Hilton adds award categories and introduces seasonal pricing as of March 28, 2013 — huge devaluation!

Hilton has just announced some major changes to their 2013 HHonors program, which will kick in for bookings made starting March 28, 2013 (any bookings made now for stays after March 28 will be honored at the old rate). These changes include the following:

  • Reward Categories – We will be expanding to ten hotel reward categories to account for all of the new hotels and resorts that have opened in the past few years. With 3,900 hotels and resorts in 90 countries you are sure to find the perfect place for your next reward stay.
  • Seasonal Hotel Reward Pricing – For most of our hotels and resorts, we will introduce seasonal pricing for reward stays. The amount of points needed for a Standard Room Reward and a Points & Money Reward will vary during certain times of the year.
  • 5th Night Free – Now members with Silver, Gold or Diamond elite status will get a free night* when they book a Standard Room Reward stay of five or more consecutive nights.

This is probably the worst single hotel program devaluation I’ve ever seen.

First they’re changing from seven to ten hotel categories. The old award chart looks as follows:

And the new award chart looks as follows:

So on the high end the cost of a free night is going up by up to 45,000 HHonors points per night. They’ve published the new hotel categories here.

Then they’re also introducing seasonal award pricing, whereby some hotels are more expensive on points in peak season.

This website displays the new award pricing by hotel/city, including the seasonal premiums.

For example, the Conrad Hong Kong is going from 50,000 to 80,000 HHonors points per night year round.

Meanwhile in London several hotels are going up by 30,000+ points per night.

And while the fifth night free is nice in theory, one of the best best values with HHonors points is AXON awards, whereby four nights at a category seven property would run 145,000 points, which is better than a buy three get one free.

So I’m curious what impact this devaluation has on AXON awards. If this devaluation impacts AXON awards this may very well be the worst hotel program devaluation ever.

This has been a horrible year so far on the hotel front — Priority Club has devalued their award chart, Starwood has increased the cost of cash & points, Marriott added a category nine and increased the cost of 36% of their properties, and now this, which is by far the worst.

Horrible, horrible, horrible. Not feeling too good about my 500,000 point HHonors balance right now.

(Tip of the hat to Jimmy)

Comments

  1. Holy…. that is a huge hit… bad enough to lose 6x at drugstores, but now I would gladly have that over basically the worst redemption program there is. Ugh

  2. Also, as much as I would really hope it will not impact AXON awards, I don’t see how it could POSSIBLY stay anywhere close to the value it is now.

    Absolutely WRECKS my vacation plans for October

  3. @ Jason — Sadly I agree. No way the Conrad Hong Kong will cost 80K per night but only 145K for four nights…

  4. lol, yeah, in October the Conrad Tokyo rockets up to 95k points, nearly double its current rate of 50k. Figuring out how I can redeem an AXON award before 3/28.

  5. I suggest a post outlining the best ways to liquidate HH points via transfer to miles. And also transfer partners to get enough points for AXON stay, this is horrible. 145k for 4 nights -> something like over 300k.

    The 5th night free appears to be just another way of saying GLON. I think they are rebranding GLON which was always harder to understand than one night free.
    The fine print says “Free night calculated based on the average nightly value of the stay.” which is the same as the current GLON 20% off.

  6. I have a trip already booked to Rome and the Waldorf for July at the 50,000 point a night rate (3 nights). Since it’s already booked, would you assume I will only pay the points I booked at?

  7. @ Tim @ Carl — Yes, you can book at old rates for stays after March 28. I’ll update post to clarify that.

  8. CC for me from now on. There might still be some value left in HHonors but this is retarded devaluation.

    On the plus side, maybe the credit card bonuses will go up.

  9. But on the bright side the Batang Ai Longhouse will only be 5,000 points per night! I’ve got enough points for like three months, not including the free fifth nights.

  10. if this does go through ill offically end my diamond status with them and find a new program, its rediculious. I would rather start over than deal with this bullshit

  11. Oof. Time to cash out. Was really hoping to do the Conrad Koh Samui not sure i will have the points to get there now.

  12. Looks like they caught on to the folks who were redeeming points for aspirational travel- Conrad HK and Conrad Koh Samui + the Maldives get hammered hard.

