For years, the carrot dangled in front of travelers to extract extra loyalty was a hotel breakfast. Hilton Honors offered Gold and Diamond elites a continental breakfast for two, at most hotels around the world when they stayed brand loyal.

In the USA, that’s changing, at least temporarily, but the concept isn’t bad – just the delivery.

A new food and beverage credit of varying amounts will replace the full breakfast experience at Hilton’s hotels in the USA for 2021, and depending on how you travel, it could be great news – or highly frustrating. There’s a case for both.

Hilton Drops Free Breakfast In USA, But…

Full service and luxury hotels in the USA will no longer offer complimentary breakfast for up to two guests, to Hilton Honors Gold or Diamond members. Instead, a new f&b credit will take its place, which can be used at any time of day, for food or beverages.

The credit is said to cover all over 2021, but there’s a likelihood it could remain longer.

To a guest like myself, who hates bad coffee and indulgently filling menu items, who instead prefers to get third wave coffee and a pastry elsewhere, the concept is super. I rarely use breakfast benefits even if I have them, so to be able to “buy myself” a glass of wine, or dessert later in the evening with my f&b credit gives far greater flexibility.

It goes further to recognize my personal travel needs and tastes than a simple “here’s breakfast”.

Unfortunately, Hilton seems to gravely underestimate the cost of breakfast in their hotels, at least if a leaked document uncovered by Doctor of Credit, and sent to hotels is to remain in tact.

Hilton will dish out breakfast credit to Gold and Diamond members as well as up to one registered guest in the room, as follows.

“The credit can be utilized at all participating F&B outlets on-property including the market and room service. Members will be instructed to charge all F&B purchases to their folio. Credits will be provided daily to Gold and Diamond members and up to one guest registered to the room.

Gold members will have the option to either receive points or the F&B credit, while Diamond members will receive both points and the credit. Credits do not accrue or rollover if unused. If they are used, it will be processed through manual folio adjustments by the night audit.

The credit amounts are as follows: Luxury $25, Full Service $12 (or $15 in high-cost markets), Lifestyle $12 (or $15 in high-cost markets) and Hilton Garden Inn $10.”

Hilton Honors

$10-$25 Doesn’t Go Very Far In Hotels

Though it almost always feels inflated for “show”, to make members feel like they’re getting tremendous value, breakfasts in luxury hotels are commonly very expensive.

Like at least $20 for a breakfast main course, such as an omelette, with charges for any extra like granola, fruit plates, coffee and what not. It’s not uncommon to see a folio bill for $80 for breakfast for two. Putting in a daily credit of $25 hardly get there.

And to that score, nearly every item on a hotel menu is inflated for price, even compared to city dining. A glass of wine worth drinking is rarely under $20 on a hotel menu, so in some cities or properties, you’re not even getting enough to cover that.

Luxury travel booking programs often offer at least $100 in f&b credit, even on one night stays with chain hotels, so it’s either odd that “not” being brand loyal could be more valuable, or it’s an “extra win” if you’re able to stack elite perks with booking perks.

Choice Is A Win For Travelers

On the glass half full side, being able to order a room service burger and pay pennies on the dollar, with the elite credit covering most, is a welcome change. But why not go further with choice, and offer breakfast as it was, or a perhaps more modest f&b credit to only add value, rather than make people weigh the net?

People can make the credit work on their terms, rather than on the hotel’s terms, and that’s good for travel, but a choice between the system of old and the new option was probably the better play.

Here’s what matters: the concept is great. It’s brilliant. The problem is execution. The amounts are too scant for a guest to really feel the benefit of loyalty.

If hotel chain loyalty is worth no more than $10-$25 per day, that should become an inflection point for people who have had the blinders on, due to loyalty. If a hotel you think might offer a better experience, with a different chain is $25 cheaper, you’re not missing out on a thing.

I’d love to see this concept rolled out with more exciting amounts, such as a baseline of $20 per day, with numbers more in the $40 range for luxury properties. These costs are not “real” costs, since markup on the items is extremely significant, so even a $40 property credit might only cost the hotel a burger patty, a bun and a bottle of water.

