Hyatt’s cumulative changes hurt more in retrospect (on Nick’s mind)

95

When I got into this game, I didn’t understand the effusive love for Hyatt. As I traveled more, I came to understand why award travel enthusiasts love Hyatt so much — and Hyatt stole my heart, too. But over the past few years, Hyatt has been on a bit of a tear. The latest partnership with Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a blow that seemed disappointing enough in a vacuum, but when considered along with the many other hits to the program over the past several years, I wonder if it isn’t time for the love affair with Hyatt to cool if not end. At the very least, this latest blow made me step back and realize the scale of the changes we have seen over the past six years.

There’s still plenty to love about Hyatt

At the outset, I should state the obvious: there is still a lot to love about Hyatt. Top-tier Globalist benefits are generally well-executed, particularly at the higher end properties (and more so abroad than domestically). Hyatt has numerous strengths that I do love, including:

  1. Best-in-class top tier status benefits (you know you’ll get breakfast / lounge, free parking on award stays, meaningful upgrades, etc).
  2. Best milestone rewards (confirmable suite upgrades, valuable free night certificates)
  3. Generally above average service (which isn’t to say perfect, but on the whole generally better than the competition)
  4. Nice, well-run hotels in general. Good coverage in major metro areas in the US (not great coverage, but good coverage)
  5. Excellent Regency / Grand Hyatt / Park Hyatt properties in Asia
  6. Ability for top-tier Globalists to share benefits with Guest of Honor bookings
  7. Ability to supplement elite earning with credit card spend
  8. Generally very good value for points for properties that adhere to an award chart

Hyatt still has an award chart (or rather a few of them). That helps us know what to expect in determining how many points we will need for an important redemption. It also provides plenty of opportunity to get very good value out of points. I appreciate that.

As indicated by the list above, there are numerous things I like about the Hyatt program, but we’ve written about the things we love plenty of times before. Rather, the latest changes (with the launch of Mr. & Mrs. Smith) force me to take a look back at where we’ve been over these past couple of years.

Hyatt’s cumulative changes have hurt

It is hard to let go of the disappointment I felt in how Hyatt has launched its partnership with Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Sure, Mr. & Mrs. Smith probably has some really nice hotels around the world. The fact of the matter is that there are a lot of really nice hotels in the world, but most of them are irrelevant to me; I care most about the ones where I can get outsized value with my points. After all, if my points are only worth around 1c each, I might as well just use my pennies and then I can shop around and select whatever luxury hotel I want with no need to care much about booking through Hyatt (particularly true for luxury hotels where I get no Globalist benefits). That was a massive change from the partnership with Small Luxury Hotels of the World, where I enjoyed incredible stays and good benefits and outsized value for my points.

Thinking about my disappointment and the huge shrinkage of the Hyatt footprint (since I find Mr. & Mrs. Smith largely irrelevant to me given the lack of ability to get either outsized value for my points or outsized loyalty benefits) made me think of the multitude of other ways in which Hyatt’s program has taken one blow after another over the past several years:

  1. In 2018, Hyatt created a new award chart category (Category 8) that was “only for SLH properties” in the beginning. I said in early 2019 that it wouldn’t be long until flagship Hyatt properties moved up to Category 8.
  2. One year later, in 2019, other Hyatt properties began creeping into Category 8.
  3. Next, in 2020, Hyatt intended to introduce peak and off-peak pricing, though the pandemic ultimately pushed that back until 2021. Awards at peak-priced Category 8 hotels began costing 50% more than they had in 2019 at the top Hyatt-branded properties in the world.
  4. In 2022, Hyatt created a separate, more expensive award chart for all-inclusive properties. At the top end of the chart, a peak-priced all-inclusive property began to cost 58,000 points, which is just short of double the former award rate of a top-tier Category 7 property like the Park Hyatt Tokyo or New York in 2019 (which was 30,000 points per night) and nearly triple the cost of popular all-inclusive properties just a couple of years prior.
  5. In 2023, Hyatt added Homes & Hideaways, which gave us the opportunity to book vacation homes with points. Unfortunately, these are dynamically priced and a poor value using points.
  6. Also in 2023, Hyatt ended its long-standing partnership with MGM Hotels and resorts, ending the ability to pick up inexpensive elite night credits while visiting Las Vegas. This was also a bummer in the other direction as it ended the ability to match high-tier Hyatt status to get MGM Gold status, which waived resort fees at the many MGM properties in Las Vegas.
  7. In early 2024, Hyatt moved some “Hyatt Destination Residences” properties to Homes & Hideaways, effectively tanking the value proposition of booking those properties with points.
  8. Also in early 2024, we found out that Hyatt would be losing its partnership with Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH). Unfortunately, Hyatt traded out SLH (which had some stunningly wonderful properties like the Grand Hotel Victoria, which at times costs $1,500 per night or more in-season, that fit within Hyatt’s award chart and provided set benefits for all Hyatt members) for Mr. & Mrs. Smith, which no doubt has some wonderful hotels but which are not subject to any award chart and thus feature dynamic pricing. Further, there are no guaranteed benefits for Hyatt members, elite or otherwise, apart from the ability to earn elite night credit and points on room rate.
  9. Assuming you don’t want to use points at poor value for Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the side effect of the loss of SLH is that Hyatt has now lost wide swaths of coverage, particularly in Europe.