  13. Great and I just got some HH cards, too. I think it’s about time to put a fork in hotel loyalty programs. Not worth it at all anymore.

  14. @Miguel – as stated above, you can still book later stays at the old rates until 3/28. After 3/28, the new rates take effect.

    I couldn’t use my 300k point balance for our spring break trip because the award rates were already ridiculous relative to Marriott (which also does 5th night free). Now it’s like they’re trying to become the SkyMiles of the hotel industry.

  15. I’m so happy I burned 225k miles for the Hilton Moorea late last year… never would have been able to get that hotel with upcoming rates.

    I am breaking up with Hilton after this latest gaffe. No point in staying loyal. Posted a blog about it: Goodbye Hilton Honors Program

  16. HILTON’s MONOPOLY Game has just been created Get your paper points just print baby print. They just became the worst currency in loyalty even worse than delta’s pesos in my eyes.
    95,000 pts just crazy stuff for a night.

  17. The thing that kind of disgusts me here is that I’m still going to get the Citi Hilton Reserve card for the gold status for my stays coming up. Three (paid) nights in Queenstown, NZ, and a four-night AXON at the Conrad in Hong Kong make the free Internet and breakfast worth the annual fee. Well, unless they’re devaluing elite benefits, too.

  18. But this has to happen, right? Too many credit cards and manufactured spend. Too much awareness to sustain previous award levels. Hilton, SPG, etc. aren’t in business to break even. There had to be a tipping point for giving away Gold the last 2 years and offering such a high value for AXON redemptions.

    HH points via CCs and transfers were coming a little too cheap…a Diamond with Surpass was getting ~30 pts/$ HH spend. Bloggers and CC companies were a little too effective.

    I think everything is regressing back towards 1% effective value for loyalty.

    Book now if you can.

  19. We should Not forget that Hilton also raised the qualification criteria to maintain elite status a few weeks ago. I am diamond with Hilton , now I am a happy diamond customer with Hyatt . Great customer-go-away campaign !!!

  20. @gobluetwo, thanks, but the problem is that I won’t have enough points (145k for Axon rewards) to book the hotel by then (still waiting on a 50k from Citi CC bonus to post in 2 weeks). The only option would be to manufacture $10k spending or so (which I’m not sure I’m willing to do).

  21. 1.I’m looking at a 2% cash back not being a bad idea?
    2.This should make the two nights with the reserve card even a better deal?

  22. There’s goes my plan to save all my hilton points for Maldives one day…might never happen with this current devaluation.

  23. You mentioned Priority Club and Starwood in addition to HHonors, but don’t forget about Marriott, their category shifts were also fairly substantial.

  24. Wow! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I was a Marriott Plat that was considering jumping ship after their recent devaluation. Hilton was one of the two options I was considering… thankfully I already have a AXON award booked for Conrad HK in Nov. Now, just Hyatt left to consider???

  25. @ Linda — I still think using the Starwood American Express and Chase Sapphire Preferred is a better return on spend than a 2% cash back credit card.

    @ Apu — Those have always been variable in nature, and it doesn’t look like they’ve said how that will change yet. I’ll post if I see anything on it.

  26. Lucky- Please do a followup post on the best ways/hotels to burn a big Hilton points stash before 3/28.

  27. This is disappointing but somewhat expected given the bonuses that come with credit cards in the US.
    I’ve burned some points on an extra night at the Conrad HKG, now I need to figure out what to do with the remaining 204k.
    This also means I’m less inclined to use Hilton for my RTW next year.

  28. Burning my hilton points for my RTW vac in Nov…Conrad HKG, Conrad Bali, Conrad Singapore, Conrad Maldives, Conrad Istanbul

  29. Usually when I read of a “devaluation” on Lucky or Gary or someone else’s blog, I scoff a bit because it just doesn’t seem that bad. This is not one of those times. “Horrible, horrible, horrible” is the understatement of the month.

  30. I have yet to get the Citi 50k card and AmEx Surpass. Hopefully those cards will have increased sign up bonuses.

    I would have paid the annual fee to keep the Citi Reserve card, but if I can manage to scrape and save for a few nights at the Maldives, I’m going to dump it after I take the trip.

