COVID 19 can be both a blessing and a curse for the traveller us. I hate that we are kinda being brought back in time where borders are seeming way to high for us to climb over. The amount of travelling restriction and bans are numerous and complicated. It is definitely a drastic contrast to the usual, the ease of travelling, especially as a true bred Singaporean who travel almost visa free 99% of the time! While on the other hand, we are seeing unprecedented deals and promotions throughout the hospitality sector. One of them is a status challenge brought back by Marriott. Matched from my Hilton Diamond, it allows me to experience life as a Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite member for the next 90 days. This bring me to this post where I would like to pit both against each other and see which is the better one. Hilton Honors Diamond is the top tier status of the Hilton portfolio of hotels and resorts. While Marriott Bonvoy is basically just a “mid” tier status of Marriott portfolio of hotels and resorts. But it is almost an apple to apple comparison since they both requires almost the same amount of nights to qualify for!
Let me start by sharing a little about both programs, then my personal experience with them by benefits. First up, Hilton Diamond, the top tier status of Hilton! It requires 60 nights, 30 Stays or 120,000 Base Points to qualify or retain per year. There are 4 tiers in the loyalty program: Member, Silver, Gold and Diamond. Some of the core benefits that I find useful includes:
|100% Bonus on base points (Rate and Incidentals)|
|Room Upgrades up to 1 Bedroom Suite|
|Confirmed Executive Lounge Access|
|Complimentary Premium Wifi|
|5th Night Free on Award Stays (Standard Room Reward only)|
|Elite Status Gifting|
|No Resort Fees on Award Stays|
What I really like about being a Diamond member is the recognition. By being at the highest level, there are no one else above you, perhaps only lifetime Diamond members that takes at least 10 years to reach there. The loyalty program is also easy to understand and simple, at all the different brands, you are assured to have free breakfast, either by your status or either the brand already offers it. Marriott however, is one heck of a confusing story! The Diamond Desk is also super helpful and provides quick assistance just a call or email away! Guaranteed executive lounge access is also another one benefit that I really cherish, besides a handful of properties which are excluded. Lastly, no resort fees on awards stay are very attractive, especially in high resort fees places like Vegas or Hawaii. 5th night free on awards stay can be very worthwhile if you do it strategically. This can be usually found at the pricer properties. Where properties can cost as much as 95,000 Points, a 5th night free brings it down to 76,000 Hint: Maldives!
Main cons! There might be an abundance of Hilton Diamond members, especially in the United States where it comes easily with credit cards. Suite upgrades are not guaranteed and it really depends on the respective hotels as well as the check in staff “mood”. Complimentary breakfast might also be no more than just a pastry and coffee in United States. Hilton Honors also do not guarantee any form of late check out. Points required for award stays are also simply based on relative demand and supply with no charts published.
Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite
Next up, Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite! It requires 50 nights to qualify or retain per year. There are 6 tiers in the loyalty program: Member, Silver Elite, Gold Elite, Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite. As such you are at most only a mid tier member but at least at the lower end of the top 3, where you have some useful “tangible” benefits such as suite upgrades and lounge access. Some of the core benefits that I find useful includes:
|Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite|
|50% Bonus on base points (Rate and Incidentals)|
|Room Upgrades up to Select Suite|
|Confirmed Executive Lounge Access (Excluding certain brands)|
|Complimentary Breakfast (Excluding certain brands)|
|Guaranteed 4pm Late Check Out (Exclude Resort & Convention Hotels)|
|Complimentary Enhanced Wifi|
|Annual Gift Choice|
|Ultimate Reservation Guarantee & Compensation|
The best thing about Marriott is that Suite upgrades are much more guaranteed than Hilton ones, although on the other hand, given that they have Titanium and Ambassador members above you in the pecking order, you are further down the list for upgrades too. Executive lounge access is good and most of their lounges are pretty nice. I also love the guaranteed 4pm late check out, which you can almost always take advantage of. Marriott also have clear guidelines for their elite members benefits and reservations and you might be in for a hefty compensation if the check in staff miss certain items or benefits during check in.
I really hate the complicated lounge access and complimentary breakfast rules. Lounge access is not provided at certain brands such as The Ritz-Carlton, EDITION, The Luxury Collection and a couple more. Breakfast is another complicated problem as well, it is not provided. Marriott also tends to be more strict with their lounge access in my opinion. Sometimes at Hilton, depending on the staff, I might get access extended for a 3rd person as well.
Hilton Diamond vs Marriott Platinum Elite: Suite Upgrades
Now let me share some of my personal experience. I will only share on those aspects that are least tangible and not guaranteed. Marriott designated the benefits as, “Platinum Elite Members and above receive a complimentary upgrade to the best available room subject to availability for the entire length of stay at the time of check-in. Complimentary upgrade includes suites, rooms with desirable views, rooms on high floors, corner rooms, rooms with special amenities or rooms on Executive Floors.” As such, you can expect to be upgraded to a base level or if the property is generous enough, a mid tier standard suite. Definitely in certain periods and based on the seasons you can expect generous suites! Presidential Suite during summer in Middle East is a thing! Although, as your right, I believe, if throughout your stay the base level suite is available and you are not given, you can try asking politely. Keeping in mind, Marriott have a lot of elite levels, as a Platinum Elite member, you still have, Lifetime Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite, Lifetime Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite above you in the hierarchy.
