Is Hilton’s war on breakfast a big deal? (On Nick’s mind)

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Rumor has it that Hilton will permanently replace “free breakfast” with its food & beverage credit. Is this the beginning of the end? A reader asked this question during our Youtube Live Ask Us Anything this week:

Why does it seem the future of hotel loyalty programs are dying? The Hilton change has me upset.

I can certainly understand the sentiment behind the question, but is it true? Is Hilton’s war on breakfast a big deal?

While the truth is that the change seems rational to me for a number of reasons, it will greatly reduce Hilton’s ability to force my hand toward the type of irrational decisions loyalty programs are designed to encourage.

Free breakfast on memorable stays like the Conrad Bora Bora probably had me overvaluing

Increased flexibility = decreased cost and increased profit

During the pandemic, Hilton replaced “free breakfast” for Gold and Diamond members with a food & beverage credit. They billed it as a way of offering “flexibility”, though clearly flexibility involves choice and so the ability to choose between breakfast and a food & beverage credit would have been actual flexibility. This is about cutting costs, though it works out well for some people.

The rumor is that this change will be permanent, at least at properties within the United States. Personally, I am really disappointed by that to an extent that goes beyond breakfast, but I’ll come back to that in a moment. First, I have to recognize that this change makes a lot of sense for some travelers.

Keep in mind that a loyalty program is designed to attract and keep the most valuable customers, not to reward those of us who live and breathe max value extraction. The most valuable customers — indeed, the vast majority of those spending 30 or 40 or 60 nights a year in hotels – are business travelers. Sure, leisure travelers may spend a bundle on one nice vacation each year, but business travelers spend consistently throughout the year and it can really add up.

In a lot of cases (most cases?), a business traveler’s employer will reimburse the cost of meals. I have to imagine that “free breakfast” doesn’t really matter to many business travelers because they wouldn’t need to pay for it themselves anyway. Free breakfast is probably meaningless to a lot of people who were receiving it as a perk of their loyalty. I can see why it not only might not be worth the expense to Hilton but why Hilton may have felt that it was long missing a chance for revenue in offering something for free that it didn’t have to. In fact, I could see where Hilton may assume that a business traveler will be happy to sign the breakfast check since their employer is paying for it anyway and maybe Hilton thinks that a credit that can be used at the hotel bar has more chance to persuade business travelers to choose Hilton.

Atlas Bar at the Conrad Fort Lauderdale

The above rationale matches why I have long assumed Hyatt offers free parking for Globalists on award stays but not paid stays. My guess is that their assumption is that most Globalists are business travelers and in most cases the company is going to cover parking anyway, so that benefit (which may come with real cost in many cities) doesn’t provide value for the business traveler when they aren’t the ones footing the bill anyway. However, when they use the points they accumulated by being loyal to Hyatt to take the family on vacation, getting free parking is meaningful.

Hilton probably viewed free breakfast as an unnecessary cost and they might not be wrong in some ways.

While the program as a whole is likely designed with a business traveler in mind, Hilton’s food & beverage credit obviously also works for some non-business travelers. Not everyone is a morning person and I can relate to that. Further, like many readers, I have enjoyed checking out local breakfast places over the years. I get that there are people for whom a credit that can be used for dinner or a drink at the bar or snacks for the room would be preferable.

And while I am personally not a fan of losing “free breakfast”, I can admit to the fact that I do enjoy room service breakfast and will probably use breakfast credits toward room service at some point (though that use case is probably quite poor since delivery and service fees will significantly erode the dollar value of the credit).

I do love a room service breakfast, so I’ll probably use Hilton’s elite credit for it at some point.

And even for credit card holders, the change might not be as bad as it feels on the surface. Whereas a card with a $95 annual fee used to give you free breakfast everywhere, it now gives you at least $10 in credit per stay. Even if you only value that at 50% of face value, it only takes a relative few stays with two guests in the room to recoup the cost of the annual fee.

The intangible value of free breakfast

Despite the fact that I understand that “free breakfast” comes at unnecessary cost (since many business travelers would have happily spent the company’s dime on breakfast anyway), I think this marks a strongly negative change for the Hilton Honors program that will certainly affect my hotel choices moving forward — and I’m not talking out of spite over losing my bagel and coffee from the buffet but rather because it eliminates my incentive to book direct with Hilton and actually makes it easier to shop around.

Whereas in the past, I would often go directly to the Hilton app on my phone to search for a Hilton property, there is now limited upside to booking direct. My primary two motivators for booking direct with a hotel chain are flexibility (free cancellation) and elite benefits. The value of those things is highly subjective and easily clouded.

