Hilton Honors results are in. Is that Hilton’s middle finger?

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Hilton has rolled out their new single-H Hilton Honors program.  In addition to dropping the old double-H (the old program was called “HHonors”), the new program has ditched the hotel category system, introduced a new points & money scheme in which you pick how many points you want to apply to any award, and will soon allow members to freely share points with each other (via “pooling points”).

When I last wrote about the new program (see: My take on the new World of Hilton Honors), I noted that the new category-free approach and the new points and money scheme meant that opportunities for getting outsized value from your points would become rare.  Now, the results are in.  Was I right?

A Chinese website has collected data for all of the Hilton hotels worldwide, for a period of 150 days, and has setup a page for viewing the results: http://www.yeekapp.com/ruanwen/pointsValueEvaluation.  There isn’t much information there to help interpret the information.  Luckily, US Credit Card Guide has published a summary.  And, even better (for many of my readers), it is posted in English.  See: Big Data: How Did The Hilton Point System Change?

US Credit Card Guide shows the distribution of per point values in the new and old Hilton programs.  The following charts (published with permission from US Credit Card Guide) compare the hotel’s best available rate to the point price for a standard room…

Old vs. New Points Awards

In the old program, there was a wide distribution of point values.  The most common point values were around .3, but a large percentage of observations showed much higher values:

Hilton Old US Credit Card Guide

In the new program, point values are heavily clustered around .4.  As you can see below, my prediction was clearly correct.  Hilton point values are now much more predictable, but also much less likely to offer outsized value. UPDATE: I was wrong!  Please see: New Hilton Honors is better for many. Maybe that wasn’t a middle finger after all…

Maybe its just me, but when I look at this chart I see Hilton giving us the middle finger:

Hilton New US Credit Card Guide

I asked US Credit Card Guide to drill down on the above chart to get more detail.  As you can see below, point values cluster most heavily between .4 and .42, but values from .44 to .48 are also very likely.  US Credit Card Guide reported to me that the median value in the data is .44.  That’s a bit better than Hotel Hustle’s current observed median value of .42. (Hotel Hustle’s data at this point is probably a mix of the old and new system).  This suggests that, on average, people may get slightly better value from their Hilton points today, but it will be much harder to find outsized value opportunities.

Hilton New Detailed US Credit Card Guide

How about Cash + Points?

The Cash + Points results are even more striking.  In the old system, Cash + Points bookings were most likely to offer .7 cents per point or better value:

Hilton Old Cash and Points US Credit Card Guide

In the new system, Cash + Points leads to the exact same values as points-only awards.  There’s that middle finger again:

Hilton New US Credit Card Guide

Outsized Value Anywhere?

US Credit Card Guide displayed the results broken down by hotel category.  Even though Hilton doesn’t explicitly price awards by category anymore, they have promised not to increase award rates during the changeover to the new system.  As you can see below, outsized value is still possible, but primarily only with Category 1 and Category 2 hotels.  So if you’re happy staying at the hotels that Hilton itself deems least worthy (I jest… sort of), you can still do very well.

Hilton New by Category US Credit Card Guide

Important Nuances

The point valuations displayed above do not account for the following:

  1. Hotel Taxes.  Hotel Taxes are applied only to the cash portion of a stay.  Result: Points are more valuable than shown above.
  2. Discount Rates.  If you qualify for special rates: AAA, senior, government, etc., you’ll often find prices that are better than the “Best Available Rate”.  In fact, just being a Hilton Honors member gives you slightly better rates when logged in.  Since the charts here compare to “Best Available Rate” and it is usually possible to find better rates, the point values are inflated.  Result: Point prices are less valuable than shown above.
  3. Resort Fees.  Resort fees are not applied to points-only awards, but they appear to be applied in-full to any booking that includes even $1 in cash.  Result: At resorts, points are more valuable than shown above, but only when you pay in-full with points.  See this Travel Codex post for more details: Resort Fees Plague Hilton’s New Points & Money Awards.
  4. Point Earnings.  Hilton Honors members earn points only on the cash portion of a stay.  And, between regular point earnings and Hilton’s frequent promotions, paid stays can be quite rewarding.  The good news is that the new Cash + Points system treats the cash portion like a regular stay so you will earn points on that portion.  Result: Points are less valuable than shown above (since you usually won’t earn points when using points).