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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23 Comments

  1. Literally the last decent benefit Hilton had for Diamond members (aside from room upgrades which ranged from awesome to meh). Decades of benefit reductions, devaluations and ever increasing point requirements for rewards.

  2. Up to a week ago I was seriously considering switching from Marriott to Hilton . Not anymore. What they did is simply stupid . Living breakfast benefits for diamond members and higher credits for gold members would be much smarter . They lost me .

    1. I remember 15 years ago they used to have the best room rewards in the industry. We used the “Going Global” and stayed at the Conrad Maldives for week for just 100,000 points, in an over-water villa. Now 95,000 points gets you one night in a beach villa, and that’s one of the best redemptions they have globally. In a way, its a benefit…I pick my hotels more on amenities, location, ambience, rather than just staying loyal to a brand for point accumulation.

  3. $25 for a luxury property is actually way better than the Waldorf Chicago did pre pandemic (a paltry $10). But I just can’t believe the proposed $10 credit at Garden Inn. I’ve never stayed at a Garden Inn that didn’t charge at least $16+tax for breakfast.

    I hope they revise those numbers.

  4. Unlike the author, breakfast is really important to me, and it’s a perk that use for every full service hotel stay. I’m a Marriott lifer, but do have Hilton Amex simply for the few occasions I happen to stay at Hilton properties; with breakfast being one of the perks. For basic hotels, I can see how a $10-15 credit would be sufficient. However, for higher end brands, $25 seems tight. $40 pp should be the min at least.

    I can see how this change will make customers ask is there a reason to be loyal towards any brand, as the perks are being cut dramatically. I too wonder if smaller business travel hotels such as HGI or Hampton Inns will discontinue their daily breakfast buffets altogether.

  5. I have had a couple of recent trips (not leisure, but truly essential) and have stayed at two different Hilton properties – one Doubletree and one Embassy Suites. The Doubletree had the executive lounge closed, restaurant closed, no breakfast (other than a bagel and fruit), “limited” (bar junk food) at the bar, no room service, and no housekeeping. There were no amenities in the room such as shower gel, shower cap, slippers, and bath mat (as is common for Diamond members).

    The Embassy Suites had some form of hot breakfast which was nice, but also limited. The toiletries were the cheaper Neutrogena ones versus the Crabtree & Evelyn (and it was just shampoo/conditioner). The executive room had no additional amenities. There was no evening reception. The restaurant was take-out only and consisted of two sandwiches and a pizza offering.

    My other trips I have stayed at a Holiday Inn (not express). There was full restaurant, bar, full breakfast, full compliment of bathroom amenities and no shortage of anything out of the ordinary. Now looking at prices, it is extremely difficult to justify a much higher price at a Hilton property while experienced significantly reduced services “for your safety” which is total nonsense. It’s all cost related.

    I, like you Gilbert, like the concept of a F&B daily credit. I think it’s great. But like you said, $10-$25 does not go very far. A single glass of wine will likely use that if not more. It’s a good concept but not very useful, particularly if trying to get loyal customers to remain.

  6. Been Diamond 10 years but not close to “for life” do no reason not to change allegiance based on my loyalty not being reciprocated. Hilton need to get real snd I will be looking at other brands now instead of assuming Hilton is always the best option

  7. First of all breakfast is over rated and I never understood why people got so upset over things like this. Your body doesn’t need 3 meals so have a cup of coffee or tea and wait to lunch. Your waistline will thank you.

    Secondly lounges will reopen and Diamond members can get food there so not a loss at high end properties. In fact having lounge access along w a credit (which I will use in the bar) is great.

    Amazes me how people whine about the changes Hilton, Marriott, IHG etc make. You can’t change them and will continue to stay in their properties so quit whining

    In the other hand I’m retired, lifetime Titanium Marriott, Diamond Hilton and top or next to top level of 5 other programs (via credit cards or status match) plus Diamond Elite w Caesars based on my gambling so get comped in all their hotels. Basically I don’t have to be loyal to anyone and pick what works best for me – life is good!