How much is Hilton free breakfast worth? I don’t know, but it sure feels like a lot in some cases. Some people say that breakfast is the most overvalued part of this hobby. I staunchly disagree, but my disagreement isn’t mathematical. It is entirely abstract and related to the way I value the ability to wade through a sleepy fog and order the elixir of life with one cream and one sugar before I’ve had to think about whether I need to wear a jacket or bring an umbrella or whether the diaper bag has a change of clothes for both kids. How much do they charge for breakfast at the average X or Y chain hotel? I have no idea since I haven’t had to pay that price in years and I’m probably not going to call the hotel in advance to find out how much they charge for breakfast to be able to compare the value I’m getting at Hilton against other chains or booking channels. The value of not having to worry about it is emotional and valuable beyond the sticker price.

To me, that made it easy for Hilton.com to compete. I wanted to book direct because I valued the experience of free breakfast to an extent that couldn’t easily be measured. To be clear, that probably led me to poor choices. I’m sure I’ve probably overpaid more than once to book direct or to book a Hilton Garden Inn over a Courtyard because of “free breakfast”.

Out: convenience. In: calculation.

Hilton’s elite member benefit is now very easily measurable: it is worth $10 per person to $25 per person depending on brand. I’ll mentally discount that a bit in cases where I think I’ll use room service and lose some of the credit to room service fees.

For example, I just now looked up a night at the Hilton Garden Inn at Buffalo Niagara Airport (no particular reason, that hotel just popped into mind as I’ve stayed there before). On Hilton.com, the rates for the night I checked started at $134.

This is a nonrefundable advance purchase “member” rate.

At Capital One Travel, the same hotel is $121 (unfortunately with the same advance purchase / nonrefundable restriction).

If I were traveling by myself, I would clearly book that via Capital One (if I didn’t mind a nonrefundable rate). The nightly rate difference ($13) is greater than the maximum value that I can hope to extract from the $10 free breakfast credit. It is no longer an irrational emotional choice about convenience but now it is a measurable dollars-and-cents decision.

One thing I’ll lose by not booking direct is the opportunity to earn Hilton points. While that could be disappointing, the value of Hilton Honors points is probably far too opaque for most customers since there is no easy award chart against which to compare your earnings to determine what they could buy you in the future. Sure, I have a pretty concrete idea what Hilton points are worth, but if the chance to earn a lot of hotel points that have no clearly defined value were a primary motivator in choosing a loyalty program, IHG would have been the talk of the town for years already.

In my case, losing out on the chance to earn Hilton points wouldn’t really hurt at all. Sure, I’ll give up the chance to earn 10 base Hilton points per dollar spent (18x total as a Gold member or 20x as a Diamond member before any promotions), but I’d stand to earn 10x Capital One miles per dollar spent when booking through Capital One Travel. Earning 10 transferable miles per dollar spent could certainly make up for the loss of Hilton point earnings. I’d lose elite credit for the nights, but I’m not counting nights in the Hilton Honors program anyway since all it takes is a credit card to have elite status.

And if elite nights do matter to you, it may still be possible to get lucky and combine the cheaper price with an elite night earned. Last night, I spent the night at a Fairfield Inn (by Marriott) that I booked via Capital One Travel. Upon arrival, we grabbed a couple of bottles of water to charge to the room, so I asked if I could add my Marriott Bonvoy number to the reservation. The agent let me know that since I had booked and paid via a third party, I wouldn’t receive any points for the room, just night credit. I didn’t think he was correct about earning elite night credit, but then the reservation did immediately get added to my stays in the Marriott app. I don’t know for sure that I’ll get elite night credit, but if I do, that will be a nice little bonus.

Capital One travel was just one example of how you might shop around, but anyone using a hotel aggregator will find the mental math a bit easier with a defined value of the F&B credit in mind. The breakfast credit still takes what had a very opaque value proposition (“free breakfast”) and makes it easily measurable against other booking options. For instance, Hotels.com gives an effective 10% back with their “free night after 10 stamps” system. The same hotel above was $137 via Hotels.com.

Via Hotels.com, you’d get the hotel stay + an effective $13.70 toward a future stay for $137 vs the getting hotel stay + a $10 food & beverage credit that must be used during the stay for $134. It really comes down to whether you would rather have ~$10 off of a future hotel stay anywhere and anytime or $10 in food & beverage credit at the Hilton Garden Inn Buffalo / Niagara Airport. I’d lean towards Hotels.com before even considering whether I could get a discount on their gift cards in advance.

Indeed, the breakfast credit may be a many of us in that it may encourage us to shop around and take advantage of things like Hotels.com’s rewards program or Capital One Travel more freely. For those who aren’t loyal to a chain, will make it easier to justify being a free agent.

