Hilton HHonors Solves the Biggest Problem With Their Promotions

For the past 3 months, Hilton has been running their ‘Double Your HHonors’ promotion where you choose between earning double Hilton HHonors points and earning double miles.

As I wrote when the promotion was launched,

As with all Hilton properties a good chunk will be non-participating. In some sense that’s fine, this promotion isn’t lucrative enough to get you to move any business to a Hilton property. As a result, you’ll collect the bonus when it happens to apply and won’t collect it when you happen to stay at a non-participating property. It’s more points, but not so much that you should even pay attention to when you’ll get them.

The biggest problem with Hilton promotions is the often greater than 1000 hotels that do not participate.

They’ve brought back ‘Double Your HHonors’ for June through August (registration required) and this time there are no non-participating hotels.

The promotion itself still isn’t all that lucrative, but it’s tremendous progress that all Hilton HHonors hotels participate.

Starwood often has promotions with plenty of non-participating hotels. When they’ve done global promotions, that’s required that the bulk of funding come from the progam itself rather than from the properties. (As a result, those tend to be less generous promotions.)

I’m curious how Hilton managed to re-run the same promotion with all hotels onboard. But kudos to them for doing that.

Double Hilton points is almost always the better bet than double miles

Now that there’s no longer a ‘points and fixed miles’ earning style at Hilton, you earn either ‘points and points’ or ‘points and variable miles.’ If you’re earning miles, it’s normally one mile per dollar.

So if you choose double miles, you earn an extra one mile per dollar. If you choose double points, you earn an extra 10 Hilton points per dollar. While Hilton points aren’t exceptionally valuable, Hilton points are worth about 4/10ths of a cent apiece and so 10 Hilton points are worth 4 cents. There’s no single airline mile worth 4 cents.

If you do want double miles though you need to have selected “Points and Miles” as your earning style preference and must have an airline partner selected.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Don’t start me with HH ! I signed up for this doubles promotion in March and booked a room (near my home) solely to earn enough miles to gain an Award flight with United. I double and triple checked that the hotel was eligible by email and that my HH would save the double miles to my United account.. then…
    Apart from the fact it was the most miserable hotel experience in years, HH has told me that I as hadn’t “linked” my accounts prior to the promotion that they would only offer HH points! Have written 3 times to HH but they are refusing to budge and ignoring my previous correspondence with their staff who didn’t advise me to do so! I wont be staying with them again! Back to Hyatt for me!

  2. Virgin australia velocity maybe worthwhile with this double miles as they credit ordinarily 2 (miles) points per dollar spent. With this promotion I would expect it to be as with previous recent similar double promotions where you get four points miles per.

  3. @Gary sez: “I’m curious how Hilton managed to re-run the same promotion with all hotels onboard. But kudos to them for doing that.”

    You “wonder” because the whole claim about how awful Hilton promos have been in past because too many of properties opting out was always an exaggeration. The truth of the matter is that only mom & pop properties (Homewood Suites, Hilton Garden Inn) ever opted out; never the important ones, amd very few properties in Asia opted out.

    In short, you “wonder” because you do not know as much about HHonors you may think… That is why as a HHonors Diamond and Hilton aficionado, I can assure your readers that the extension of this promo is truly lucrative, not only because one doubles the points with every stay, but also because it will be running concurrently with other selected promos (e.g., 3 promos for staying at Conrad or W=A) that can result in one earning an insane number of points. For instance, I spent just 4 nights at Conrad Chicago last month and earned 150K HH points because of the concurrent promos, which included the one that just got extended. I have a 7-night stay coming up at Conrad Hong Kong at the end of June – early July from which I can now expect to earn what may be a record number of points from a single stay because of the ongoing selected promos for stays at Conrads and this extension of “double your honors” promo. In fact, HHonors promos have been so lucrative this year that I am looking to hauling in a record ~1,000,000 HH points, up from ~700,000 the last two years

    Simply lucrative!

  4. @DCS no, I ‘wonder’ because of the economics of the deal — whether HHonors needs to fund the whole thing themselves vs picking up only a portion of the tab, whether they’ve found a formula with modest enough expense to offer lucrative promotions when they want to while still working with all of their franchises within those agreements.

