Embassy Suites Portland: How My Hilton HHonors Redemptions Changed After the March 28 Massacre

It used to be possible to get nearly 2 cents per point at places like the Conrad Koh Samui.

This was my best redemption of Hilton HHonors points. Every room is a standalone villa with an ocean view and private pool, so even a general member of the program (no status) gets a good room on points. No upgrades needed.

When I first made my booking, pre-opening, it was a category 6 hotel — 40,000 points per night, but with elite redemption discounts just 32,000 points per night for my 5 night stay.

The hotel was bumped up to category 7 and I wound up re-booking my award when they were letting redemptions book into a two-bedroom villa. That upped my cost, with the elite discount, to 40,000 points per night (200,000 points for a five-night stay).

With the March 28 Hilton HHonors devaluation, the Conrad Koh Samui runs 95,000 points per night most of the year. And instead of elite multi-night stay discounts, they offer only ‘5th night free’. A five-night stay runs 380,000 points instead of the 200,000 I spent.

The best HHonors redemptions at the best HHonors properties now hover around a penny per point. And most people redeeming wouldn’t actually spend the full retail price of the room, if they were paying cash — which means that points aren’t actually ‘worth’ a penny apiece.

I used to be a buyer at half a cent a point, and wouldn’t redeem for less than a penny. Now any time I can do better than half a cent I’ll spend points if it’s an out of pocket stay.

So what do my HHonors redemptions look like now?

Earlier in the month I traveled to the World Domination Summit in Portland to give a talk. Hotels across the city were booked fairly solid. Starwood’s The Nines was asking better than $400! I wasn’t going to pay that. I opted for the Embassy Suites instead. Prices were over $250, about $300 per night all-in with taxes, or 50,000 HHonors points. That meant I’d get 0.6 cents (three-fifths of a cent) per point. That’s above my minimum redemption threshold, and I was saving real cash, so I booked two award nights.

I actually spent 100,000 HHonors points for a 2-night Embassy Suites stay in Portland.

To be sure, I did book some better redemptions in the days leading up to the March 28 massacre. But I still had a few hundred thousand points left.

So instead of this:

I got this:

.. and was happy about it.

But it says something, I think, about what the Hilton HHonors program is worth now. That makes me sad. And it makes me less interested in booking Hilton hotels and earning HHonors points.

Has the devaluation changed your behavior at all? Do you book away from Hilton as a result or use their co-branded credit cards less?


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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. Gary, I agree with you. The main point of using miles and points is to reduce your travel costs. The HH points still saved you $600 for the two nights.

    It is getting more challenging to use the HH points on the higher category properties (I wonder what the redemption rate is for these).

  2. I have the Hilton Surpass card and I have stopped charging anything to it other than Hilton stays within USA. I used to think at 3 points/$ it was reasonable for general spend, and especially good for the 6 points categories (internet/phone/TV and groceries). But the points are now worth half as much and the bonus categories are gone

    I redeemed most of my points pre massacre. For paid stays, I only stay at Hilton if it’s the only choice or significantly cheaper or better located than Hyatt or Starwood options.

  3. Hilton used to be my primary program (my wife really likes the gyms), but since the devaluation we have moved to Hyatt. Sad, I really want to give Hilton my business, but they apparently don’t want it. We are looking for a good grocery store alternative to our Hilton card (that works for us)…soon that spend will move as well.

  4. Since the devaluation, I have never stayed at a Hilton hotel other than to burn my points (stayed at Hilton Bentley in South Beach), so I’ve fallen from Diamond to nothing. I’ve moved all of my business to Starwood and Hyatt and haven’t looked back.

  5. Was never interested in “aspirational” property redemptions. Been a Hhonors Diamond for ever. What made me move was that my bread and butter redemptions (Hampton Inns for 12.5K points a night) went to 35-40K points. In March I status matched to IHG and now I can enjoy 10K nights at Holiday Inns and 7.5 K nights at their Suite products. Earning rate as an IHG platinum is a tad less than Hhonors Diamond, but you cannot beat the redemption rate. Again, if you are into “aspirational properties” YMMV…

  6. Amassing all my points for a stay at the Conrad Hong Kong, then plan to move away. Shame — they used to be my Number 2 program behind Hyatt and now Marriott is.

