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Will you lose with the new Hilton Honors? Why you should book with points now

by on Wed February 1, 2017 • No Comment
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hiltonwaikoloa

Hilton HHonors is changing its name to just Hilton Honors (no more double ‘H’), but it’s also making a big change to the way it sets prices for rooms booked with points.

Starting later this month it will set the point prices on the fly, behind the scenes, based on a sliding scale that takes into account the live cash room rate. It’s called ‘Points and Money,’ and we think it could be bad news if you’re pretty savvy about how you use your points today.

Before, each hotel was assigned a specific Category, from 1 – 1o, and each category had a set range of point prices according to the chart below.

Hotel CategoryPrice Per Night
Category 15,000
Category 210,000
Category 320,000
Category 420,000 - 30,000
Category 530,000 - 40,000
Category 630,000 - 50,000
Category 730,000 - 60,000
Category 840,000 - 70,000
Category 950,000 - 80,000
Category 1070,000 - 95,000

Those category assignments only changed once per year, so you had a good idea of what a hotel would charge in points, and advance notice of when point prices would change. The new Hilton Honors will be eliminating category assignments altogether, so hotels will be able to increase the price in points anytime, with no cap.

Loss: The highest prices could escalate with no notice

The most expensive standard room at any Hilton is 95,000 points, even if that room costs $800 or more a night, like at the Conrad Maldives.

conradmaldivesold

With the new system, Hilton could decide that it only wants to offer $5 in value for every 1,000 points, instead of the $8 or so in value per 1,000 points this 95,000 point redemption at the Conrad Maldives is offering. So that same room could end up costing 153,000 points a night.

To smooth things over, Hilton is saying that for this year at least, the maximum price for a standard room at all hotels will remain the same – no increase there yet.

And since point prices will be based on room rates, on some days you could end up paying a lot fewer points for a room. When cash rates are cheap at hotels like the Grand Wailea in Maui you could end up spending just 48,000 points versus the lowest 70,000 point price today.

grandwailea

You can see the range of prices using this calculator from Hilton.

But down the line, this opens up the door for Hilton to really bump up point prices on the fly, which can eliminate some of the jackpot values you can find today if you’re patient and flexible. That said, Hilton never shied away from big point price increases before, but having specific category bands made it clear when these changes were coming.

Mixed bag: Points and Cash as you remember it will go away

Under the ‘old’ HHonors program, some hotels allowed you to book hotels with a mix of points and cash, with the points and cash price set by the category of the hotel, not by the actual room rate. So you could get some really good deals like this one at the Hilton Aruba, giving you a $435 a night room for $150 plus 32,000 points.

32,000 points saves you $285, which is almost $10 in savings for every 1,000 points, a great deal considering Hilton points generally get you about 50 cents in savings for every 100 points. It’s also a better deal than using 80,000 points to pay for the full $435, because in that case, every 1,000 points is only getting you about $5 in savings.

hiltonarubaold

Going forward, Hilton will offer the ability to pay with any mix of cash and points you want from 5,000 in points plus cash, up to the whole room paid with points, all on a sliding scale.

The catch is with point prices moving to being set by the actual room rate, rather than the category, you could end up paying over 50,000 points plus $150 in cash if you want the same $285 in savings. That could be a 60% increase in the number of points you need to get the same savings.

We won’t know how this plays out in practice until later this month, when the new points and money slider is launched, but we’re not holding our breath that very good deals will remain with points + money redemptions.

Win: You’ll pay a lot less on some days

The silver lining is that, as noted above, on days when room rates are cheap, many point prices will be much lower.

If you’re savvy with your points, you generally just avoid using points when rates are cheap, saving them for big jackpot rewards when rates are high, so this doesn’t help much if you like to save and strategize.

But if you don’t care much about doing the math, and just pay with points as long as you have enough in your account, you’ll probably see your points stretch further, since you’ll pay less on days cash rates are cheaper.

Here are some popular hotels with point prices that could be a lot lower if you wait to book on days when prices are cheap.

hiltonrome

hiltonarubanew

jewelparadisenew

hiltonanaheim

The reality is though, with the old HHonors, if you wanted to book a non-standard room, like a suite or executive floor room, the price in points was based on the price in cash, and rates for these rooms could sometimes be less than for standard rooms, so this ‘benefit’ isn’t all that new. It just makes it more front and center.

Book now – there’s no harm

If you’re concerned about these changes, book now. You can always cancel and get a refund of your points later, since most hotels let you cancel up to the days just prior to arrival with no penalty.

Then, you can check the price of the reward on the dates you want later this month, and if it’s gone up, you saved yourself some points, and if it’s gone down, you can always refund and rebook at the lower price.

The twist is with the new Hilton Honors is that you’re going to want to regularly check the point price of your hotel after you book, in case a lower rate pops up when cash prices go down.

 

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