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Hilton Honors cut points for low stayers, boosts them for top stayers and kills ‘points and miles’

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Hilton Honors unveiled a few changes to their programme today which will both simplify the scheme and signal a shift in focus towards the most loyal guests.

What Hilton Honors will do, from April 2018, is:

reduce points earning for Blue and Silver members

increase points earning for Gold and Diamond members who stay at least 40 nights per year (the changes are neutral if you stay under 40 nights)

remove the option to earn airline miles alongside points from your stays

Full details can be found on hilton.com on this page.

Why is it doing this?

There is a trend in the airline miles sector to give more rewards to big spenders and reduce benefits for the rest.  We saw this with the last set of Avios changes in 2015, where discounted economy tickets went from earning 1 x miles flown to just 0.25 x miles flown.  Hilton is moving the same way.

What Hilton seems to be doing is:

reducing what it spends on points for infrequent guests (does this mean the hotels pay less to Hilton Honors too?) and

by stopping ‘points and miles’, reducing the amount of cash flowing out of Hilton Honors into the pockets of the airlines

What are the changes?

If you stay at a Hilton hotel tonight, which includes Hampton, Conrad and Waldorf Astoria, you have two options:

‘Points and Points’ gives you:

10 base points per $1 plus a bonus of 15% for Silver, 25% for Gold and 50% for Diamond, plus a fixed additional bonus of 5 points per $1

Alternatively, ‘Points and Miles’ gives you:

10 base points per $1 plus a bonus of 15% for Silver, 25% for Gold and 50% for Diamond, plus a fixed additional bonus of (in most cases) 1 airline mile per $1

But from 1st April ….

Points and Points’ and ‘Points and Miles’ are being scrapped.  The new system, which has the benefit of being a lot simpler, is:

10 base points per $1 plus a bonus of 20% for Silver, 80% for Gold and 100% for Diamond

This is how it compares, assuming you currently do ‘Points and Points’:

Base member:  currently 15 points per $1, will become 10 points per $1  (down 33%)

Silver member:  currently 16.5 points per $1, will become 12 points per $1  (down 27%)

Gold member:  currently 17.5 points per $1, will become 18 points per $1 (up 3%)

Diamond member:  currently 20 points per $1, will remain 20 points per $1

So, on standard earning no-one wins and some people lose badly.

However, there are some extra perks for Gold and Diamond members:

10,000 bonus points for hitting 40 nights, and for every 10 nights thereafter

plus

30,000 bonus points for hitting 60 nights

As 40 nights is the threshold for hitting Gold, and 60 nights is the threshold for hitting Diamond, you are effectively receiving extra points for hitting these tiers.  The only exception would be people who do very few but very expensive stays who may hit status on base points instead of nights.

Hilton Honors gave me an example of a Diamond member doing 60 nights per year (the minimum required for Diamond if you qualify by nights) at $150 per night.  They currently earn:

$150 x 20 points per $1 x 60 nights = 180,000 points

In future they would earn:

$150 x 20 points per $1 x 60 nights = 180,000 points + 10,000 for 40 nights + 10,000 for 50 nights + 10,000 for 60,000 nights plus 30,000 for 60 nights = 240,000 points

This member is 33% better off.

Here is a Hilton chart showing the changes:

Hilton Honors new earning rate

And two new perks ….

Status members will receive two additional benefits:

Elite nights will rollover.  Elite STAYS will not.  If you do enough nights to retain your current tier but not reach the next one, your excess nights carry over.  A Silver member doing 30 nights (Silver requires 10 nights, Gold 40) would retain Silver but start the following year with 20 elite nights for example.  The carry-forward is only for one year, so in my example a 30-night Silver would not get two years of extra status.

(Taken alongside the bonuses for additional nights, you can see what Hilton is driving at.  Many people retain their status and then move their business elsewhere because they see the extra elite nights as ‘wasted’.  That is no longer the case, and there is an extra carrot of the 10,000 point bonuses for sticking with Hilton.)

You can gift status to a friend.   A member doing 60 nights in a year can gift Gold status to a friend.  A member doing 100 nights in a year can gift Diamond status.

What does this mean overall?

Hilton has clearly decided that it was being too generous to people who only gave it a modest amount of business each year.  ‘Modest’ seems to be defined as anyone doing less than the 20 stays or 40 nights required for Gold.

What I don’t quite understand, however, is where this fits in with Hilton’s big ‘book direct’ campaign.  For a Silver or base member, who effectively gets no status benefits and who are now seeing their points cut and their ability to earn miles removed, why should they book direct? If the price is the same then Hotels.com Rewards – which effectively offers you 10% of your spend back in free nights as I explained here – looks attractive now.

At the same time, Hilton has clearly decided that it wasn’t doing enough to keep members loyal once they had their Gold or Diamond requalification in the bag.  There are now three reasons to keep going: extra bonuses for doing 40+ nights, elite rollover nights and the ability to give status to a friend.

