Update: Hilton Honors Points & Money Option is Now Live — But…

E ffective as of Wednesday, March 1, 2017 as a member of the Hilton Honors frequent guest loyalty program, you are now able to use a flexible payment slider to choose nearly any combination of points and money to pay for your stay — any time — with no blackout dates. You can still opt to use all points on award stays; and you can continue to enjoy the popular 5th Night Free benefit if you have earned elite level status…

Update: Hilton Honors Points & Money Option is Now Live — But…

Hilton Honors Points & Money slider

This is a graphic of the new Points & Money slider. Source: Hilton Honors.

…but reviews of this new option have been mixed. Either lower point redemption rates, reduced cash spend, or a combination of both have been reported for various hotel and resort properties — but there are slightly more negative reports than positive ones of the Points & Money option primarily due to three issues which have been reported since the rollout of this new feature.

1. Standard reward stays pricing as premium rewards. “As Hilton promised to improve their loyalty program beginning in the end of February, I just checked the new ‘improvement’”, lamented FlyerTalk member Kat007, who noticed that the Hilton Honors points required for one redemption option increased by 500 percent. “A category 1 hotel, which was 5K points or about $40-$50 max per night now can be booked for 30K and same cash price.” Other members of FlyerTalk contributed with similar tales of woe.

“We found a technical error with the Flexible Dates calendar, and per my earlier post on this thread, we’re working to correct it”, Lauren — who is known as FlyerTalk member and official company representative HonorsRepresentative — posted in response. “Currently, you’re only able to see Premium Rewards and a limited number of Standard Rooms on the calendar. Again, this will be fixed so you’re able to view all Standard Rooms. In the meantime, rest assured that Standard Rooms are not going away and will still be available for booking through the updated Points & Money program.”

2. Increases in the money portion of Points & Money. At the Reichshof Hamburg, Curio Collection by Hilton hotel property, rates are as low as 122 euros per night — but FlyerTalk member thbe compared the former Cash and Points rate to the current Points & Money rate; and found that when redeeming 16,000 Hilton Honors points, what used to cost 58.91 euros now costs 115.06 euros. That translates into an increase of greater than 95.3 percent for the cash portion of the Points & Money option.

3. Resort Fees Remain Intact. “The problem lies with resort fees. Although I’ve reduced my room rate by $310.74 — over a third — the $105 in resort fees are unchanged”, according to this article written by Scott Mackenzie of Travel Codex when attempting to use the Points & Money option at the Hilton Hawaiian Village resort property. “In fact, these resort fees will stick around as long as I pay any amount in cash, even a single dollar. Resort fees are only waived when I redeem points for the entire stay.”

Keep in mind that if you only redeem Hilton Honors points for your reward stay, you will not be required to pay the resort fee in many cases.

How Points & Money Is Supposed to Work

To use the Points & Money option to pay for a stay, the minimum spend is 5,000 Hilton Honors points; and the slider will allow you to increase the number of Hilton Honors points you might want to redeem in increments of 1,000 points — all the way to paying for your stay in full with points only. Hilton Honors is the only frequent guest loyalty program in the lodging industry to equip its members with a slider to customize the balance between redeeming points and paying with money for a stay at a hotel or resort property.

Unlike the current Cash & Points option where you could not earn Hilton Honors points at all, you will be able to earn Hilton Honors points on the cash portion of a Points & Money stay once that option is in effect later this month. While not exclusive, Hilton Honors is one of the few frequent guest loyalty programs which offers this feature on its Points & Money option.

Prices of stays paid with Hilton Honors points will also become more flexible with the Points & Money option. When demand and room rates are lower, points prices will flex and go lower than before — meaning that hotel categories will become obsolete and therefore be eliminated, which will allow point prices to go lower than the previous ranges.

Even after the transition on standard room rewards, the maximum points price of each hotel and resort property will not increase.

As an example, a standard room reward redemption at Category 10 hotel and resort properties costs a maximum of 95,000 Hilton Honors points per night. Once the new Points & Money option launches later this month, the maximum amount of Hilton Honors points which you can redeem at those same hotel and resort properties will continue to cost 95,000 points — and may sometimes be priced lower than the previous category range.

