Hilton Honors Rewards Program changes – Devaluation, but easier to use!

A few weeks ago, Hilton announced major changes to their HHonors rewards program. I reviewed it in TravelNews here and concluded that it will be more flexible and easier to use for regular members just looking for a free night, but reflect a devaluation for points & miles enthusiasts looking for the best value for their points. Now, Hilton has implemented their new points & money payment and eliminated the previous rewards category and rewards prices. I have reviewed them – and unfortunately, I was right – this represents a(nother) devaluation of the Hilton Honors program, leaving your points worth less than they were last week!

Update: Since I posted this, Hilton has already made changes to the rewards and point & cash rates, eliminating some of the pockets of value still left. See the new data at the end of the post!

Example 1: Reichshof Hamburg, Germany, Curio Collection

Prior to the change, the Reichshof Hamburg was available at a cash rate of EUR198, a points rate of 30,000 and a cash & points rate of 12,000 points + EUR45 for a weekend night in May.
After the change, the same night is still EUR198, but now costs 36,000 points or 12,000 points + EUR136. Hilton promised at the launch that they would not raise the maximum points rate for any hotel as part of this change – and that is technically correct in this case: The maximum rate for this hotel was 50,000 points prior to the change. But while Hilton did stick to that promise, they did did eliminate the previous low/high season rates, making the new rates reflect market prices per day and ultimately raising prices drastically, like in this case! So, I’d consider Hilton’s promise misleading, as many travel bloggers concluded that “prices won’t go up”. The points price has indeed gone up by 20% with the change and the cash & points price, previously a pocket of great value, has gone up by an incredible 101% – a huge devaluation! Check out the data below for detail:

Hilton Honors Change Example 1 ReichshofExample 2: Conrad Manila
Because Hilton has moved more towards a revenue based redemption model with a consistent point value, I concluded that this could reduce the point levels for hotels like the Conrad Manila that had a ridiculously high points rate of 50,000 points/night, when cash rates rarely exceeded $200. 

Conrad Manila

Conrad Manila

After the change, the cash price is still $160 for a weekend night in April and the point price has gone down to 42,000 points. While there was no points & cash rate available previously, you can now pay with 10,000 points + $145. While this is slightly better than before, it still is poor value – previously, your points were worth 0.32 ct/pt and now 0.38 ct/pt or only 0.15 ct/pt with the point & cash rate – I have valued Hilton Honors points at 0.4 ct/pt. 

Hilton Honors Change Example 2 Conrad Manila

Example 3: Doubletree Kuala Lumpur
The Doubletree Kuala Lumpur near the iconic KLCC offered tremendous value at a rate of 10,000 pt/nt and cash rates of $127/nt for 1.27 ct/pt. 
kl-petronas-towerI was able to still find the same point rate of 10,000 pt/nt with a cash rate of $93. In this example, the cash & point rate is actually an improvement: Using 5,000 pt/nt requires a cash co-pay of $38, increasing the point value from 0.93 ct/pt for all-points to 1.1 ct/pt for cash & points.

Hilton Honors Change Example 3 Doubletree KLExample 4: Hilton Garden Inn Bali Airport
The Hilton Garden Inn near Bali’s airport was at 5,000 points/night and cash rates of $87 some of the best value I’ve found in the Hilton Honors program at 1.7 ct/pt – or four times the average! 
While I was still able to find the standard rate of 5,000 pt/nt for stays a year out, only “Deluxe Rooms” are available for much of the year, with rates of 14,000 pt/nt. Because cash rates have dropped since opening to below $40 – the point value has also dropped significantly to below 0.3 ct/pt.

Hilton Garden Inn Pool

Hilton Garden Inn Pool

While Hilton is honoring their promise to not raise the maximum point rate, it appears that hotels are playing games and are blocking the “standard rooms”, thereby in fact raising the points price.

Update: When I researched these and a few other examples on the day of the change, there were still significant differences of value between full reward rates and point & cash rates in value. It appears, that Hilton has already adjusted the rates and now, the value per point is consistent across awards and point & cash rates.
Some differences in value arise from the fact that Hilton uses the Honors rate as the basis for the value, while in some places a special sales rate can be much better value (and reduce the value of points, see Conrad Bali and Conrad Manila pre-paid rate pp below).
Also, it appears that at hotels that charge a resort fee, that fee is included in a full reward rate, but you have to pay it in full for any cash & point rate, making c&p rates poor value at those hotels (see example of Hilton Hawaiian Village below).
Despite all the changes, there are still instances were a Premium Room can have a lower rate than a standard room, like at the Conrad Bali, offering sometimes better value! I expect these pockets of value to disappear as Hilton cleans up their rates over the next few weeks.
For the time being, low category hotels like the Doubletree Kuala Lumpur continue to offer some of the best value. I just booked a room at the new Hilton Kota Kinabalu at a rate of 10,000 points per night with a cash rate of $106! See all the sample data below:

HiltonHonors RewardSampleValueBottomline: As expected, Hilton has devalued their Honors rewards program for points enthusiasts by eliminating high-value redemption options and – in some cases drastically – increase the number of points you need for a free room night. My Hilton Honors points are now worth a lot less to me than they were last week.
While some travel bloggers are spinning this as “good news”, the facts just don’t support that. If you have a lot of points, I suggest to use them as soon as possible. You might still find value in new hotels where the points rates were set low, hotels that have seen a drastic price increase in their market (without point rates having changed ), hotels in peak-demand situations were prices have shot up. You can also try cash & points rates for hotels in regions with high taxes and service charges, like much of South East Asia!
For many Honors members who earn their points on business travel and just want a free night on vacation, without having to bother with “point values”, the program is now more flexible and easier – while you won’t get great value out of your hard earned points, you also won’t be totally ripped-off with ridiculous points rates as often as before. Your points will likely be worth around 0.4-0.5 cents per point, sometimes a little more or less, and I recommend you use them like cash as you earn them!
I will update my review of the program and evaluation of the points over the next few weeks. 

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