Update: This post includes offers that were valid at the time of publication, but have since expired. Please click here to see the best offers currently available.
Following Hyatt’s announced change from it’s Hyatt Gold Passport program to its new World of Hyatt program (see 5 things I love and 5 things I hate about the World of Hyatt), Hilton too has re-branded and altered their loyalty program. Let’s walk through the new
World of Hilton Honors program together to see what’s what…
Hilton’s loyalty program used to be called Hilton HHonors. They’ve now dropped the double “H” in favor of a more spellcheck-friendly single H. The program is now simply named “Hilton Honors”.
Shrug. As a blog author I like that the new name is easier to type. Other than that, I doubt the name change is meaningful to many people.
Awards no longer priced by category
Currently, Hilton HHonors has an award chart in which award prices are based on the hotel’s category:
In the new Hilton Honors program, award prices will no longer be based on category. Instead, award prices will be determined by Hilton via a secret recipe. In other words… they’ve removed award charts. Where have we seen this before…? Oh yeah, Delta.
Hilton claims that top end award prices for each hotel will be the same as they are today, but that they’ll sometimes be lower than today when prices are low and/or demand is low.
Some complain that the problem with this approach is that people can’t plan ahead for their dream vacations. In the new program there will be no way to know exactly how many points will be required. Hilton replies, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Don’t sweat it. You can search for room awards in the future to see the approximate cost. And then when the time comes to book your stay, and you find out that the stay will require more points than expected, you can simply chip in some dollars to fill in the gap. Win win!”
Personally, the “you can’t plan ahead” issue doesn’t bother me. People plan ahead for paid vacations all the time. Having a general idea of what it will cost is really what you need for planning purposes — not an exact number. And yes, just like paid vacations, you may find that prices have jumped up when you’re ready to book. Oh well.
The bigger problem here is that as Hilton moves closer and closer to fully revenue based rewards, the possibility of getting outsized value for your points slips away. On the plus side, it also means that getting completely hosed (e.g. getting very poor value for your points) should become less likely. I’ve found both of these things to be directionally true with Delta, and I expect we’ll find the same with Hilton.
I’m mildly disappointed, primarily because I think this signals the end of opportunities for outsized value from Hilton points. I would have been very disappointed except that Hilton’s devaluation several years ago already stripped away most options for outsized value. Since then, I’ve been content eking out close to half a cent per point value for most of my Hilton stays. I expect that we’ll see similar value in the new program.
New Points & Money Scheme
Currently, points & money awards are only available sometimes, and only with fixed prices. For example, currently when searching Hilton.com for points awards, you’ll usually see listings like this with no points & money option:
But sometimes points & money options are available at other properties, like this:
Ignoring room taxes and fees, the first example shows that you can get half a cent value per point by booking entirely with points. In the second example, if you book entirely with points, you’ll get only .42 cents per point value (29500 cents / 70,000 points). But, if you book with points and money, you’ll get (29500 cents – 12500 cents) / 28,000 points = .61 cents per point value. In other words, in the current scheme it is sometimes possible to get significantly better value from your points via points & money awards.
The new scheme, coming “late February,” will be completely different. Unlike today, points & money awards will always be available. And, you’ll be able to pick how much you want to pay with points vs. cash. Point Value will be determined 100% by the point award value. If paying entirely with points gives you .42 cents per point value, then paying partially with points will give you the same .42 cents per point value. In the Hilton Honors FAQ on this topic, they state:
How does Hilton determine the combination of Points and money for the slider tool?
Redemptions are the same value across the full range of the slider — Points are always consistent, and so is money. The slider is simply a tool created to provide our Members with more flexibility when choosing how many Points versus the money they would like to put towards their stay.
For example, if a hotel room costs $100 a night or 20,000 Points and you slide to use 50% dollars and 50% Points, it will cost $50 and 10,000 Points.
How will I know if full redemption or Points & Money Rewards™ is a better deal?