Diamond and Gold members also receive free breakfast at Waldorf Astoria hotels as of last week, as I explained here.

Dropping the airline miles and points option takes away a differentiating feature.  What does surprise me is that Hilton is not introducing an option of just taking miles from a stay.  Most chains let you earn a handful of airline miles if you don’t ask for points – IHG gives 500 Avios on most brands per stay for example.

Hilton will still let you convert large chunks of points into airline miles.  The rates are very poor though at 10,000 Hilton points per 1,000 miles in most cases.  You lose 50%-66% of the value by doing this so I really wouldn’t recommend it.  It also makes no sense, since you can now use as few as 5,000 Hilton points for a cash discount on your next Hilton stay.

Personally for me …..

I have no skin in this game.  I currently have Hilton Diamond until March 2019 via the status match promotion which is still running.  When that expires, I will have permanent Hilton Gold as long as I keep my American Express Platinum card open.

(Hilton Gold is generally acknowledged as the most valuable mid-tier hotel status to have.  This is mainly because of free continental breakfast and partly because, outside the US, hotels treat you favourably for upgrades.)

As both a Hilton Gold or Diamond, my points earning rate is virtually unchanged.  I was never going to do enough nights to earn a 10,000 point bonus or be able to gift elite status.

I will lose out from the occasional generous ‘points and miles’ promotion.  On the other hand, I will benefit from the ‘free breakfast at Waldorf Astoria’ benefit just introduced.

The real losers are those of you who don’t have Hilton Gold.  You will see a noticeable drop in the number of points you earn.  Anyone doing very few Hilton stays – 4-5 per year – will no longer be able to pick up miles (unless they wait until they have 10,000 Hilton Honors points) and will see the points they earn per stay fall sharply.

You can find out more about the changes on the Hilton website here.


How to earn Hilton Honors points and status from UK credit cards

How to earn Hilton Honors points and status from UK credit cards (August 2022)

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.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points, £200 travel credit 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 with:

and for small business owners:

The conversion rate from American Express to Hilton points is 1:2.

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 (105)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Andy H says:

    I must be one of the few people who will really benefit from these changes, so I’m happy.
    82 nights last year and likely to be similar in 2018, so I should see some benefit.
    That said, if IHG keep sending out such hefty rewards for big Accelerate targets, I may sway back to them 🙂

    • John says:

      My “hefty rewards for big Accelerate targets” have always involved no more than 5 nights per quarter (and the IHG year only has 3 quarters), and status benefits are almost non-existent, so there’s nothing to “sway back” to… I do 10 or 15 IHG nights per year plus some reward stays and then the rest go to Hilton where breakfast and lounge are guaranteed

  • Fenny says:

    With generally overall reduction in status due to assorted changes, it means I’m less likely to book into branded hotels and most of my spend will go through Hotels.com. I may lose out on points, but I’m one less occupied room.

  • Susan says:

    Just back from stay at WA-Versailles; as HH-G via Amex got upgrade and free breakfasts (thank you Rob, I would have booked breakfast inclusive rate without your advisory as this still not showing on myway benefits) plus the Amex £50 for spend >£250 deal seems to have been tiggered even though this was supposedly only UK – discount more than made up for using plat card overseas.

    • Cate says:

      Did you enjoy your stay Susan? The hotel is on our weekend break list this year.

      • Cat says:

        I went a couple of years ago – it’s lovely, there are loads of lovely not too expensive restaurants around, the palace and grounds are stunning – try to visit during the month the fountains are actually switched on (May?)! Rooms are lovely, we had one with underfloor heating in the bathroom (much appreciated in Winter), breakfast fab, and having a pot of tea in the lobby in the afternoon after a long walk is just wonderful!

      • Susan says:

        We did. The setting is wonderful and quiet, right on the edge of the park. Staff were very friendly, room well appointed (we were upgraded from the annexe to the main building which sacrificed a little space but was much more convenient for the pool and other facilities), the bed was the most comfy I’ve slept in at a hotel. There were a few minor niggles – some of the maintenance needed a sharper eye and the pool changing rooms lacked showers (I said minor!). The main Ramsay restaurant was closed so can’t comment on that. What we found disappointing was the Chateau itself but the gardens and the Grand + Petit Trianon were well worth the visit. Versailles is also a good base for Paris – easy access by the RER -walkable from hotel or mainline – taxi unless you’re super dedicated!

      • Cate says:

        Thank you Cat and Susan, very informative. Versailles it is then.

  • AndyR says:

    Why is Hilton Gold seen as the most valuable mid tier status to have over Marriott Gold which gets you the same plus lounge access too?

    • xcalx says:

      It’s Marriott for me. Rob has always placed Hilton status above Marriott. In the past he has stated Marriott have ” no inspirational hotels”

      Does Marriott still give gold benefits to 3rd party bookings or has that ceased.

