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What are your thoughts now the Hilton changes are live?

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The major changes to the Hilton Honors programme (which included the new spelling of Honors) kicked in yesterday.  There were some IT wobbles initially, but by the time the USA was waking up things seemed to be running more smoothly.

As I outlined in this article here, here are the key changes.

The main one is the scrapping of the old ‘points and money’ scheme, which offered excellent value on the occasions – few in my experience – when hotels chose to offer it. It is replaced by 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 can now 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 can now 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.

Here is the second part.

The maximum points price for a room will be the top end of its old reward category.  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 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 remains 95,000 points in August but the May price is now (picking 8th May at random) 55,000 points.  The cash price on that date – fully flexible member rate – is €291 so you’re getting 0.45p per point.  Not too shabby.

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, however.

So, what has happened in reality?

The emails I received from readers yesterday were split between positive and negative.  Some of the negative ones were from people who had been fooled by Hilton’s IT mistakes – the ‘monthly view’ page, for example, was showing Premium Room prices instead of Standard Room prices.  You had to click through to get the correct rate.

Here are a couple of genuine examples from my own travels:

Conrad New York

I have the Conrad New York, photo below, booked for three nights in June.  It is a great hotel, not least because it is ‘all suite’.  The room I had booked was 70,000 points.  Today, the hotel is 80,000 points.

Why?  Because, whilst Hilton promised not to increase any redemption prices, what they actually said was ‘we will not change any redemption prices beyond the caps of their old category’.

I think Conrad New York was Category 9 which meant anything between 50,000 and 80,000 points.  Hilton moved the cap from the old June price of 70,000 points to 80,000 points.  If you were planning to redeem here, you’re worse off – at least in June.

However ….. look at this in context.  Based on the refundable member cash rate of £415 for my dates, you are still getting over 0.5p per point of value which is far better than usual with Hilton.

Conrad New York 350

Waldorf-Astoria Beijing

On the other hand, I need two nights in Beijing next month.  I think the Waldorf-Astoria in Beijing was 80,000 points although I can’t be sure.  Now, however, it has dropped to 56,000 points per night.

Given that the hotel is selling for over £300 per night on my dates, this is a great result.  I will be getting over 0.5p per point.  If I transfer over Amex Membership Rewards points in order to book this, I will be getting over 1p per Amex point which is excellent.

Conrad Tokyo

I am also doing three nights at the Conrad Tokyo next month.  It is now sold out for my dates, which are booked at 95,000 points per night.  If you want to book a room for next week, however, it is available for as little as 59,000 points.  That is great value for what can be a hugely expensive city.

Hilton Sheffield

Regular readers will know I often use the Hilton in Sheffield as an example of a mid-tier hotel as I’m familiar with the property.  This used to be 30,000 points.  On a random date this month it is coming up as 26,000 points – a decrease – or £96 for Best Flexible Member Rate.  You’re getting 0.37p per point here.

Note that none of the ‘pence per point’ figures factor in the points earned if you paid cash for the stay instead of using points.  You should make an adjustment for that, especially given the current generous ‘2000 bonus points per night’ offer – see here.

In general ……

For ‘all points’ redemptions, you may well be better off.  Check any existing Hilton redemption bookings in case you need to rebook.

It might make sense to use points now when it didn’t in the past.  In a few cases you will be worse off where a hotel has moved its cap to the top of the previous redemption category.

However, if you were previously a fan of ‘points and money’ then you will undoubtedly be worse off.   I wasn’t, to be honest, but that is because my kids generally oblige me to travel at peak times to peak cities where ‘points and money’ was never an option.

PS.  Here’s a little secret

Using any amount of points (the minimum is 5,000) appears to make the booking act like a redemption.

What does this mean?  It means NO SERVICE CHARGES.

