2013 seems to be the year of the significant hotel loyalty program changes. Unfortunately, many of these changes have been negative- including Starwood’s inflation of Cash & Points and Marriott’s mass category increase.
Hilton joined that club today, introducing new program changes effective March 28, 2013 which include new tiers (read: more expensive redemptions) and seasonal pricing (read: more expensive redemptions), but also a 5th night free benefit for elite members, which could be a good option for those who can’t leverage their AXON and GLON award redemptions.
Key changes from the announcement page:
- 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.
What does this actually mean?
1) Reward categories: Currently there are 8 categories: 7 + Waldorf Astoria & Resorts
|Hotel category||HHonors Points required for 1 free night|
|Waldorf Astoria™ Hotels & Resorts||50,000–80,000|
The new chart will have 10 categories. You can see what hotels will be in which category in this PDF.
|HOTEL CATEGORY||HHONORS POINTS REQUIRED FOR ONE FREE NIGHT|
|4||20,000 to 30,000 Points|
|5||30,000 to 40,000 Points|
|6||30,000 to 50,000 Points|
|7||30,000 to 60,000 Points|
|8||40,000 to 70,000 Points|
|9||50,000 to 80,000 Points|
|10||70,000 to 95,000 Points|
While awards start at only 5,000 points, most desirable hotels seem to be going up in the amount of points needed. I’ve been banking points for Conrad Maldives and Conrad Koh Samui stays. Right now both are 50,000 points a night (as low as 37,500 with elite status GLON discounts) and in the new chart they will both be category 10 properties, requiring an astonishing 70,000- 95,000 points per night!
To find out how many points a hotel will be in the new program, check out http://hhonorspointssearchtool.com/. I searched for Conrad Maldives for February and it showed 95,000 points a night- a whopping 90% increase from the current 50,000 points required. I searched different months, hoping for cheaper off-peak stays, but it seems to be 95,000 points a night all year long, which is a stunning increase in the amount of points required.
They are trying to temper this with the news that the 5th night will be free on awards, similar to what Starwood and Marriott already offer. They also don’t mention how AXON (special award pricing for Amex Hilton cardholders) and GLON (discounts for elite member) awards will be affected. Currently, GLON awards for elites offer the following discounts:
Four-night stay: 15% discount
Five-night stay: 20% discount
Six-night stay or longer: 25% discount
So a 5-night stay already earns a 20% discount, which is the same as fifth night free. Something tells me that GLON awards will be going away and we will lose the discount on 4- and 6-night stays and we will have to arrange stays in blocks of 5 days to maximize the discount. If AXON and GLON still remain, that would be great news, though I am skeptical.
What is also concerning/annoying, is that there are no stated rules around seasonal pricing and they simply point you to the point search tool, so I’m going to play around with it and try to figure out more details, so stay tuned.
Overall, I’m hugely disappointed with these changes and I foresee a quick end to my initial love affair with Hilton. I just got Diamond status for hitting $40,000 in spend on my Citi Hilton Reserve card and I have a bunch of points racked up from the past 1:2.7 Amex to Hilton transfer bonus (Via Virgin Atlantic), but I plan to use all my points and free nights before these consumer-unfriendly new changes go into effect March 28, 2013 – and I suggest anyone with firm plans do the same since you can still book rooms up to March 28 at the old rates, even for reservations beyond that date, but once we get to March 28, the new rates will go into effect.
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