The purpose of creating a loyalty program is to influence people to make irrational decisions. You want people to not do calculations like those above so they make emotional or irrational decisions based on perceived value (rather than a concrete idea of value). The excellent breakfasts I’ve had at fancy Hilton properties in far-flung places likely influenced me to overvalue breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn Buffalo-Niagara International Airport in the past, but that won’t be the case in the future.

And so I think the real loss here for Hilton going forward is that members may be more apt to shop around when they can easily reference a dollar value for the food & beverage credit. No longer will I choose Hilton because I want free breakfast, instead I’ll look at a hotel aggregator and pick what comes out the cheapest after accounting for the ten or fifteen dollar credit I might expect at a Hilton property.

At least, that’s what I’ll do when I no longer have Hyatt and Marriott elite status, where I’ll probably look more often since they still have me fooled into overvaluing breakfast by just giving me the convenience without the calculation.

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Pam

I just used my Hilton AMEX Aspire $250 resort credit to book a room with a breakfast package. It was only $15 more than without. The breakfast came to $61/2 which was fully credited with the pkg, incl gratuity. I used the $12 Diamond credit towards a bar drink we would’ve ordered anyway. If more breakfast packages are cheap like this resort will continue to be how I book since most of the cost was erased anyway with the Aspire resort credit. I liked the flexibility of the $12 credit in this case.

Vic

I usually travel and stay at the same hotel for several months at a time (flying in and out weekly) since I do project work. The hotel having an executive lounge or a good restaurant with free breakfast is a deciding factor in my choice of hotel mostly due to the convenience factor, quality of food (fresh fruit and omelet bar) and the amount of time it saves me per week vs going out of my way to find a restaurant or a Starbucks to grab a quick breakfast sandwich. Taking into account of the time it saves the common business traveler, I would say the value of a free breakfast should be something Hilton keeps offering their loyal Diamond travelers. It is just good business and locks in loyalty.

Michael

Nick mentioned that he was (maybe) able to get an elite night at a Fairfield Inn booked via Capital One. Have others had luck with this? Just by asking the front desk to add your Marriott account number when checking in?

David

Finally a hotel chain chooses to recognize the real heroes – alcoholics on expense accounts!

Kevin Lee

A number of employers (mine included) now cap the daily rate for Food and drink. Others, including many govt rates, have corporate travel policies that avoid booking rates that don’t show as ‘B&B’. Hilton is probably trying to balance these trends.

Pat

I personally have already made the change to not use Hilton as my go to hotel chain in the US and made them aware they lost my business due to these changes and other devaluations year after year being a diamond (through actual spend not by cc or other means). Luckily for me most of my stays are Australia, Asia and Middle East where you get a full buffet breakfast and lounge benefits (happy hour, food, drinks, etc). I think it was an easy change for US as most chains seem to make a rush for the bottom of the barrel in terms of benefits whereas overseas the competition demands much higher level of service. If they try to do same overseas they would lose their customer base quickly.

Last edited 8 months ago by Pat
mbh

I find it interesting that no one has mentioned the flaw in your basic premise (excepting the rude crack from Stew). Companies who have a lot of travelling employees negotiate with hotels for the best corporate rates and then use that chain exclusively (to the extent possible). For example, Deloitte used SPG, now I think they stuck with Marriott after the merger. They DO care about the free breakfast, since most of their employees would qualify as gold or diamond and it is one LESS thing the company has to pay for on the expense accounts.
I also have an aunt who in a corporate event planner and she always looks into what benefits the loyalty program offers their top tiers since many attendees will be elite status holders. (Though it is true that they don’t always honor status for event prices.)

Ttsi

This is true they are getti.g ready even employees are not allowed breakfast free or water bottles at that they don’t care about anything but that green paper just like most places in this world

Cindykitson

Hilton has refused to honor the free breakfast at Hilton Garden Inn for two years now. They have no restaurant. You can take bottle water to the room. What a rip off. Management has never responded to me.

Nate

Loyalty programs are no longer loyalty programs but rather customer acquisition programs. Do any of the chains call them loyalty programs anymore?

Flexibility would be making sure you had an option for free breakfast still, or the credit if you wanted it, not getting rid of free breakfast.

Robert

Most hotel breakfast ends at the ungodly hour of 10 am, or even earlier! I’m never able to get up and make myself presentable before 10 am when I’m on vacation, so I love this change. If I’m traveling for work, sure, I’ll get up earlier, but breakfast is paid by my employer.

robbo

I’m a 100% leisure traveller who is Diamond because of stays, not because of some fancy credit card. My solution Hilton, give breakfasts to the Diamonds who earned it through proper loyalty ( ie; stays at Hilton branded hotels ) and let everyone else please themselves. Problem solved !

