Just reached Velocity Platinum? Grab free top-tier status with Hilton or IHG hotels!

By Chris Chamberlin, November 13 2013

This article is part of our ongoing Business Travel 101 series for newcomers to the world of business travel, and is current as of January 2019.

Your business travel has seen you reach the heights of Velocity Platinum (congratulations, by the way!), and you’re now ready to enjoy the upper echelon of frequent flyer perks and benefits wherever your travels may take you.

But don’t reach for the champagne just yet. One important decision still needs to be made – which complimentary hotel elite status takes your fancy?

As a newly-minted Velocity Platinum member, you can choose between free Hilton HHonors Diamond or IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite status.

Both programs see the usual benefits offered to top-tier guests – including room upgrades, late check-out, free Internet and a 50% points bonus.

However, your decision may not be as simple as choosing a brand name.

If your travel policy already has you bound to a particular hotel chain, then it makes sense to choose your complimentary hotel status accordingly. But if you’re flexible, do your research to find the best possible deal.

Here's how Velocity Platinum's hotel status freebies stack up.

HHonors Diamond

HHonors Diamond guests receive these extensive benefits during their stays:

  • Room upgrades at Hilton, Conrad, DoubleTree by Hilton and Waldorf Astoria (subject to availability)
  • Free continental breakfast at Hilton, Conrad, DoubleTree by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn
  • Access to the Executive Lounge at Hilton, Conrad and DoubleTree by Hilton properties, regardless of the type of room you're in
  • Earning both HHonors points and airline miles/points on eligible stays
  • A bonus 1,000 HHonors points per stay at Hilton, Conrad, DoubleTree by Hilton and Embassy Suites Hotels
  • Two bottles of water per stay at most properties
  • Access to any available fitness centre or health club, if owned and operated by the hotel
  • ‘Spouse stays free’ – allowing the member’s partner to accompany them on their travels at no additional charge (in most cases)
  • Various speedy check-in options including priority HHonors desks and queues, the Executive Lounge (if accessible without a room key), and Digital Check-in – where members can select a specific room number online prior to arrival
  • A guaranteed room when booking at least 48 hours prior to arrival, even if the hotel is already fully-booked – though not if the property is already oversold by 2-10%
  • Every fifth night free when redeeming HHonors points for a Standard Room Reward of 5 nights or more (up to 20 nights per stay)

IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite 

A slightly less impressive list of benefits are available to IHG Platinum Elite members:

  • Room upgrades subject to availability, except when you've booked a stay using reward points
  • Access to the priority check-in desk
  • A choice to earn either IHG points or airline miles/points on eligible stays
  • A guaranteed room when booking at least 72 hours prior to arrival (in a similar fashion to HHonors), though not applicable during times of “extraordinary demand” – as determined solely by the hotel
  • A free newspaper on weekdays

In addition to the above, both programs provide a toll-free contact number for their elite guests and have no blackout dates on reward stays – which also count towards status retention in both cases.

As you may have noticed, IHG don’t offer breakfast to their elites, nor do they provide access to their Club Lounges (unless staying in a designated Club room) – which are two facets of the HHonors program that really take our fancy.

Maintaining your Hilton or IHG status 

While free hotel status is a fantastic companion to your frequent flyer status, you only get it the first time you hit Velocity Platinum – not when you simply retain that level after clocking up enough flights. Even if you later drop to Velocity Gold and then back up to Platinum, you won't get a second shot at redeeming elite hotel status.

Velocity Platinum's hotel status deal offers a minimum of 12 months with IHG Rewards Club's Platinum Elite level or Hilton HHonors Diamond.

It’s easier to retain IHG Platinum Elite than HHonors Diamond in terms of calendar nights per year after this grace period, as IHG requires just 40 nights whereas Hilton needs 60 nights.

It's worth noting that you can also qualify for HHonors Diamond status after 30 stays – that's 30 check-ins, regardless of the length of your stay – which is a sneaky way to maintain that status if you only ever stay for a single night.

With HHonors, if you satisfy either the 'nights' or 'stays' requirement, your status is safe – there's no need to reach for both.

But let’s not forget elite status earned by spend! Members of both programs earn 10 ‘base points’ or ‘elite qualifying points’ per US dollar (as applicable) on their hotel expenditure.

