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My chat with the head of Hilton Honors about their radical changes

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Hilton Honors will make a major announcement today about changes to the programme which will take effect this Spring, starting later this month.

I spoke with the head of Hilton Honors last night and we talked through the changes for half an hour.  The devil is in the detail, of course, but on the face of it – at least in the short term – it seems positive.

(First change – the second ‘H’ has gone from what was Hilton HHonors!)

This is the big change – Hilton is introducing a radical version of ‘points and money’ which is unlike anything else we’ve seen.

There are two elements to this and it is easier to explain if I look at them separately.

Hilton_Honors new logo

Firstly, for every standard room redemption, you will be able to pick a combination of cash and points.  This will be driven by the points value and the Hilton HHonors member cash rate.

Let’s assume that a particular hotel is selling for 50,000 points or £200.  You will be able to pick any combination of the two as long as you use at least 5,000 points.  You can pay 50,000 points or £200 or 25,000 points + £100 or 5,000 points + £180 etc.

The key reason for doing this is to allow members with small points balances to get some value from their points.  A key secondary reason, I think, is to drive more direct bookings rather than via Expedia etc, since obviously you can’t use this facility via a third party.  This may turn out to be smart – it is similar to what BA has done with ‘part pay with Avios’.

Here is the second change.

The maximum points price for a room will be no higher than it is today.  However, off peak points prices will fall sharply.  This effectively puts a floor under the value you will get for a Hilton point.

You will remember in our review of the Gran Hotel Montesol yesterday that it was selling for 95,000 points or €600 in August but 95,000 points or €270 in May.  Under the new system, it will remain 95,000 points in August but the May price will fall to, I imagine, something around 50,000 points.  You will then be able to pick your preferred combination of 50,000 points, €270 or something inbetween.

So far, so good.  I honestly cannot see any downside in the short term.

The risk is in the long term.  Hilton is scrapping redemption categories entirely.  Whilst Gran Hotel Montesol, picture below, will have a maximum price of 95,000 points this year, there is no reason why it cannot quietly drift out to 120,000 or 150,000 points next year.  Without any category caps to act as a constraint, it could easily happen and before you know it you have a purely revenue based redemption system on your hands.

I doubt Hilton would do this, because I think it understands the value of offering ‘outsized’ redemptions at various hotels (such as Montesol in August), but the risk is there.

There are other changes coming too:

free points pooling amongst friends and family

the option for selected Diamond members to pause their membership for a year for any reason, possibly during a period of redundancy, changed travel patterns, maternity leave etc

for US members, the option to redeem points for merchandise from amazon.com

These changes are further down the line.  The move to ‘points and money’ redemptions will take place first, in late February.

For probably the first time ever following a scheme change, I am not encouraging members to burn their points quickly.

The only thing that gets worse is that the current ‘points and money’ redemptions – which were not often available – are being scrapped and replaced with the new system.  If you were looking at a ‘points and money’ reward then I would make sure you book that over the next 3 weeks or so.

The rest of us can wait to see how the new model unfolds.  An off-peak example I was shown gave a value per point of 0.5p – if that is really where it ends up, and remembering that you would be able to get that value on any standard room on any night – then the scheme will be much improved.

I will write more on this in the coming days when I have seen the official details.


How to earn Hilton Honors points and status from UK credit cards (September 2021)

There are various ways of earning Hilton Honors points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Hilton Honors Gold status for as long as they hold the card?  It also comes with Marriott Bonvoy Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold and MeliaRewards Gold status.  We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.

The Platinum Card comes with a limited time bonus of 60,000 Amex points (converts to 120,000 Hilton Honors points) until 2nd November 2021.

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Did you know that the Virgin Atlantic credit cards are a great way of earning Hilton Honors points? Two Virgin Points can be converted into three Hilton Honors points. The Virgin Atlantic cards are the only Visa or Mastercard products in the UK which can indirectly earn Hilton Honors points. You can apply here.

You can also earn Hilton Honors points indirectly via American Express Gold, the American Express Rewards Credit Card and – for small business owners – American Express Business Gold and Business Platinum.

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which can be used to earn Hilton Honors points

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Comments (171)

  • HIDeHi says:

    After their last major change a few years back, Hilton points redemption rates on anything but their lowest category hotels had become uncompetitive compared to other chains. It is not surprising that they are doing something about this.

    My concern is that the main area where I saw real value in Hilton Honors, the 5k and 10k a night hotels (Category 1 and 2) , will go. If there are no longer categories, I suspect these will just become more expensive. That said, in reality there were very few Cat 1/2 hotels in places where I actually needed to stay.