To be fair, the hotel landscape has changed drastically over the past six years, with cash rates similarly rising significantly and the other effects of inflation no doubt taking their toll. And the everlasting wisdom of the Sunscreen Song long ago taught me that “prices will rise” is an inalienable truth which I must accept.

In years past, we were forced to accept that fact of life (that prices will rise) one time every year in March when Hyatt introduced category changes. However, the above changes are each beyond and in addition to those annual adjustments of hotels upward or downward in award pricing. Cumulatively, they represent a larger shift in the value proposition than the traditional award category changes.

The unfortunate result is a relatively significant shift in the way I look at Hyatt if not the cent-per-point value of its award currency. It used to be very simple to explain Hyatt’s value proposition to a newcomer: collect Hyatt points, get great value when using them toward Hyatt hotels. Today, there are far more qualifiers and explainers necessary to add to that sentence.

I’m sure that Hyatt has a large segment of business travel members whose main concern with points is getting a free vacation annually to show for all the time they spent away from home on work trips. I understand that many people don’t crunch the numbers to know whether they are getting 1.2c per point or 2.1c per point and that many would look at a difference of nine-tenths of a penny and think it doesn’t really matter either way. But for award travel enthusiasts who make decisions about how to collect points and which points to collect by comparison, those fractions of a penny make a big difference. The bottom line is that the math appears as though it is not going to work out for using Hyatt points for Mr. & Mrs. Smith and that math has also made it increasingly difficult to swallow the other changes above as well.

We haven’t seen a dip in the value of points toward Hyatt hotels on the whole. In fact, with skyrocketing hotel rates in many markets, points may have become even more valuable by some measure over these past few years. But the way I look at the program has changed. No longer is it the slam-dunk home-run to get great value for your points — you have to bust out the calculator to know, particularly in the all-inclusive and boutique sectors.

Bottom line

Hyatt hasn’t chased me away from the program by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I have a whole bunch of Hyatt stays on the books for 2024. And as long as its elite program continues to be head and shoulders above the competition and it remains possible to get excellent value out of the points for Hyatt’s own properties, I’m sure I’ll continue to collect and use Hyatt points well intro the future. Indeed, World of Hyatt points have maintained strong value overall despite the numerous changes noted above.

On the flip side, I have all but lost interest entirely in Hyatt’s all-inclusive, vacation rental, and now boutique luxury booking options as the value per point in those realms has dipped significantly over time. That’s disappointing in large part because Hyatt drove my initial taste for all-inclusive and boutique luxury properties. I may not have spent the money on those types of hotels and resorts were it not for Hyatt’s solid value for points enlightening me through experience. It is a shame that I have become far less likely to book those types of experiences through Hyatt.

As the value per point of those redemptions creeps closer to (or in some cases below) 1 cent each, it is increasingly likely that I’ll look elsewhere when I need all-inclusive or luxury boutique hotel bookings. Indeed, I’ve already begun a shift toward earning more cash back (via welcome bonuses on the US Bank Business Leverage and Business Altitude Connect cards and everyday spend on the Altitude Reserve) to use toward paid hotels. Given my escape from the confines of Hyatt’s currency when I am m instead inclined to use cash, it is far from a lock that I’ll be booking those experiences at or through Hyatt. I’ll certainly still get excited about a good Grand Hyatt or Park Hyatt stay now and again, but Hyatt is slowly pushing me toward other options for other types of stays rather than drawing me in.

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[…] Yes I am starting to get the feeling that transferring Chase points to Hyatt to get great value out of them may not last as the program just keeps cutting lately. So I share these concerns: Hyatt’s cumulative changes hurt more in retrospect. […]

Mitsu

We just came back from a very lackluster stay in Vegas (I’m not a big Vegas fan and I hate casinos but we wanted to go to see the Sphere – very cool – and Meow Wolf – pretty fun), but the only Hyatt options now are Hyatt Place (it’s fine – but it’s a Hyatt Place) and the Rio (which, despite the “renovation”, was pretty sad/depressing/run down).