  7. Hilton used to be my #1 chain and I stayed with them on all my trips. Now after the huge devaluation, I no longer stay at Hiltons. I switched all my business to Hyatt and Starwood, and have been trying to burn my Hilton points whenever I can find a redemption of 0.5 cents per point.

    After I finish burning the points I will be done with Hilton. It makes me sad that this has become my new relationship with Hilton, but their massacre did it.

  8. A question related to Hilton. Does anyone know what month in 2014 the new Hilton in Yangon is supposed to open?

  9. Wow….that is one serious downgrade. I am sitting on 56,000 points now–that should be enough maybe for a 3 hour stay at a Hilton property?

  10. Hilton has and will continue to lose my business due to their mediocre award chart and poor room assignments (at least to this Gold member). I have already switched a high-priced upcoming 6 night stay from Hilton to Hyatt. This is unfortunate for both Hilton and me as some Hiltons are very convenient. I now mainly use HHonors points for last minute stays at a Lake Tahoe property, which leaves me the flexibility to cancel should inclement weather prevail.

  11. Hilton has and will continue to lose my business due to their mediocre award chart and poor room assignments (at least to this Gold member). I have already switched a high-priced upcoming 6 night stay from Hilton to Hyatt. This is unfortunate for both Hilton and me as some Hiltons are very convenient. I now mainly use HHonors points for last minute stays at a Lake Tahoe property, which leaves me the flexibility to cancel should inclement weather prevail.

  12. Hilton who are they?
    Are they are still in business?
    Done
    20 years of loyalty blown out the door by their greedy blood sucking back stabbing management who are clueless about CRM or creating competitive market placed value for redemptions
    They have ruined not only their loyalty program but made a bad lasting impression on their competitors who may seek to do something as foolish
    Did I say they are greedy?
    My apologies for this ugly post
    I too am sad. Folks responsible should be fired
    Add bitter too to the equation:)

  13. Yes, I’m burning through my HHonors points and not earning new ones. I appreciate that Hilton has a gazillion properties…but I just can’t justify using their program any more. I’m still Gold for this year but won’t try to renew. Pity…I really like some of the properties and benefits…but points are how I reward my wife for all my travel and Hilton just won’t help me do that as well as others.

  14. Moved to Starwood and haven’t looked back. The 6 days at the Conrad Koh Samui over Thanksgiving is the last of my Hilton points (booked before the massacre). I really liked staying at the Hilton Bonnet Creek and Waldorf in Orlando (go to 3-4 conventions in O-town yearly) but I have change my loyalties and won’t burn the stays at a hotel with a bad program… Sad…

  15. Wow – a lot of people have no idea what they are blathering about wrt Hilton.

    Hilton, despite the devaluation, is arguably the best overall hotel program. It doesn’t have the best redemption value in any single tier, but is a close second in low/mid/top tier categories and it has a very large number of properties – no other program can say that. Carlson has best low cost redemptions. Hyatt has best top tier. Hilton has similar mid tier redemptions. Add it up, and I continue to churn HH at a decent clip.

    Surpass still offers 6x at grocery/gas/restaurants. A top tier redemption (like Conrad Koh Samui) at peak season is 95K. But if redeeming at 5th day free, that cuts cost to 76K a night (at 6x, that requires ~$148 to earn an award night at a place like Koh Samui, still very attractive redemption value considering best price you can find is around $600).

    I think people are extremely foolish to give up on Hilton.

  16. I too stopped participating in Hilton. I stopped using the HH AMEX, have not booked any more stays. Cleared my account with a final pre-deval redemption.

    I now use club carlson, have their credit card and book stays at Radissons. Close to concierge level with my business stays.

    I do miss hilton, nicer properties and nicer elite benefit, but I mostly reedem at mid level properties, and they are just too expensive, so the math is clear, it is not to my benefit to continue with HH.

