If you’re a loyal Hilton customer, then 2013 is not your year. In March, Hilton announced a massive devaluation to their HHonors loyalty program by introducing new hotel categories (from 8 to 10) and increased seasonal pricing for award redemption. In June, another devaluation was announced for American Express Hilton cardholders that increased points required for AXON award redemption. And as if those changes weren’t enough, Hilton just announced another cut to their loyalty program this morning. In an email sent to HHonors members, Hilton announced another update to their HHonors program. Staring January 6, 2014, Hilton HHonors members will no longer be able to earn Hilton HHonors points AND FIXED MILES when staying at eligible properties.
One of the great benefits to the Hilton HHonors program was their ability to earn both HHonors points AND airlines miles when staying at their properties. For each qualifying stay, you can earn either 10 base HHonors points plus 5 bonus points per dollar spent (Points and Points), 10 base HHonors points and 1 airline mile per dollar spent (Points and Variable Miles) or 10 base HHonors points per dollar spent and 500 airline miles per stay (Points and Fixed Miles). Those miles can be credited to any one their airline partners including American Airlines, Delta, United and all the other major Asian, European and and Middle Eastern carriers.
But starting January 6, 2014, all members who have selected the Points and Fixed Miles option in their profile will automatically be converted to Points and Variable Miles. That means that there will no longer be a 500 airline miles minimum per eligible stay. For longer stays of 5 nights or more, you will not notice a difference but for those of us that have frequent weekend stays of two nights or less, this will be a huge hit to our airline miles earnings potential. Let’s do some math.
Let’s assume the daily rate for Hilton Hotel “X” is $100/night. For a two night stay under the current plan, you will earn 2000 base HHonors points AND 500 airline miles. Under the new plan, you will earn 2000 base HHonors points and 200 airline miles. For a six night stay under the current plan, you will earn 6000 base HHonors points and 500 airline miles. Under the new plan, you will earn 6000 base HHonors points and 600 airline miles. As you can see, this new option will work out better for business travelers with longer stays or those who prefer to stay at their more expensive resorts. The more money you spend, the more points and miles you will earn. So unless you’re spending at least $500 per stay, you won’t be earning as many miles as you were before the devaluation.
At the end of the day, this is not the worst devaluation in the world (they already did that back in March) but it is a huge hit to frequent travelers who prefer to earn airline miles over HHonors points. Hilton used to be a great way to earn airline miles but now, there are many other programs that offer more miles for your buck.
Marriott Rewards offers up to 2 miles per dollar spent at their properties. Starwood SPG Preferred Guests offers 2 SPG points per dollar spent at their properties. Those points can later be transferred to all the major airlines with a 25% bonus (20,000 SPG points transferred = 25,000 miles). That’s the earning rate at SPG’s lowest member tier. Higher elite members earn more points per dollar spent. And Fairmont Resorts offers a flat 500 airline miles bonus on eligible stays.
So is this the end for Hilton? I think so. It’s no longer worth it to stay at Hilton properties when there are dozens of hotel chains out there that offer a better awards chart for hotel redemption or better airline miles earning potential. For me personally, I am a weekend traveler and the majority of my hotel stays are weekend stays of two nights. Doing the math, even at a property that costs $200/night, I will only be earning 400 airline miles for a two night stay. Staying at an SPG property, that same two night stay will get me 800 airline miles. That’s kind of a no brainer on where I’ll be staying in the future.
More information about the program change can be found here.