Meanwhile, looking up options for nice, upscale, non-smoking, non-casino hotels – the Waldorf Astoria came up. Hilton. No smoking. No casino. An actual nice hotel. Can use a Hilton Free Night Certificate (I think) and can book on points. Decided to take the leap and grab a Hilton Aspire card. Gonna add Hilton to our stable of “occasional hotels”, use the FNC for stays at luxury Hiltons once a year, etc. Might even do the $30K spend every year to grab another FNC. Time to branch out.

Meanwhile I’ve written a feedback email to Hyatt, who knows who will read it but at least the opinion is out there – why almost no Mr and Mrs Smith properties in most major destinations yet? They have a bunch in London and a few in Paris, but none in Florence, Rome, New York, San Francisco, Barcelona, Tokyo, etc. If you can’t even book Mr and Mrs Smith for cash rates in a ton of places, then what are we doing here? I hope at LEAST we’ll get more lower cost cash bookable options in these major cities to get elite night credits with.

Jimmy Gottfredson

Nick, regarding the main post picture – you look like Spock from the mirror mirror episode from the original series. This isn’t intended to be negative – you pull it off well.

TeddyP93

The worst part of the Mr. & Mrs. Smith integration is now I have to scroll through all these hotels I’ll never stay at in the search results.

Last edited 1 month ago by TeddyP93
Saundra Fried

The key to me is the change in Milestone Rewards coupled with all the other devaluations. I will now concentrate on getting to 40 nights, not 60. One Suite Upgrade Certificate and one Guest of Honor (to honor myself) is fine. I will plan an epic 6-7 night stay to use the confirmable suite upgrade (most likely in a major European city so I won’t need a car) and then use the Guest of Honor for a stay somewhere in the US where I need free parking. I’m usually a solo traveler who leaves the hotel after breakfast and comes back after dinner/after dinner evening activities so I’m looking for a clean hotel room in a good location. To have to buy yogurt/bottled water at a local convenience store on my way back to the hotel is fine by me! In the US, the places I go have Hyatt Places/Houses suburban options which do not charge for parking or are in major cities where I’m unlikely to need a car rental. So, with my travel patterns, these cumulative changes, particularly the change in Milestone Rewards, actually have made me completely shift my thinking about being a Globalist….after 4 years, I’m no longer interested in requalifying….which is sad.

One other thought: The one place that the Smith properties make sense for me is where there are no other properties in footprint I need. Examples I’m looking into so far are Crete, the Azores/Madeira, (non-London) England and Scandinavia. In places where the Smith hotel is my only option or the cash/points rate is dramatically lower than other hotel options (and I have a healthy balance of IHG, Hilton and Marriott points), I will just pay the cash rate for the Smith hotel and earn eligible nights toward 40 and some Hyatt points. But those points will be used for (mostly) Category 1-4 Hyatt Places/Houses in the US and Category 1-6 properties in Europe (my two frequented destinations). Prior to the SLH/Smith switch out, I was always committed to getting to 60 nights. With the dynamic pricing for Smith properties, I’ve now waived my loyalty white flag. The juice to get to 60 nights with Hyatt is not worth the squeeze for me anymore….40 nights is sufficient for my purposes.

Hyatt is smart….I have the distinct impression that these changes were well thought through, and this is a way to cull their Globalist ranks back towards a pre 2020 guest spending profile – meaning those who have large corporate spend or Globalists who will generate revenue for them (at Smiths, for example). While the one perk I will definitely miss is my concierge (since I am one of the few who has a terrific concierge), that is not enough to make me stay 20 additional nights to qualify as a Globalist. At least that is my current thinking….

Holly

I booked Cressa Suites in Crete for 11k points so I can cross that brand off Hyatt Bingo.

Phil

Also, it’s worth keeping in mind the trend of Hyatt point sales. Just 5-6 years ago they normally had 40-50% bonus or discount on point purchases. It has slowly gone down to 30%, 25%, and now 20%. I dropped down to Explorist this year and considered whether I would try for Globalist this year and realized it’s not worth playing the game anymore with Hyatt. IHG and Marriott is plenty for me.

zeezo

Look, it is disappointing but there are still some great opportunities with Hyatt points. Even something that seemed potentially catastrophic (peak/off-peak pricing) proved to be implemented pretty fairly (properties being limited to a certain amount of peak nights and needing to have a certain number of off-peak).

Overall, the points are depreciating at a slower rate than inflation (although some properties that used to represent insane value like the Andaz Papagayo at tier 4 have now caught up to reality a bit more…it’s a tier 7 now which seems a bit on the high side).