As a Hilton Honors Member, you’ll always have the option to book with all Points, with Points & Money Rewards™ or just with money. You can compare the options before you book to see what works best for you. It’s also important to note we’ve set up Points & Money Rewards™ so it unlocks the same value per Point as an all-Points redemption.
Another change: currently Hilton HHonors members do not earn points on points & money award stays. In the new scheme, members will earn points for the cash portion of the stay. This is great because you’ll no longer have to charge a small item to your room to get your stay to qualify for bonus point promotions. Instead, you should be able to click the slider over one notch to add a small price to your room so that your stay will qualify.
My take on the new points & money scheme
This is a loss for those who sometimes found better-than-usual value in Hilton’s current points & money options. But, for those who don’t have enough points for an award, it may be a win since this option will always be available. And, as noted above, this change should also be good for situations where you want to book an award stay, but you also want to qualify for a Hilton promotion which requires point-earning stays.
Overall, I see this as a loss for points obsessed deal seekers, but a win for those looking for simplicity.
Starting April 2017, it will be possible for up to 11 friends to pool their points together. My reading of the FAQ suggests that pooling is really just a fancy way of saying that up to 10 friends can transfer their points to you for free. Today, Hilton charges $25 per 10,000 points to transfer points to others. In the new
World of Hilton Honors program, transfers will be free. Transferred points can be used for anything that regular points can be used for.
Transfers will have the following limits:
- When you initiate pooling, up to 10 Hilton members can transfer points to you
- A Member can transfer a minimum of 1,000 Points and a maximum of 500,000 Points into a pool in a calendar year.
- A Member can receive up to 2 million Points in a calendar year.
My take on Pooling Points
Awesome! Any options for freely moving points is a good one in my book. Have a friend with Hilton Diamond status? You will now be able to transfer your points to her so that she can book the stay and you can get treated like a Diamond guest (but make sure she adds your name to the reservation so that you can check in!).
Amazon Shop with Points
In July, you’ll be able to use your Hilton points to pay for stuff at Amazon.com. This is already possible with some bank programs such as Citi ThankYou Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards, but in those cases the per point value you get is terrible. So, the key question is whether Hilton’s per point value will also be terrible. Here’s what they say:
We’ll share more on this closer to launch in the spring, but we are committed to offering the best possible value for our Members.
In other words, the value will most likely stink.
My take on Amazon Shop with Points
Yawn. Most likely the value will be poor. My guess is that they’ll offer, at best, .25 cents per point.
Bank your Diamond Status
If you’re unable to re-qualify for Diamond status, with this benefit you can keep your Diamond status for another year just by asking. You can do this once per lifetime.
This benefit has the following requirements:
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.
Status matches to Diamond status do not count towards the above requirements. There is no indication of whether earning Diamond status through credit card spend qualifies you. My guess is yes.
My take on Bank Your Diamond Status
It’s a nice feature, but Diamond status doesn’t have much in the way of guaranteed benefits above Gold status. And Gold status, which offers free breakfast, can be had just by holding any one of several credit cards (
Amex Hilton HHonors Surpass, Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve, or any Amex Platinum). Or, if you really want Diamond status, simply spend $40K per year on the Amex Hilton HHonors Surpass, or Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve.
Here’s my scientific appraisal of each new feature:
- New Name: Shrug
- Awards no longer priced by category: Boo
- New Points & Money Scheme: Meh
- Pooling Points: Yippee!
- Amazon Shop with Points: Don’t care — won’t use
- Bank your Diamond Status: Nice for some
My overall take on the new Hilton Honors program is that it is… fine. Hilton is quite rewarding in terms of the number of points you can earn per stay. And, the promise of free breakfast for Gold elites is pretty good. That said, in the new program it’s doubtful that you’ll ever get spectacular value for your points as is possible with other programs, most notably Hyatt.