    My suspicion is that the most expensive redemptions get a little cheaper during quiet periods and all the low category redemptions go up in price. For me this would not be an improvement.

    If however the current mid to higher category hotels are actually available during quieter times for a much lower rate, then this could be good e.g. if a currently 30k a night hotel is available for 10k on a slow weekend then I would see this a clear improvement. I am not holding my breath.

    • HIDeHi says:

      Edit: they say each hotels maximum points price is not increasing…which I assumes means the 5k and 10k hotels will not change in price. If this holds, then maybe not such a bad thing.

      • Simon Schus says:

        Aye, I’d be interested to find out how long that is guaranteed for. For a specific period (as Raffles seems to imply, unless I am confusing time) of indefinitely (then again, ‘indefinitely’ could change to ‘until….’ very easily).

      • Alan says:

        That sounds like a pretty short term promise to me, plus with them taking down their website that listed the points rates there’s no easy say to keep track either!

  • Following from behind says:

    Morning all. Currently in Doha on my way to Kuala Lumpur. Flight delayed 3.5 hours. On a Qatar J ticket from London to KL (benefiting from HfP alert of Qatar sale). Anyone know the best way to complain e.g. European flight delay scheme or just direct to our dear friends at Qatar airways. What should I expect in compensation for this?

    • Talay says:

      No compensation due I fear. Non EU carrier and delay is not at EU airport. I had the same with Etihad the other year – managed to kick up a fuss (3 of us) and got some mileage as compensation. Not much else you can do really.

      • Phil says:

        Compensation due if within time limits – journey began at an EU airport. Compensation only due in the return direction if it is an EU carrier though.

        • Talay says:

          No it did not and that is the problem.

          The delayed flight began from Doha, which is a non EU airport flying to a non EU airport and the airline is not an EU carrier. Thus, no compensation due.

          The ticket is not a through ticket, it is a separate ticket from Doha to Kuala Lumpar, different flight number, etc.

          • Talay says:

            @ Matt

            I appreciate the link but that is an EU carrier, originating in an EU country, delayed in an EU country, missing a connection in an EU country.

            The relevance of the point in question is that the delayed flight here is from Doha to Kuala Lumpar, neither of which are in the EU. Neither is the carrier an EU carrier.

            Were the LHR to DOH delayed then compensation would be payable but unless that leg was delayed, then the carrier escapes compensation under EU law.

            If the ticket had been a through ticket and the aircraft merely stopped off in DOH en route to KUL, then that would be different and compensation would be due. The break of plane and ticket is, as my advice received pointed out, critical.

            If this has been back to the courts since last year then I am happy to stand corrected and submit my claim 🙂

          • Alan says:

            Is all-on-one ticket (even with a change of plane/flight number) not covered? (you seem to be referring to a change in ticket too)

          • Matt says:

            I appreciate that line of reasoning, however the case provides the following clarification which is relevant here:

            “the Court answers that a passenger on directly connecting flights must be compensated when he has been delayed at departure for a period below the limits specified in the regulation, but has arrived at his final destination at least three hours later than the scheduled arrival time. That compensation is not conditional upon there having been a delay at departure.”

            Given the original QR flight departed from London, the flight should be within EC261, regardless of QR not being an EU carrier. Unfortunately, there have been no cases brought to the ECJ regarding ME carriers, however I wouldn’t discourage anyone to make a claim.

    • Phil says:

      Depends on the time the doors open on your flight at KL. Make a note on your phone and screenshot it so the time is visible in case you have to argue the case later.

      The delay on arrival at KL must be 4hrs or more to be eligible for compensation.

      I’d wait until you arrive in KL and see how delayed you are vs your scheduled arrival time. They might make the time up en route after all!

    • Clive says:

      Others will know more than I do, but I thought EU compensation was based on *arrival* time at your final (i.e. not connection location) destination?

      • Andrew says:

        Unfortunately QR don’t value the piece of paper the law is written on, I’ve tried to claim compensation, the CAA agreed I had a case and wrote to QR, to which they received no response. So it’s now down to me to pursue a legal challenge. Civil law is only worth what you can fight in court for.

    • Following from behind says:

      Thanks all. Doors opened 4 hours 5 mins late in KL. I took a screenshot and have submitted a claim. Given the comments below, I won’t hold my breath. I’ll let you know if anything comes of it!

  • Anon says:

    Genghis, Alan, TRH et all,

    Looks like the new Hilton HONORS (wonder if they’ll ever add a U for Brits) promo is finally live.

