(Possibly) Get Free Breakfast at Hiltons, Just by Having the Right Credit Card (2019)
Members of the Hilton Honors program that achieve Gold status get free breakfast at every hotel in the Hilton family. Normally, you need to make 20 stays at Hilton to qualify for Gold status. However, anyone can get Gold status simply by getting the right credit card.
If you stay at hotels in the Hilton reward program more than a few times per year, we highly recommend getting a credit card that lets you take advantage of the free breakfast benefit on your stays.
Unfortunately, this only works for the Hilton family of hotels. Getting access to free breakfast at the Marriott and Hyatt family of hotels requires higher elite status levels than you can receive just by getting a credit card. At the IHG family of hotels, free breakfast isn't a benefit at any level.
For most people, signing up for credit cards, just to receive travel benefits, good reward earning rates, or lucrative signup bonuses, isn't an irresponsible thing to do. It won't kill your credit rating—it just might improve it. But, if you have a problem with credit, or you aren't organized enough to avoid unwanted credit card fees, you'll need to stick to our other strategies for discounted travel. For more information, see our Credit Cards 101 guide.
Hilton's free breakfast benefit
Members with Gold status are entitled to free continental breakfast (for two) at every brand in the Hilton program, which don't already provide a free breakfast to everyone. The only exception are Hilton Grand Vacation clubs.
You can take advantage of this benefit at every Hilton, Doubletree, Hilton Garden Inn, Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Curio collection, Tapestry Collection, and Tru hotel.
While you are only entitled to continental breakfast, many hotels will give you a full hot breakfast or breakfast buffet instead, and many other hotels will allow you to upgrade to a full breakfast for a small extra charge. For example, a hotel may provide access to a menu item for an $8 up charge per person, and you'll still get free juice and coffee.
If you don't want breakfast, you can choose 1,000 bonus points instead. At most hotels brands where everyone gets free breakfast, such as Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites, and Hampton, Gold members get their choice of free snacks or small quantities of Hilton points.
Gold status also comes with some other nice benefits, such as a better chance of upgrades to a slightly nicer room and an 80% bonus on points earned for stays. Along with Silver members, Gold members get their 5th night free on award reservations, 2 bottles of free water, and elite tier rollover nights. Hilton Status Benefits.
The Hilton Aspire card comes with Diamond status, instead of Gold. Diamond status gives you guaranteed access to any executive floor lounge at Conrad, Curio, Hilton, DoubleTree and Tapestry Collection hotels, an enhanced snack / bonus points benefit, a 100% points bonus (instead of 80%), a potential upgrade to a suite, and a 48-hour room guarantee.
Option 1: Hilton Surpass card
The simplest path to Gold status is to get the Hilton Surpass card.
It costs $95 per year and comes with a valuable signup bonus.
Along with Gold status, it gives you 10 free Priority Pass airport lounge visits per year. The 10 visit passes can be useful if you don't already have a Priority Pass membership from another card (such as the Sapphire Reserve); or you already have a Priority Pass membership, but need a way to occasionally bring in some additional guests. Get Free Airport Lounge Access from a Credit Card.
If you spend $15,000 in a calendar year with the Surpass card, you'll get a certificate that you can use for a free weekend night at any hotel in the Hilton program. You can use the certificate for a free night at very expensive hotels such as Grand Wailea in Hawaii, the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, the Conrad in Tokyo, or the Waldorf Astoria in Park City or at one of thousands of other Hilton family hotels. If you decide to get this card for the free breakfast benefit, spend enough money on your credit cards each year, and are willing to deal with the extra complexity, it is worthwhile to spend just over $15,000 on the card each year to earn the certificate. Otherwise, you don't want to use the card for your spending.
The Hilton Business card also provides Gold status and costs $95 per year, but with typically less valuable bonus categories.
Option 2: Hilton Aspire card
A more complicated, but potentially more valuable, option is to get the premium Hilton Aspire card.
It costs $450 per year—$355 more than the Hilton Surpass card. For that extra $355, you get several valuable extra benefits.
- An annual $250 credit for Hilton Resorts. You can only use this credit when you stay at a "resort property, but it can be used to pay for your room, and not just incidental charges.
- Hilton Diamond status, rather than Gold status. Diamond status gives you access to any Executive floor lounge, a better chance of getting a good room upgrade, and a 50% bonus on points from stays (rather than a 25% bonus). Hilton Status Benefits.
- A free night certificate every year, without a spending requirement. This saves about $150 in potential lost rewards, when compared to needing to spend $15,000 per year with the regular or business cards to get the certificate. Even better, you get your first free night certificate when you initially get the card, rather than on your first anniversary.
- A full Priority Pass membership. Instead of just getting 10 visits, you'll get unlimited access to Priority Pass lounges, with the ability to bring in two guests per visit. However, unlike the Priority Pass memberships that come from other credit cards, the memberships that come from Amex credit cards no longer provide access to restaurants and other alternative locations that participate in the Priority Pass program. You'll only get access to the program's more traditional lounges. And you are likely to have a membership from another card. Get Free Airport Lounge Access from a Credit Card.
- A $250 annual airline incidentals credit. It only pays for extra fees, like baggage fees and inflight food and beverage purchases, rather than for airplane tickets. And, you can only use it on a single airline that you choose at the beginning of the year./li> Most people find it very hard to naturally take full advantage of these Airline Incidental credits. If you choose the airline you fly the most, chances are that you already have ways to avoid many of the applicable charges, via the airline's credit card or elite status. If you choose another airline, you are unlikely to naturally incur $250 in charges.
If you think you can get good value from the Airline Incidental credit and the Hilton Resort credit, it it worth spending the extra money for the Aspire version. But, for most people, we recommend keeping things simpler, and sticking with the Surpass card.
Option 3: Amex Platinum card
If you decide to collect credit card signup bonuses (which we highly recommend), your best option for Hilton status is via the Amex Platinum card.
Among the many valuable benefits of the Amex Platinum card is Gold status with Hilton. Unfortunately, the annual fee on the Platinum card is $550. Even with all its benefits, we wouldn't normally recommend paying $550 per year to hold onto this card.
However, there are several different versions of the Platinum card. While American Express limits you to one signup bonus per card per lifetime, each version of the Platinum card is counted separately.
The $550 annual fee ($595 for the business version) is usually worth it for the initial year because you get a very lucrative signup bonus along with the card's regular benefits. Even the lowest signup offers of 60,000 points are valued at $900.
If you signup for a different card each year, you can maintain continuous access to Hilton Gold status and the other Platinum card benefits for years, while receiving a signup bonus each year to offset the hefty annual fee. There are currently five versions of the card which are easily accessible. If they don't introduce more variants, that's five years of subsidized access to the benefits. Once you've exhausted your options, you can decide whether it is worthwhile for you to continue to hold onto the Platinum card, whether you want to switch to one of the other options, or whether you aren't getting enough value from the Hilton Gold benefits.
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