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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 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.

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

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Comments

  1. The page to transfer points to someone else is up now (the whole Honors been re-designed).
    There is a transfer limit of 200,000 points per calendar year so we are unlikely to see them on eBay.

    • I think that’s actually the old maximum transfer per year.
      OMAAT was quoting 500k per year and receive a max of 2M

    • I think you are confusing things with what already exists for some time = 5,000 points transfer to somebody else for 12.5$ etc

  2. Apologies if this has already been shared. (Did a v quick scan of comments on my mobile & it didn’t show up)

    You can already search for any hotel you’re interested in to see how it’s points value can potentially change with the new system.

    Fill yer boots.

    http://pointsandmoney.hilton.com

    • Hilton Glasgow & Aviemore looking like potential bargains during quiet periods… 🙂

    • Just had a play and see below old lowest/new lowest in ,000
      Hilton Garden Inn Rome Claridge 60/18;
      Hilton Milan from 70/21;
      Hilton Stucky Molino Venice from 50/31;
      Hilton Toronto 40/27;
      Hilton Quebec City 40/17;
      Hilton Paris Opera 80/31=8;
      Hilton Paddington 60/20;
      Doubletree Kensington 50/29.

      • This range is based on the cheapest possible night over the next 365 days, I was told. 0.5p per point looks like it might be a goer on that basis. I very much doubt Hilton Paddington ever gets lower than £100 for example.

        • Hilton Paddington was £106 weekends in the recent sale, Rob – lowest I’ve ever seen it…

          • barnaby100 says:

            Bankside is often £120 and as low as £96- why would you stay at the depressing Paddington?

      • Interesting, although what about the inverse – what’s the highest now vs previously in off-peak? I’d suspect the previous peak redemption level applies as a cap, but that would be much higher off-peak cost cf previously.

    • Very helpful, thanks.

      This confirms my fear re off-peak redemptions. The cost is capped at current peak points rate, therefore expensive off-peak dates will jump up in price cf existing points levels, cheaper dates will fall.

    • James67 says:

      Thanks for this and the other link Anon. On paper it looks like I may need to rethink our European tour stays so it will be interesting to see how it plays out in practice. For tbe moment I can foresee my cancelling a bunch of IHG stays and once again having a stash of IHG points I’m having problems using. Looks like I will end up using tbem at Le Grand or Paris Indigo just to get some decent value from them.

  3. rams1981 says:

    OT just had to cancel one of my 2 for 1 bookings. Wife had cancelled the BA card which earned the voucher but it still landed back in her account.

    They charged £50 per passenger to cancel. £35 cancellation fee + £15 operational fee or something like that. Annoying but needs must.

    • Thanks for data point re cancelled BAPP and 2-4-1. The £15 fee will be the one for anything done over the phone.

  4. rams1981 says:

    Reminds me anyone looking for return tickets to Buenos airies in mid November 2017 in Club – they should be available now

  5. Dominic says:

    I’ve mentioned a few times that I’ve never been sold on airmiles and stick to hotel rewards using my platinum card MR points and HHonors visa (or guess thats Hilton Honors now).

    I’ve done countless reward stays but (with the exception of a few cheap Hampton ones) only ever make use of the five nights for four benefit and cash and points redemptions. The full points redemptions at nicer properties were very rarely worth it.

    This would be amazing if the value is genuinely around 0.5p per Hilton point. From my experience the cash and points stays were quite hard to find, so even if it was a little less giving 0.7/0.8p (per MR point) then that would still be good now that you can get that value at every hotel on any night.

    Keenly awaiting more details!

    • the real harry1 says:

      airmiles/ Avios collecting saves me well over £2000 pa, not sure why you personally can’t get or see value from the progs

      care to explain?

      is it that you are not much of a flyer?

      • the real harry1 says:

        or somebody else pays?

        (should have added)

      • Dominic says:

        241 is pointless for me as I fly solo a lot which removes the vast majority of value of the BA card everyone on here loves. I also live in Manchester which means BA, at least if I want to fly direct, is a no go.

        I am very aware it is my circumstances that make it less appealing.

        Also, as modestly as I can put this without sounding arrogant, I am someone that is lucky enough to be able to afford the cash price for CW, ect. Paying £500-600 tax for a £1,500 CW flight to NYC doesn’t excite me as much as using points at the Hilton for a totally free reward stay.

        Even if I’m saving the same amount of money as a CW fight, using just points and saving £1,000 (approx) for five nights at the Hilton just feels more of a bargain to me as I don’t have to open my wallet at all.

        Also, if I really do want to fly BA and use avois points I have that option as I can transfer to BA. Maybe its better to sum me up by saying I think MR points are much better than purely focussing on avois as I have used MR points to fly business in the past.

        • I do like MR points, esp the pluripotentiality of them! 😉 Just wish the earning rate on the Plat was better though. Also agree that hotel points have given me some superb redemptions recently when cash rates have been high. I still find value in Avios, but totally agree re taxes/fees on the CW redemptions – I still find the Lloyds Avios card of value though, at least I then get a CW flight for WTP points (and they seem to charge slightly lower cash amounts than BA for some reason).

        • the real harry1 says:

          I’m also very proud of you, Dom – somebody who earns a decent whack through personal endeavour.

          Good old Brits that we are – just been reading Andrew Marr’s History Part 2.

    • Dom, do/did you post on PTS site?

      Why aren’t you sold on miles/Avios, why don’t they apeeal?

      • Dominic says:

        Nah this is the only site I use. Never heard of PTS to be honest.

        And as above to answer your question. If I lived in/near London and/or was married I would probably seriously look again at the BA card. Even then it would be a tough call as the 241 can be tricky to use going from posts on here from people.

  6. OT – I’ve just tried to update my Award Wallet stash and notice that some items i.e. 2-4-1 voucher is now missing the use by date. I can get this updated if I subscribe so perhaps a cut back if you’ve stayed on the freebie option.

  7. I’m going to pop this in here as an OT and hope it can benefit someone. Marriott have opened a new JW in Phu Quoc, Vietnam. Looks absolutely stunning. It’s a Cat 5 however it is pricing at 15K points per night. Click through from the main search page. Anyone looking for some R&R may well want to consider. Link to hotel is here http://www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/travel/pqcjw-jw-marriott-phu-quoc-emerald-bay-resort-and-spa/

    • Genghis says:

      Looks nice. Mrs G and I went to Phu Quoc at the end of our honeymoon a few years ago. Great island.

    • Really interested in this but couldn’t see a single day available on points on the calendar.

      Did you actually see availability there somehow?

  8. James67 says:
  9. Do you see a need to rush to make a Conrad Maldives booking or should we be ok for some time yet?
    Thank you!

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