    1. You go to Bora Bora or downtown Manhattan where breakfast per person starts $125pp per day.

      This is bad for regular people who dont make points from taking advantage work business trips .

      Regular people who dont travel for work will suffer drastically. This will cause IHG to be bough by Marriott and Marriott will gain full marketshare causing Hilton to go bankrupt only living the Conrad brand to be bought out by MGM properties in 2029

      The point system and its breakfast perks including upgrades should never be touched by any airline or hotel chain.
      These hospitality companies should never increase their points requirements nor sell less availability rooms or seats on setting limits on lower points.

      a cat 8 should never be higher 10,000pts per day
      a return ticket anywhere in North America should never be above 25,000 economy seat
      a return economy ticket anywhere in the North, Central, South American including Polynesia, Hawaii, Caribbean, South East Asia be over 40,000pts .
      Economy ticket upgarde to business class seats of any route including international should never be over 15,000pts

      People , customers will change very fast who they want to gain their loyalty status and consider lower annual income as a non existent financial contributor to the business growth could be devastating the following year.

  8. Being diamond member for a good few years but not lifetime credit has to be of value if going to be worthwhile. Based on what I’ve read this is a terrible devaluation of loyalty and guess what it will change my loyalty now

  9. I have to disagree with you: the concept is absolutely neither great nor brilliant. Giving people less is simply bad and this is a none-too-subtle money grab. If Hilton actually did want to do something that wasn’t screwing the customer over they would offer either breakfast for two people or a dollar credit equivalent daily and let customers choose where they saw more value. Since they’re trying to become IHG, I don’t see anything benefiting the customer at the expense of the hotel coming anytime soon.

  10. I feel like for the room price that you paid you should get the free parks with it that’s all the purpose of being in the program when they take the purse away what’s the need of paying all the money if you can’t get the free first it’s a waste of money

  11. Concept is terrible – we select Hilton for the gold card free breakfast, sometimes over better hotels, but now there is no reason for us to prioritize this chain any longer.

  12. What a shame and what is the point of holding gold/diamond status.
    Very bad decision by Holton and they will undoubtedly lose loyal customers.

  13. Crazy, crazy idea by Hilton. Sometimes in business you have to review your decisions for the benefit of the company/customer. Look at the reviews thus far? Now is the time for Hilton to back track before they lose their customers to other brands.

  14. Where I think this concept fails is it’s lack of simplicity, my friends who aren’t into keeping up with all the intricacies of loyal programs, like us, just know if they stay at only Hilton’s, they will get free breakfast, and that’s enough. I stay in Hilton’s because of digital check in and key, no other chain has a functional version of that, and I’ve noticed that when a credit is involved, it’s a hassle. They forget to add the credit, you get charged for it anyway at checkout. Since the pandemic, most hotels have axed their breakfast down to a muffin anyway, so I have been eating out for breakfast. It’s my favorite meal, I would rather skip supper! I stay 100+ nights in Hilton’s a year and definitely won’t use the credits when they go live in July, it won’t be worth the energy trying to keep up if they applied your 10 dollar credit to the 15 bowl of oatmeal and fruit lol

  15. Agreed…$25 for a breakfast in a top level property is an insult to diamonds. Hilton is insulting its elites…pre and simple, no matter that it gives many tracellers flexibility. $50 PER PERSON PER NIGHT PLEASE FOR DOAMONDS. To the contrary…its a big con by Hilton.

  16. I was really looking forward to getting back to traveling (and staying at many Hilton’s using my HH Amex card, enjoying that breakfast) but guess that won’t be happening now… very sad! Oh well, I’ll save the $95 annual fee on the Amex card when that gets cancelled.

  17. Stayed at Hilton LAX yesterday. They already started the voucher program sometime ago, $15 per registered guest to use in the bistro. You’re lucky if you can get a coffee, breakfast sandwich and banana for that amount. Talked to the manager, who agrees the amount is not enough, only way is for us to connect with corporate, if enough people complain…might go up or change.
    I also mentioned the prices in the Bistro could be discounted for voucher users, making the voucher more valuable. She just smiled.
    Also as FYI, Executive lounge at this property would not open any time in 2021, she confirmed.

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