Hilton’s Dramatic Devaluation Comes March 28: Time to Unload My HHonors Points

Hilton devaluation: It is, apparently, hotel loyalty program devaluation season. Since the first of the year Priority Club introduced a new 9-tier reward chart, Starwood raised the price of cash and points awards, Marriott introduced a new more expensive award tier and a points price increase for 36% of their properties. Just this morning I shared news that we’ll get a new devalued Wyndham Rewards chart on March 14.

And in the coming days we should expect the annual category changes from Starwood. I would expect a whole lot more hotels to go up in category (and thus cost more points to redeem) than down, because their categories are tied to each hotel’s average room rates and prices have been on the rise.

That makes Hyatt’s changes — more hotels getting less expensive than more expensive and only 17 hotels affected overall — seem like a downright anomaly. Although as part of cleaning up little used benefits that are expensive to maintain they did Platinum Extras benefits and also eliminated Passport Escape awards.

Now it’s Hilton’s turn and their changes are really significant (i.e. bad).

Effective March 28 several changes go into effect.

  • Like Starwood and Marriott they will be offering fifth night free on awards – for elite members only but the benefit simply requires Silver status to obtain.

  • They will also be introducing a new award chart

  • And they will be introducing seasonal award pricing.

Currently there are (7) categories for all of their brands except Waldorf=Astoria properties.

Now they are going to have (10) categories, and seven of those will have separate high and low season prices.

Here’s the new award chart that will be going into effect:

Previously a category 7 property topped out at 50,000 points per night. Some of those hotels will now be category 10, where high season rates are 95,000 points per night. That’s a whopping 90% increase. Wow.

Here are the new and old award chart prices side-by-side:

There go the great values in the program. I used to value Hilton HHonors points at roughly half a cent apiece, recognizing of course that at the very top end I could do much much better — grabbing a $700+ ocean villa with private pool at the Conrad Koh Samui for instance for just 50,000 points per night. With award pricing now going as high as 95,000 points per night those amazing values are no more. The hotel now runs 80,000 points per night in February and March and 95,000 points per night the rest of the year.

The Conrad Hong Kong goes from 50,000 points to 80,000 points per night, year-round.

Among the full-service Hiltons in New York, the Hilton New York will range from 60,000 to 80,000 points per night, the Conrad New York from 70,000 to 80,000 points per night, and the Doubletree Guest Suites Times Square from 70,000 to 95,000 points per night. (That’s more than the Waldorf=Astoria which tops out at 80,000.)

At least they’ve published what category each hotel will be in in advance of the changes, something that Wyndham has failed to do.

Not yet announced, but this has to affect the valuable ‘AXON’ awards which offer 4 nights at a category 7 hotel for 145,000 points. Especially since category 7 is no longer the top redemption tier.

Of course you can make bookings now — including speculative bookings — at the current rates for future stays. Make your reservations now, cancel them within the cancel rules for your points back if you wind up not needing the reeservations. I really should be dropping my current half million point HHonors bank on some hotel nights just in case I want them, before they become much less valuable.

Ultimately more reward categories, and multiple prices within most but not all of those categories, complicates the program. And Hilton HHonors is already – by far- the most complicated program. They have ‘premium room awards’ and ‘cash and points’ awards but the prices of those vary. You can choose to earn points and fixed miles, points and variable miles, or points and points. And you don’t earn fixed miles on award nights, if you don’t change your earning style away from that when redeeming points you’ll leave points on the table. Just to give a few examples of the complexities that exist in their program before adding this new layer.

But in some ways none of this should be a surprise. Three years ago, Jeff Diskin who runs the HHonors program said he learned that he needed to keep members on the treadmill — running bonus promotions to give them more points and then charging more for room nights. Because members didn’t ‘get’ actual value.

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. Definitely got to get my awards in before the change, spend the rest of my HH points. Really bummed to because I finally made Diamond. I am going to shift to Starwood now.

  2. All I can say is that I am SO GLAD that I dumped my 800,000 points when I had the chance. I converted ’em all to AA miles back when all miles counted toward Million Miler status and haven’t looked back since. Haven’t darken the door of a Hilton property since then either. Good riddance.

  3. I recently spent 30k HHonors points a night at Conrad Hotel. Being gold membership wasn’t worth much even with the pathetic breakfast and service. Always had to go to the nearest starbucks for coffee and sandwich.

    I used 5k AA miles a night a a Thai hotel ( dusit partner) and the AA site was showing free breakfast & deluxe room upgrade. I enjoyed my stay at the Royal princess hotel and the large selection of breakfast menu and the unlimit coffee was awesome!

  4. Guess I won’t miss losing that free Gold status that Gary hooked us up with. Makes the Marriott deval look positively consumer friendly in comparison.