Given that IHG Platinum Elite can be earned or retained with 40,000 ‘elite qualifying points’ and HHonors Diamond with 120,000 ‘base points’ in a calendar year, this translates to an annual spend requirement of US$4,000 and US$12,000 respectively.

While perhaps not the most efficient way to maintain your status, if you’re dropping that kind of coin, you’d rightly expect a little recognition.

Have odd travel patterns? 

Many business travellers can find their calendars varying greatly year-by-year, and it’s wonderful to see IHG recognising this with ‘elite rollover nights’.

If a guest exceeds the 40 night Platinum Elite requirement in a calendar year, any additional nights will count towards status retention in the following year, rather than being ‘wasted’.

Effectively, this means that a traveller who spends 70 nights away in one calendar year will only need to spend a further 10 nights in the following year to maintain their IHG Platinum Elite status.

Our call: HHonors Diamond Elite

Unless you have specific circumstances that make IHG advantageous (say, if you frequent destinations not well-served by the HHonors portfolio), we’d definitely recommend opting for HHonors Diamond Elite – the breakfast inclusions and Executive Lounge access make this a no-brainer!

If you truly can’t decide, you could always accept the IHG Platinum Elite offer while applying for the Hilton HHonors Macquarie Platinum card (purely for the Gold/Diamond HHonors status) – that way, you’ll have elite recognition at over 8,500 properties worldwide!

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Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

Excellent article.

Of course if travelling in Australia both chains have limited numbers of properties to choose from (e.g. no IHG in BNE), which may be a factor.

The Australian Hiltons seem to offer cooked buffet breakfast for Diamond members - the ADL version being particularly good.

Thank you PLATY!

I've enjoyed a cooked breakfast at the Adelaide Hilton a few times as a Gold Elite – the Eggs Benedict there is particularly divine, with the Eggs Florentine a close second.

While I've previously confirmed the hot breakfast offering for Golds/Diamonds with Adelaide's Guest Services Manager, this is of course an 'unpublished benefit', as the property isn't obliged to offer anything more than a simple continental breakfast (I'm not complaining though!).

Hot breakfast used to be available to Gold members at the Hilton Brisbane, though there has been a $10 surcharge on my last few stays – with the 'free' continental breakfast available in the Executive Lounge... of course, I've heard that they may still bend the rules there for Diamond guests!

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

As a Diamond, the BNE Hilton have been offering the option of the buffet cooked breakfast, which, unpublished vbenefit as it may be, has been very enjoyable.

Indeed, the customer/status recognition in BNE has been very good on each of my stays this year (about 7 or 8) - always a two-step upgrade to executive room, personal greeting from the lounge staff, the option of the cooked breakfast, etc.

I have passed on my appreciation both verbally and in writing to the relevant Hilton Asia Pacific VP.

...so yes, the Diamond card is a very nice benefit for VA Platinums, if somehwat frustratingly only for the first year of Platinum...

05 May 2012

Total posts 29

Took the Hilton option a few years back and it has served me well on a few occasions since: in Sydney (upgrades to Relaxation Room from most basic room) and more recently, in Amsterdam, after booking the most basic room on points + $100 AUD, I was upgraded to the 3000 Euro per night Presidential Suite. Winning!

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 744

Wait, so the Hilton status lasts as long as the Virgin status does? I got the impression that it was just a one-year Hilton status, but the Virgin site is unclear.

As a Virgin Gold I'm currently status-matched to Hilton Gold but was assuming it would end in a year. If not, that's fabulous. And if I can get Hilton Diamond I'm inclined to push harder for Virgin Platinum, which is otherwise a fairly uninspiring sort of status (woo-hoo, two domestic upgrades per annum, big whoop).

The hotel status isn't directly linked to your Velocity status assessment date, though if you were to request the status as soon as the website would let you, the dates would obviously be similar.

After the complimentary hotel status period has passed, you'll need to requalify according to the rules of the respective hotel loyalty program – simply maintaining Velocity Platinum won't keep your hotel status in place.

In the article, the "of course, if you drop from Velocity Platinum to Gold but later climb back up the ladder..." line shows that if you lose your Velocity Platinum status, but qualify for it again down the track, you'll have another shot at the hotel status match. If you simply retain Velocity Platinum without dropping down to Gold, you won't have this option.

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

...four domestic upgrades per annum, which currently results in business class (not econmy) status credit earn due to glitch in the online system...thus potentially offering opportunity to amass 320 of the 800 needed for requalification - much more generous than QF...