WR2

Wow, how incredibly selfless of you. Something tells me you’re an expert at pleasing yourself.

robbo

Better believe it sunshine. But something tells me you have a fancy credit card

WR2

If you think credit cards are fancy, you can’t be helped. Enjoy your travelers cheques, and Hilton thanks you for your loyalty by giving you a big middle finger.

shilph

If Hilton properties would like to charge $15 for their breakfast, I might understand why Hilton made this decision. But most hotels charge at least 150% or twice more than what they give.
I am a father of two kids. I used to be charged nothing, but Hilton charged me more than $50 to $100 per day. Oh well…

MeLike2Travel

Yes! That is the salient point for me, you can’t do anything with that credit to make it a proper vaule proposition. Particularly for those people with families. It’s almost laughable when you previously received the breakfast for free.

Ugh

Hilton does more to push me away with the pervasiveness of frankenfoods in their breakfasts, mainly the lower tier properties. Breakfasts are already free there, but not worth eating plasticized meat.

Matthew L Nichols

I for one thought of the free breakfast as a major benefit. Not having to find a local place and drive and wait etc, before going to work in a strange town and bad weather is huge convenience. Not to mention if breakfast is free I have an extra $15 to spend on a nice dinner.

Maurice

A well thought out analysis, Nick. You are right that this change is business traveler focused. For families I can see how this change to the daily credit is a loss in many cases, but maybe less so for some leisure traveling couples. For my husband and I this change was a positive, especially on longer stays where it was hard for me to convince him to eat a full breakfast every morning because of it was free. Instead, we can use it for an appetizer and drinks or in the shop. Admittedly, we are more tied to Hilton than most because of our access to the Friends and Family benefit where we get 33%-50% off the rate for stays. With that discount and approximately 20-25% earned back in Honors points (diamond status, constant promotions and 14x points from the Aspire) it definitely works out well for us. We use the points for aspirational 5th night free (Hilton Hawaiian Village or Conrad Fort Lauderdale) and earn points on cheap relatively cheap 1-3 night stays with the discounted rate.

Nick

I stay 160+ nights a year. For many of the already mentioned reasons I am not happy with the change. One I don’t think was mentioned and may be petty, but for me it is a real pain…having to charge to the room to get the credit (so far not all credits cover a menu item previously covered as well) and having to line item break out for my expense reports. I’d rather have a coupon that was credited and pay the difference out of pocket. I have had at least 2 messed up bills that had to be corrected. It is painful for a regular traveler, I have enough headaches to add this to it…Not a Happy customer.

John Stehle

Just stayed at Waldorf Astoria Pedregal, Hilton Los Cabos, and Waldorf La Quinta. I believe they gave me only $15/person. When the rates are $2000, $600, and $500, where the meals for breakfast was double what they gave. Maybe Hilton should just go to a dollar based credit for breakfast based on the price of the Room as they do for award bookings

Stew podaso

The ignorance you have about business travelers nowadays is staggering and you should do some homework before making huge assumptions about what companies pay for and what they dont but you not have a regular job it’s obvious. My fortune 100 will stop stays at Hilton because free breakfast was counted as a perk to keep the daily per dime low. Time for you to educate yourself

MeLike2Travel

Stew, why are you so negative! A good point that you mentioned, but you could have stated it in a way that wasn’t so rude, aggressive, and mean spirited.

This is just information to process as one may.

Dav Katz

I book hotels based on price and breakfast. Having the free breakfast saves me time of looking for some place to eat. And gets me out to see/do what I went to that location for. Which is a major item for me.

Ramesh Sharan

That’s entirely your opinion. How many have time to go to another restaurant for breakfast. It was a great convenience to have breakfast and go to business. This sucks.

MeLike2Travel

It’s clear from reading many posts that business travelers are not monolithic. So, we will see if Hilton’s bet on business travel will support this initiative

JohnnyD

I would stay at a Hilton Garden Inn just for the breakfast. It was better than almost any breakfast diner. Omelette made to order and some had Specials also. It wasn’t just free, it tasted great too. I often paid extra to get that benefit.

Iahphx

Right, the new policy discourages me from booking a HGI or a full service Hilton. Much better value now at Hampton and Homewood, where everyone gets free breakfast. Resorts are a little different, but without the free breakfast at their aspirational properties (aka a more fun stay), I’m less interested in accumulating Hilton points. Frankly, the biggest reason I’ve moved away from accumulating Hilton points this year, is that they’ve massively increased the points required at most of their properties, where IHG has only increased them a little, and Hyatt almost nothing at all.