For my personal experience, I did 4 stays recently at Marriott Properties. One at Marriott Tangs, one at Sheraton Towers Singapore and twice at St Regis Singapore. Thankfully, on all my stays I have been upgraded to a suite, I even got a mid level suite once at St Regis Singapore which was really generous of them. At my stay in Marriott Tangs, it does require a little pushing on my end before the agent decided to give me the suite. While for the rest, I am lucky enough to be upgraded on the app even before I check in.
In comparison, I felt that Hilton benefits terms and regulations are less rigid and as well, less guaranteed, regarding Suite upgrade for Hilton Diamond members. It also seems to see where you are staying in. Upgrades are usually easier in Asia Pacific in comparison to Europe and United States. This is how they state it in their Terms and Conditions, “Diamond Hilton Honors Members may receive upgrades to preferred rooms, based on availability at the time of arrival. Upgrades for Diamond Hilton Honors Members may include upgrades up to “junior”, “standard” or “one-bedroom” suites.” In comparison, as a Hilton Diamond member, you are second in order of precedence, with only Lifetime Diamond above you. That is much better than Marriott. However, because of the classification, I know certainly properties are playing the by the book card and classify their suites as “Executive Suite” effective taking them out of the upgrade pool. Ahem, Hilton Bali! On the other hand, there are awesome properties who goes very generous in terms of suites upgrades!
From my personal experience, I have good luck in both Europe and Asia. Usually an Executive room is a guaranteed and I have got Suites 9 out of 10 times in Asia. At one of my most recent stay, I got upgraded to a 95 Sqm Bayview Diplomatic Suite at Conrad Manila!
Hilton Diamond vs Marriott Platinum Elite: Complimentary Breakfast
This is another important point in my opinion for having elite status at a hotel chain, which can give you huge savings when you are on the road or with family overseas. You are probably already paying a hand and a leg for your holiday! Having complimentary breakfast at your hotel effective cuts out 33% of your dining expenses overseas. P.s Just think of a Maldives holiday! Both chain offers elite members breakfast, although, let me share about Hilton first since Marriott is one complicated terms and conditions. I love Hilton rules, simple and clear cut, “Daily complimentary breakfast is available either as a Member Benefit (at Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, LXR Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Canopy by Hilton, Curio Collection by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton and Tapestry Collection by Hilton properties) or as a brand amenity, excluding Hilton Grand Vacations.” You will definitely get breakfast if you are a Gold or Diamond Member at all Hilton brands or at those brands like Hampton Inn where everyone gets breakfast. As such, you can expect breakfast at all brands except Grand Vacations. While, continental is stated, many properties goes out of the way to provide the full selection, especially in Europe and Asia.
Or in the States, it can really be a continental selection.
Meanwhile whether you get free breakfast at Marriott Properties depends on which brand you are staying at and it can be very complicated. Then it also depends on where are you at, there are different rules and regulations for United States, Canada, Europe in a group and Asia, Australia, Pacific Islands, Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, South America, Middle East, and Africa in a group. Furthermore, it also depends if you are staying in a resort property or a non resort property. As a general rule, you will get breakfast if you have access to the club lounge and / or choosing breakfast as your welcome gift choice. Usually, breakfast will be provided at Aloft, Autograph Collection Resorts, Delta Resorts, Four Points by Sheraton, JW Marriott Resorts, Le Meridien, Marriott Resorts, Protea, Renaissance Resorts, Sheraton, St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, Westin, W. You can notice one major brand not shown above, Ritz Carlton! This is when it can comes to a point where elite members will rather choose a JW or a St Regis rather than a Ritz since no breakfast are offers. On my last stay at St Regis, we had an awesome breakfast that would have cost 96 SGD out of pocket!
It is still very complicated, for example, Renaissance Hotels is not on the list, but you get club lounge access as well so as such, you still get breakfast in the lounge. This is one major headache under Marriott Properties rather that being clear cut under Hilton. At Hilton, I can always go for breakfast either in the lounge or restaurant or both, depending on my mood!
Hilton Diamond vs Marriott Platinum Elite: Late Check Out
Now, another huge benefit of elite membership at hotels. Something that is really useful when on the road. This is one aspect that I really like about the Marriott membership. Marriott guarantee late check out for all Platinum elite membership and above up to 4pm! That is delightful. This is how it is on the website! “Platinum Elite Members and above may check out as late as 4 p.m. local time of the Participating Property. Members can request late checkout when making a reservation through central reservations, at check-in, via the mobile app (where available) or at any time during their stay. This benefit is guaranteed at all Participating Properties, except at resort and convention hotels and Design HotelsTM, where it is based upon availability.” Take note on the guaranteed and not subject to availability! Hotel have no say but to give it to you! Taking advantage of this, on my couple of stays previously, I had enjoy a 30 hour staycation! Imagine doing this on the weekends or on a holiday! 30 hours with early check in, in this suite rather than the usual 21 hour stay?
On the other hand, Hilton does not guaranteed any form of late check out for its Diamond member, everything is subjected to availability and the generosity of the staff that I am speaking too. While I had times where I got 4pm, 5pm late check out, this is due to luck and occupancy! I love the guaranteed wording of Marriott and I hope Hilton can do this soon as well.