  17. I was “all about Hilton” prior to the devaluation and put alot of spending on my Hilton Amex Surpass … with the intention of signing up for the Citi Hilton Amex once my Gold Status from the Surpass expired after the first year.I also went out of my way to seek out Hilton properties as a “first choice.” Post-devaluation that has all changed. I’m not “boycotting” Hilton … but now they’re just one among several options vs. being a “preferred supplier” in my eyes.

  18. I do have to chuckle at some of the posters who claim they’ve moved to xyz hotel chain. Where were you 3-4 yrs ago when Starwood assaulted their members and added higher cat rooms or all-suit redemption rates. Hyatt recently did the same type maneuver. You can be sure that (enter Hotel Chain here) will eventually get back to devaluing your new favorite program as well. Key is to remember to burn your points frequently because all Programs will continue to devalue and inflate costs. Its a sad fact of our hobby.

  19. There are still some decent points booking opportunities, especially with 5th night free. I had a 5 night revenue stay booked in downtown Minneapolis that would have cost me about $1050 with taxes. I switched it to a nicer room for 120,000 points. That’s about 0.9 cents/point actual out-of-pocket savings.

  20. To all the hate on Hilton, I say…meh. I can get 95,000 Hhonors points on $3200 spend at Hilton properties. For a free night at one of their nices properties that does not seem crazy to me.

    And for a $95 CC annual fee I get status. I earn the fee back in internet and breakfasts in just a couple days.

    The market will bear what the market will bear. If their numbers and revenue drop off a cliff then we can say they made a stupid decision. But if not who are we to really argue with them as a for-profit entity?

  21. @Paul,how did you get $148 for 76k hh pts for a night at CKS? mind blowing my mind a little bit please?

  22. Yes it’s a massive devaluation, but you folks with US cards don’t know how good a deal you’ve got! Over here we either have to earn it with stays or piddling credit card rates – approx 0.6 per $ – so things are ten times more difficult for us!! Sadly the likes of Hyatt and SPG just don’t have the breadth of coverage in Europe either so it’s really just Hilton that’s a viable option. IHG have a fair number of properties but their elite recognition is dreadful.

  23. I see what Hilton has done, and I saw it coming earlier when they bludgeoned Diamonds by changing from the Diamond Desk buying you a room to the “Special Award Pricing”, which effectively meant no more force, since the dynamic point amount was always some astronomical sum. They wrote that up as an “enhancement”, apparently thinking that longtime Diamonds wouldn’t notice. Gee, thanks.

    Now, effectively doubling the cost of redeeming miles for the aspirational (and semi-aspirational) properties has meant that the reward structure works like this: If I want to get free stays at the Bakersfield Hampton Inn by pushing my business travel to Waldorfs, I’d be one happy camper. This is not me.

    My clients reimburse my stays at good, moderately-priced hotels. My Hilton stays now are inadequate to get me free nights at really nice hotels in any reasonable number of routine hotel nights for business, whereas Starwoods will and Hyatts will.

    Should I take my vacations to Bakersfield, or to Bangkok? I like Bangkok, and I like hotels above what I stay in 75 nights a year for work. They have had my business as my #1 chain for 15+ Diamond years. They went so far as to give me Diamond status through 2016, last year.

    I’ve been Starwood Platinum for 9 years. Even on free stays, I usually get upgraded rooms or suites at SPG. I now have 10 free bookable suite nights a year at SPG.

    Empirical Case Study, for sample=1, (me):

    Stays so far at Starwood properties 2013: 27.
    Stays so far at Hilton in 2013: 4.
    Stays so far at Hyatt in 2013: 3.
    Stays so far in other hotels: 3.

    I have actually booked two Best Western stays ahead, two Langham, one Fairmont, one New Otani, and a couple others, plus numerous SPG and a couple Hyatts.

    I imagine I am not the only Hilton Diamond with a 4-figure point balance and literally nothing being charged on three co-branded credit cards.

    Good luck, guys: it’s been fun all these years, but you just burnt it with me. I’ve even stayed at two Radissons! Imagine Radisson offering a superior reward profile to Hilton! Pretty damned sad.