Pam

I enjoy the made-to-order Omelet Bar at Hyatt House, too!

Brian

I use to booked Hilton Garden Inn exclusively for the free made to order breakfast. I have a per deim per day , so not having to spend on a good breakfast meant I could have a nicer dinner. This definitely effects my hotel choice. Say in the membership benefits a free hot breakfast still also. I’ll be staying in Hyatt’s when I can now.

Byron

I am still scratching my head as to why Hilton is doing this. Most Hilton hotels are not owned by Hilton. Is Hilton looking out for the franchisee, or the customer. As a business travelor a good breakfast is appreciated before heading out. I do not want to fool with a voucher. Just eat and go. Besides, probably not at the same hotel that night. In the times this past year I stayed at a Hilton, the voucher never covered the meal. Also, many business people have a per diem their company gives them. Having to pay for breakfast takes money out of the per diem.

Hilton is racing to the bottom. Now looking to dispose of a ton of Hilton points and be done with them. I do not think Marriot is far behind.

Mark

Hilton is looking out for the customer. The hotel owner is the customer. We are the product.

CCL

I’ve never seen a Hilton-branded hotel where I could get a breakfast for $10. This change certainly doesn’t make me feel valued.

Edward

Drastically overpriced small bag of chips is bad substitute for hot breakfast. Probably time to shift my priorities too.

Elizabeth

Hilton has gone downhill in so many other ways this is not that significant to me. Last time I stayed at a Hilton I received an email in advance with a number of upgrades I could pay more for (I think they even said congratulations). When I got there they were magically out of any upgrades. One time in Santa Barbara they went out of the way to point out that they had given me a one-category upgrade (from parking lot view to a view of another building) but for $79/night they could give me an ocean view. And they just don’t have a lot of aspirational properties in the US. I’m sitting on a pretty big chunk of points and some free night certs that I want to use and quit the Hilton game, but nowhere in the states I want to use them. Really don’t want to travel as long as there is covid testing to reenter the states. Other than Hyatt I just want to choose the hotel I stay at based on price, location, and just where I feel like staying.

LarryInNYC

The old breakfast benefit wasn’t worth the, say, $40 the hotel would charge for breakfast, but it was worth the $8 a similar breakfast would cost you nearby.

A $15 credit that reduces the cost of breakfast to $25 actually has a negative value (-$17) if you use it for breakfast — the amount over what the breakfast would cost you down the street.

Pam

Yes finding that to be the case with many Marriott’s now, too. $10/person towards a $50-$60 breakfast! If a Marriott brand won’t cover the entire breakfast, I opt for the 1,000 points etc instead.

Ben

Can’t remember having a hotel breakfast I truly appreciated since I was ~12 years old and got to eat fruit loops because we were on vacation. Usually mediocre, poor selection, room service is cold by the time it comes, takes longer than stopping at Starbucks… etc.

In fairness my experience meant I also never pursued hotel breakfast, so maybe I missed out on an otherworldly Conrad/Waldorf/etc. experience.

But in general I agree with Hilton – I prefer a drink at the bar over breakfast.

Jak

I used to be the type who would never eat hotel breakfasts. They’re so expensive and mediocre. I now find them to be convenient, though still often mediocre. But they free up time that might otherwise be spent finding a restaurant. It also feels like you’re getting “more” for your stay, which is the irrational part Nick mentions.

The credit is just a coupon which won’t cover the cost of any breakfast. (One recent hotel stay accidentally charged us $80 for breakfast for 2. Ouch!) It now adds additional mental hoops you have to jump through to determine what it might cover and how much extra you’re willing to put in above the credit amount to get what used to be free.

Places like Kimpton gave you “raid the mini bar” for around the same value as Hilton’s credit, but the difference is that this perk was additional. Hilton is now replacing a fairly valuable ($80?) benefit with just a fraction of that and something that other hotels gave for free. The context is important because Kimpton’s perk is “cool” even though it’s small because it’s unexpected. On the other hand, Hilton’s “perk” is bad because it’s replacing something big with something so small on a benefit that’s supposed to be included.

Tom

This pretty much puts full service Hiltons to the bottom of my list of properties to stay at when traveling domestically. I was just at a Hilton for work in Hawaii (Hilton Waikoloa) and the food and beverage options were minimal—especially the hours and number of options—half the time I ended up wasting the credit because I didn’t have time to use it at their bar and the breakfast ‘to go’ area was closed by 10am—and once when I used it the $15 breakfast sandwich seemed like it was warmed up from the previous day. The restaurants were so expensive the $15 per dollar credit was barely a reduction coupon. Any money I spend on breakfast for work reduces the amount of money available for lunch and dinner—I think the days of fat cat meal budgets on business travel are reducing significantly.