[…] the Hilton Honors program changed in February 2017, one of the most notable changes was that they did away with categories and moved to (somewhat) […]
[…] Hilton updated their program this year (details here), they added valuable features such as point pooling (share points with others, for free) and the […]
[…] 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 […]
Greg, first a big THANK YOU for all I’ve learned on your site. Next, a question – What will be the best way for ‘gifting’ a 5 night Hilton honeymoon in the Caribbean to my niece? She is not a Hilton member; I have gold status. Do I book a fifth night free stay in my name but add her as an additional guest and hope she’s not questioned that I never arrive? Gift or transfer points (but would she lose the 5th night free since she doesn’t have Gold status)? Any tips/recommendations are appreciated!
You’re right. Your niece can’t book a 5th night free stay without elite status.
It should be possible to just book the stay in your name and add your niece as another guest in the room along with instructions saying that she should be allowed to check-in. However, there is a small chance that she’ll encounter some issues with the hotel and of course you don’t want that for her honeymoon.
You could try calling Hilton to ask if it is possible to essentially gift a Gold award stay to someone. I haven’t heard of this, but you never know.
If that doesn’t work and you have time to spare before booking, I’d do the following:
1) Make sure she has Gold status for the trip so that she can book the award and get free breakfast. There are a number of ways to do this. One is to sign her up for a status match (if she has status with another chain) and she’ll get status for 3 months. Another option is for her to sign up for one of the Hilton credit cards that offer Gold status. A third option is for you to sign up for the Ameriprise Platinum card and add her as an authorized user. For the first year the card is free and up to 3 AUs are free too. Hilton Gold and SPG Gold for all…
2) Wait until Hilton allows point pooling and then move the needed points to her.
3) Help her book the room from her account.
Thanks for taking the time to give me a detailed breakdown! Excellent.
[…] to be outdone, this month Hilton joined the party and announced changes to the Hilton HHonors program. This month marks the end of the Hilton category chart and the migration towards a completely […]
[…] stay or — you want to book an AXON award before they disappear. Which, considering the opaque changes coming to Hilton Honors this month, might not be such a bad […]
Greg, do you know if the 5th night free will still only be for a 100% points redemption? I would assume that would be the case, otherwise you would be able to earn points on reward nights plus get a free 5th night
I don’t know for sure, but my guess is that they will allow points + money.
how can you say this is clear?…it is full of vague garbage…unknown point value for Amazon, which will tell if this is a feature or just more “enhancement”…caps that stay in place for STANDARD rooms until the property decides it deserves a boost to another category or is “in demand” all the time…if you ever saw the inflated crap pricing when a standard room is not available and they decide a room with a slightly better view is worth 200,000 points a night, you can see where this is heading, even points and cash is a shell game if they jack the required points. I found it has already started….my favorite AI, Hilton rose hall Jamaica, has gone from 60k to 70k minimum (maybe because they redid their pools recently) and even though the rate is listed in flexible dates, it is only available as points and cash…not points only for a standard room. The only points only award listed is for higher category rooms at twice the points, and this is for a diamond member who should get a standard award for the standard amount easily….my advise is book 5th night free GLON/AXON (whatever they call it) before Feb 15 and spend your points like they are on fire…if they keep value you can rebook, if not you have spent your points and have one less worthless reward program to chase points in.
Agree with all of that
I haven’t even seen points plus cash for the hilton rose hall. I think we will see another big devaluation with this change.
Follow up: I called the diamond line and they were able to book it for me…this may have more to do with their crappy reservation system than the points/cash option rollout…last year standard diamond rooms would only show for some AI properties 1 out of 6 tries online and I wound up booking on the phone then too. Jamaica had 2 new properties added, one of which disappeared. now it is just Hilton rose hall at 70k minimum ( a no-notice increase) and Jewel runaway bay for 60k minimum, an all-adult AI they added as a curio collection property. I think I heard Jewel had bought the rose hall property as well…they are a Jamaican owned company.
Great write-up, Greg. Thanks for laying things out so clearly.
So this means 5th night free is going away? That was about the only good way to get value. I am sitting on 278K and want to get a good 5 night stay. Should I book something and if so, when is the deadline?
No, Hilton confirmed with me that they’ll still have 5th night free awards.
