Huge Improvements to the Hilton HHonors Program May Be On Their Way!

Deals We Like says that Hilton HHonors is going to be introducing three new features to their program that look like they could be huge improvements, addressing areas that are sorely lacking. I haven’t verified any of this with Hilton directly, and I’ll be trying to get more information in the coming days, but in the meantime I thought I’d pass this along.

First is a cash and points awards option. Starwood and Priority Club already let you redeem awards for fewer points with a cash co-pay. With Priority Club, any award night can be had with a cash co-pay instead of full points, usually a pretty good deal. Starwood offers a better value still, but it’s capacity controlled. Hotels get the same reimbursement more or less for cash and points stays as on award stays, but they don’t get extra money on a cash and points stay when the hotel is full the way they do on a standard award night. As a result, Starwood hotels generally limit the availability of cash and points only to nights when they don’t expect to be full. The Hilton program looks similar — and a great deal, if/when available.

With new Points & Money Rewards, you can redeem points with a combination of points with money to book a standard room. Availability of Points & Money Rewards varies by participating hotels and stay dates at time of booking. Essentially you need to use half the number of points than a normal award. See the chart below to see the number of points and cost associated with each category.

Hotel Category Points & Money Rewards
Category 1: Unavailable
Category 2: 2 6,250 Pts + US$30
Category 3: 12,250 Pts + US$40
Category 4: 15,000 Pts + US$50
Category 5: 17,500 Pts + US$60
Category 6: 20,000 Pts + US$70
Category 7: 25,000 Pts + US$85
Waldorf Astoria® Hotels & Resorts: 30,000 Pts + US$100

Second is premium room awards. Currently with Hilton, like Priority Club, you can only use your points for a basic entry level room. (Elite upgrades still apply on award nights, unlike the official terms and conditions of Priority Club.) Starwood, Marriott, and Hyatt all allow you to spend additional points to confirm higher-level rooms, and this is a really big deal, plenty of members don’t want to redeem their points for a nice resort vacation and then face the parking lot!

You can now use HHonors points to book premium rooms and suites for stays all year round at our hotels worldwide. You can reserve our best rooms and confirm them at the time of booking, with no blackout dates. As long as a premium room or suite is available at the time of booking, it is yours to book using points. The number of points required to redeem Premium Room Rewards varies by room, hotel, and booking date.

It remains to be seen what the better rooms will cost but it’s been a sorely needed feature of the HHonors program.

Finally, upgrade awards, use your points for better rooms on paid stays. And this is for a guaranteed upgrade, not an upgrade based on availability at checkin. Of course, devil is in the details of pricing but it appears that these awards will not be capacity controlled.

Personally I’m just glad this was posted on April second or else I might think – at least until I can verify the information – that it was an April Fools joke. Because it would appear that Hilton is really beginning to plug the big holes in their program. (They just need to improve their Diamond elite program, to incorproate suite upgrades as an elite benefit, but at least program members should actually be able to access those better rooms with their points finally!)

Update: This link brings up a FAQ for the new HHonors benefits described above. It’s really glitchy, asking for username and password, but when you just keep clicking cancel a ton of times you’ll eventually just see the website with detailed Q&A. (HT: RicGarrido at Milepoint.)

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, 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. At some international Hilton locations, Hilton Diamonds are actually given suites, so I hope this does not change their upgrade policy. What would be great are 4 confirmed suite upgrades per year as Hyatt provides Diamonds. The advantage to the HHonors program is the large number of Hilton branded locations, and they are continuously expanding.

  2. Hilton certainly provided a 2011 response to Priority Club’s 2010 Big Loser campaign. Priority Club announces a relaunch this past week with virtually no new substantive program benefits except Last Minute Reward Nights and HHonors implements some true member-friendly benefits to HHonors loyalty program.

  3. If they have a reasonable cash and points program I think they can take Starwood head on. The only thing they probably need to improve to totally triumph is the points to miles exchange rates.

  4. If this is correct and I think it is, it’s good to see Hilton making changes. IMO Hilton needs to make more changes to the Diamond program. Presently there are no significant differences between Gold and Diamond other than the increase in base points per stay. Golds are allowed upgrades if available. Guests can pay extra for Executive level access reglardless of HH status. A lot of Hiltons no longer have Executive levels. Diamond benefits are not that great at the present time. Again IMO there needs to be a big difference between Diamond benefits and Gold benefits since the criteria to reach each is significant. Executive lounges at current Hiltons somtimes get overrun with to many guests at the same time, especially from guests paying extra to stay on that floor. Other reward programs seem to have more destinction between tier levels. Diamond is Hilton’s top tier and as so it needs to be more specific on benefits just for Diamonds. It isn’t easy to obtain and a Diamond needs to be rewarded for the loyality. Hilton is and always is my first choice, I just think it’s overdue for updated Diamond benefits. Again, JMO.

  5. I think Hilton’s Gold status is the best of any major hotel program. It provides one with free intrnet, free breakfast, and access to an upgrade or an upgrade to the Executive floors. I don’t want Hilton to devalue the Gold tier, rather, I think it would be good for some added benefits to the Diamond tier like 4 confirmed suite upgrades per year as Hyatt Diamond.

  6. Does this cash and mile option be applied to point stretcher Hotels/Rooms (40% off point requirements) as well? That will be good.

  7. I agree Gold is very good, but frustrating to some of us Diamonds when we don’t see much difference in Tiers.

  8. I’m really looking forward to these, as well as the 2nd quarter SAMPAIWH promo (Share all my personal information with hackers) 😉

  9. I am trying to book a reward stay at the Grand Wailea in Maui and seem like there’s a big problem. Is this just technical? the customer rep told me to call back again and I should be able to book my stay for August 2011. Any details? Thanks.

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