I am sure other chains are watching this experiment carefully.

Really questions why I keep the aspire. I hope to have a couple international stays this year where I hope to use my free nights internationally this year. Will likely renew this year—don’t want to bite off my nose to spite my face—but any negative changes to that card that reduces the ability of negating the AF and it’s gone.

Tim

To me the value was when I holidayed at Hilton especially at European properties which put on an upscale spread for Diamonds.

Sam Maronie

Hilton has continued to chisel away at Diamond Status perks…outrageous!

And don’t even think about anyone from Customer Relations to re turn a call or email….it WON’T HAPPEN.

ed k

I’m an international traveler, so hopefully they’re not going to change the free breakfast benefit for Gold/Diamond. Some places we’ve been the breakfast can be extremely expensive ($60 per person and even more). It actually would change not only where we stay for vacation but also cause us to change our entire location and pick somewhere completely different for vacation. It also would cause us to not care about keeping certain credit cards due to annual fees, nor would we care to spend on those cards/banks/issuers. One of the best meals of our day is breakfast at certain places like Conrads.

Neil

These are rational arguments – but most of us are also driven by irrationality whether we like to admit it or not. A properly working loyalty program should cast a faint glow over its properties, making them just a bit more appealing and alluring.

Once Hilton made the change something clicked in my mind – before when comparing Hiltons vs IHG properties there would be somewhat of a Hilton bias (due to the free breakfast) if prices and locations were comparable. Now, I have to assume I’ll end up with a co-pay if I have breakfast .. and , a bit of stress has been introduced to the morning …. the joy is gone. Just like that I’ve noticed I no longer mentally factor anything in between IHG and HIlton. (When there is a Hyatt in the mix that warm association glow still exists – with Marriott there is no such glow because they have been so inconsistent providing breakfast to Platinums, especially since pandemic began).

Obviously beancounters got to count beans and Nick’s points about giving away for free something that businesses would be happy to pay for is well taken. And I definitely agree that we “value-extraction” readers are probably only a tiny (though vocal) portion of a hotel chain’s revenue. I suspect bottom line, years later when this is all forgotten, this will be a good move for Hilton.

Mary

I haven’t stayed at Hilton since this last (definitive?) wording – BUT at 8 out of 10 stays in the past 6 months, I have received BOTH free breakfast AND the credits (although I did not fully use the credits at any property). I was told by one franchise owner (who also owned a Marriott courtyard and a Holiday Inn Express on the same block) that it was up to each owner to interpret the wording and that he could see by my status and stays that I was a valued customer and he wanted to treat me that way. This probably does not translate to free breakfasts for people with diamond status through CC only with only 1-2 calendar stays per year.

Strategery

Sitting on a pile of HHonors points and only doing paid stays at Hampton, Homewood or ES with proper breakfast and for Homewood, only if they have evening food multiple days, not Wednesday only. I use points or free night certs at hotels with resort fees, since awards are not charges such fees.

Cody

Effective January 1st, no Homewood has the evening social on any day other than Wednesdays. It is now an auto-fail for Hilton QA if you don’t follow the standard, so that ship has sailed.

jim

It’s enough to make us not really care about diamond anymore. Hilton is a mostly tier 2 chain except for asia waldorf so no great loss, but the convenience of free breakfast (and cost at waldorf is way more than 25) is enough to find another chain.

Reno Joe

Jim, if you are a Diamond, when was the last time you received a suite upgrade? Another reader mentioned (in a comment to a different article) that he has been Lifetime Diamond for 10 years and has never received a suite upgrade in his entire tenure with Hilton. Something else to chew on.

mysterious hummus

I’m diamond through credit card and have received three suite upgrades since Nov 2019- Curio Hoodoo Moab, WA Park City and WA Jerusalem. I had to ask at the Curio, but the WA upgrades were proactive.

JEM

This is a short-term blip. Two years from now, few will complain that Hilton doesn’t give free breakfast, any more than they do now for Marriott. Most low- to mid-tier properties will still give some sort of free breakfast just to be competitive. The real breakfast fetishists will still swoon over Hyatt (and business travelers will still ignore Hyatt’s minuscule footprint). Large businesses will adjust their per diems a bit.

Reno Joe

So, what does one receive from the loyalty program other than points? And, what is the value of those points? And, ultimately, can one achieve better value in playing a game other than the known hotel loyalty programs? The answer to the last question is yes.