Let’s take Conrad Tokyo as an example.  On the 13th March it looks like this:

Cash rate (Member Best Flex):  Yen 34,300 + 9% tax + 15% service charge

Points:  59,000 points

Smallest ‘points and money’ option:  Yen 31,375 + 5,000 points + 9% tax + NO service charge

In this example, I redeem 5,000 points and I save Yen 3,188 including tax on the rate PLUS I save Yen 5,145 because I don’t pay any service charge!  This means a total saving of Yen 8,333 (£59) for spending 5,000 points.  This is an excellent return.

Conclusion

It will take a while for the Hilton Honors changes to bed down.  For now, unless you were a big ‘points and money’ user, you will usually be better off or at least no worse off.  ‘Points and Money’ fans are in a bad state, I admit.

The real risk is if / when Hilton starts to increase the redemption caps on the properties.  If they go, or are increased sharply, you have moved by a stealth to a pure ‘revenue based redemption’ programme.

I don’t think Hilton wants this, if I’m honest, because when you remove the lure of outsized redemptions Hilton points become a lot less interesting.  Look at the attention given to Le Club AccorHotels for example.

With a pure revenue scheme you would know the exact value of a point and it is easy to compare that with, unfavourably, the value you’d get from booking on hotels.com instead and taking Hotels.com Rewards credit.  And that isn’t a place Hilton wants to go.

(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.)

Comments (131)

  • Jame67 says:

    Rob’s analysis is totally supported by my own experience; yesterday was a good day for me:

    Hilton Brussells City 40000>19000/night
    Hilton Vienna 50000>35000/night
    Hilton Prague 36k+~CZK4500>36k+~CZK9500

    I noticed also that Hilton Copenhagen was on the system for dates aftef it ceases to be a Hilton, probably a glitch.

    • Nicholas Danks says:

      I recommend the Hilton at CPH… nice hotel with a great Executive Lounge

      • John says:

        Not for long. Nordic choices don’t offer lounges

      • Jame67 says:

        I have it for P&M post rebrand but I’m getting nowhere with Hilton or the hotel honouring the reservation. Feedback on CP Towers here was a bit better so I’ll probably end up there but I’ll keep both reservations in place meantime..

        • John says:

          No hilton status benefits anymore even if they do honour.

          Rumours that ihg wanting to forbid free lounge access to spires now, in addition to previous rumours dispelled by rob re: all CPs giving lounge access….

          • Lady London says:

            I’m still trying to work out what benefits IHG Spire status actually brings.

            I could stay enough with them to be a Spire, especially now I am dumping Accor unless there is a useful promotion. Even then with the variable quality of Accor’s hotels it can be hard for me to give them enough nights. So my stays are switching mostly in the direction of IHG right now. Somehow even paying for it, Ambassador seems to be the more useful option as I just can’t see what Spire is offering.

            I will watch these Hilton developments with interest. This might mean Hilton replaces Accor as my second choice behind IHG.

            Wasn’t the Wyndham offer Rob brought to our attention earlier this week stunning, though? 🙂

    • Stuart H says:

      Hilton Copenhagen leaves the chain on 1st April… Pity, it was great for ex eu flights

      • Jovanna says:

        When did they announce that? I have a non-refundable reservation for next month, which I made back in January. I would have gone elsewhere, had I know. I can see it now on the website but can’t recall seeing anything when I booked.

        Website says calls the hotel…

        • Jame67 says:

          IME both the hotel and Hilton are being totally useless and unprofessional about this. I wish you luck, I’ve had none but fortunately mine’s just a points and money booking.

  • Nathan says:

    Do you still not receive points on cash portion of points + cash bookings?

    • Genghis says:

      That’s what I read in T&Cs yesterday. Only incidentals at certain brands

    • John says:

      Not what Hilton said before. Maybe not updated yet

      • Genghis says:

        If it changes, that then swings it for me to rebook

        • Rob says:

          You now get points on the cash element. This is confirmed.

          • Genghis says:

            Thanks Rob and FLYGVA. After crunching the numbers I decided to rebook. The rate went up by SGD60.47 = £34.89 but I’ll earn an extra 11,160 HHs, 0.31p / HH. Since I’m short of HHs, I thought it’s a decent opportunity and I will use them at 0.4-0.5p on another redemption shortly.