    2000 points per night, expect Rob to do this tomorrow?
    http://hiltonhonors3.hilton.com/en/offers/100097966.htm

    • Dale says:

      Maybe not!…

      We’re Sorry,

      We are unable to process your request at this time. We apologize for this inconvenience. You may contact the Hilton Reservations and Customer Care nearest you for assistance, or call 1-800-HHONORS.

    • Genghis says:

      Cheers Anon. Will register when it opens.

    • Alan says:

      Thanks, Anon – have registered 🙂

    • Nick M says:

      Shame there aren’t any Category 1 options in the UK anymore… 5 day break (with breakfast) for a net outlay of 9000 points!

  • James67 says:

    “The only thing that gets worse is that the current ‘points and money’ redemptions – which were not often available – are being scrapped and replaced with the new system. If you were looking at a ‘points and money’ reward then I would make sure you book that over the next 3 weeks or so.”

    I get this but I’m a little confused. Are you saying the current points and money option is better value than the new points and money option (despite being more flexible) will ever be? The way I read your post the off-peak reward rates might decrease substatially rendering tbe new scheme more valuable at these times? Regardless, locking them in now is a good idea as they can always be cancelled if something better comes along. I have points and money bookings for Prague in May and Copenhagen (still no decision made on Hilton or CP) in June so will see what happens.

    • Anon says:

      Think Rob was hinting when P&M are offered they can be very good value per point (I agree).

      However will the new combos be as good value per point??? (Doubtful)

      • Rob says:

        No risk in booking ‘points and money’ now and rebooking next month if the new structure is better.

      • Adey says:

        Yeah, I hope they remain (or improve) in value. I’ve been a keen user of the £98 + 28,000 points for the five star London properties….

        Adey

        • Mike says:

          I’ve noticed that the cash part recently increased for some hotels.

          Ageas Bowl increased 25% for example!

    • Relaxo says:

      Example from a booking I made last night at Hilton Vilamoura-
      standard redemption was 30K pts for a €111 cash rate room;
      Points & Money rate was 12K pts + €45 (Better value)
      Under new rules I would have had to pay 12K pts + €67

  • Doogie says:

    I’ve been fighting with Hilton for months after my HHonors account was hacked, email address changed and the points used to book a redemption (in Aberdeen of all places!) fortunately it was only around 30k points, but the lack of help by email, chat, phone or PMing their rep on FT has made me paranoid about their scheme overall. I haven’t stayed at a Hilton property for months because of this.

    • Anon says:

      Insult to injury, 30k pts for a stay that can be had for as little as £41.

      Even worse could of been at the Treetops before the DT refurb…. :p

      • Rob says:

        I told Aaron last night that introducing instant Amazon redemptions would now make them a massive hacking target! Most schemes which had Amazon as an option were forced to drop it.

  • Anon says:

    Hmmm or maybe not, looks like its noiw down, also lacks security…

    So we still wait…

    Excludes Hamptons in China.

    FT thread on it here..
    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/hilton-hilton-honors/1817724-2k-every-day-promotion-here-13.html

  • Kathy H says:

    Back to the original topic – looking at booking a points and cash for a 1 nt stay at LGW for an early March stay would you recommend I book that now as in the article it seems to suggest that this element of using points will be withdrawn.

  • Britbronco22 says:

    I’ll be interested to see how they process cancellations. If you book a points and cash night with IHG the cancellation is refunded entirely in points. If Hilton did the same thing it could be a very cheap way to pick up points.
    For example, find a property that is 50k per night or £100, pay 25k plus £50, cancel and receive 50k points. Then use the 50k points you have to book somewhere you actually want to stay which could cost £200 per night for example. If you tried to book points and cash at the second property you would be paying 25k plus £100, so this process would have saved £50 a night. There will clearly be extreme price points where this process could be exploited.
    My feeling is that cancellations will be processed the same way they were booked to avoid this, but it’s one to watch!

    • Rob says:

      I think the cash element will be paid to the hotel at check out.

      • mark2 says:

        I am pretty sure that when we stayed at Hampton at Gatwick in Sept 16 using points and cash I paid when we got to the hotel (we were leaving at 0400).

        • Craig Strickland says:

          That was how my last points and cash redemption worked, points from the account the cash to the hotel. Or not in my case because we had an awful stay with baggage trolleys rattling past outside the room. The cash part was removed from the bill and the hotel manager took care of getting the points refunded with an extra 10k for our troubles.

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