JEM

Other than points? In the last few years I’ve taken advantage of upgrades (incl. a suite on occasion), guaranteed availability, lounge access, dedicated parking, and welcome amenities. Not anything that would have made me go out of my way to choose Hilton, but then, neither did breakfast.

wadacash

I don’t know about business travel for other people, but my work only reimburses up to $40/day in meals. I valued free elite breakfast because it meant an expense could be saved for other meals. If I have to pay for my own breakfast, I’m not going to dine on property; I need to go somewhere much cheaper. The only time this elite breakfast change benefits me is if I’m at a conference where breakfast is already provided, but conferences are much less common these days. All this to say if I have my choice of hotel as a business traveler, I still won’t be giving my business to Hilton because of this breakfast policy.

WR2

Good point. Nick’s whole business traveler argument falls apart since most companies give a per diem for dining expenses. More spent on breakfast means less on dinner.

ChadMC

I’d fully support it if it were a choice of breakfast included as it was before – or – the daily credit. They’d have a HUGE fan base in this case. Unfortunately they chose to devalue the program further. For domestic travel Honors is near useless. Internationally, it’s better as there are nicer properties, executive lounges (at least there used to be), nice upgrades, and real value. The program has little to no value at this point. I used to exclusively stay at Hilton, but with no housekeeping/cleaning, no breakfast, no upgrades, no lounges, and so many more things removed, I’ll stay there if it’s the better location and/or price, but have no loyalty to them. Just pointless. I’ll choose the best place and price and won’t be held to irrational loyalty-based decisions like I used to. I’ve been Diamond for years.

I’m also on a mission to burn through my Marriott points in anticipation of their big devaluation coming up. That program will become useless soon as well.

Retired Gambler

Nick – you do understand very few people will go to the effort you will to look at multiple booking options. Also I agree business travelers are the target and this doesn’t move the needle for them. Also I think breakfast is overrated and Americans would be better off (and a lot thinner) if they simply grabbed a cup of coffee and maybe a piece of fruit.

Bottom line for all the whining by people on blogs such as this I suspect this change will have little, if any, impact on Hilton’s overall occupancy and it will help franchise owners. You do realize they are the real customer and not people that stay in the rooms right?

BTW Diamond member here and I have no problem w this change. I’m also retired so all hotel spend comes out of my pocket. I will continue to book Hilton’s just as much as I did before.

Harry

IMO you have this backwards: Also I think breakfast is overrated and Americans would be better off (and a lot thinner) if they simply grabbed a cup of coffee and maybe a piece of fruit. Breakfast means break fast so to get your body working, you eat probably the biggest meal of the day and eat less going forward with dining the least. Americans of course eat their biggest with dinner. Try it you may like it. Signed retired 75 year old construction company owner.

WR2

No, the food and beverage credit is not worth $10 or $25 per person. The same rule applies to valuing CC benefits: how much would you pay for this benefit upfront on it’s own?

If you’re not giving me free breakfast, then I’m probably not eating breakfast there, as it will be an inflated price and I can get better elsewhere. I doubt I’ll spend that voucher on a drink or another meal either. It will go to waste, or just will get an overpriced packaged to go item. I wouldn’t pay $10/$25 for such a voucher, I’d pay 25% of face value or less for such a voucher.

You seem to be just justifying this change because you’re obviously not a breakfast person. Breakfast is the only meal I’d consider eating at most hotels, purely out of convenience. Take that away and it’s just another coupon that will be thrown away.

Hilton is dead to me. They hand out elite status like candy, extend it infinitely, then take away free breakfast. Upgrades and breakfast are why I’m loyal, but now I can’t get either. Bye Hilton.

Mark

Also not happy about the change, but I would be less discouraged if they had made the credit amount higher. It seems ridiculous that they’re trying to frame this as an enhancement when in my experience the amount they are providing is lower than what a coffee and entree would cost at any of the corresponding brand category properties. They could have been a little more generous so that it would at least cover said items at maybe half the domestic portfolio properties. I think it also doesn’t bode well to start at such a low amount with inflation looming…i doubt they’re going to move these up anytime in the near future. They’ve basically built in an automatic devaluation of the benefit as prices go up.

Jeffrey

My kids are always up early so we normally utilize the free breakfast frequently. I was initially happy to hear about the credit during the pandemic because I thought it would have been good to use for room service to minimize being mask-less around strangers. Unfortunately the amount of credit being offered seems too low. Something they could do to differentiate the Gold from Diamond (I am Gold for the record) is to allow the Diamond members an option of Breakfast or the current credit offer and the Gold members only get the credit. I generally stay within the Hilton family (no CC), but am trying out Hyatt (explorist) this coming year on a few stays (15 nights booked so far in leisure travel) since I think the Gold and Explorist are more comparable now. I haven’t stayed at Marriott recently, but used to stay at SPG prior to merger. It seems that HH Gold/Marriott Gold/Hyatt Explorist are all pretty even now?

