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I have been a Marriott loyalist for as long as I can remember and I recently earned the highest level of lifetime status that Marriott has on offer….but I’m seriously considering a move across to Hilton.
I don’t have all that much experience with the Hilton Honors program but what experience I’ve had has been mostly positive.
I hold Hilton Honors Gold status courtesy of my Amex Platinum Card (although that may not be for much longer) and, overall, I’ve been more than happy with the treatment I’ve received, the rooms I’ve been allocated and the general level of service I’ve encountered….and not just at properties in Asia where service levels are generally better than anywhere else anyway.
Marriott’s merger with Starwood has been anything but plain sailing for most members but I can’t really complain – my accounts were merged ok and I made my elite choice selections before that turned into a fiasco – but something has got me wondering if life may be better over at Hilton.
Hilton Honors awards aren’t exactly cheap but we’re soon going to see Marriott’s award costs rise to the point where they’re not all that different from Hilton’s…and Hilton Honors points are easier to earn.
Add to that the fact that I can guarantee myself top-tier Hilton status (Hilton Diamond) just by applying for the Hilton Honors Aspire credit card from American Express and the fact that Hilton’s footprint works for me almost as well as Marriott’s and the reasons to stick with Marriott slowly seem to disappear.
So far I’ve only pointed out how similarly both programs would work for me so you may be questioning why I’d bother abandoning Marriott to move over to Hilton…and that would be a very valid question.
The key to my potential defection is the new guaranteed suite upgrade benefit that Hilton is currently trialing.
Hilton’s Suite Upgrade Awards
On 21 January Hilton launched a pilot program in which it gave select high-value Hilton Honors members one suite upgrade certificate valid for one stay of up to seven nights [HT: TPG].
The certificate has to be redeemed by 31 March but it can be applied to any reservation through the end of the bookable period and, critically, the certificate allows a member to confirm an upgrade to a suite at the time of booking – there’s no ambiguity and no need to wait to see if your luck holds when you check in.
This is how Hyatt’s top-tier upgrade certificates work and, when I had Hyatt top-tier status, I loved them.
Marriott also offers suite upgrades to its elite members but they work differently to the way Hilton’s pilot is running.
With Marriott you can earn a maximum of 10 suite night awards (useable for up to 10 nights in a year) and these cannot be confirmed at the time of booking – you have to hope you get upgraded in the days leading up to check-in and a number of hotels appear to be exempt from having to offer the upgrades at all.
The suite upgrades that Hilton is piloting are far superior to what Marriott offers.
The suite upgrades Hilton is piloting sound great but there is one small problem – there’s no guarantee that Hilton will roll out its suite upgrades in their current guise.
The word from Hilton is that it may yet follow the same route that Marriott has taken….or it may not.
It’s possible that suite night awards will be available to anyone staying 60 nights at Hilton properties (the threshold for top-tier status) or a different threshold may be introduced….there’s too much ambiguity and uncertainty right now.
It has been suggested that we will see what the final Hilton suite upgrades look like by the end of the year and that nights stayed in 2019 will count towards whatever the qualification criteria are…. but that’s not really good enough right now.
I’m not in the mood to desert Marriott in the hope that Hilton will offer something better at some point in the future – I’d like a bit of certainty.
I was pretty excited when I found out that Marriott was planning to introduce suite night awards but, now that I’ve seen how they work and discovered that not all properties will honor them, I’m more than a little underwhelmed.
During my brief stint as a top-tier status holder with Hyatt I couldn’t believe how great the suite upgrades were (they saved me a lot of money) so if Hilton was to introduce something similar it would be a HUGE incentive for me to give Hilton Honors a proper try.
If you compare both loyalty programs and the benefits they offer (at this point in time) there really isn’t all that much to separate them.
If anything Hilton Honors may be marginally better because its points are easier to earn and top-tier status is easier to achieve but Marriott has its positives too…but a Hyatt-esque suite upgrade policy from Hilton would be a game changer.
If Hilton introduces suite upgrades to match those that Hyatt offers I can’t think of a benefit that Marriott offers which would stop me from giving Hilton a try….I just need Hilton to give me a bit of certainty sooner rather than later so I can start earning my way to the upgrades.
Any other Marriott elites considering defecting? Can anyone think of any reasons why not to give Hilton a try?