  24. I’m visiting your blog to determine the next step.
    Thanks in advance for figuring it out for me!

    Here’s what I know:
    After 15 years of work travel I burnt off points right before the Hilton devaluation for nine nights at the Conrad Rangali and four nights at Bora Bora Nui. I also burnt off Priority Club points, staying at all four IC properties in French Polynesia the last two weeks. I got breakfast at the Hilton (Gold). I didn’t get breakfast at the IC properties (Plat Ambassador) but neither did I get upgraded a whole bunch either, although I was generally pleased. So, IHG doesn’t upgrade award stays or include breakfast (2 buffets = $85/day). Hilton gives breakfast but now charges too much for vacation stays…

    Let’s see… what’s all the buzz about “The spectacular rise of Club Carlson”?

  25. Gary, color me confused – even pre-devaluation, 2 CPM was considered a GOOD redemption rate w/Hilton? I’m a SPG loyalist and that’s my absolute floor with redemptions – and it’s far more common for me to get closer to 3 CPM.

    No wonder Hilton loyals are leaving!

  26. UA-NYC, While SPG pts are hard to earn. Hilton pts are easy. They are not equal currency. Hilton stay can u earn you 20-30pts per $ where as Starwood can earn you 4-5 pts per $. And on the CC front for a long time you could easily earn 6,000pts for $7.90 where @ SPG 6,000pts would cost you $47.40.

  27. Hilton Niseko Village – $540/night or only 30,000 points. Great value to go skiing in Japan

  28. My company pays for all my stays so I go with whatever they book me, sometimes I get to choose but the price is always a big factor. Having said that Hilton has tons of properties and they have very competitive prices and great locations. SPG can be too expensive sometimes. Hyatt, is great but not that many properties and getting points can be a challenge. I wont transfer my UR to any hotel chain. Not worth it.

    Hilton has some good values left, but I am all about the destination not the hotel. A 4 star hotel is pretty much all I need when I am on vacation I use whatever saves me money. Even Priceline/Expedia can provide some good properties if the search is done right.

    I would be pissed if I had 1/2 million HH point left but never accumulated that many and personally I manufacture for air miles but skip hotel programs.

    Share your pain.

  29. like everyone here, booked 1 mill pre-devaluation and will not look back. hilton co-branded cards gathering dust in the drawer, when they used to get 10k/month minimum.
    nobody mentioned the other ridiculously insulting fact here re Amex cards: right after the devaluation, you absolutely could NOT convert your Amex Hilton card (any flavor) to any other Amex card! They would not ALLOW you to drop the card in other words- because SO many people wanted to drop the card that AMEX knew the huge rush would look terrible to Hilton. In effect, AMEX forced you to ‘keep’ the card. I have not tried again recently to convert the card to another product, but will sometime this year.
    Had everyone been able to convert their cards, combined with the numbers which will become clear once everyone has finished their redemptions sometime next year- well I think the loss of business will be astonishing.
    (have heard that this devaluation was a balance-sheet cleanup in preparation for a sale by Blackstone?? so short-term numbers might be all they were looking for….greedy…and cagey…)- done with it all ADIOS HILTON

  30. I’ve redeemed four nights at Hampton Inn & Suites Mexico City in Centro Historico. It’s a cat 2 so 10k per night for 119 USD a/i. I think it’s a GREAT redemption since devaluation.

    Right now I’m only looking for cat 1 and cat 2 hotels, like MEX and PEK hotels.

  31. Yeah I’m redeeming for a cat 1 in Mexico as well, 1 trip to CVS more than covers the cost. But as far as paid stays are concerned, Hilton has dropped down the ladder, they don’t deserve actual loyalty. And the properties that are CAT2 or higher don’t get more than penny per point value.

  32. @David If you have access to a Walmart and a Grocery Store you can do 78k points for $156 (in 2.5 months)

  33. Gary, color me confused – even pre-devaluation, 2 CPM was considered a GOOD redemption rate w/Hilton? I’m a SPG loyalist and that’s my absolute floor with redemptions – and it’s far more common for me to get closer to 3 CPM.

    How many SPG stays at $100, one night net you 3000 SPG points (that don’t involve a BRG for 2000 of those points)?

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