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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)

  • Neil says:

    So, can anyone help me with this query. We’re staying in the Conrad Rangali for three nights using points. We plan to upgrade to an OWB – The reservations manager reckons we will have to pay the 15% service charge. Should we not be exempt as per Rob’s comments above.

    • Rob says:

      The thing I highlighted may be a bug.

      Your case is separate. You negotiated a private deal with the hotel and that is subject to a service charge like everything else there, in my view.

    • Anon says:

      Neil how far are you flying from? If its at all possible, I seriously recommend you change your booking to at least 5 nights, I’d also still recommend the standard beach villa that’s just been refurbed, still v nice accommodation.

      If you like snorkeling, IMHO you’d be better off with a beach villa nr the main reef, room numbers 210-230. That is of course unless your splashing out on a Retreat Water Villa….

  • Peter K says:

    As noted in the comments yesterday, the standard redemptions seem overall cheaper but the premium ones have rocketed. In the Hilton Barbados I locked in an exec panoramic view room for 45k a night. After the changes it is 73k a night!

  • Guy says:

    Sorry for the OT. I hold a normal BA Amex Card and want to refer my friend to the BAMEX Premier Card. I’m guessing this is possible, if so, would I get the referral at the lower or higher rate (not sure the amounts for either)

    Thanks for any advice

  • David says:

    O/T but still hotels. I will be taking the family (3 children and one infant!) to Bangkok, Sydney, Brisbane and Hong Kong this summer. Any advice or recommendations on where to stay using points would be most appreciated (most of my points are held in Amex MR).

    • Clive says:

      First question would be do you have status with any of the chains?

      • David says:

        Good point, Diamond with Hilton and Amex Platinum derived with others (Club Carlson Gold, SPG Gold, Melia Gold and Shangri-La Jade).

        • Clive says:

          TBH you have a number of options depending upon what you want. Hitlon Sukhumvit and Doubletree are well located for restaurants and entertainment. You are also close to the Sky train which can take you anywhere. Lounge at Hilton is nice but no view. Mixed reports. DT no lounge but can take a Happy Hour at the Pool Bar.

          Conrad is located in what you could call Embassy Row. Nice hotel. good lounge and usually god diamond upgrades. They run a shuttle bus to a nearby Sky Train station. Area for restaurants etc not so good as would have to taxi or walk.

          Millenium Hilton is getting mixed reviews on upgrades these days. It is on the wrong side of the Chao Praya IMO but is a good location for sightseeing. All the temples are located this side of town. You also have Asiaatique close by which for a first timer would be a fun place to go. Boats from the hotel could take you to Saphan Taksim which is a Sky Train station on the opposite bank of the river.

        • Clive says:

          Just to add I managed a BRG at the Royal Orchid Sheraton inc Breakfast for about £50. With Gold at Starwood you are not going to get a great deal of benefits TBH

    • Ian says:

      Are you simply wealthy or just mad?

      🙂

  • Genghis says:

    To my knowledge, a credit card is a credit card is a credit card. It shouldn’t matter which card you use. I believe the credit score building cards are marketed as such as they accept people with a higher credit risk.

    • Sam says:

      Yes, I think that these particular cards are marketed to people who have poor credit scores and can’t get a credit card elsewhere. Once they’re given this card, then it will help to build a score. The actual amount of “credit” you build shouldn’t change between cards.

  • Andrew says:

    Hilton Reykjavik Nordica has increased from 40,000 to 60,000 or thereabouts for most dates – so a c. 50% increase. Real shame given what Iceland has to offer.

    OT: IHG Accelerate. Last date is 15 April. Does anyone know with certainty whether a check in on 15 April, checking out on 16 April should count? Thanks.

    • Marc says:

      I’ve got a Points and Cash booking for June at the Nordica under the old rules at 16,000 + ISK8063. To keep the cash element for the same night at that level (ISK8091) would now require 49,000 points

    • Rob says:

      Yes, it counts.

      • Jame67 says:

        @Genghis, did you hear back from IHG confirming this?

        • Genghis says:

          Yes. It would count. But as my stay on 15 April is an AMB booking, it wouldn’t count for Accelerate.

          As such, I’ve booked the HI Ariel prior to a early doors LHR departure later this month so I can get the 10k for 5 nights stay Accelerate bonus. Rationale used to boss is that it saves on the taxi fare from my home in SE London and keeps me fresh.

  • Paul says:

    My booking at Conrad samui in December was 120K per night. The same nights are now showing as 305K per night.

    • The Original Nick. says:

      305k for the Conrad Samui is crazy. It’s a lovely place though. An email from a villa at the Conrad Koh Samui (or, why the Hilton credit card is great)

  • Artimus says:

    I booked some stays using points and money just before before the new change and I checked last night and notice that the points and money rate is less attractive by circa $50 per night- so am happy I booked on Mon nigh. The good part however, is that hotels that previously did not offer points and rewards are now assessible and if you are short of points, this new offering helps.

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