  5. It seems this is likely to have minimal or favorable impact to middle America.

    I just compared hhonors point per night cost at Clearwater Beach FL, Hilton Lake Buena Vista (Disney Orlando), Hilton Anaheim Convention Center (Disney CA), and Hiltons in DC (Capitol and Washinton Hilton). All had a negligible or favorable shift in point cost per night. In specific single months (based on prperty) there was a slight increase of 10k, offset by 10k decrease in the other months.

    As such, the shift mainly effects those that travel internationally orthose with hign asperational travel desires, not the average American family. Thus, the isn’t falling 🙂

  6. @Chris B.-the “average American family” doesn’t play the points game. And most probably don’t join and use hotel loyalty programs. These programs are largely for business travelers who want some sort of “payoff” for their long hours on the road. And they aren’t going to be happy about this.

  7. They don’t seem to want you getting good value from your points… Why don’t they just move to revenue earn, revenue redeem?

  8. The linked interview about keeping customers on the treadmill contains the most baffling levels of utterly incomprehensible corporate BS I’ve ever seen. Anyone who spoke in such a manner in my presence would be immediately fired.

    Hilton needs to dump Jeff Diskin before he destroys the company.

  9. Hey does anyone know if I can make a booking and change the date after April and use the points from the original booking so I don’t need to use the new chart? Thanks!

  10. I think emails and Facebook posts are useless. I’d suggest we all cancel our hh citicards and hh Amex cards on the same day- the day the points are devalued.

  11. The problem is here folks that unless Hilton changes course and that unlikely they have not only damaged their own program but that of all other programs who are likely to follow suit in the monkey see monkey do money grab

  12. I just got the Cith Hilton cards a few weeks ago. I guess like many I will merely use the promo points. SPG has always been my biggest program. I hope there are not any drastic cahnges there. A few years ago they had a big adjustment based on property star ratings. With SPG some hotels end up as much better values than others.

  13. I’ve written to both Hilton execs, I’ve “unfriended” hhonors on its Facebook site and sent it a message explaining why, and I’ve sent an email to Hhonors at its “support” page on the Hhonors web site. If thousands do the same, there will be an impact.

  14. @cory Any changes to existing reservations after the new chart goes into effect will result in the new price being applied. Maybe book consecutive nights separately so that you can cancel some if you decide to stay fewer nights? (If that’s one of the types of changes you’re thinking of.)

  15. I have 140k points, only 5k away from an AXON award! Since I’ve allocated almost all of this year’s vacation time for trips already, if I use them to book something before 3/28, it’ll have to be a domestic (I have the SW CP) trip on a long weekend. Any good, high-value candidates for this (if I’m able to get the remaining 5k points)??

  16. The best part of Hhonors for me was ease of getting Gold status. In particular, I loved using that status overseas to get upgraded rooms and access to the executive lounge, not to mention free wifi, breakfast, and 25% earning bonus.

    I don’t stay in hotels often enough to earn a high tier status the old fashioned way. My question is, what is the fastest and easiest way to get a worthwhile status level with one of the other hotel loyalty brands?

  17. Was perusing some high-end domestic Hilton properties yesterday looking for summer weekend getaways. Was noticing a lot of 70 and 80k redemption levels for standard-looking rooms. I’m pretty new to the game but the same properties were showing 50 just days ago. Did they roll this out in the system already?

  18. I have almost NEVER gotten a Hilton room at published rates anyway. Rooms that have a TOP redemption rate of 50,000 routinely go for 185,000 per night. No thanks. I dropped this program a long time ago.

  19. Hmm, OK. So I guess HHonors points are close to worthless now. I suppose the Citi Hilton Reserve card might still be worth having for the Gold status if you’re going to have a few Hilton stays per year, but spending on it is now out of the question, and the Amex cards are now useless. I wonder how the banks feel about this?

  20. Sweet! I guess, I’ll be the only member of HHonors, since my family destinations aren’t effected except to lower the per night cost.

    We put it all on the line during the year for the Hilton points, especially my drill weekend stays and spend on the AMEX Hilton card, to get a week at the beach in a nice hotel once per year. I’m grateful for the change, since I just saved 25,000+ for a four night stay, and got a free night to add to it! (145k AXON at cat 7 for 4 nights to 120k for four nights plus a fifth free!)

  21. I just called the Diamond desk at Hilton and found out
    they are eliminating the AXON and GLON rewards. I figure
    my 2 million honors points are now worth about 1/2 of
    what they were. What a ripoff! I just upgraded with
    Hilton and sure wish I had not!