Booking Stays

It looks like I need to create a Hilton MakeUpYourMinder spreadsheet!  In the meantime, I’d use these general guidelines to help decide whether to pay with points, cash, or both:

  • Does the hotel charge a large resort fee?  If so, pay entirely with points if possible.  If you don’t have enough points for the entire stay, book as many nights as possible entirely with points so that you can avoid the resort fees on those nights.
  • Does the hotel pass along very high taxes? (you can see the tax charges if you go through most of the steps for booking a cash rate).  If so, pay as much as possible with points.  Any amount paid with cash will be charged taxes proportionally so it is fine to book Cash + Points if you don’t have enough points.
  • Is Hilton running a valuable promo that only works for cash stays?  You can find current promos here.  If a promo offers a fixed reward for a cash stay, you should be able to book a Cash + Points stay and pay the minimum required in cash (this is a change from the old system).  If the promo offers rewards based on amount paid, it may be worth paying entirely in cash.
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[…] that the median redemption value for Hilton Honors points is around .44 cents per point, we can convert these earnings to expected rebate percentages.  For example, 3X Hilton points at […]

[…] on March 1st moved Hilton Honors ever-closer to a fully revenue-based program. While that initially looked pretty rough, it turns out that the changes might be a net positive to many (most?) members. While I remain a […]

Mark

The Chinese site you linked is actually pretty helpful if you let Chrome translate it for you. There’s a pretty good feature to search the major chains for any given stay in a city and it will show you price, award cost, and value per point.

[…] Hilton Honors results are in. Is that Hilton’s middle finger? […]

[…] very few higher value redemptions. I’ve long valued their points at 0.4 cents apiece. Now you’ll rarely get more value than that. […]

Jason Brandt Lewis

In the accurate numbers department . . . while I CANNOT COMMENT on Hilton’s new “Points & Cash” concept, I can tell you that I have booked two hotel stays for this Fall with domestic (U.S.) Hilton properties — a three-night stay at a Conrad hotel, and a overnight stay one from their Curio portfolio — using ALL POINTS. The value-per-point I received at the Conrad was 1.027¢/point, while the Curio stay comes to 1.036¢/point.

Rupert

@farnorthtrader – the cash & points rates might have gotten better on average, which is useful for casual members who don’t really look at the point value and just book a “free night” regardless.
But points fans look for pockets of value, like p&c rates used to be. And that pocket of value has been eliminated. The average is of limited interest…
Making the program more revenue oriented makes it easier for casual members and tougher for value oriented members!

farnorthtrader

Yes, as I noted, the cash and points program has become next to useless for those hotels that offered it under the old program. I simply wanted to point out that the graph really didn’t show what it purported to show, that cash and points showed a value of 0.7 cents plus in about 27% of hotels under the old program. In fact, if only, say, 20% of hotels offered points and cash, then that 27% really only represents 5.4% of all hotels that offered 0.7 cents or more in value for a cash and points redemption. That would mean that this opportunity was actually devalued at 1 in 20 hotels, not the 1 in 4 that the graph made it look like. There is no question that for the hotels that offered the very best in points and cash values, this is a very large devaluation, likely between a 20% and 60% reduction in value, however, that was a very small percentage of the total hotels. Just eyeballing the graphs, I would say that this devalued points and cash in roughly 55-60% of the cases where there used to be cash and points (including all cases where a savvy points hound would use their points), however, just anecdotally, I would say that there was only an opportunity to use points and cash in this way in maybe 10 to 20% of bookings, so the devaluation is on 10 to 20% of a savvy bookers reservations and more like 5.5 to 12% of a typical bookers reservations.
If my numbers are correct and the savvy booker loses an average of 40% value on 20% of their bookings that are cash and points (and nothing on their all points bookings), this is about an 8% devaluation, even for a savvy booker. My historical average for Hilton points is 1.22 cents per point, so this likely devalues my Hilton points by about a tenth of a cent to about 1.12 cents. I still think that I will be able to average at least a cent a piece in the new program (as long as I continue to mostly use hotels outside the US), which is just fine with me.