    • FLYGVA says:

      According to this post on Flyertalk, you will nowe earn points on the cash part, which should also be a valid stay for a promotion (http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/27862032-post170.html)

      • Alan says:

        Also interesting comment in that FT post – “Like today, resort fees will not be charged for 100% reward bookings. Resort fees will be applied for any bookings made with 100% Money or a combination of Points & Money.” – different to the article where Rob mentions that even 5,000 points was turning it into a points-booking with no resort fees – wonder if they’ll tighten up the IT on this??

  • Mike says:

    I’m clearly in the wrong job Rob – Beijing, Tokyo & New York.

    • Rob says:

      Emirates First, Etihad First and 3 nights in a Dubai beach resort next week too. Life sucks.

      You’re welcome to join me in Tokyo and Beijing but you’ll be looking after my kids during the day 🙂

      Seriously, part of the reason I hired Anika is that I have no real desire to spend all my time running around, even if it is in business class and five star hotels – especially as my wife is doing the same with her job and we have the kids.

      My self imposed limit now is three long-haul trips per year for HFP purposes, and as few European trips as I can get away with. I probably do 50 hotel nights a year, 3 long-hauls and 10 short-hauls a year for family travel as it is.

      • Mohammed says:

        I would bite your arm off for those flights! Stop complaining it makes us hate you even more! Lol

  • Jame67 says:

    Points and Money on the new sliding scale appears to be yielding a value of 0.4-0.5p/point in most cases as far as I can see. With current exchange rates this is roughly the same price as buying points when Hilton offers a 100% bonus. Consequently, there seems to be little point in using P&M unless we are points-poor, concerned that the 100% buy bunuses will disappear, or are using the minimum 5000 points to save on service fees as tipped by Rob.

    • Genghis says:

      It makes the Hilton Visa look a bit more interesting

      • Jame67 says:

        Interesting you should say that; having becone very disgruntled with the value I can squeeze out of avios on BA I’ve ploughed most of my spending this year through my Hilton card.

      • The Original Nick. says:

        I should be receiving my Hilton Visa card today or tomorrow.. Just in time for my stays at Hiltons next week in Hanoi and The Conrad in Bangers. I only cancelled my last card last August so it’s a result.

        • Genghis says:

          Remember the card charges a 3% fx fee. Crunch the numbers as to whether the 3% fee is worth the 2,500 points per stay (assuming you won’t use UK Hiltons to get this benefit) and the extra points over say your current fx use card.

          • The Original Nick. says:

            Good point Genghis. I have a Supercard and a curve card so I’ll have to look into it all..

      • Alan says:

        Plus with the weak GBP I find it has further enhanced the value of these points when booking redemption stays abroad 🙂

  • Nigel says:

    OT: hopefully not a sign of things to come – changes to US plat include higher fee and no sign up bonus… http://money.cnn.com/2017/03/02/pf/amex-platinum-card-rewards/index.html

  • John says:

    I stayed at the Hilton Osaka on points and money last month and I definitely had to pay the service fee on the money portion.

  • RC_Hammer says:

    I booked New York Midtown a few weeks ago for August at 60,000 points per night. The redemption rate is now 67,000. I have 3 rooms for 5 nights so if I had left booking until today I would’ve required an additional 84,000 points! I also booked one room at Hilton JFK for 40,000 but today the redemption rate is 50,000 per night.

  • John says:

    For my european hotels the points and money slider value seems to be fixed at 0.5 eurocents per point. I thought that it would be based on the premiumrewards rate of 0.5 US cents per point, but perhaps because of the rounding of redemption levels, to nearest 1000 points, you can get a few more euros here and there. It also means that if the US dollar rises, it may be worth rebooking for fewer points.

    Then i checked some non eurozone places and the rate of 0.5 eurocents or 0.55 US cents (approx) seems to be replicated at a few properties yet others have a much poorer rate of 0.38 US cents.

    However, for other hotels I seem to be getting 0.