For comparison purposes in the future, here is the hotel category chart which displays the current Hilton HHonors standard award prices per night prior to the elimination of hotel categories — and keep in mind that you can continue to enjoy the popular 5th Night Free benefit if you have earned elite level status, meaning that you can stay at the same hotel or resort property for five consecutive nights when you redeem enough points for four consecutive nights:

Hotel Category  Hilton HHonors Points  Cash & Points
1 5,000 points $30.00 + 2,000 points
2 10,000 points $35.00 + 4,000 points
3 20,000 points $40.00 + 8,000 points
4 20,000 to 30,000 points $50.00 + 12,000 points
5 30,000 to 40,000 points $65.00 + 16,000 points
6 30,000 to 50,000 points $85.00 + 20,000 points
7 30,000 to 60,000 points $100.00 + 24,000 points
8 40,000 to 70,000 points $125.00 + 28,000 points
9 50,000 to 80,000 points $150.00 + 32,000 points
10 70,000 to 95,000 points $200.00 + 38,000 points

The idea of Points & Money is rather simple: as using this option requires a minimum of 5,000 points — which can basically be earned by staying two nights when paying with money for a hotel room — this gives the flexibility to get more value from points faster so as not to have to wait until there are enough points to use for a reward stay paid completely with points. This way, even members of the Hilton Honors program who are at the basic Blue membership tier can redeem their points faster for reward stays.

The Points & Money option will be available as long as standard room rates are available.

Here are several examples of Standard Reward Point redemption rates at popular destinations both as of Thursday, January 26, 2017 and when the new, more flexible Points & Money launches later this month:

Hotel Property  Previous Category and Reward Point Price Range New Estimated Lowest Point Price New Highest Point Price
Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista Category 6: 40,000 – 50,000 38,000 points 50,000 points
DoubleTree London – Westminster Category 7: 50,000 – 60,000 34,000 points 60,000 points
Hilton Garden Inn Monterey Category 7: 40,000 – 60,000 24,000 points 60,000 points
The Palmer House Chicago Category 7: 50,000 – 60,000 21,000 points 60,000 points
DoubleTree Grand Key West Resort Category 8: 50,000 – 70,000 46,000 points 70,000 points
Hilton Garden Inn Times Square Category 8: 60,000 – 70,000 32,000 points 70,000 points
Hilton Ocean City Category 9: 50,000 – 80,000 23,000 points 80,000 points
Waldorf Astoria Rome Cavalieri Category 9: 70,000 – 80,000 55,000 points 80,000 points
Conrad Maldives Category 10: 95,000 95,000 points 95,000 points

You can check pricing examples for all of the greater than 4,900 hotel and resort properties here; and you will be able to use an availability calendar to see up to 365 days ahead exactly how many points are required to redeem at a specific hotel or resort property on a specific date. The redemption rates will be in real time once the Points & Money feature is launched.

If you find a redemption of points which you believe is reasonable to excellent, you can redeem your points and book your stay to ensure that you have that rate by the time you arrive at the hotel or resort property. Not booking it means that the rate is at risk of fluctuating — meaning that the redemption price could change if you wait instead of book your reservation.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Points & Money Option

All reservations booked prior to Tuesday, February 28, 2017 will still be honored the way they were booked. If you choose to change a reward reservation after the launch, the points price of the stay will be subject to the latest redemption rates.

For additional and comprehensive information pertaining to the changes to the Hilton Honors frequent guest loyalty program, please refer to this article.

In light of the resort fee issue as highlighted by Scott Mackenzie in his article, a new item has been added to the disadvantages list shown below.

ADVANTAGES OF POINTS AND MONEY OPTION
  • Greater flexibility
  • No blackout dates
  • Ability to earn Hilton Honors points on the money portion of a stay
  • Can be used at greater than 4,900 hotel and resort properties at 14 hotel brands worldwide — no exceptions or exclusions
  • Possibility of lower redemption rates than those currently offered during off-peak periods
  • All Points & Money rewards stays and nights will continue to count towards the achievement of elite level status
DISADVANTAGES OF POINTS AND MONEY OPTION
  • Mandatory resort fees are neither reduced nor eliminated — even if only spending one dollar on the room rate
  • Rewards more based on revenue and demand than before
  • Elimination of reward charts, meaning you likely have to put more effort into searching for a reward redemption using a tool
  • Resort fees will be applied for any bookings purchased with any combination of Points & Money; but they will still not apply to reservations booked solely with Hilton Honors points
  • Devaluations could possibly occur in a stealth fashion in the future — such as an increase in the maximum threshold of a hotel or resort property
  • At this time, the slider tool is not available when booking a stay at Hampton Inn hotel properties in Mainland China

Summary

I agree with this statement from the aforementioned article written by Scott Mackenzie: “The more obvious solution — eliminating resort fees and rolling them into the base rate — isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.”

The new Points & Money option offered by Hilton Honors only further exacerbates the mandatory resort fee issue about which I have written extensively in numerous articles. Resort fees should become obsolete by either including them in the base room rate or by eliminating them altogether.

As for the technical issues, I am confident that their resolution will provide more favorable results at a greater number of hotel and resort properties — but that does not mean that technical glitches still will not happen; and because of that, I encourage you to post your experiences pertaining to using the new Points & Money option in the Comments section below to keep fellow readers of The Gate alerted and informed.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.


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