Frank

In yet another way Hilton devalued their elite status to the point it is almost irrelevant, at least in the U.S. I travel more abroad that in the U.S. and the benefit of Diamond status outside of the U.S. is vastly more powerful than in the U.S. I also think Hilton realizes more people in the U.S. are traveling domestically than internationally, demand often outstrips supply, and there is no need to incentivize people to stay at a U.S. Hilton property. If this reverses we may see elite benefits come back. It is remarkable, in my albeit limited experience, how the service at domestic Hilton properties has decreased. I’m not just talking about elite benefits. I’m talking about the air conditioning working, basic hotel services being open. Hilton and other chains pour a big glass of woe is us, we’re short of staff and there are special germs floating around, we can’t maintain the pool or the lounge. Yet, they are charging exorbitant rates. Why? Because they can.

Reno Joe

Anyone who worries about breakfast as a tier status benefit must still be in the hotel loyalty program game. But, a mountain of articles has shown how the programs and property owners do to deny tier status benefits, make them elusive, devalue them, or simply eliminate them. So, if someone is still playing that rigged game, the person deserves the abuse one receives.

T. Jones

It’s admittedly taken me some time to realize this, but I see where you’re coming from and find myself in agreement.
Loyalty matters less each day.

Reno Joe

My wife and I are on the road about 150 to 180 days per year, with the majority of those days being in three cities. After an epiphany regarding the hotel loyalty programs, we chose a different path. We selected a hotel in those three cities, became “regulars,” and then negotiated rates directly with the sales director at each property. We average a 20 percent discount off of room rates, selection of specific view rooms, full breakfast (without limit), and a range of other perks. Dollar-wise, we are far better off. Admittedly, our circumstances are unique.

Greg

I am going to go out on a tangent here because you mentioned the AMEX Hilton credit card above. I have been looking for a way to get rid of it but I keep it because I don’t want to lose my 280,000 Hilton points (and gosh knows they are strict about zeroing out accounts if there is no activity In 12 months) and because I get 10 free Priority Pass stays a year which is great when my American and Star Alliance Gold memberships don’t work in given airports. I have 8 credit cards but this is the only one with a Priority Pass benefit. Does anyone know of any other credit cards that have this?

Reno Joe

Chase Sapphire Reserve for Priority Pass

To keep your Hilton points alive, every 12 months, buy 1000 points. That will reset your expiration clock.

Think about how you might play the hotel side of the game if you were a “free agent.”

Snowmt

Hilton points now expire at 24 months

Reno Joe

Understood. On January 1st of each year, I mechanically buy 1000 points in various programs just so nothing slips through the cracks. No thinking required.

Larry

There is a no annual fee Hilton AMEX CC you could downgrade to (or apply for if you want the sign-up bonus) if you are just keeping the card to keep your points active. For Priority Pass, the Capital One Venture X has a lower annual fee than the Reserve (but does not include the Reserves Priority Pass restaurant benefit).

Larry

Correction: It appears I was mistaken about the Venture X Priority Pass restaurant benefit. I haven’t seen it called out in any of FM’s Venture X posts but OMAAT covered it in a post. Since I already had PP from a Platinum card I hadn’t gotten around to activating it on the Venture X. Looks like I’ll be switching today.

Last edited 8 months ago by Larry
JN2

Venture X Priority Pass does include restaurants, but Hilton Amex (or any Amex cards) do not.

Larry

Thanks for the correction. I saw that after I commented and had tried to reply w/ a correction, but my reply was flagged as needing approval.

Brutus

I’m increasingly considering using the bank portals to book some hotels. Getting 10x Hyatt points on a CSR for each dollar spent at a Hilton Garden Inn has a certain appeal to me.

Kate

I’m a morning person, so pre pandemic, it would be a big deal for me. Right now, though, and even during the heady days of last early summer when I did stay in a Hilton, I’m not eating around random strangers.

Lukas

Great article as always. To be 100% accurate, hotels.com is REALLY just 9% (9.09% to be exact, lol) discount because you don’t get 10th night free, but the 11th one. I understand it’s easier to do the additional math with 10% of the room price, so I digress, LOL.

JoeSchmo

People should be given the choice between the credit and free breakfast. In the absence of a choice, the credit should be higher and inflation adjusted annually.

Patrick Tilman

The last ti.e I stayed at the Hilton Garden in Boise Idaho I was given a choice.

Chris

I concur wish it was a choice.