I just spent 9 days at Grand Hyatt Kauai on points in March. My sister was booked with my guest of honor and we both got upgraded to prime ocean view rooms. You’re just not going to get anywhere close to that value with Marriott, Hilton, etc.

As all reward currencies trend toward being pinned to 1.x cents a point…well, maybe like you’re saying: cash(back) is king.

Hyatt is still the best though (not that it has real competition). Globalist still represents significant value if you can manage to get it and find the arbitrage opportunities.

Earn and Burn!!! (thanks for hammering that one home long ago, Greg!)

Thankful

I guess you could add the loss of the unlimited legacy Guest of Honor benefit for Globalists. Honestly, it’s hard for me to be too hard on that one, though, because it frankly seemed over-the-top generous for Hyatt to even allow that to begin with. (Basically makes everyone in your inner family and friends circle Globalists, bound only by the once-every-30-days pace at which you can transfer points between Hyatt members). Still, to go from having it to not is a pretty big loss.

I’m probably not at the point to sour on Hyatt too much yet. But I also haven’t tried enough of the other hotels to know what lies on the other side. A fear of the unknown kind of thing. Maybe once my current Globalist benefits run out, it’ll be time to try.

Lee

The next shoe to drop is network-wide dynamic pricing.

kyle

While it is disappointing to have dynamic awards for MMS and the residence properties the core Hyatt program is still there and a superior product for at least globalists. One of the biggest complaints about Hyatt was the small footprint so while you might not get a good a point redemption with the new properties you still have more choices of places to stay under the Hyatt umbrella and will be able to earn nights and points from your stays. As far as points values Hyatt also waives resort fees and parking fees billed to room (on point stays) for Globalists and resort fees on points for the rest of Hyatt elites which adds to room rate and redemption value. I have a stay coming up that parking and RF alone will save over 115 dollars (plus whatever tax is charged on parking) per night. My redemption wasn’t the greatest but it winds up being a better redemption than the room I had booked at the Inter Continental on points (and will now probably cancel and stay at the Hyatt) because I would have to pay the resort fee and the parking which with taxes would have been $121 a day. So my Hyatt stay saved me $280 on points versus the IHG redemption which would have saved me $572 on points but when I factor in the free parking and no resort fee my savings at Hyatt on points is now $807. I suppose I also need to account for IHG points I would earn on the parking and resort fee to get a true cost but the fact remains Hyatt with status can offer some great deals and generally is a great product. I guess I need to go back and look and see if the new MMS booked via Hyatt also offers no RF and free parking on points.

Bob

That’s a good point. However, IHG has a 4th night free. So, if you are staying 4 nights, that’s a big saving as compared to Hyatt. Also, you can buy IHG points at 0.005 pretty regularly.

kyle

The 4th night is certainly a good benefit but i did take that into account when i did the comparison. The only thing i didn’t calculate was the cost to acquire hyatt and hilton points (i have never bought hotel points so my cost of point acquisition varies. I am more attentive to my cost of airline miles since I do frequently try to generate AA LPs so I am more concerned with cost to acquire and redemption values at AA so i guess i can understand wanting to maximize my points if I paid cash specifically for the points)

DavidS

It’s the slow incremental slide that doesn’t really get seen unless you step back like you have. Thanks for doing that.

As many have said, “it’s not as great as it was, but it’s still better than the other top tier options” – except it takes a lot more work to maintain.

I guess my question for the FM team is “what would it take for you to stop chasing globalist?” Where does that line sit? Is there an existing benefit loss or price change that would be just enough to push you over the edge? Or, what benefit do you value the most?

For me, the differential benefit rankings vary by stay, but:
Confirmable suite upgrades
Free menu breakfast or lounge access for whole family
4PM checkout
Decent upgrades at check-in
Free parking

(interestingly none of these really have to do with the incremental cost of award redemptions as they are so similar across companies)

DSK

Great article Nick. Not sure if I want to qualify for Globalist next year. I am Marriott LT Titanium and Hilton Diamond. What distinguishes Hyatt for me from Marriott and Hilton is the suite upgrade awards confirmable at booking for up to seven nights, so I know my wife and I have the suite without issue. Problem is suite upgrades don’t work for Hyatt House and Hyatt Place. Then take away SLH (they did) and now Mr and Mrs Smith. Then look at the limited footprint left (no desire to go to China and all-inclusive doesn’t interest me). Almost everything left that I would consider is a place where I’ve been or already booked! So the real question is why keep fighting my way to 60 (55 with credit card) since I am retired and it really is a fight to get there?