  31. Tougher to get Diamond, tougher to rack up Hilton points with CC bonuses, and now the single worst devaluation I can ever remember in a relevant program

    The second these changes kick in Lucky, Hilton should get no more coverage on your blog than Priority Club or Choice Privileges, since they are now no more relevant.

    I surprised Amex and Citi are ok with this devlauation. Would hope they’d have a little more sway since their is no reason to ever spend money on their Hilton co-branded cards

  32. I emailed Jeff Diskin and the CEO and voiced my displeasure. I encourage you all to do the same. Without customers they have no job. I am no longer a customer at this time.

  33. Lucky,

    With Hilton going to 10 categories, I expect that growing the Home2suites brand is a major part of their strategy to fill in the low level categories. Are there any other areas under-represented on the award chart which would be filled by a potential new brand or takeover of non-Hilton brand?

  34. I sent a secured message to American Express, explaining the situation and urging them to relay their customers frustration at these changes to HHonors. I doubt it will be effective, but I am doing everythin I can think to make our thoughts heard.

  35. @Lucky,
    I agreed with you this is the worst devaluation among its peer hotels.

    I was lucky to already burn over 400,000 hhonors points last year (because I decided to give up my Hilton diamond) and have 300,000 pts left. I did not do it completely on purpose. At Niagara Falls, Ontario, CA, Hilton gives you a choice to book an award stay at a FallsView room (not a CityView room) that requires double hhonors points, while Marriott reserves all FallsView rooms for paid stays.

  36. I’m thinking about moving away from being part of any hotel loyalty program and just doing all my bookings on Points Hound and earning United miles.

  37. @Jason,
    That is not going to work. If you look at tripAdvisor.com, many people were angry and spoke publickly. I emailed my feedback many times. They kept silent, completely ignoring me at all.

    However, if you gives me their CEO’s email, I am willing to give it a try.

  38. I am sorry, my above message was for troy.

    @troy,
    That is not going to work. If you look at tripAdvisor.com, many people were angry and spoke publickly. I emailed my feedback many times. They kept silent, completely ignoring me at all.

    However, if you gives me their CEO’s email, I am willing to give it a try.

  39. This just stinks. GLON used to give 25% discount, I think. 5th night free is 20% at best, but less if you want a 6 or 7 night stay.

    Many properties seem to use the seasonal pricing to say that it’s high season year round. Conrad Rangali Island lists who entire year as high season and 95,000 points vs. 50,000 points before – and before it was 37,500 with GLON, now at best it will be 76,000/night – value is fully cut in half.

    Just terrible.

  40. This royally sucks. I have been aligning myself with Hilton for a while now. I am thankful I have all but one of my nights booked for a trip in May. The only night I have left to do is the Conrad HK. Guess I better get on that.

  41. This totally sucks. Aspirational award prices shoot up. I’m done doing paid nts at Hilton! Hilton now gets the label of Skypesos of Hotel loyalty programs. What happens to AXON and GLON redemptions?

  42. Lucky, in your opinion, is it even worth paying the annual fee for Gold status with the HHonors Reserve Card now, given the loyalty program devaluation?

  43. @ Antonio — I think so. The reason I started considering Hilton isn’t just because they have some decent aspirational properties, but rather because they have such a huge global footprint. The two main chains I’m loyal to are Hyatt and Starwood, and even between both of them many cities aren’t covered.

    So while I won’t make an effort to earn Hilton points anymore, I still plan on making a handful of stays with them per year. They have an amazing number of hotels in some cities, and the benefits of Gold status are fantastic given they can be had with a credit card that has a fairly low annual fee.

  44. I see, so no more points accumulation, but simply pay the fee for the benefits of when you do happen to stay there on a paid stay once in a while. Phrasing it that way, it sounds like Jeffrey Diskin is going to get exactly what he wants: Pay for status that is good enough to justify the fee, then use that loyalty almost exclusively on paid stays, and dramatically reduce the number of aspirational free stays redeemed by members.

