How a name change almost cost me 200,000 Hilton Honors points

Oct 29, 2019

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In my quest to plan a winter getaway for my family, I started searching for hotel award availability in a few different tropical locations. I thought to myself, “I have a nice stash of Hilton points. I’ll start there.” I logged into my Hilton account thinking I had a few hundred thousand points, but to my surprise (and horror), my points balance read zero.

I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew that I’d recently earned the welcome bonus on the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card and had spent quite a bit on the card beyond that, too. I should at least have some points in my account.

I’ve had my Hilton account since 2011 and hadn’t actually used it since 2014. So when I applied for the Hilton business Amex card in 2018, the fact that my name had changed a few years prior didn’t even cross my mind as a potential issue. I added my original Hilton account number to the application and went on my merry way. Clearly, though, something was wrong.

I started an online chat with a Hilton representative who informed me that my Hilton points had expired about three weeks ago because I hadn’t had any activity on my account in over 12 months. “That’s odd,” I said as I informed her that I had the Hilton business Amex card and had most definitely earned points with it over the last few months. She let me know that there wasn’t any credit card linked to my account, which was the start of unraveling the mystery of the expiring points.

Hilton Waikoloa (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Hilton Waikoloa (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Related: Best travel credit cards for 2019

I logged in to my Amex Hilton business card account and sure enough, the loyalty numbers for that card and my 2011-era account didn’t match. “Ugh, I’m an idiot!” I exclaimed to the chat rep. When I received my card, I didn’t notice that they had issued me a new Hilton account number because my last name on my Hilton account didn’t match the one I used on the credit card application. I explained to the rep what I assumed had happened, given the fact that I changed my last name a few years ago, but said I’d hoped the company could understand and that I wouldn’t lose my points.

The representative said she understood and that she could, in fact, see that I’d been earning points with the card but unfortunately, there was nothing she could do about the expired points. The rules were the rules. I asked politely if she could restore my expired points, but she just directed me to the spot where I could reinstate my points for a fee — which happened to be $250, given the number of points I had.

I eventually closed out the chat, but I wasn’t going to give up just yet. I emailed Hilton’s customer support explaining my predicament and waited a couple of days for a response. After not hearing anything, I hopped onto a chat again and explained my situation to a new representative. I mentioned that I had already emailed customer service but hadn’t had any luck.

This particular representative was very understanding and offered to restore 20% of my expired points at no charge, but also noted that I wouldn’t be able to pay to reinstate the remaining points if I accepted the offer. I thanked him but said I’d need to think about it. I wanted to do the math to see if this made more sense than paying to have all of my points restored.

After evaluating the situation, I determined I’d get far more value by just paying to have my nearly 200,000 points restored. Knowing that, I decided to try one more time via chat to see if someone could help. Sure enough, this particular representative said he could restore all of my points as a one-time exception.

Related: How to use Hilton points to vacation in Hawaii

After five days, an email to customer service and chats with three different representatives, I had all of my points reinstated — for free.

Lesson learned: Whether you’re applying for a business card or one of the best travel credit cards, be aware of the effect of a name change, especially if you’re applying for a cobranded card and are linking the card to an existing loyalty account. Also, don’t forget to be polite — and persistent.

Featured image by Ryan Patterson

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