    This is not at all lucrative, though it’s better than no promo, and they’ve managed to do that without having a thousand non-participating properties as they often do.

  5. @Gary — I will be sure to let you know after I have hauled in a record number of points in a single year this year because of the truly lucrative HHonors promos, everyone of which you have thumbed your nose at.

    Stay tuned!

  6. Doing anything in HHonors generates large numbers of points because the chart and earn structure is so inflated. I bet you like Zimbabwe currency too? 🙂

  7. You do not understand what “inflation” means or you would not be repeating that silly statement.

    Consider this:

    US$1,000 = 1,000,000 South Korean Won.

    According you the SK Won is an inflated currency because it requires so much of it, except that the actual inflation rate of the SKW is barely different thanthat of the USD.

    About that silly statement?

    Q.E.D 😉

  8. “Inflated” and “inflation” are two different words.

    The former refers to the price level as a result of past decisions while the latter refers to the rate of change.

    Point remains, you can say you earn a whole lot of HHonors points but that’s not super meaningful because their top hotels cost nearly 100,000 points for a single night. (They have an earn rate to match, more or less — it only takes a little more in-hotel spend to earn a top night at Hilton compared to Marriott or Hyatt — but that’s my point, your reference was to the absolute number and given that Hilton points are on an almost logarithmic scale such that it’s not a meangingful statement.)

  9. Haven’t bloggers ever heard of currency converters!

    That the top HH award rate is 95K points and Hyatt’s is 30K points is compensated for precisely by the fact that one earns 3.1 times more HH points than one does GP points for the same spend, so that Hilton’s top award rate is exactly the same as Hyatt’s…

    How many times does this have to be said and demontrated before it sinks in??!!

  10. I’m curious as to how much money dcs, or whomever is paying the bill, has to spend to earn those whopping points. The only reason I earn Hilton points is because I stay there on occasion. The cost to earn a point vs. what you have to use to get a “free” room is absurd with Hilton.

  11. All hyperbolic statements aside, my experience is that I can always get at least 30 hhonors points per dollar of Hilton spend. So to get ones of those fancy 90,000 point rooms requires $3000 of Hilton spend. If that’s a room that sells for $600 (Miami Bentley, some WAs, Koh Samui, etc.), just to pick a realistic high price that produces easy math, then you’re talking about 20% back. Cash & points redemptions or 5th night free stays at low-category properties can stretch the points further. I know that people value different things and have different allegiances but I have always gotten good return on my Hilton spend, even post deval, just as long as I am patient and judicious with how I pull the points (e.g. NOT pulling the trigger on 40k/night airport HGI redemptions).

  12. @Gary — well, now you know that just because numbers are big does not mean that they ‘nflated’…gotta first do a unit conversion!

  13. @christine — Hilton’s spend per free night ratio is the same as Hyatt’s or Marriott’s and infinitely better than SPG’s. Only IHG and Club Carlson have better spend per free night ratio… Really 😉

  14. @DCS sorry but you do not include cobrand credit card earn in the analysis. First because of opportunity cost. Putting the stay on a hotel’s card gives up the points earned on another card. You don’t use a Starwood card currently outside the US because of forex fees. You don’t use a Hyatt card in the US at a full service Hyatt because the SPG biz card gives 5% back via OPEN. Also because it is too US-centric and because not everyone can get the cards.

    The Travel Codex analysis is useful, though I prefer my approach, since that one weights each property in a chain equally and exaggerates the effects of Hilton ‘ s low end properties and being cheaper than everyone at the low end except Club Carlson. I prefer to look at the cost to redeem by property type and not let the distribution of properties affect the analysis.

  15. From the modeling done by a travel blogger at the first link that I provided in the preceding comment, which will appear as soon as the links are found to be kosher:

    “we can see what I’ve shown before, that Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott all have award charts that are similarly priced. The fact that Hilton may sometimes charge up to 95,000 points for an award night is compensated for [by] the fact that it can offer 15 points per dollar, while Hyatt offers only 5 points per dollar. Starwood, however, has some incredibly high-priced awards among its top tiers, while IHG Rewards and Club Carlson may offer significant value even after Club Carlson’s recent devaluation.”