  45. Ben, if may be so bold as to crosspost and try to incite backlash…

    After I posted to the HHonors Facebook Wall, my message was quickly suppressed. Another member quickly liked my post though, and I’ve been encouraged. If a “Facebook grievance page” is made, I’ll gladly like it. I’m posting the following and encourage you all to do the same. Feel free to copy verbatim, or use my hashtags. I do think the disappointment can reach far and wide.

    @HiltonHHonors @AmericanExpress @Citibank Years of business undermined by #HHonors devaluation. HHGold turns #disloyal, joins #boycott

  46. @ Antonio — That’s right. For example, I stayed at the Hilton London Heathrow T4 last night. It was the only decent option given that I was arriving at T4 and arriving from T3 the following morning. On that stay I got club lounge access and free internet, which almost justifies the annual fee on the card in and of itself.

    So maybe Hilton is getting what they want. Then again, they could have generated a lot more marginal business under the old program. But maybe that’s not what they wanted.

  47. I would disagree about the footprint being all that great.
    ..
    Hilton has nothing good in Paris, for example. At least nothing conveniently located. I would gladly burn the darn points on my French Open trip.

  48. @ THE Bruce Dickinson — They do have odd gaps in their portfolio. While they have nothing good in Paris they have 30+ hotels in London, exponentially more than the competition.

  49. True…and on that note I spotted a few properties here and there that I wouldn’t mind staying in that have not devalued at all. But still, my fake spending will now go on SPG and Carlson cards, and I’ll be sure to tell Amex about how their Surpass signup bonus will be a total waste on me.
    ..
    You can’t shift an existing reservation in time, right? Only cancel and rebook. I know everywhere I want to go this year, just not what exact days.

  50. Doubletree Guest Suites Times Square- Category 10? They must be crazy! Grand Wailea, yes. DT Suites Times Square, NO!

  51. @THE Bruce Dickinson, the Hilton Arc de Triomphe is a fantastic location in Paris, and a property that really treats elites well.

    My problem with this devaluation is, I’d love to dump Hilton and go somewhere else, but in many places, I don’t really have a better alternative, either because of a negotiated rate my company has with Hilton or just because a Hampton Inn is the best choice in the area where I’m traveling. Their giant footprint is going to keep me by default…

  52. Any idea if you use points and money reward for 4 nights at a Hilton, can that still qualify to get the 5th night free?

  53. Well, it does sound bad. The only good thing is that Helsinki Kalastajatorppa Hotel( my favorite!)requires only 30,000 points for a free night. I used my points for free nights in Helsinki, Innsbruck, Munchen and N.Y. I only have ~100,000 left,but I’m so glad now I used them last summer!

  54. This is the worst I have seen. I have been a loyal Hilton Honors member for years. Always going out of my way to find a Hilton. No longer. I will look to other hotels for a stay. Good bye Hilton you need to rethink how to keep customers.

  55. All the hotel chains seem to want to really hammer home the fact they don’t want their members staying at their luxury hotels on points anymore (or ‘hot’ areas like Santa Monica or Fishermans Wharf or Boston or NYC). Marriott just blacked out a TON of reward point dates for Ritz Carlton redemptions and WHEN you can find one that accepts reward points, it it between 100,000 and 125,000 points! (used to be 50K!) Priority Club moved Intercontinentals to 50,000 points from 25-35K but blacks out a lot of reward dates in desirable areas. Yikes … I guess business people who accumulate a lot of points during the year are just going to have to get used to a.) vacationing at Hampton Inn vs. Waldorf Astoria b.) vacation to places like Detroit, Newark and West Armpit, GA c.) Take a 1 or 2 night vacation instead of a 5 night vacation. I don’t know about you but paying 60,000 points per night in June for a Waldorff Astoria in Boca Raton that charges $159 per night soley because of the name on the receipt isn’t exactly my idea of a good swap.

  56. I seldom drop comments, however I read a lot of responses on this page Hilton adds award
    categories and introduces seasonal pricing as of March 28, 2013 – huge devaluation!

    – One Mile at a Time. I actually do have 2 questions for you if you do not mind.
    Could it be simply me or do some of the comments
    appear like they are written by brain dead visitors? 😛 And, if you
    are posting on additional places, I’d like to follow you. Would you make a list of all of your public pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

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