Travel Tuesday Top 10: Ways to Burn Your Hilton Points Before D(evaluation) Day March 28, 2013

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This past weekend at the LA Times Travel Show, I was doling out high-fives to several readers who stopped by to share their stories of recently burning soon-to-be-devalued Hilton points on upcoming redemptions before the imminent program changes come into effect. Sadly, even after the announcement of category reorganization and additions that will make high-end redemptions ridiculously expensive, it looks as though other aspects of the HHonors program will change too.

The devaluation announcement Hilton sent out to HHonors members.
The devaluation announcement Hilton sent out to HHonors members.

As a reminder, currently there are 8 categories: 7 + Waldorf Astoria & Resorts, requiring 7,500- 50,000 point (a few Waldorf resorts are up to 80,000 points a night).

The new chart will have 10 categories. You can see what hotels will be in which category in this PDF. You can see how much a specific property will be charging after the changeover by using Hilton’s point search tool (I used this to determine the points rates cited below).

HOTEL CATEGORY HHONORS POINTS REQUIRED FOR ONE FREE NIGHT
1 5,000 Points
2 10,000 Points
3 20,000 Points
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

In addition, though it has not been confirmed yet except anecdotally, it looks as if a new 5th Night Free redemption benefits for HHonors elite members (including Silver, Gold and Diamond status) will get a free night when they  book a Standard Room Reward stay of five or more consecutive nights.

It looks as if this 5th Night Free will replace both AXON and GLON reduced-rate awards, though Hilton has not confirmed this officially as of posting.

AXON awards are special rates for American Express cardholders available on stays in multiples of four nights (so 4 nights, 8 nights, 12 nights, etc.), and are applicable only to Categories 5, 6, and 7 hotels, as follows:

AXON5 (four nights in a Category 5 hotel) = 125,000 points
AXON6 (four nights in a Category 6 hotel) = 125,000 points
AXON7 (four nights in a Category 7 hotel) = 145,000 points

GLON redemption rates are available to any Hilton HHonors elite member. Since Silver status is complimentary with the Hilton Amex, every cardholder has access to these rewards. These redemptions simply start at four nights and offer greater discounts for longer stays. They also include Category 3-7 properties plus Waldorf Astoria hotels as well. I covered the basics in my credit card post, but the discounts are as follows:

Four-night stay: 15% discount
Five-night stay: 20% discount
Six-night stay or longer: 25% discount

Credit Card Changes

Not only that, but both the Hilton Card from American Express and the Hilton HHonors Surpass card will both be reconfiguring their bonus spending categories to exclude drugstores altogether and replace that category with restaurants as well as changing the earning ratios on their spending categories.

Now Is The Time

So there are a lot of changes coming down the pike, which means there’s no better time to redeem your Hilton points. I’ve got a boatload from transferring from Virgin Atlantic earlier this year. Just because the points levels are changing on March 28, 2013, if you book your stay before then, you will be booking at the current rates, and as Lucky just wrote, you can find award availability well into 2015 now, so if you have set travel plans, you stand a good chance of being able to book your stays at the current (mostly lower) rates. Award stays are generally completely refundable. However if you change your reservation after March 28, it will be repriced at new levels, so you’re going to want to use your points for trips you’re actually going to take.

Here are top 10 Hilton properties on my list to book before the devaluation occurs. All of them are high end, but feel free to share your own thoughts on others that are really good value, especially compared to where they’ll be post March 28.

1. Conrad Maldives: This gorgeous resort is actually top of my list, and was the reason I converted all those Virgin Atlantic miles in the first place. It’s got beautiful overwater villas, and underwater restaurant, a spa that looks incredible and is consistently highly rated. Currently this is a top-tier Category 7 hotel that requires 50,000 points for a standard free night award. After the devaluation, it will be a top-tier Category 10 hotel, requiring between 95,000 points for a free night, a 90% increase over current rates. With current GLON rates for elites, a 5-night stay would incur a 20% discount, so your overall points outlay would be 200,000 HHonors points. If you have a Hilton Amex and can take advantage of AXON awards, you would pay a total of 195,000 points (four nights for 145,000 plus one night at 50,000). With Hilton’s new system, elites will get a fifth night free when redeeming 4 award nights, so your overall outlay would be 380,000 – a 90% increase over current levels.

Instead of 50,000 points per night, you'll be spending 70-95,000 points to stay at the Conrad Maldives.
Instead of 50,000 points per night, you’ll be spending 70-95,000 points to stay at the Conrad Maldives.

2. Conrad Koh Samui: Another tropical Asian resort, this one is situated on the southwestern tip of Koh Samui, and the hotel’s hillside position overlooks nearby Aow Thai Beach. The resort features 80 free-standing villas, all with private balconies and views over the Gulf of Thailand.

The Conrad Koh Samui in Thailand is another great option to burn some points.
The Conrad Koh Samui in Thailand is another great option to burn some points.

