Got a Visa Signature card? Get free Hilton Honors Gold status

Check your Visa card, you might have free access to Hilton’s Gold status sitting dormant in your wallet. The credit card company and massive hotel chain just hooked up to offer a promotion for all Visa Signature card holders: fill in the form at the promotion link and you’ll get free Gold status through the end of the summer (8/31), and if you stay for three nights between now and then the status stays active for the next year.

What does gold status get you? A whole host of perks, from room upgrades to free internet to stays on the executive level (read: free snacks and drinks!). You can read the full benefits over at hhonors.

Great, but what’s the catch? There isn’t one technically, you just get exposed to the portfolio of Hilton properties on a limited, intensive basis for the next few months, and the chance that you stick around and keep giving them your business is an investment risk that they’re willing to make. Demographically, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Signature brand happened to contain a higher percentage of “upper middle class business travelers.”

Hey, a freebie is a freebie. Drop on by the Hilton page to sign up for the promotion.

Free instant Hilton HHonors Silver status with fast track to Gold

In the world of frequent guest programs, the Hilton HHonors gold and silver cards are probably the most common – but if you’ve been feeling left out, or just want a quick way to get your own shiny plastic card, check out this promotion from the hotel chain.

On the promo page, enter your existing HHonors account number (or create a new one) and you’ll be granted instant silver status and a 2000 point bonus. Then, complete four stays within 90 days, and you’ll get a gold card in the mail.

The only fine print is that you need to set your account to “double dip” with United Airlines as your partner – which means you’ll also need a United Airlines Mileage Plus account.

Silver status won’t get you any real benefits other than a 15% point bonus and free access to the hotel health club. Gold gets a bit more generous, with free Wi-Fi access, 1000 bonus points per stay and room upgrades. Just keep in mind that these “upgrades” usually mean the same room on a better floor – not necessarily access to the presidential suite on each visit.

Business travelers will take upgrades over free food and web

If you were traveling on business, which would you prefer: free in-room internet access, frequent room upgrades or complimentary breakfast? According to a poll of Hilton’s HHonors program, the room upgrade hit #1, followed by the free grub and finally comp’ed web access. Barbara De Lollis, of USA Today‘s Hotel Check-In column, speculates that this is because business travelers want comfort and can convince their companies and clients to pick up the tab.

Reading this article made me think back to my years on the road as a management consultant, and to my surprise, my behavior aligned with the survey results. Room upgrades mattered most. I’d get a bit more elbow room. It wasn’t about status, importance or even being able to run laps around my temporary living room. Larger guestrooms – and suites, especially – allowed me to put more physical space between where I lived and where I worked while on the road. When workdays stretch past 16 hours, it’s important to have any coping mechanism you can grasp, and being able to segment off the work space sure helped.

While I personally detest the hotel practice of charging for web access, it’s never an issue when I’m traveling on business. The companies and clients for which I’ve worked have picked up the tab without a second thought. When on vacation, I regularly had my companies pick up my internet tab, as well, a small price for them to pay to have access to me while I was away. Likewise, clients and employers pay for food. And personally, I’m rarely thrilled with the food offered at free hotel breakfasts and when I travel on my own, I usually pay for a good meal than suffer through a free one. Also, I never really ate breakfast during my road warrior days, and I know I wasn’talone. So, a free breakfast is really … well … worthless.

What’s missing from the survey, unfortunately, is club-level access. When I was on the road all the time, this was my favorite amenity. It gave me a place to go other than my room, where I could get a drink, grab a snack and unwind. Hiltons definitely delivered best on club lounges, with the two most memorable for me being the Hilton Embassy Row in Washington, DC and the Hilton in London, Ontario. The former was comfortable and great for networking, and the latter had the best club-level service I’ve ever experienced.

Take a shortcut to Hilton Honors Gold Status

Reaching the upper tiers of any travel related rewards program almost always takes money, time, effort, money and money — the rewards reaped should only be for the profitable consumer, right?

Occasionally, however, programs release shortcuts — ways that guaranteed high-dollar users can skip up a tier and enjoy the benefits — so that they can lock in a particular demographic or company. And when those shortcuts get published? That’s when people like you and I can sneak in from the back door.

Apparently, Canadian Aeroplan members were offered just this for the Hilton Honors program. From what I hear, by going to this link at the HHonors website, they could plug in code “CTHC”, sign up for an account and be catapulted all of the way up to Gold status. What a great shortcut. Not that I’ve tried it. But I hear it works great.

In case you’re wondering what the benefits of Gold status are at the Hilton family of hotels, membership gets a few nice small perks at checkin. Among the goodies are two of my favorites: access to the concierge level (where available), its free snacks and drinks, or free wireless internet among the network of hotels. Those alone are worth trying to get Gold status.