This is a guest post from @RobertDwyer
Update (2/15/2017): I’ve spotted a Hilton Diamond Force unicorn!
A couple years ago I signed up for a Citi Hilton Reserve card. I’ve long been suspicious of Hilton’s rewards scheme but I went for it because it offers:
- 2 free weekend nights at most Hilton properites
- Diamond status after spending $40,000
- 3x points on all spend
Psychologically, I felt like the free weekend night certificates absolved me of needing to assess in precise terms whether I’d get value out of their award chart. The Diamond status couldn’t hurt, and although I was fully aware it’s difficult to get more then $0.004 of value out of a Hilton point I was fine with earning ~1.2 cents per point everywhere.
The icing on the cake though, or so I thought, was the intriguing notion of Hilton Diamond Force which I read about here and elsewhere.
What is Hilton Diamond Force?
Hilton Diamond Force is a slang term Hilton loyalists have used to describe how Diamonds can force award availability at a Hilton property which doesn’t otherwise exist.
As part of Hilton’s 48 hour reservation “guarantee” you can get a room at a Hilton that’s otherwise sold out. This is attractive during peak times when rooms are sold out somewhere you really need to be. But it becomes even more attractive if you can book an award stay at standard rates or using a free weekend night certificate because you’d realize a high cent per point value out of your points.
There have always been additional exclusions on the 48 hour guarantee. The property can’t be overbooked more than 110% (or 102% depending on the property). There can’t be an Extraordinary Demand Date situation (like the Super Bowl, or perhaps any random night you’re interested in staying at a Hilton). Some hotels don’t participate, etc.
While I do believe that people were once able to force award availability in the past, I don’t think it’s possible any more.
What Hilton Diamond Force is NOT
Hilton Diamond Force does not open up standard award availability when non-standard/premium room award availability is open.
After I casually read about Hilton Diamond Force I wrongly hoped that I could force standard award availability as a Diamond where there was none. This is not the case, and I don’t think it has ever been the case. This is important because use of a free weekend night certificate requires standard award availability, and because – well – standard award levels are always less than the alternative.
An example here would help I think. I proved to myself this didn’t work for a stay in Chicago on Saturday April 29th. Both the Waldorf Astoria and the Conrad have rooms availability but no standard award availabilty.
Below, notice how the number of points required aren’t nice round numbers like 80,000? That means there’s no standard award avilability. You can use points, but you need more points than you would if there were a standard award available and you can’t use a free weekend night certificate.
I called Hilton’s Diamond Desk and checked, asking about “some Diamond Force thing I’d heard about”. Then again inquring about “their 48 hour reservation guarantee”. Both times I was told this benefit was not available for award stays and that it was only applicable if the hotel was sold out.
As an aside, I noticed a peculiar pattern that the Conrad Chicago and Waldorf Astoria Chicago. Both had generally good standard availability on every night except Saturday (ie, the night I needed a room). Since standard award availability is required in order to use a free weekend night certificate I was unable to use my free weekend night certificate. So much for the idea of the free weekend night certificates absolving me needing to carefully assess the cent per point value of their award chart!
Diamond Force at a sold out property?
I was scoping out a potential stay in Orlando during our February school break. The Waldorf Astoria was sold out so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to test the theory that Diamond Force only works when a property is sold out. This is what I saw when I wan’t logged into my Hilton account:
And here is what I saw when I logged into my Hilton Diamond account. The fabled Diamond Reservation Guarantee!
When I proceeded to the next screen all I saw was overpriced paid nights. No award availability:
I called the Diamond line a couple times and got a consistent answer: The 48 hour reservation guarantee only applies to paid stays. Award reservations and use the use of free night certificates is not allowed.
No luck here either.
Does Diamond Force for award stays still exist?
No, I don’t think it does. At least as far as I can tell.
When all else fails read the fine print. And Hilton’s got plenty of fine print. But specifically they point out that their 48 hour reservation guarantee does NOT apply to “reservations paid for in part or in full by Hilton Honors Points, free night certificates issued by Hilton.” I think the part highlighted below is a relatively new addition to their T&Cs:
I’ve seen some older versions of the T&Cs where the restrictions were different and did not specifically exclude award stays. But it looks like they’re excluded now.
Update: Read the comments below for an instance where a Diamond Force was indeed able to shake award space loose. No clue on when it works/doesn’t.
In the end I’m left feeling quite unimpressed with both Hilton Honors as a loyalty program and Hilton Diamond specifically.
Like many hotel chains they carve up room category to minimize the number of available rooms for standard awards. There seems to be scarce weekend award availability at nicer properties which limits the use of free weekend certificates. And the Diamond Force approach seems to no longer be viable.
On one hand I’m not surprised, given how easy it is to attain Hilton Diamond status. But on the other hand if I’d earned Hilton Diamond through 60 nights in their hotels (2 months of my life!) I’d be even less impressed with their program.
They say that complaining without offering a solution is also known as “whining”. So in terms of a suggestion to Hilton I’d suggest they improve their program in this area. If Diamonds could truly force award space where it otherwise didn’t exist it would be a nice way to differentiate their program vs their competition.
In each of these situations I found better solutions elsewhere. One as a paid stay, the other as a rewards stay at a Marriott property. For me it’s a reminder to Be Your Own Elite and stay where you really want to.
Ping me on Twitter @RobertDwyer if you’ve got tips, if you’d like to comisserate about hotel status, or if you’d just like to connect
Have you been able to use Diamond Force lately?