    That conclusion is the same that I reached after modeling the spend required for a free night only at the top end of the award charts for the 6 major hotel loyalty programs…

  16. @Gary — I completely disagree with the notion that co-branded CCs should not be included. It is precisely why anyone who is serious about playing the mile/point game to win must have a CC that’s co-branded for every loyalty program that they patronize, because it is surest way to maximize one’s earning since the biggest return on co-branded CCs is on spend done at the associated program! I use the HHonors AMEX Surpass overseas even though it has a foreign transaction fee because (a) the HH Citi Reserve visa has not reliable AT ALL in awarding points I earned from spend at HHonors properties, and (b) the Surpass awards so many points/$ that it easily makes up for the forex fee!

    Your claims are precisely why I mistrust much of what passes for travel blogosphere dogma!

  17. @DCS: “The truth of the matter is that only mom & pop properties (Homewood Suites, Hilton Garden Inn) ever opted out….”

    Ok, DCS, I’m calling you out on this one. The rate at which Hilton properties have been opting out has been getting out of control, which was the primary point that Gary was making in this post. In the latest promo, before the extension that included all properties, almost *800* properties had opted out. There were 63 non-participating properties in California alone, including almost every property in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego area. 82 of them in Texas, including most of the Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio properties. 64 of them in Florida, including most of Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, and Orlando. Virtually every Hilton property in Albuquerque, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Indianapolis, Memphis, New Orleans, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Raleigh-Durham, Seattle, St. Louis, and Washington, DC. Because of opt-out rates like this, I’ve been earning virtually no bonus points from any of the HHonors promotions of the past few years.

    Oh, sure, in each of those cities most of the really expensive Hilton properties participated in the promotions (though not in San Diego, where I’ve been needing to stay frequently in the past few months). But guess what, DCS: not everybody gets to stay in those expensive hotels. A lot of us are required by our employers to book less expensive hotels, or are paying out of our own pockets and can’t afford the expensive hotels.

    So while you can crow about your amazing suite upgrade rate and the hundreds of thousands of points you’re raking in at your upscale Conrads, Hiltons, and Waldorf-Astorias in Asia and major US cities, that’s not indicative of the experience of a lot of HHonors members. A lot of us are members because we need to travel to places where the “mom & pop” HGIs and Homewoods are the best options in town — for example, where my parents live in Indiana, or out in the suburbs of major cities where a lot of my business clients are located. And then after earning our Diamond status by grinding out 50+ nights at Hamptons, Homewoods, and HGIs, when we redeem our hard-earned points for a vacation stay at a nice Hilton, most often the best upgrades we’re seeing is to standard rooms on the club level.

    It’s great that you’re able to get such amazing benefits from Hilton, DCS. I’ll admit that I envy you. But trust me, your experience is exceptional.

  18. Please look at the list of properties that’d previously opted out of this promo in, say, California and notice that most, in fact, are NOT in LA or SFO per se, but rather in the ‘burbs or more remote areas:

    Then read my take on it.

    As a franchise in which anyone can purchase a property and affiliate it with the Hilton name and everything else that goes with the brand, individual Hilton properties enjoy a lot of autonomy or independence, as long as the business model remains true to the brand. What that exposes, however, is how Americans and other “Westerners” who affiliate a property with Hilton Worldwide are different from almost everyone else around the world: they refuse to play ball when it comes to the loyalty aspects of Hilton. They do not see HHonors as a moneymaker; instead, they feel like it creates self-entitled, insufferable “elite” guests. As result, if you go down the list of non-participating properties you will see that a large number of them are “rural” (loosely defined) America where such a mentality is prevalent. Properties in most large metropolitan cities did not opt out, nor did any of the “world class” or big-name properties that deal with all kinds of people and must be open-minded.

