a swimming pool on a rocky island

Is there anything more irrationally loved than an upgrade? Even if it’s only an extra few feet of room, or a slightly bigger bed, an upgrade is an upgrade, and since every single one is good — a really good one is incredible.

Upgrades aren’t nearly as easy as many people would like them to be, but if you play the loyalty and points game right, they can actually be much easier than most people think, and happen more often too.

And no, you don’t even need to stay regularly in Hilton’s to earn upgrades — in fact, spending on certain credit cards can do wonders. If you love a suite, a better view and maybe even a little champagne too, here are the six best ways to get Hilton Honors upgrades.

Hilton Now Offers Advanced Upgrades

Hilton has majorly improved its systems so that travelers can start getting upgrades before they arrive at the hotel, up to 3 days before they check in. After months of trials, this exciting new feature is being rolled out globally.

As part of this rollout, Hilton created a computer algorithm to help automatically push upgrades through for members, based on a new “pecking order” of who get first dibs. Here’s how to get yourself to the top of the pecking order, whether you’re a frequent guest, or not.

a swimming pool on a rocky island

How To “Win” Hilton Upgrades Without Being A Frequent Guest

The Hilton Amex Aspire comes with a 150,000 point welcome bonus and automatic top tier Hilton Diamond Status for as long as you hold the card.

This is exciting on its own, but as you’ll soon read, these two factors make someone a top upgrade choice, over almost all other members, thanks to this new algorithm for upgrades!

You can check out the card offer here, after you’ve scoped out how to maximize your upgrade chances for Hilton stays.

#1 Use Lots Of Points

According to the new Hilton Honors upgrade priority, elite members who are enjoying a stay “on points”, and have spent more than 100,000 Hilton Honors Points for the stay have upgrade priority over someone paying cash with the same status.

The logic checks out, too. Hilton is smart to recognize that redeeming points should feel incredibly rewarding for Gold and Diamond members – and that earning points is “worth it – so it makes sense to surprise and delight when an elite member cashes in their points.

Not elite using points? No dice on the upgrades, unless you’ve got some negotiating tactics.

#2 Be Diamond Or Better, Lifetime!

Hilton’s new upgrade pecking order prioritizes lifetime diamond, then diamond and then the rest for upgrades. Basically, the best way to almost assure an upgrade, if a room is available is to be a lifetime Diamond staying on points.

Next best: be a diamond staying on points, and next best after that — be a Diamond or lifetime Diamond regardless of how you pay! As top tier elites, Diamond members will almost always get upgrades over others.

#3 Pick Upgrade Eligible Properties

Unfortunately, there’s increased fracturing within hotel loyalty, as the divide between loyalty programs and the separate companies or people that actually own the hotels continues to grow.

Hilton doesn’t offer complimentary advanced upgrades at Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton by Hilton, Homewood Suites or timeshare properties, so staying in one of these brands is going to significantly cut your comp’d upgrade chances.

However, Hilton elites are eligible for upgrades at LXR, Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Hilton, Canopy, Curio, DoubleTree, Signia and Tapestry marketed properties, so if you’re an elite staying at any of these, you stand a fair chance!

Conrad Hilton, Bali.

#4 Short Stays Are Upgraded Most

Unfortunately, a dream upgrade on an 8 night stay is more of a rarity than a dreamy upgrade on a shorter stay. With the Hilton Honors program, hotels don’t have to make their best rooms and suites eligible for upgrade if they think they’ll be able to sell the room.

With that logic in mind, many hotels will hold back amazing upgrades on longer stays, out of hope that they’ll be able to sell the room or suite at some point during those 8+ days.

Some hotels may surprise and delight on long stays, but shorter stays make it easier for a hotel to do something wowing, since there’s less chance of someone purchasing the room in the days before check in, or day of check in.

#5 Hold A Card That Gives You Gold

Hilton Gold is a status that can be achieved in many ways, without necessarily ever staying in a Hilton Hotel. Of course, it means absolutely nothing if you don’t stay in Hilton’s so make of that what you will.

To separate yourself on the upgrade pecking order from everyone else who would like an upgrade, the simple upgrade from regular member to Gold is essential. Upgrades are not guaranteed for Hilton elites, but they are guaranteed not to be automatically possible for non-elites.

Amex Platinum, among other partnerships, offers Hilton Gold as a perk, and so does a variety of Hilton Honors credit cards. If you value upgrades at Hilton’s, it’s better to have status than not!

#6 Check About Paid Upgrade Offers

Free, automatic upgrades begin for Hilton Honors Lifetime, Diamond and Gold members from 72 hours before check in. If all of this sounds like a rolling of the dice, and you want to improve your chances, contacting the property about paid upgrades is your best bet.

Upgrade prices for certain rooms or suites may drop in the days before a stay, since the hotel would rather sell it at any price than give it away for free.

There’s always a chance that you would’ve gotten the better room or suite anyway, as an elite, but if you don’t want to chance it, emailing starting a week before the stay can lead to stellar results.

Hilton Upgrades: Use The Knowledge

If you really care about upgrades, Hilton has done a great thing by making the pecking order for upgrades more transparent. We don’t know all the tie-breakers, but we have a good idea of how things are prioritized.

Clearly, being lifetime is incredibly valuable, as is being Diamond. If you happen to be either, or both, it’s great to know that using a significant amount of points should put you at the top of the pecking order, since Hilton wants to ensure that people feel they have incredible experiences when cashing in points.

Here’s to your next amazing upgrade experience, with these new nuggets of upgrade knowledge!

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. The shirt stays is a good one. I often book a one night stay at a low occupancy hotel to get that super upgrade, then I extend the stay once in the room in hopes they won’t change my room. Doesn’t always work, but sometimes.
    Another good option is to email the hotel manager prior to arrival and tell him how much you look forward to staying at his hotel.

  2. #1 is complete nonsense and not verifiable. Gary may have some good points most of the time but nothing about that article in relation to Hilton points and upgrades is verifiable or true. I just stayed at the Conrad Punta Mita for a week and as a Gold member received a one category upgrade before arrival via the Hilton app. Which is exactly what I should have gotten. The room was 95k per a night.

        1. …Or you could have not accused him of lying in the first place. It’s a travel blog and he typically confirms this info prior to posting it.

          1. Or you can go with the thought that 95% of bloggers regurgitate material. It’s hard to know that that is still valid even if the source was a credible one. I’m not saying Gilbert does, but how many times have you heard that you just need to dress nice to get an upgrade on a flight?

  3. Not all upgrades are worth it, even if they are a foregone conclusion for having platinum status.
    On my last stay, I was upgraded to an executive room. The room had torn carpets, wasn’t particularly clean and smelled awful.
    It did have a nespresso machine.
    After a very brief discussion with reception, I was downgraded to the room category I had booked.
    The room was identical to the executive room, barring the smell and ripped carpet. No nespresso coffee machine though, but as it was 11pm when I checked in, the last thing I needed was a thimble full of coffee with enough caffeine to bring an elephant back from the dead, just before bed.
    I wasn’t particularly worried about an upgrade for that stay, it was simply somewhere to sleep after a long flight.
    My next stay, this coming weekend, I am wondering whether or not we will get an upgrade on our stay at the Biltmore Mayfair, it would be nice as its for our wedding anniversary – subtle hint there Hilton.

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