Hilton’s Adding Loyalty Program Features, Changing Name to Honors
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Update 4/25/17: Hilton has confirmed (via FlyerTalk) that points pooling will be available tomorrow, Tuesday, April 26.
Update 3/3/17: Hilton has confirmed that the new Diamond Status Extension option will be available beginning Monday, March 6. All eligible Diamond members will be able to choose to extend their status for one year online or over the phone, assuming they’ve met the following criteria:
- Must currently be a Diamond Member, have earned Diamond status for at least 3 years, but the years do not need to be consecutive.
- AND Have completed stays totaling at least 250 nights, paid or reward
- OR Have accumulated 500,000 Base Points or more since joining Hilton Honors.
Update 3/1/17: Hilton’s new Points & Money rates are now available to book.
Update: 2/22/17: We’ve just learned that Hilton Honors’ new Points & Money option will go live early in the morning on March 1, 2017.
Update 1/31/17 5:55pm: This post has been updated to include additional details provided during a call with the Hilton Honors team.
Until this week, Hilton’s loyalty program was called HHonors. Now it’s Honors. With one “H.” But that’s not the only change coming through today…
The Hilton Honors program will be adding the following perks:
Points & Money
Hilton’s new take on this cash-points hybrid is a bit different than the competition’s. Rather than offering fixed redemption amounts, members will be able to select a variable mix of cash and points. So you can redeem 20,000 points instead of 40,000 for a stay, and make up the difference with cash, for example. You’ll need to redeem a minimum of 5,000 points in 1,000-point increments.
Interestingly, there’s no fixed points valuation — in the example below, the points redemption rate is 40,000 points, while the cash rate (including tax) is $215.42, giving you a value of 0.54 cents per point. Using the slider to select a mix of 22,000 points and $97.01 in cash (again, after tax) gives the same value of 0.54 cents, which makes sense.
In another example, here’s the Conrad Indianapolis during the Indy 500. Award nights are 70,000 points each, while the cash rate is $525.80, giving you a value of 0.75 cents per point — a very good redemption, given our valuation of Hilton points at 0.5 cents apiece. Using the magic slider maintains the 0.75-cent value, but at this rate you’re best off redeeming all of your points — if you have them.
That’s really the beauty here — this is a great opportunity to redeem “orphaned” points when you don’t have enough to book the room you want. As always, you’ll want to calculate the redemption rate to make sure you’re getting the best deal. You’ll also be able to use the Points & Money option with Hilton’s refreshed app:
It’s important to note that this option is only available on base rooms (the same you’d normally be able to redeem points for), and it’s only compatible with the Honors member rate (there’s no option to select the AAA rate, for instance). Suites will continue to be available at significantly higher standard award rates, with the exception of base rooms at all-suites hotels, which will be available at the base redemption rate.
Additionally, with this change, award rates may fluctuate based on the revenue rate, but they’ll never be higher than the current top redemption for that category. So a Category 7 hotel may end up being 34,000 points during an off-peak period, compared to the lowest end of 50,000 points for that hotel right now. But it will never jump beyond the 60,000-point cap for that property, regardless of the cash rate. Here’s an example of the rates you may see at some select hotels:
This new option launches next month, but you can play around with it (to get a feel for how redemptions are priced) with a special online tool.
While you’ve been able to send points to a friend in the past, that privilege came along with a fee. As of April, you’ll be able to “pool” your points with up to 10 family members or friends for free — and that means anyone; there’s no need to live at the same address. In theory, this is designed to get you closer to a redemption for a trip you’ll be taking together, but it doesn’t sound like this option will be tied to a specific booking.
There is a cap on the number of points you can transfer, but it’s fairly high — members can send up to 500,000 points per calendar year, while you’ll be able to receive up to 2,000,000.
Amazon Shop with Points
Just as the card issuers now permit, Honors members will be able to redeem points toward Amazon purchases. Generally, the idea here is that any number of Honors points offers value — you don’t need to wait until you have the 5,000 points required for a Points & Money booking to redeem.
Hopefully there’s a decent exchange rate at play here — we got some slightly encouraging words from Honors program head Aaron Glick in a call today:
You’re always going to get the best value when you’re redeeming in our hotels, but we’re pushing really hard to give our members the best rate on Amazon redemptions.
It sounds like negotiations are ongoing, and given that this option won’t be available until this summer (probably July), I wouldn’t expect any redemption details soon.
Diamond Status Extension
This next option actually came about when a Diamond member wrote in to Glick before going on maternity leave. With a baby on the way, she wouldn’t be able to maintain the Diamond status she earned as a consultant. Honors (then HHonors) extended her status free of charge, and now that option’s going to be available to other members as well.
Beginning this March, Diamond elites who have had top-tier status for 3+ years and have accumulated 500,000 points or have stayed a total of 250 nights will be able to extend their status for one more year free of charge. Currently, this is only available once, so choose wisely! The good news is that it’s retroactive — if you qualified for 2016 status based on 2015 travel but didn’t qualify for 2017 status based on your stays last year, and you meet the requirements outlined above, you’re eligible to request an extension that’ll grant you status until 2018.
Hilton’s made some (long overdue) great moves here, adding considerable value to the program — in theory. The big outstanding question is whether many redemptions will actually be available at the off-peak rates suggested above. Either way, Starwood alum (and new Honors head) Aaron Glick clearly recognizes the need for a strong loyalty program — and offering value to all 60 million members — so I’m hopeful that there are more great program additions on the way.
Will you be taking advantage of any of these new additions?
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