Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Feb 01

Hilton “Enhances” Redemptions; Be Prepared for A Devaluation

Hotel loyalty programs are good at many things, but the one thing that they are best at is disguising stealth devaluations as a benefit, which they will usually call “an enhancement.” The last thing that you want is for your program to get enhanced.

Prepare for The Hilton Honors Devaluation

hilton honors

Who, exactly, did they listen to?

Hilton recently issued a press release and announced changes to the Hilton Honors (Yes, they dropped the second “h” in Hhonors.) . A look at the cover page above shows an immediate problem: It starts off with “We listened to you…” Anytime a loyalty program starts off with “We listened to you…,” it means one of two things:

  1. They’re adding a benefit that their competitors have offered for so long that you forgot that your program doesn’t have it, or
  2. They’re about to stick it to you by offering a new benefit but implementing it in such a way that it’s going to cost you.*

Hilton just did the second. They added a couple of lukewarm benefits, such as the ability to pool points and use your points at Amazon (for what I assume will be a low rate). They also offer benefits to certain Diamond members who lose their status for a year.

The Slider

hilton honors

No, mine doesn’t slide. That would cost extra.

The biggie: Hilton announced that it would offer a “flexible points” program. You can use points to pay for a stay. You can use cash to pay for a stay. And now, you can use any combination of the two, not just their fixed “points and cash” rate. Your points will likely be worth 0.4-0.5 cents, based on speculation that I have seen at other blogs, most notably, One Mile at A Time. And Hilton has promised that the price of a night in points will not go up when they transition to the new system (late February) and may, in fact, go down. Sounds great, right?

Not so much, because they also announced that they are getting rid of categories and the award chart. No longer will you know that Hotel X is Category Y and will costs you Z points. In other words, there will be no transparency into pricing.

They promised that they won’t raise the price of an award at the time of transition, but how long will they guarantee that? How do I know that a property that would be 10,000 points this year won’t get a stealth devaluation and cost 15,000 next year? There won’t be anything to compare it to. Likewise, what happens to the point value during periods of high demand? Will they lower the value of points to be worth, say, 0.3-0.4 cents each, instead of 0.4-0.5 cents?

I don’t begrudge a company a profit. Hilton is, after all, owned by shareholders. But I do find it insulting that they think the world will fall for such a ruse.

On A Happier Note…

Flyertalk pointed me to a petition to change the name of the Pittsburgh International Airport to Fred Rogers International Airport. I barely remember Mr. Rogers, King Friday and all their buddies, but if you don’t know about the off-camera life of this amazing man, it is worth a read. Pittsburgh would be proud to have his airport as their neighbor.

*I have long worried that airlines will eventually move to the system that JetBlue uses for redemptions: The cost of the redemption is not based on the distance you travel, but rather, the cost of the ticket if you had paid cash for it (i.e., a $5,000 airline ticket will cost 20X what a $250 ticket would). I guarantee you this: when the first airline, likely Delta, implements such a program, the first line in your notification will read something along the lines of, “We listened to you!” Guarantee it. Don’t believe me? Bookmark this page for when it happens.


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