at a mid-tier Hilton Category 6 hotel, you’d need to spend $10,000 on the card (less with bonus categories).

And of course Chase has multiple cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points, which transfer 1:1 to Hyatt. And some sweet category bonuses (5X at office supply stores for starters, which the Chase Ink card).

Still, the base earning rate is 1 point per $1 spent, and you’d have to spend $15,000 for an award night at Hyatt Category 4 hotel. And again, less with bonus categories.

If you have the Chase Hyatt Visa, you’ll earn 3X per $1 spent at Hyatt, which makes 8 Hyatt points per dollar at Hyatt (excluding the 30% bonus).

Pros and Cons

OK, Hilton’s not faring so bad here.

Let’s make an old-fashioned pros and cons list.

Hilton pros:

  • Ease of earning points
  • Less spend for award nights
  • Tons more hotels

Hilton cons:

  • Diamond status not as meaningful
  • No guaranteed suite upgrades
  • Inflated points currency

Hyatt pros:

  • Diamond status means free breakfast
  • SUITE UPGRADES CAN BE WORTH THOUSANDS
  • Points transfer option is viable and worth it
  • Don’t have to focus on “just” earning Hyatt points

Hyatt cons:

  • Very limited selection, although in most major cities and tourist destinations
  • Platinum status is useless – need Diamond for free breakfast
  • Harder to earn points, but they’re worth more

What I love about Hyatt is you can feel good about transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards point to Gold Passport. What I mean by that is, their points are on par with most airline programs.

While you can transfer Citi ThankYou points to Hilton, I’d never do it because Hilton points are a horribly inflated currency. You’ll get much more “mileage” with an airline program.

In that regard, you can’t really compare the values. I think of Hyatt points like I do about airline miles. And I think of Hilton points like I think about say, Club Carlson points: it’s their own program, and the value is harder to peg.

Bottom line

There’s still time to request a match to Hilton Diamond status. Email a screenshot of your status with another hotel program to HHonorMyStatus@hilton.com by January 11th, 2016. If anything, you’ll likely get matched to Gold status, which is enough for free breakfast!

Hilton is inflated, yes, but so is all the earning. You actually get award stays at top-tier hotels faster with paid stays, and need to spend less on co-branded cards for award nights.

The biggest argument for Hyatt is you don’t have to focus on earning Hyatt points. You can focus on earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points, and transfer over when it makes sense.

For Hilton award stays, you’d have an opportunity cost. By earning Hilton points, you wouldn’t be earning say, United or Singapore miles. You’d just be earning Hilton points. Which is fine, especially for paid stays.

Perhaps the biggest loss with Hilton, though, is the Suite upgrades. Man, those are sweet. But, you get the 5th night free on award stays, which can begin to make up for it if you redeem enough Hilton points.

But all else being equal, lots of peeps might actually come out ahead with Hilton because it’s easier to earn points, and you get more of ’em. Plus, you can’t deny the footprint: Hilton beats Hyatt in that regard by a mile.

Both chains have great properties, aspirational awards, and their own little quirks.

Of course, if you were one of the lucky ones to get both Hilton and Hyatt Diamond elite status, you have the best of both!

Finally, does hotel elite status really even matter anyway? Hilton could at any time create a new, higher status level. Or Hyatt could devalue. Or any number of other scenarios.

To be honest, I just like free breakfast! And lounge access is a nice perk, too.

Lots of questions remain:

Any other big pros or cons I missed? 

Which chain to you intrinsically prefer? 

Is Hilton… underrated? Is Hyatt overrated? 

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post. The opinions of the commenters are not necessarily the opinions of this site.

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  1. On Hilton Diamond there is no guaranteed access to executive lounge – I have been emailing with the Waldorf in Boca and unless I stay in a specific room (which is well beyond the standard room points requirement) they won’t give me access to the lounge or free breakfast

    I am quite ticked since I just got the Hilton Surpass and got matched a day later to Diamond (via my IHG Spire) so wondering what type of game the Waldorf is playing

    Any suggestions?

    • Waldorf is a different breed. I’d ask for a 1-time exception, and say you understand the policy going forward. Hilton says:

      The following policy applies at all Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, and DoubleTree by Hilton™ hotels with Executive Floor Lounges.

      If you are an HHonors guest with Diamond status, you and up to one additional registered guest in the same room will always enjoy complimentary access to the Executive Floor Lounge, even if you do not receive a room upgrade to the Executive Floor.

      So it seems Waldorf doesn’t have to uphold this policy. I’ll amend in the post, too.

      Good luck, I hope you get lounge access! It’s a real life-saver if they give it to you.

  2. It also depends on at which types of hotels you aspire to stay. If you like real luxury, you really only look at Conrad and Waldorf Astoria, and perhaps some Curio, properties in the Hilton portfolio, while you’d only look at Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, and Andaz properties in the Hyatt portfolio. Generally, I’d say Park Hyatt is the most luxurious of all of these, but many will prefer Waldorf Astoria. One of the reasons I’ve always been SPG Platinum is that I far prefer St. Regis and Luxury Collection hotels, along with many W hotels, over the luxury options with Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott. If you don’t want luxury hotels and just are looking for a solid, reliable hotel with a nice lounge, then all of the programs offer value, though Marriott, Hilton, and IHG offer far more of those types of properties than does Hyatt.

    Value for points is but ONE criterion for deciding which hotel group is best for you. Value for the types of properties and locations of those properties–where you usually travel and/or where you aspire to travel–is also pertinent…perhaps even more so for some people. Just because you prefer Park Hyatt won’t help you much in San Francisco; just because you prefer Waldorf Astoria won’t help you in Sydney or Melbourne.

  3. I am Hilton Diamond and have an upcoming stay at the Conrad Bali in a standard room. Will I have access to the executive lounge?

  4. Hi Harlan, I never noticed your blog before, but your writing style and in-depth analysis has found a new fan in me!

    One thing I noticed is that you mentioned Hilton points cannot be converted to United or Singapore airlines, both of which I suppose are members of Star Alliance. Hilton points can be converted in bundles of 10,000 to American Airlines for 1,500 miles. Compared to the ease of earning HHonors points, 100,000 points convert to a sweet 15,000 AA miles.

  5. Great article here! I did not manage to get a Hyatt Diamond match too and am still kicking myself for not submitting my status match request earlier but you are right! I’m looking at a couple of trips next year and Hilton does have pretty amazing properties 🙂

  6. I had hilton diamond status and they offered me the platinum at hyatt, told them not to bother as I will never use hyatt brand with such status.
    I have a few trips in the pipeline and I compared the prices of hilton hotels with hyatt and the difference is HUGE. The best thing on hilton is the MVP rate that alows you to book with a 20% discount and a great cancellation policy.
    I´m very satisfied with hilton (I was a gold for the past 3 years and just got upgraded to diamond). Even with gold I managed to score lounge access and some nice upgrades.

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