KG
KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

You can also use your free Best Western status (which you can match from your Accor status) to get top tier in both chains. No strings attached, you get it instantly!

KG
KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

Chris, you forgot to mention that you get free internet at both chains as a Diamond / Platinum (both chains even offer this to Golds).

Whilst HH is decent and especially good as a Diamond since you get lounge access, they have massively devalued their award chart recently and with regards to earning both HHonors points and airline miles, this "double dip" will come to an end by April 2014. I never ipted for double dip but just for earning 10points per dollar spent (as opposed to double dip and only earning 5 points per dollar spent).

KG
KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

Sorry, slight correction, you can double dip but only variable miles option, not the fixed one and QF does not participate in Variable Miles earning (hence I mistakingly said it woudl cease altogehter).

Internet is mentioned in the fourth paragraph, along with late check-out privileges and the 50% points bonuses – I just chose not to include these in the list of dot points (avoids duplication), but added extra detail in terms of room upgrades, as the rules differ between the programs.

As to HHonors rates, there are currently three earning/'double dip' options, shown below per US$1 spent:

  • Points + Points (equating to 15 HHonors points – 10 of which are credited as 'base points', with the remaining 5 as 'bonus points')
  • Points + Variable Miles (10 HH points + ~1 mile, depending on the airline partner you've chosen to credit to)
  • Points + Fixed Miles (10 HH points + 500 miles / 1000 points, again depending on the airline).

From January 6 next year, 'Points + Fixed Miles' will disappear, rendering the second option as simply 'Points + Miles'.

As above, you can certainly double dip with fixed miles (including QF), as I have personally been doing this a few years (including the other week in Cairns when I was up for the VA lounge opening).

It credits to HHonors like this:

KG
KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

I stand corrected in that case, I have not been able to double dip with fixed miles (or have been told). Will await your image to upload to see what is credits to HH like.

I normally actually opt to earn full points as in general you get more value sticking to hotel points (when staying at hotels). It is a novel program feature though that Hilton offers!

The image has been uploaded now – sorry to keep you waiting!

To activate 'Points + Fixed Miles', sign in to your HHonors account, click 'My Account' at the top, then 'Preferences', and then 'Change Earning Style'.

Fixed Miles can be selected on that page, and if it's Qantas you want to credit to, just make them your 'preferred travel partner' on the preferences page.

I too have considered 'Points + Points', though after the recent HHonors devaluation (through a change in the redemption rates), I find that I get more value from 1000 Qantas points than I would from 5 extra HHonors points/$1 (particularly on shorter stays and if using the Qantas points for flight upgrades).

As always though, the value is in the eye of the beholder!

KG
KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

Thanks! You are absolutely right regarding the (perceived) value. With Hilton it largely depends on your travel pattern and the rates you pay as to what works for you in terms of mileage and points earning. I tend to nowadays go for best deals at the moment and if it is with a chain I hold status in, that's a bonus! I also look more and more at boutique hotels, with the devaluation of both hotel points as airline mileage going on, I often find a better deal and get better servcie / perks.

 

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

If hotel chain loyalty is not a consideration...It might be worth keeping an eye on the rocketmiles and pointshound deals (although the former is pitched at more expensive hotels), not to mention the trusty hotelclub amex 10 pt/$ offer, when assessing best value accommodation options.

I've also been going more for price this year on hotel spend criteria - in any case the money saved can buy points many many times over! Use the Hilton when they offer good rates on weekends as a "treat"! 

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 744

I mostly book with hotels.com nowadays. Their Welcome Rewards program basically amounts to a 10% kickback, which isn't too bad, given that you can earn and redeem on most hotels in the world.

I think it makes a whole lot of sense, unless your travel patterns allow you to earn meaningful (ie top-level) status on any individual hotel chain. 

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

29 Jan 2011

Total posts 156

I think it's somewhat weird that you only get the benefit when you attain Platinum status and not when you retain Platinum. To think that the only way to get the benefit a 2nd time is to drop back to gold and then requalify for Platinum.

Really the benefit should remain whilst ever Platinum status is held.

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

Agreed.

The value of VA Platinum decreases!