^Every blogger covering this needs to lead with THAT info, haha.
axon awards are going away feb 15th…book accordingly.
Not sure anything listed there enhances my Diamond status, no suite upgrades, free drink of some sort, shopping, who cares. I think they missed the mark completely.
Agree. I’d much prefer to see elite benefit enhancements.
The problem with enhanced elite benefits is that most of the elites can’t use them very often. Unless you’re the type of traveler who stays a lot in urban centers where there are “full-service brands,” there’s not a lot the chain can give you that all guests don’t get for free. Like what kind of “enhanced benefit” am I going to get at my next Hampton Inn? It seems for the mid-priced and below brands, the best thing they can give you is worthwhile loyalty points. And it seems to me that the loyalty points they’re going to give you now will be less valuable — as will the earnings from their affiliated credit cards.
I work for Hampton Inn in my city, the heart of downtown in my city, I might add. I upgraded a silver member today bc his friends were gold/diamond and already upgraded so it seemed unfair to not upgrade him to a king suite with a river view and balcony. Don’t knock Hampton Inn’s bc I work for a very nice one and will upgrade ANY gold or diamond member, sometimes before they even ask.
So if there are no more standard award rates how do I know whether I can redeem my free night certificates?
Great question! Today, If you pretend to book the room with points and you see availability for a “standard room award” (regardless of the award price) then you should be good to go, whereas a “premium room award” wouldn’t be available for your certificate. I’m guessing that the new system will have something similar, but I’m not sure.
Thanks for the comprehensive summary. I didn’t realize they were making this change to the points and money program. To me, this is bad because I think almost half my award stays were points and money at the lower tier properties (the ones where the regular price was 30K or less). Honestly, that’s where I thought most of the value in the program was. That and “mispriced” hotels — where properties with room rates above (say) $200 were going for 30,000 points.
Otherwise, there’s almost always a better lodging option than a Hilton-brand hotel. I know many blogs wax poetically about how great their (modest) elite perks are at chain hotels. I tend to think that chain hotels are mostly just decent, cookie-cutter places to spend the night — but are overpriced unless you’re getting some deal. Like I don’t pay $200/night to stay at Hampton Inns, and I’m similarly not interested in spending 40,000 points for such stays. It seems like under the new program, there will be more standardization of pricing, where point redemption is more tied to actual room rates for the night you want. This means fewer deals at Hilton, and makes the program more of a yawner than it already was.
Since you never know which chain will have a good rate/award deal for your next stay, it’s good to have points in all the chains and be a “free agent.” But if I’m not going to be able to “game” the Honors program to get better than .5 cents value, I’m going to have fewer Hilton-brand stays and I’m therefore not going to be very interested in collecting those points. My Honors Surpass card will probably go in the sock drawer and maybe be replaced by another AMEX card.
Good points. I expect that many will feel the same way. For this year at least it should still be possible to get extreme value at the very low end or top end, but over time even those values may disappear.
Great breakdown and summary, thanks!
point of clarity- You stated a points and cash stay would earn you points on the cash portion. You then state if I just slide the slider to a small cash portion I’ll get credit for the stay.
This isn’t the same thing. I’m wondering Hilton will indeed give you points, but will they ALSO give you a stay credit, or deem this an “award night”.
Hilton already gives stay credits for award nights, but you’re right that I can’t be 100 percent sure that a points and money award would count for promotions that require paid stays. I believe it to be true though based on the fact that you earn points, and not just any points, but base points: ‘Base Points are earned on the money portion spent on a stay, but are not earned on Points redeemed.’ (from the FAQ)
hopefully you’re right. but Hilton does love to devalue……
Hilton has a current promotion and I did a money and pints and the stay does not qualify
Correct. Currently they treat points and money awards as if they are 100% points. In the new program it will be different.
Buddy, Gregory, my friend…
the whole premise of your blog is getting outsized value. If Hilton indexes its points to the US dollar, we can just collect dollars then…
Why are you not more intensely lamenting your own demise?