      • Rob says:

        That Marriott comment, whilst true, doesn’t really apply now post the SPG merger. I am expecting the top SPG hotels to become proportionately cheaper once Marriott Rewards and SPG are integrated, ie not 105,000 Marriott per night which is what 35k SPG equals.

        • Cate says:

          Marriott are looking to sell some of SPG’s properties though, the top properties may be on the cull list. Which would be a shame because SPG do have some very nice properties.

          • Rob says:

            You can sell the property but retain the management contract, a la IHG.

        • Cate says:

          I did not know that. Then that’s good news as we want to try the SPG’s in Rome this year. Thanks Rob.

    • Alex W says:

      In my limited experience, marriott gold seems to be superior to Hilton in terms of benefits, and more of their hotels seem to have lounges than Hilton.

    • AndyR says:

      It’s Marriott for me too even though I have Hilton Diamond. Been impressed with their lounges.

      • Ian says:

        Definitely Marriott for me also. I’ve had Hilton Gold for a while and only get lounge access roughly 50% of the time. With Marriott it’s guaranteed. Easy to get Marriott Gold with the Amex Plat as well

    • Rob says:

      Because you need so many nights to get Marriott Gold that you are virtually at the same level as Hilton Diamond.

  • Steve says:

    It would be interesting to see how much of their business came from “modest” customers. Personally I rarely do more than 20 Hilton stays a year – these changes will likely push me away from Hilton rather than make me move more business to it.

  • moham aham says:

    as my gold expires in march, i’ll just burn my points for the free breakfasts and shift bookings to marriott

  • TripRep says:

    In terms of loyalty if I drop from Gold, I’ll stop staying at Hilton. That said I have found previously that they are happy to keep me at Gold even if I was a few stays short. If I do fall short and dont get a bump I’ll probs retain it via a Credit Card.

    As an example of how I value Gold and why it always tempts me to choose Hilton over any other brand… Stay last week @ Hilton KL was fantastic, would definitely return.

    Great location for a one nighter, arrived at 11pm from KLIA Express to Sentral, free KLIA Express porter walked the 5 minutes with us and took our luggage to hotel entrance. After our stay, Azan (Concierge Team Lead) got a Hilton Porter to take our luggage to the KLIA Express station for train back to KLIA.

    Good open air pool area (with Jacuzzi), perfect for lazing with a beer, we even had a go on the slide!

    Paid £65 for a King Deluxe Lake Side room, earnt 4000+ pts inc 2k bonus + Triple Iberia Avios (370pts)

    Upgraded to Grand Lake View Suite with Exec lounge access. (Worth ~£70 extra)
    Not my vid, but gives you an idea… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtDSftxNCu0

    Free Breakfast, given option for exec lounge or the main buffet (we choose the latter which was terrific)

    Late Check out from our Suite at 6pm, stayed in Exec lounge til 8pm enjoying complimentary fizz and a beer before heading to the airport for BA CW flight home.

    All the staff were totally awesome, super helpful and friendly, almost as good standard as the Conrad Rangali. Felt great to be so looked after. 🙂

    • John says:

      This is why I find it hard to value the “free night” at £250

      • TripRep says:

        Depends where you spend it, burnt mine and Mrs TripRep’s at the Conrad Rangali, stock price ~£500/night or 95000 pts.

        Conrad St James is another place you’d pay more than £250 / night in the summer

  • Dominic says:

    Anyone ever been given full breakfast instead of continental as an ‘upgrade’?

    Recent stay in Barcelona as gold member and was told that as no better rooms available I could have the full breakfast instead. Never ever come across this before.

    • Alex W says:

      Sounds a bit stingy. Most hiltons in my experience just give you full breakfast anyway, unless there is separate breakfast in the lounge. Additional benefits of lounge access usually more than compensates for narrower range of breakfast options.

      • Dominic says:

        Same. I had to actually double check the T&Cs as took this as granted.

        Unfortunately they wouldn’t give me lounge access either. Something else I always seem to get even if no executive rooms available. Was literally only for breakfast if I didn’t want full breakfast.

        Must have just been unlucky!

        • JamesB says:

          Not unlucky, just poor customer relations by the hotel. Not you, I’m sure they treat everybody the same. Can you share which hotel it was please as I’m going to visit this year? Personally I have had a 100% record on full breakfast plus lounge plus 1000 bonus points but room upgrades have varied.

        • Dominic says:

          Diagonal Mar. To be fair, it was completely sold out as I checked online. Maybe they had loads of diamonds staying in normal rooms that would have meant the lounge was very full for those nights.

    • Carl says:

      Same here. I’ve always just been given full breakfast.

    • Craig Strickland says:

      Sounds odd, recent stay at the Waldorf Hilton as a Diamond I was told no upgrades were available because the hotel was fully booked. i did a ghost booking for 4 exec rooms which showed availability and pointed this out to the receptionist. Funnily enough they found a better room after that.

    • Leo says:

      Last New Year’s Berlin Hilton couldn’t upgrade us as they were totally full – they gave us the contents of the mini-bar instead. I was happy with that….

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