    There: I just explained why service/elite recognition seems so limited [read: bad] at properties in the US compared to, say, Asia, where almost no property opts out of HH promos…;-)

    The comparison with, say, Hyatt is meaningless because Hyatt owns most of their properties and their footprint is only 1/8th that of Hilton. 18% of Hyatt properties opting out would be a big deal. 18% of Hilton properties opting out is not…

  19. @DCS, I don’t agree with you w/r/t your characterization of the number and type opting out. I can’t cite properties and dates, but I’m sure that many and various brands opt out.

    I haven’t stayed at Hiltons for the points in recent years, having been a Diamond for several. The devaluations killed that aspiration in me. No, I don’t stay in W=A or Conrads. The worst of it is right now in the Southern California area where I did a search of award availability, out into the hinterlands. Searched many dates throughout the summer. There was sparse availability at all properties for points. Moreover, in several instances where there is availability at a Hampton, it’s going for … wait for it … 77,000 points (a couple at “77,039”). I saw less than five for 30,000 or 35,000. I think they were in Ontario.

    I’m happy with the quality of the experience and reach. And I’ll stick with them for Gold for free breakfast and wifi, and sign up for promotions. But as Gary indicates, I’ll look at everything besides the points when deciding.

  20. @Firewind sez: “I haven’t stayed at Hiltons for the points in recent years, having been a Diamond for several. The devaluations killed that aspiration in me.”

    Except that every single program out there did devalue their points in recent years to where, as discussed above, “…Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott all have award charts that are similarly priced. The fact that Hilton may sometimes charge up to 95,000 points for an award night is compensated for [by] the fact that it can offer 15 points per dollar, while Hyatt offers only 5 points per dollar. Starwood, however, has some incredibly high-priced awards among its top tiers, while IHG Rewards and Club Carlson may offer significant value even after Club Carlson’s recent devaluation.”

    Please blame the death of your aspiration on something else because the purported “Hilton devaluations” could not possibly have been the ‘assassin’ when HHonors award cost the same as or less than those of their competitors’…

    My prior comment, when it is released, will address your issue with properties that opt out of promos…

  21. @DCS how is the idea that Hilton properties think of elites as freeloaders and opting out of HHonors promotions not a big deal? I’m glad you finally concede that elite recognition from HHonors is largely an Asia Pacific phenomenon!

  22. @DCS — Hilton does not “think”. Hilton is just the franchisor. It’s the owners of the franchised and largely autonomous properties that opt out, who think of elites are freeloaders. That is why their opting out should be seen a Good Thing. Some 800 largely “rural” properties out of a total of 3.7K properties in the US opting does not seem like the worst deal to me…

  23. BTW, it should be news to no one that elite recognition is best in Asia-Pacific for virtually every major loyalty program…

  24. @DCS – …and it’s always been where most of the very low – “Category 1” – redemptions are that allow the programs to lead with them: “As low as … points to a free night!” Not exactly loss leaders, but they serve the purpose.

  25. It seems that DCS’s concept of a rural hotel is a bit warped. As I pointed out, almost every Hilton property in many very urban settings of the US except for the expensive Conrad, Hilton, and W=A hotels opted out. So as long as you’re not one of those 47-percenter freeloaders staying at the less expensive properties, you’ve made out very well with Hilton promotions the past few years.

    However, for those of us in the hoi polloi, Gary’s original point is quite valid: it’s a breath of fresh air to have a Hilton promotion where all properties participate.

  26. @Ken — Hyperbole does not advance the debate one bit.

    How many Conrads and W=As are there in the US? There are some 3,700 Hilton properties in the US. Just 800 opted out across 50 states so that there should remain plenty to choose from!!!

    Can we just take a deep breath and relax? Hilton just extended the promo and not a single property opted out this second time around. Be happy!

    In fact, after Hilton issued their first “targeted” promo of the year and announced that every property would be participating, I’d commented at the time on One Mile at a Time that Hilton may start to flex some muscle and require properties not to opt our unless they had a compelling justification. This is the first promo since and things look good, so be happy!

    BTW, Hilton is doing so well financially at the moment that they can pretty much dictate to their franchisees what do to…or be kicked out of the system. Money talks and, if I am right, bullshit would stop walking and we’ll see fewer properties opting out of promos until the next economic downturn… 😉


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