Gisele

The time has come for a thorough analysis between Hyatt and Hilton.

1) It takes a lot more effort to get globalist status with Hyatt. Whereas you get a comparable status with Hilton just by having the aspire.

2) Hilton footprint is much larger. Its hotels occupy great real estate and are always centrally located.

3) Sure it takes more points to book. But, is it more points, really? A combo of aspire and the no-fee Hilton gives you 14x at Hilton, 7x restaurants and travel, 5x at supermarkets and gas stations, and a base of 3x on everything else. It’s very easy to amass a lot of points on Hilton.

I’d appreciate an analysis for a $30k spend using the most common categories of supermarket, gas, restaurant and travel. One person uses a combo of Hilton Aspire + Honors; Another using a combo of 2 Chase cards with comparable annual fees and statuses.

Follow up question would be, where could you go with those points? From highly aspirational travel to just trying to get a centralized hotel with a family of 4.

I’m curious to know.

So, Nick, how do I squeeze out the last drop of my hotel points to max value? Will it be Hilton or Hyatt?

Gisele

Oh, I’m more interested in international locations.

Also, I wrote this kinda fast so, I’m sure there are other things that I didn’t consider. I’d be glad if others chimed in with more info or, additional things we should consider.

Andrew

The one catch I could see with pure cash back is you have a limit on how many points you can buy per year.

With family pooling and increased limits during promotions my back of the napkin math says you can buy ~600K points a year for a P1 + P2. That’s a lot but if a property like the Grand Victoria runs say 120K per night then you’d spend 480K Hilton points for five days (thanks to the 5th night free option). I’d gladly do that! But it does mean if you’re someone trying to do multiple trips in a year to high end Hilton properties that you could run out of easy point buying options. I assume IHG would have the same limit.

Is there a way around that? I realize how ridiculous it sounds to be discussing that 600K points might be too little but it’s the game we play with points inflation.

don

I feel very similar to you, Nick. I like the more boutique/small type of properties for personal stays, and really enjoyed SLH. I will still use Chase points for stays at the nicer Hyatt properties and hopefully earn some good milestone rewards along the way. But I’m not going to slog through paid work stays at Hyatt Place for the qualifying nights to earn Globalist just to stay at an M&MS with poor points value and no elite benefits. I’d rather collect more Marriott/Hilton/IHG points on paid stays and have more redemption options. Hilton has me very interested with SLH and Autocamp. If Hyatt ever make M&MS more attractive for redemption or benefits, my calculus may change.

don

also meant to mention, knowing what we know now i’d rather have just stuck with the gift card deal instead of this ‘integration’. at least then we could rack up qualifying nights at $300/ea and earned 4x points on the hyatt credit card spend!

FNT Delta Diamond

But I’m not going to slog through paid work stays at Hyatt Place for the qualifying nights to earn Globalist just to stay at an M&MS with poor points value and no elite benefits. I’d rather collect more Marriott/Hilton/IHG points on paid stays and have more redemption options.”

That’s the problem with these blogs. There are really two kinds of readers:

1) People who travel for work and legitimately qualify for elite status and then look to use those points or benefits for vacations.

2) People who primarily travel using points based on credit card-earned points, etc.

While I find Frequent Miler’s analysis generally good, the focus is often too much on the points redemption end of the spectrum and not enough on the people who travel on their own money or other people’s money.

I get Hyatt had to make some concessions because Mr and Mrs Smith isn’t a real hotel brand. But it seems like as a condition for a hotel being listed on the Mr and Mrs Smith booking platform Hyatt could have imposed better World of Hyatt benefits.

I do find it interesting that there are Mr and Mrs Smith properties that are CHEAPER on Hyatt.com than Mr and Smith or through the hotel directly.

I assume hotels only PAY a fee to be listed on Mr and Mrs Smith. I assume Hyatt gets a percentage of the rate when booked directly through Hyatt.

Julie

Also want to point out that despite the vast majority of my stays being with Hyatt over the past 9 years, my favorite stays have actually been at non-Hyatts. For example, I loved Thompson The Cape in Cabo, but I loved Waldorf Pedregal even more. I loved Andaz Maui but I loved Westin Hapuna Beach more, even despite not getting free breakfast (gasp!). In both cases the non-Hyatt had much more character and blended in better with the environment. And while I’ve had some amazing breakfasts with Hyatt, my all-time favorite breakfast so far was at the Conrad Tulum.

Andrew

That Conrad looks amazing and is high on my list for a trip. It’s telling that two of those properties you mentioned are Hiltons – with their uncapped FNCs I think they are making a real play for the high end property destinations.