Currently this is a top-tier Category 7 hotel that requires 50,000 points for a standard free night award. After the devaluation, it will be a top-tier Category 10 hotel, requiring between 80,000-95,000 points for a free night, potentially a 90% increase over current rates. With current GLON rates for elites, a 5-night stay would incur a 20% discount, so your overall points outlay would be 200,000 HHonors points. If you have a Hilton Amex and can take advantage of AXON awards, you would pay a total of 195,000 points (four nights for 145,000 plus one night at 50,000). With Hilton’s new system, elites will get a fifth night free when redeeming 4 award nights, so your overall outlay would be between 320,000-380,000 – a 64-90% increase over current levels.

3. Conrad Tokyo: On the city side of the spectrum, this Tokyo hotel is the top of my list. From its position 37 stories above Shiodome, the hotel offers views of the Tokyo Bay skyline, the extensive Hamarikyu Gardens and a former royal residence. The hotel features 290 rooms and suites, 4 restaurants and Tokyo’s largest spa and fitness center.

A room at the Conrad Tokyo will soon cost you up to 95,000 points for a free night.
A room at the Conrad Tokyo will soon cost you up to 95,000 points for a free night.

Currently this is a top-tier Category 7 hotel that requires 50,000 points for a standard free night award. After the devaluation, it will be a top-tier Category 10 hotel, requiring between 80,000-95,000 points for a free night, potentially a 90% increase over current rates. With current GLON rates for elites, a 5-night stay would incur a 20% discount, so your overall points outlay would be 200,000 HHonors points. If you have a Hilton Amex and can take advantage of AXON awards, you would pay a total of 195,000 points (four nights for 145,000 plus one night at 50,000). With Hilton’s new system, elites will get a fifth night free when redeeming 4 award nights, so your overall outlay would be between 320,000-380,000 – a 64-90% increase over current levels.

4. Grand Wailea: This Waldorf Astoria property on Maui is a popular US vacation choice. It underwent a $50-million renovation  in 2009 and has 780 guest rooms and suites, starting at 640 square feet. The hotel’s Spa Grande is 50,000 square feet and the largest spa in Hawaii. Guests have access to the Wailea Gold, Wailea Emerald, and Wailea Blue golf courses, as well as the Wailea Tennis Center. The hotel has nine pools connected by a water features including whitewater rapids, The Wailea Canyon pool has six waterfalls and a swim-up bar, while the Hibiscus Pool is adults only. Kids ages 5-12 can participate in Camp Grande activities. The hotel offers six restaurants including Hawaiian celebrity chef Alan Wong called Amasia which serves Asian fusion cuisine.

Want to swim at the Grand Wailea? Book sooner rather than later!
Want to swim at the Grand Wailea? Book sooner rather than later!

As a Waldorf Astoria, the hotel currently charges 50,000-80,000 HHonors points for award nights. It will soon be a Category 10 hotel charging between 70,000-95,000 points per night. With current GLON rates for elites, a 5-night stay would cost between 200,000-320,000 points, while future fifth night free rates under the new categories will cost 280,000-380,000 points, a 20-40% increase. AXON awards are not available here.

5. Conrad NYC: The Conrad New York opened in March 2012 as the first Conrad location in NYC. The 463 all-suite hotel is set in the city’s Battery Park neighborhood and rises 16 stories above the Hudson River.

A Conrad New York Guest Room will be much more expensive after the devaluation.
A Conrad New York Guest Room will be much more expensive after the devaluation.

Currently this is a top-tier Category 7 hotel that requires 50,000 points for a standard free night award. After the devaluation, it will be a Category 9 hotel, requiring between 70,000 – 80,000 points for a free night, potentially a 60% increase over current rates. With current GLON rates for elites, a 5-night stay would incur a 20% discount, so your overall points outlay would be 200,000 HHonors points. If you have a Hilton Amex and can take advantage of AXON awards, you would pay a total of 195,000 points (four nights for 145,000 plus one night at 50,000). With Hilton’s new system, elites will get a fifth night free when redeeming 4 award nights, so your overall outlay would be between 280,000-320,000 – a 44-64% increase over current levels.

6. Hilton Whistler: Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa is located in the heart of Whistler village, just steps from the Whistler and Blackcomb Mountain chairlifts and next to the Whistler Conference Center.

The often expensive Hilton Whistler will no longer be a bargain using points.
The often expensive Hilton Whistler will no longer be a bargain using points.

Currently this is a top-tier Category 7 hotel that requires 50,000 points for a standard free night award. After the devaluation, it will be a Category 9 hotel, requiring between 50,000 – 80,000 points for a free night, potentially a 60% increase over current rates. With current GLON rates for elites, a 5-night stay would incur a 20% discount, so your overall points outlay would be 200,000 HHonors points. If you have a Hilton Amex and can take advantage of AXON awards, you would pay a total of 195,000 points (four nights for 145,000 plus one night at 50,000). With Hilton’s new system, elites will get a fifth night free when redeeming 4 award nights, so your overall outlay would be between 200,000-320,000 – up to a 64% increase over current levels.

