Hilton’s Dramatic Devaluation Comes March 28: Time to Unload My HHonors Points

Hilton devaluation: It is, apparently, hotel loyalty program devaluation season. Since the first of the year Priority Club introduced a new 9-tier reward chart, Starwood raised the price of cash and points awards, Marriott introduced a new more expensive award tier and a points price increase for 36% of their properties. Just this morning I shared news that we’ll get a new devalued Wyndham Rewards chart on March 14.

And in the coming days we should expect the annual category changes from Starwood. I would expect a whole lot more hotels to go up in category (and thus cost more points to redeem) than down, because their categories are tied to each hotel’s average room rates and prices have been on the rise.

That makes Hyatt’s changes — more hotels getting less expensive than more expensive and only 17 hotels affected overall — seem like a downright anomaly. Although as part of cleaning up little used benefits that are expensive to maintain they did Platinum Extras benefits and also eliminated Passport Escape awards.

Now it’s Hilton’s turn and their changes are really significant (i.e. bad).

Effective March 28 several changes go into effect.

  • Like Starwood and Marriott they will be offering fifth night free on awards – for elite members only but the benefit simply requires Silver status to obtain.

  • They will also be introducing a new award chart

  • And they will be introducing seasonal award pricing.

Currently there are (7) categories for all of their brands except Waldorf=Astoria properties.

Now they are going to have (10) categories, and seven of those will have separate high and low season prices.

Here’s the new award chart that will be going into effect:

Previously a category 7 property topped out at 50,000 points per night. Some of those hotels will now be category 10, where high season rates are 95,000 points per night. That’s a whopping 90% increase. Wow.

Here are the new and old award chart prices side-by-side:

There go the great values in the program. I used to value Hilton HHonors points at roughly half a cent apiece, recognizing of course that at the very top end I could do much much better — grabbing a $700+ ocean villa with private pool at the Conrad Koh Samui for instance for just 50,000 points per night. With award pricing now going as high as 95,000 points per night those amazing values are no more. The hotel now runs 80,000 points per night in February and March and 95,000 points per night the rest of the year.

The Conrad Hong Kong goes from 50,000 points to 80,000 points per night, year-round.

Among the full-service Hiltons in New York, the Hilton New York will range from 60,000 to 80,000 points per night, the Conrad New York from 70,000 to 80,000 points per night, and the Doubletree Guest Suites Times Square from 70,000 to 95,000 points per night. (That’s more than the Waldorf=Astoria which tops out at 80,000.)

At least they’ve published what category each hotel will be in in advance of the changes, something that Wyndham has failed to do.

Not yet announced, but this has to affect the valuable ‘AXON’ awards which offer 4 nights at a category 7 hotel for 145,000 points. Especially since category 7 is no longer the top redemption tier.

Of course you can make bookings now — including speculative bookings — at the current rates for future stays. Make your reservations now, cancel them within the cancel rules for your points back if you wind up not needing the reeservations. I really should be dropping my current half million point HHonors bank on some hotel nights just in case I want them, before they become much less valuable.

Ultimately more reward categories, and multiple prices within most but not all of those categories, complicates the program. And Hilton HHonors is already – by far- the most complicated program. They have ‘premium room awards’ and ‘cash and points’ awards but the prices of those vary. You can choose to earn points and fixed miles, points and variable miles, or points and points. And you don’t earn fixed miles on award nights, if you don’t change your earning style away from that when redeeming points you’ll leave points on the table. Just to give a few examples of the complexities that exist in their program before adding this new layer.

But in some ways none of this should be a surprise. Three years ago, Jeff Diskin who runs the HHonors program said he learned that he needed to keep members on the treadmill — running bonus promotions to give them more points and then charging more for room nights. Because members didn’t ‘get’ actual value.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] And I’m not going to make the claim that it’s the best property in the Maldives. I’ve now been to the Park Hyatt Hadahaa three times, and haven’t been to any others. I haven’t been to Velaa Private Island, Cheval Blanc Randheli , One&Only Reethi Rah, or Huvafen Fushi. And I can’t compare it to the Conrad Rangali where many people spend their points in the Maldives (although fewer, I suppose, since the big devaluation). […]

Comments

  1. awesome, so typically (other than individual hotel exceptions) cancellation within 24 hrs would redeposit the points without penalty?

  2. One thing I hate is that a stay at the Waldorff Boca Resort in June costs $159 if you were paying cash. Or 60,000 points (now) if you are paying with points. I could see spending 60,000 during the busy season during the winter when a room costs $400 … but in the summer when it is $159 … its pretty crazy.

  3. a base room in cabos mexico hilton at 32,00 pts. and the
    king suite at 173,000 pts. the cash dif. is $209.00 USD
    between the 2 units. what sense does that make.
    i previously was able to book the base rm. for points and pay the 209.00 dif in cash, but no more.
    i just cancelled some very expensive london reservations
    and will book elsewhere. my hilton credit cards are next to go.

  4. This Honors Program doesn’t really reward loyal customers anymore. When you want to travel to a city for an event that is anything of significance the rooms are not available for point use. When you want a premium type room what they want for point exchange is ridiculous. Then if you want to purchase the extra points to complete a stay it’s highway robbery. I will provide an example. I currently have 108,000 points. Since I can’t use them during a major sporting event weekend like the Indy 500 or MotoGP I decided to try and use them for a trip to Chicago with my girl friend. To stay on the Magnificent Mile cost about $700 for a 2 night stay. I wanted to use my points toward a room. Well anything that has lake view can’t be used. So they are not willing to part with the premium rooms. So then you try and get another decent 1 Bed King and those are not available either for point redemption. They want to stick you in the lower end rooms. Is this customer reward / loyalty? When you call and inquire they want you to talk to the reward program because they might be able to help you. Well when you talk to them they can’t do crap either. There hands are tied and all you get is the run around. It’s to bad because the concept works but it obvious they don’t really value repeat customers. I guess it’s time to take my 50 night yearly stays to the Marriot.

  5. I just started a petition at Change.org called: Hilton Honors Stop Restructuring Points

    Please check it out and sign on. Maybe we can turn this Titanic around!

  6. I booked the Montego Bay Hilton Rose Hall prior to last year’s devaluation but now may need to change my travel dates. If I make this change of travel dates, will I retain the previous lower redemption value?

  7. I travel a lot and belong to all kinds of reward programs. I became an Hilton Honors member about a decade ago and found out today that they cancelled my gold card membership because I have not used my Gold card in last 12 months. Disappointed and to reward Hilton it will be a lot longer than 12 months before I stay at another Hilton property again.

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  11. Wow, I just contacted HH in order to find why it would not accept my new (mandatory) username and pass on their website. Answer: its crashed. No other explanation offered.

    Then I asked to transfer the points I’ve accrued at HH to my United Mileage Plus account. I was told a) that the policy is only to transfer points in 10,000 point blocks. b) that the points that I’ve accrued over 22 years and some 200 flights a year were not applied. Why?, because I had not stated to apply them. Yes, I asked back in 1993 to have them apply to my Mileage Plus account but only someone on the internet (which did not exist then) could make it actually happen. Registering for a HH award account and specifying that you want the points awarded for stays or mileage DOES NOT COUNT. You must ask someone online to do so. So all of those points accrued over years of travel stays are NO GOOD for me. For those of you thinking you are going to get air miles or free night’s stays, probably not. Its another scam. My solution and suggestion for all is to use Marriot from now on. By HH!

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