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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.

Hilton_Honors new logo

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

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.

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.


How to earn Hilton Honors points from UK credit cards (June 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.

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 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 (131)

  • Corrine says:

    I have a P+M booking in Boston booked, when I looked yesterday it’s now over double the ‘money’ part !!
    I was waiting for this to come in, as the hotels I wanted in Niagara had no P=M availability. Now the conversion rate for P+M is poor. We are going in the summer so we wont even benefit from the ‘off peak’ rates.
    It’s all a little disappointing 🙁 I liked the old system of cheap P+M redemptions.

    • John says:

      Yes, because the mechanism for calculating this has fundamentally changed, previously p&m was at fixed prices and now it depends on the flexible paid rate for that night. It is meaningless to compare old and new rates (especially since you can choose the number of points to redeem) except to lament the loss of a good value redemption 🙁

  • Nicholas Danks says:

    Just a note on deferring membership for “Diamonds”

    “Hilton Honors Diamond Members who meet the criteria below, this new benefit allows them to keep their status for a year, should they be unable to qualify for any reason.
    Members who meet the following criteria are eligible for the new Diamond benefit: Must currently be a Diamond Member, have earned Diamond status for at least 3 years, but the years do not need to be consecutive and have completed stays totaling at least 250 nights, paid or reward or have accumulated 500,000 Base Points or more since joining Hilton Honors.”

  • DS says:

    MELIÁ REWARDS has a similar p&c system, but there’s no minimum and you can use odd number of points.

  • Graeme says:

    Rob, do you have any idea when the points pooling will become an option?

    • Rob says:

      Everything kicks in between April and June I think.

      • Graeme says:

        Thanks Rob – might hold off on a December booking in that case. Hopefully it’ll be more April than June!

  • Liz says:

    My 5 night booking in Washington DC in Sept has gone up by 49000 pts – for just a Hampton Inn. Also one night in Myrtle Besch is up by 10k.

  • Danksy says:

    Conrad Manilla in June in their basic King Room

    Best Advanced Purchase Rate is 6027 PHP ( £120 per night after taxes.)
    Best Flex Rate is £142 per night after taxes

    So Vs BFR
    Points = 32,000 works out at 0.44p per point

    Vs Adv P
    Points = 32,000 works out at 0.38p per point

    Points and cash
    Or Points and Cash = 5000 + £106.50 = points value effectively 0.28p per point

    I think it does depend on how flexible you are… plus I haven’t factored into the cash rates the points you’d earn (which of course have value!)

  • Jonny says:

    As Rob says above, the real value is the outsized redemptions, e.g. When “points + money” was 12,000 + £40, versus a room rate of £150+, or even that Saturday night in a popular city for 40,000 when the room rate was £250+

    These are the sweet spots I used to target, so it is a big shame to lose that, though clearly there are still some pockets of value out there.

    Aside from when used to remove the service charge, I don’t see any reason to now use points + money, ie it is only good value when the points only rate is good value- in which case you’re better off using points only (assuming you have enough)

    • Alan says:

      Plus I’m not even sure it’s meant to remove the service charge – see FT thread posted by FLYGVA elsewhere with the comment from the official Hilton Honors lurker 😉

      Overall it’s making points more usable at a reasonable value but, for my spend pattern, fewer outsized redemptions.

  • Alan says:

    Slightly OT but I was thinking about getting the Hilton CC for the free night stay at any Hilton. What is availability like for redemptions using the voucher? Is it unlikely that you will get a room in high season or do they make plenty of redemption rooms available?

    Cheers

    • Genghis says:

      Depends on if there’s availability. If there’s points availability, there’s reward certificate availability. Have a look at where you might want to go

      • Alan says:

        OK thanks Genghis. Do they just reserve a certain number of rooms for points?

      • Ikaz says:

        There needs to be availability for a standard reward to be able to use the free night voucher (you will not be able to use it if there are only premium room awards available). You can easily see when they have availability by doing a normal points search.
        I am no expert but I find that availability is good as long as you are not looking to book hotels like the Conrad Rengali or the Conrad Koh Samiu at specific dates (if you are flexible you have higher chances of using the voucher).

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