7. Rome Cavalieri: This historic 5-star hotel hotel was the first European hotel to be included in the Waldorf Astoria collection and is set on 15 acres of parkland near the Vatican. The Imperial Club offers a view of St. Peter’s Basilica, all rooms have private balconies, and all seven suites have a different theme; the Petronius has a fiber-optic-studded ceiling designed to mimic a starry sky. The hotel’s Grand Spa offers La Prairie treatments and a solarium separating outdoor and indoor pools. There are also five on-site restaurants where guests can enjoy everything from a poolside snack to afternoon tea, or a multi-course meal at La Pergola, the only three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Rome.

Better reserve your room at Rome Cavalieri for a table with this view before points rates go up.
Better reserve your room at Rome Cavalieri for a table with this view before points rates go up.

This hotel is currently in the Waldorf Astoria category, which means free nights go for 50,000-80,000 points per night. It will be a Category 9 hotel under the new system, with award nights for between 70,000-80,000 points per night, as much as a 40% uptick. For a five-night stay, you would currently need between 250,000-400,000 at standard rates, though with GLON awards, that drops to 200,000-320,000 points. Under the new system, a five- night stay will cost 280,000-320,000, an increase of up to 40%. AXON awards are not available at Waldorf Astoria properties.

8. Hilton Bora Bora Nui: A favorite of the Kardashian clan, the Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa features 122 suites and villas situated over the water, on a hill or in the resort’s garden. The resort also boasts a 1,000 square-meter infinity pool and the Hina Spa.

If you want to stay at the Hilton Bora Bora like a Kardashian, book before March 28.
If you want to stay at the Hilton Bora Bora like a Kardashian, book before March 28.

Currently this is a top-tier Category 7 hotel that requires 50,000 points for a standard free night award. After the devaluation, it will be a top-tier Category 10 hotel, requiring  95,000 points for a free night (as far into the future as I could find), potentially a 90% increase over current rates. With current GLON rates for elites, a 5-night stay would incur a 20% discount, so your overall points outlay would be 200,000 HHonors points. If you have a Hilton Amex and can take advantage of AXON awards, you would pay a total of 195,000 points (four nights for 145,000 plus one night at 50,000). With Hilton’s new system, elites will get a fifth night free when redeeming 4 award nights, so your overall points cost would be 380,000 points – potentially a 90% increase over current levels.

9. Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund: This luxury hotel is located in historic building along Shanghai’s architecturally significant Bund and also includes the addition of a soaring contemporary tower. Guest rooms include complimentary in-room WiFi, a pillow menu and marble-finished bathrooms. Amenities include a fitness center, pool, florist, 24-hour staffed business center, and celebrity stylist Tony Li’s salon. The hotel’s six dining and drinking options include Pelham’s, which serves modern, New York City-inspired fare, and the historic Long Bar where stylish expats come to quaff martinis. Dedicated butlers and personal shoppers are available.

The Waldorf Astoria Shanghai's historic facad.
The Waldorf Astoria Shanghai’s historic facad.

Under current rates, rooms here tend to go for between 50,000-60,000 points per night. However, after the devaluation, it will be a Category 9 property requiring 70,000-80,000 points per night for the rest of 2013, an increase of 25-40%. Five award nights now with GLON reductions would require just 200,000-240,000 points, while under the new system, you’d need 280,000-320,000 points, an increase of between 25-40% as well. No AXON awards at Waldorf Astoria properties.

10. Hilton Seychelles Northolme: Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa is located on on the main island of Mahé and features a collection of private villas perched either hillside or nestled along the resort’s secluded beach coves. Restaurants feature local seafood and traditional Creole Cuisine, and guests can treat themselves to a visit to The Duniye Spa. I went to the Seychelles three years ago and stayed at Starwood properties, but this one gets pretty decent reviews and the island itself is pretty spectacular.

A guest room at the Hilton Seychelles.
A guest room at the Hilton Seychelles.

Currently this is a top-tier Category 7 hotel that requires 50,000 points for a standard free night award. After the devaluation, it will be a top-tier Category 10 hotel, requiring 95,000 points (at least for several months out after the devaluation) for a free night, potentially a 90% increase over current rates. With current GLON rates for elites, a 5-night stay would incur a 20% discount, so your overall points outlay would be 200,000 HHonors points. If you have a Hilton Amex and can take advantage of AXON awards, you would pay a total of 195,000 points (four nights for 145,000 plus one night at 50,000). With Hilton’s new system, elites will get a fifth night free when redeeming 4 award nights, so your overall outlay would be 380,000 – a 90% increase over current levels.

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