Hacking Hilton Diamond Status: Award Night Mattress Running vs. Credit Card Spending

Hilton HHonors is one of the few hotel rewards programs that not only count award nights towards elite status, but allows members to earn top-tier status through credit card spending alone. Earning top-tier Hilton HHonors Diamond status normally requires the completion of 30 stays or 60 nights. Citi Hilton Honors Reserve and American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass credit cardholders can fulfill this requirement by spending $40,000 on the card per calendar year. Meanwhile, you could earn status by mattress running at Category 1 Hilton hotels, which require just 5,000 points per night. So is it better to mattress run on award nights or put $40,000 worth of spend on the HHonors Reserve or Surpass card?

Mattress Running on Award Nights

Hilton’s lowest Category 1 hotels require just 5,000 points per night, so 30 stays can be completed at a cost of 150,000 Hilton HHonors points. Using the Points + Cash method (2,000 points + $30 cash) would take  60,000 points + $900 cash. These points can be earned entirely from credit card sign-up bonuses:

  • Hilton HHonors Surpass from American Express: 60,000 points after $3,000 spent within three months
  • Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card: 40,000 points after $1,000 spent within 4 months
  • Hilton HHonors Card from American Express: 40,000 points after $750 spent within 3 months

Status Through Credit Card Spending

Another way to earn 150,000 Hilton HHonors points would be through $50,000 worth of non-bonus category credit card spend. In that case, you are better off earning Diamond status by channeling $40,000 worth of spending (manufactured or otherwise) towards the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve or American Express Hilton Surpass card. This way, you’ll earn Diamond status and generate a minimum of 120,000 Hilton HHonors points.

And if you like the idea of having Diamond status for another year but can’t manage another $40,000 worth of credit card spending, you can just use those 120,000 points to complete 24 of the 30 nights required for Diamond status. Essentially, putting $40,000 worth of spending onto the Hilton Reserve card gets you Hilton Diamond status for Year 1 (i.e. now through 2016) as well as enough points to complete 80% of the nights required in Year 2. 

Now that Redbird can’t be directly loaded with a credit card, manufacturing $40,000 worth of spend is a bit more time-consuming and costly. There’s also the question of whether it even makes sense to channel that much spend onto a Hilton card versus another card issuing a stronger rewards currency. If you think you can get great use out of your Hilton HHonors points and top-tier Diamond status benefits, then I say go for it.

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  1. I achieved Diamond using Amex Hilton surpass 40k spend at grocery stores. 240k points plus diamond status for ~$480. The Diamond status itself saved us hundreds of dollars at a recent Hilton stay where only Diamonds got full breakfast. Additionally, the 240k points will net us a 5 night stay. I figure it as paying ~100 bucks per night for a five night stay at a destination (Hilton Moorea for instance) while earning diamond in the process.

  2. Don’t forget that you get the 5th night free for award stays if you have a minimum of Hilton Silver

    • That’s definitely a good perk. However, you’d want to earn your status based on nights rather than stays. Thus, you’ll forfeit the 5th night free on mattress runs.

      • Shouldn’t the 5th night still count since the system will just readjust the cost of each night? So for a 5-night stay in a Category I hotel it’ll be readjusted to just 4000 points per night?

        • Yes, the 5th night will count. So if you decide to complete 60 nights for Diamond status, you’ll only be paying for 48 of them. It’s better to earn it based on stays, since it takes just 30. You’ll need to break up the nights, since they cannot be consecutive to be considered “stays.”

  3. the analysis is very good, but I dont think the Hilton program is worth analyzing. many blogs have been written about this program and after the deval, it just doesnt make sense.

    • Bloggers like to rag on Hilton, but it’s actually not a terrible program. For example, a non-elite member can earn a free night at a top-tier hotel after just $6333 spent (assuming points are earned under the Points + Points earning structure). That’s pretty much on par with the amount of spend required for a top-tier Hyatt redemption. Factor in the generous credit card payouts (upwards of 12 HHonors points per $1 at Hilton hotels) and earning a free night is even more attainable. When you stack it against other programs, Hilton is really not that terrible.

  4. I was wondering if the No Annual Fee Card, the Hilton Honors Amex Card allows elite Diamond status with $40,000 spend/yr. I only see in the terms elite status upgrade to Gold after $20,000 spend. Can I achieve Diamond with the $40k spend with the HHonors Amex NAF card?

  5. Choi – the deval mainly hit “reach” properties. There are plenty of fine values, esp in Europe (Prague, Budapest Castle for 20,000 pts/night) esp if you are diamond.

    Ariana – I think that there are only 2 or 3 Cat 1 properties in the US, so that strategy is very geographically dependent.

    • You don’t actually need that many locations. In my experience, hotels will let you check in and out remotely so it won’t matter whether you live near a Category 1 hotel or not.

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