  22. Just curious how so many think that Hyatt is going to fill the void.Hyatt locations are hit or miss domestically and internationally, but I do agree they know how to treat their elite members.If it works for you, do the move.
    I also agree with the suggestions to let Citi and Amex know you are not happy campers, but I doubt if this will change things.Hilton has been run by hardheaded maroons for quite some time now.
    For the time being, I’m sticking with Hilton for now since they treat me like royalty at the properties I frequent. But if they start messing with Gold and Diamonds benefits again,I will seriously consider switching over to another program.For what it’s worth, my only other choices happen to be Marriott and IHG and they haven’t exactly been member friendly either.

  23. “I just called the Diamond desk at Hilton and found out
    they are eliminating the AXON and GLON rewards.”

    Oh for the good old days of the 100k ALON award! At least I have some vacation videotapes and some stories of the golden age of FF programs.

    Ponzi schemes are so messy when they wind down…

  24. Despite being a Diamond for many years, I’d already decided to dump Hilton since they do not confer any sort of lifetime status to long time Diamond members, unlike Marriott and SPG. Now they pull a stunt like this, barely 3 or 4 years after the last round of devaluation. After spending my 1+ million HHonors points, I shall never stay at another Hilton property. See ya later (actually not ever again) Hilton!

  25. Regarding Hilton: I have directed a huge amount of credit card spend to AMEX with the agreement that I get a certain number of points for that spend, and that those points are worth a certain value. Now that value has been halved overnight. Although credit card companies- and for that matter hotel chains- do have the right to change their programs, my American Express card agreement stipulates a certain number of points awarded for certain spend. Now if those points can be halved in value with NO CHANGE to the cardholder agreement- is that even legal?? So, if all of us went out and purchased 100,000 American Airlines miles for example today, knowing that those 100,000 miles could be exchanged for a certain airline ticket with a certain monetary value, and suddenly tomorrow American Airlines would decide that an international F ticket now requires 200,000 miles instead of 100,000 when I purchased those miles yesterday for cash- is that legal? This would be a perfect example of suddenly changing redemption values and the implied associated monetary value- I ask you, would this be legal??
    I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that people are really outraged- from families saving up for a year and directing stays and spend for those points, to friends planning honeymoons, to those wanting aspirational stays- everyone really. The outrage is palpable. And most of all, it makes companies associating with this Hilton devaluation look UNTRUSTWORTHY. Hey American Express- take everyone for suckers for the past year, and now halve the value? Hmm Chase doesn’t have any programs that have decreased by half in value- why didn’t we spend with them? My point is: I think class action is entirely justified here, and I think that everyone should make a big stink about all of this. Really.

  26. @mj – I’m no lawyer, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that Hilton and AMEX probably had a whole slew of them go over these actions before they were taken. And I’m also gonna guess that, somewhere in the million page cardholder agreement you agreed to, was a statement that you were consenting to let AMEX and Hilton do whatever they heck they want to. So I’d not think there would be recourse. Is it outrageous? Absolutely. Are they going to lose a lot of business? Probably. Illegal or basis for a civil suit? Probably not.

  27. Class action seems warranted for this reason: let us imagine what would happen if suddenly tomorrow American Airlines required 200,000 miles for an international F ticket. I’d imagine that buried in the fine print of any Frequent Flyer program, there would also be supposed ‘terms’ whereby they can do ‘whatever they want’. But can you imagine the outrage? Now would this be legal? If airlines cannot overnight halve the value of their programs, can hotels really? And particularly if points are associated with credit cards providing x number of points at x value, which is halved in one day? I don’t think the issue is a clear-cut ‘no class action’. At best, Hilton has pissed off EVERYONE and lost most of its loyalty business (typical short-term gain mentality- I am certain that what they lose will be FAR more than the short-term revenue bump, but this will only be apparent from next year going forward- is Blackstone preparing a sale?), but at worst, I really wish some legal frequent guests would take a look at this and make a big stink. It is just unacceptable bait-and-switch. Period.

  28. Hey Gary,

    How do you figure out how many points a night will cost AFTER March 28th? The hotel I’m looking at is category 10 so the potential range is pretty wide depending on what they consider to be ‘high season’ (either just certain weeks of the year or virtually the entire year as others have mentioned)?

  29. Been a member since 1990 and have been extended diamond level for 10 years Also use a American Express Hilton Honors credit card, so would be interested how axon will be treated.

  30. Just went through and cancelled all of my reservations for the remainder of the year (had weekly reservations with Hilton) due to the devaluation of the points… This is a sad time to be loyal to Hilton, hello ?????

  31. Gary/anyone else that knows,

    is it possible to book in advance of the Mar 28th changes and cancel if I decide not to go? i.e. what is the cancellation policy for award stays?

  32. @Ken genereally yes, cancel policy varies by hotel but is usually fairly generous (mirroring standard paid rates)

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