I've discussed this with a couple of the mangers at VA on the basis that the hotel status is a very good differentiator for Velocity over QF FF, but somewhat disappointingly continued loyalty at Platinunm isn't so rewarded... 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1380

Exactly as a three time renewed VA Platinum I am already back at Silver with Hilton, whereas those who are less loyal (Plat-Gold-Plat) have had a much better run.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1136

Intriguing.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards Platinum

01 Jul 2013

Total posts 13

What a coincidence! I posted a Q&A on this very subject last week! Velocity make it sound like it's all bells and whistles when you get to Platinum! But if you give Virgin your loyalty and re-attain platinum you're left with no bells and whistles and not much of a comparison versus Gold!

Platy you gave me a detailed response to my question (thanks!) and I see from your comment below you have spoken with some VA managers, have they ever given you a reason for the apparent decrease in loyalty as a result of the way the partner programme runs?

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

No reasons given, Mont80. On the positive side they "got" the point being made.

Presumbly the deal done with Hilton is basically one big promotion to introduce VA Platinums to Diamond status. Hilton won't want the overhead of lots of VA Platinums soaking up their resources if they're not staying sufficient nights per year, but do ewant to "market" to high end travellers.

In Australia it's all somewhat farcical given that the major hotel chains have so few hotels and the good ones are highly expensive compared, say, with the USA, where you can stay at cheap brands within the chain and rack up those qualifying nights at $100 odd per night.

Trying to spend the qualifying nights in an Australian Hilton (or Marriott, or whatever) would be a ridiculous expense!

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 744

The good thing about being in a tiny (by global standards) program like Velocity is that a huge global chain like Hilton can give out free diamond without it making a significant dent in their total elite numbers.

I'd have to agree though, it's darn near impossible to get high status on any of the big hotel chains if you travel primarily within Australia. At least Hilton (unlike Marriott or Hyatt) actually has a hotel in most Australian cities. But the number of people who:

a) Spend at least sixty nights in a hotel every year

b) Have travel policies which won't look askance at them if they spend every one of those nights in a Hilton, and

c) Actually choose to stay in a Hilton rather than one of the apartment-type hotels which is what I prefer if I'm spending a significant amount of time anywhere,

must be pretty small. Not so in the US, where every town has a Homewood Suites By Hilton for $109 a night and is home to every travelling salesman and photocopier repairman.

KG
KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

I think you hit the nail on the head with the comparison with the USA. All the loyalty programs are based on customer spend / behaviour in the States. Since you can basically reel in hundreds and thousands of points on the cheap via various methods as well as do cheap mattrass runs to attain / retain status, the chains have determined their tiers and qualifyinjg criteria on this. Same with the recent devaluations, whilst for us in "the rest of the world" this is killing, if you live in the US you are njot nearly as hard hit because sign up bonusses and ways to earn points and mileage have become better, relatively not a big devaluation. It sometimes really sucks not having an american social security number....

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

Very true, although the lounges and breakfasts in the Hiltons are more generous than in the US and tere are a couple of nice sweet spots in the US FF schemes s Australians...welcome, if minor, offsets...

...a few hotel opportunities are worthwile, such as the IHG Big Win and ability to stack IHG bonus codes on one booking...given a compliant travel pattern

KG
KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

In general lounges (both airline as hotel) are crap in the US and excellent outside of the US (esp in Asia). Regarding IHG, I just earned around 33K points with a one nigth stay at an Interconti in NY, stacking up welcome bonusses, elite bonusses etc etc. Brilliant that you can sign up with multiple codeds and make a killing!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Jul 2012

Total posts 43

probably the same with IHG, but with my HH Diamond, I had never ending hassles with many stays that were not booked through the actual Hilton website. Even stays booked through Aex Travel didn't credit to my Diamond renewal. The Exec Lounge drinks and breakfasts were good, noting no Exec Lounge in Lake Taupo.

Anyone got any creditting experience with IHG when booked on other sites?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Jul 2012

Total posts 43

probably the same with IHG, but with my HH Diamond, I had never ending hassles with many stays that were not booked through the actual Hilton website. Even stays booked through Aex Travel didn't credit to my Diamond renewal. The Exec Lounge drinks and breakfasts were good, noting no Exec Lounge in Lake Taupo.

Anyone got any creditting experience with IHG when booked on other sites?

08 Aug 2019

Total posts 1

What I'm curious about here is - when I was gold just over a year ago I opted into the IHG scheme. It has obviously now expired and no soft landing to be had.

But then when I became plat a couple of months ago I don't get the option of opting in as Plat.

So for everyone else, did you just not take it up while Gold and wait until plat?

thanks


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