No one travelling at the moment due to the global pandemic, and one question that’s been on the minds of frequent travellers is whether we’ll see airlines and hotels relaxing their requirements in terms of elite status qualification and retention, whether that’s an outright extension of elite status or a lowered requalification threshold of some kind.
Well, Hilton Honors has made its move today. In an email to all members, Hilton states that they would like to show their appreciation for our membership by extending elite status for all members, regardless of qualification activity in previous years; moreover, they will also be pausing expiration on Hilton Honors points and free weekend night rewards as well.
Hilton Honors 2019 Status Extension
There are in fact two separate status extensions going on here.
Normally, if Hilton Honors elite status is not renewed in a given year, it will come to an end on March 31 of the following year. For all members whose elite status of any level (Diamond, Gold, or Silver) was set to elapse on March 31, 2020, Hilton will be extending that status for another year through to March 31, 2021.
Imagine that you had originally earned Hilton status in 2018, but did not renew it in 2019 – whether it’s based on your stay activity, or, say, you applied for the Amex Platinum Card in 2018 and obtained Hilton Gold status as a free perk, but then decided not to renew your card in 2019.
Your status was supposed to end on March 31, but now you’ll get to enjoy the perks for another year.
This is an extremely generous move on Hilton’s part, because they were really under no obligation to extend status for people who didn’t properly qualify.
Indeed, just this past week, Hilton’s rival Marriott Bonvoy completed the process of officially downgrading status for those who did not renew their status in 2019 (even though Marriott’s deadline is typically the end of February, and the process wasn’t carried out then for whatever reason).
Most likely, Hilton believes that given the lower demand for travel across the board, there won’t be too many individuals who newly qualify for elite status this year, so extending people’s old status levels for another year won’t cause their elite ranks to swell too much.
Hilton Honors 2020 Status Extension
The second type of status extension that Hilton is offering is for those who did successfully earn a certain status level in 2019, who are now enjoying their benefits through all of 2020 and until March 2021.
Ordinarily, these members would have all of 2020 to requalify for yet another year and renew their status into 2022, but the current external atmosphere will naturally impede people’s efforts to renew their status this year.
That’s why Hilton Honors is proactively extending these members’ status through all of 2021 and until March 2022, ensuring that members will get to enjoy their current status benefits for the next 24 months.
You basically don’t need to worry at all about requalifying for status in 2020, since your status would be valid until March 2022 no matter what. It’s only when 2021 comes around that you’d start thinking about requalifying again, which, if successful, would renew your status all the way to March 2023.
Compared to the extension for members who didn’t renew status last year (which was pure generosity on Hilton’s part), this extension for current status members is very much an expected gesture, now that most of the world won’t be travelling for the foreseeable future.
Hilton Is Also Extending Expiration on Points & Certificates
Points expiration will be paused, meaning that any Hilton Honors points set to expire between now and December 2020 will no longer expire. Ordinarily, Hilton points expire with 12 months of inactivity, so it was easy enough to keep points from expiring anyway.
Meanwhile, the annual free weekend night certificates issued on the Amex US Hilton Aspire Card, the Amex US Hilton Surpass Card, and the Amex US Hilton Business Card will also be extended. All current free night certificates in members’ accounts, as well as all certificates that are issued up to August 31, 2020, will be valid until August 31, 2021.
So if you’ve held a free night certificate since last year, and would’ve otherwise been scrambling to book something with it in 2020, then you don’t need to worry about your certificate expiring until 15 months from now.
Likewise, if you earn a new free night certificate sometime soon (perhaps by signing up for the Aspire Card, or reaching an annual spend of US$15,000 on the Hilton Business), there’s also no rush to redeem it either.
Will Marriott Bonvoy Follow?
Now that Hilton Honors has made its move, the question is whether other hotel chains might follow in offering carte-blanche status extensions.
While their generosity is very much appreciated, the truth is that Hilton status was extremely easy to earn anyway, since mid-tier Gold status can be obtained just by holding the Amex Platinum Card, while top-tier Diamond status is given as a perk of the US-issued Amex Hilton Aspire Card – which is so hot right now.
(Indeed, I currently hold Diamond status from the Aspire Card, and even if I didn’t receive this status extension, I would’ve kept the card around and extended my status without doing anything anyway.)
That’s not the case for the other major hotel chains. So far, World of Hyatt has offered a one-year status extension for members based in the Asia-Pacific only, while IHG Rewards has offered a one-year extension for members based in Greater China only, with a 25% reduction in qualification requirements for everyone else.
The big question mark is Marriott Bonvoy, the world’s largest hotel chain with the most popular loyalty program among Canadian travellers.
Marriott’s best elite benefits begin at the Platinum Elite level, which ordinarily requires 50 elite qualifying nights to achieve (with 15 nights obtainable via the Amex Bonvoy Card), and it’s clear that a good chunk of members who might’ve otherwise renewed Platinum Elite status this year will now find it very tough to do so.
In an email to members from 12 days ago, Marriott CEO Arne Sorensen said the following: “We understand that earning status for 2021 may also be on your mind. As the current situation is still evolving, it is too early for us to make any changes.”
(It’s worth noting that, in the same email, Marriott had also announced that they would pause expiration on members’ points, free night certificates, and Suite Night Awards.)
Perhaps Hilton’s action today will spur Marriott Bonvoy into offering a similar status extension for its members – it would be the right thing to do. Knowing Bonvoy, though, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if they came out with some form of lowered renewal requirements first, and only offering a full status extension if the situation were to remain as bleak as it is now in future months.
I’m sure it won’t be long until we hear something from Marriott, so let’s wait and see.
It’s great to see Hilton Honors extending status for its members across the board, especially for those who didn’t actually renew their status in 2019 purely as a goodwill gesture. I look forward to checking out some more Hilton hotels as a Diamond member once we start travelling again, and in the meantime, I hope their generous move will encourage other hotel loyalty programs to follow suit.