Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Jan 08

Hilton Honors Announces New Benefits: Mixed Results

Hilton has announced a huge structural change to its Honors program, bits of which we have seen already, with the addition of a breakfast benefit for Gold & Diamond members at Waldorf properties, as well as an increase in the transfer rate of Amex Membership Rewards points to Hilton Honors, now valued at 1 to 2, versus the previous 1 to 1.5.* Here is a look at the most important changes.

You’ll Earn Points Differently

Hilton Honors

It’s not as good as it looks.

Hilton has traditionally offered a “double-dip” model. You get a base number of points (usually 10 per dollar spent), as well as a 50% bonus, for a minimum of 15 points per dollar. Alternatively, you could get airline miles instead of the extra 50% bonus.

The double-dip is now gone, and you’ll earn extra points in the more traditional method of an added percentage based on your elite status. That means that if you are simply a “base” member, you’ll earn only 10 points per dollar, with no extra. That’s a 33% cut. Silver members have it almost as bad: Previously, you earned a 15% bonus on top of the base points, plus your double-dip, so 10+1.5+5=16.5 points per dollar. Now, you simply get a 20% bonus on the base, or 12 points per dollar. Gold goes up slightly, from a 25% bonus, or 17.5 points per dollar, to an 80% bonus, or 18 points per dollar. Diamond members will remain at 20 points per dollar.

Extra Points for Frequent Guests

In the past, Hilton has been relatively agnostic as to whether you earned elite status through spending at its properties, offering top tier status by spending either $12,000 per year (earn 12,000 base points) or staying 60 nights.** Now, they seem to have shifted to nights spent, with bonuses for frequent guests.

Once you reach 40 nights per year, you’ll earn an additional 10,000 points. Is that a big deal? Not really. I value 10,000 points at about $40. On your 60th night, they’ll give you an additional 30,000 points.

Here’s a nice bonus, though: Once you hit 60 nights, earning you Diamond status, you can gift Gold status to a friend. And if you spend 100 nights per year with Hilton, you can gift Diamond status.

Elite Rollover Nights

Another “good” change: Hilton is bringing in “rollover nights,” which Marriott announced that it would be eliminating. Rollover is a fancy way of saying that any nights over your highest elite status get carried over to the next year. For example, if you stay 100 nights, you’ll have hit the 60 nights that you need for Hilton Diamond status, plus start the next year with an additional 40. It works between tiers, too. You need 40 nights to hit Gold, so if you stay 50 nights in a year, the additional 10 will carry over.

The Bottom Line: The majority of these changes offer their biggest benefits to the most frequent guests. Note that the point changes are negative for you until you hit 40 nights per year which, not coincidentally, is the point at which the 10,000 bonus points per ten stays kicks in. 40 nights per year is also the minimum for Gold status. Hilton is making it pretty obvious at which point you jump from “guest” to “super guest.”

And if you still want the Gold status that comes with 40 nights but don’t want to stay the 40 nights, the easy way to do it, for under $100, is just to get a credit card. The bonus points that you earn by signing up for the card will more than offset a few years of fees.

 


*Beginner’s Hint: Most major credit card banks have cards that offer proprietary points, i.e., their own currency, as opposed to miles or cash. These points are often exchangeable for points or dollars, but you’ll have several options.

American Express offers Membership Rewards (MR) points, which are the least valuable of any of the proprietary points, particularly if you are redeeming them for cash. And, even with the new exchange rate, they don’t offer a particularly good benefit at Hilton. With Hilton points worth about 0.4 cents each, one MR point is worth about 0.8 cents.

**Some of the lower-end properties give you five, rather than ten, points per dollar spent. If your spending includes these properties, you’ll need to spend more.

 

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