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At the start of each year we normally see some of the big hotel chains making
changes to their loyalty programs. 2013 has been no different, in fact I would
have to say there have been more changes than more and as is almost always the
case the changes aren’t good. Starwood Preferred Guest, IHG Priority Club, and
Marriott Rewards have all released ‘bad news’ changes to their programs and
now with an email yesterday came news of Hilton’s turn. Out of all the programs
that have announced changes, Hilton HHonors have got to be some of the most
significant and not in a good way.

All of these changes are slated to take place on March 28th and are as follows:
Hilton HHonors will be moving to 10 award categories from 7. The new
are 8, 9 and 10 and primarily affect current Category 7 hotels which
maxed out
at 50,000 points for an award night. Now with the new categories some
hotels will cost as much as 95,000 points per night! Overall this is a
huge devaluation for many of the ‘dream’ hotels that members aspire to
redeem at and even for the not so ‘dreamy’ hotels that are in the middle
of the award chart.

Here is the current award chart

and here is what the new one looks like

You’ll notice that for categories 4 through 10 there are various point ranges
for the award nights, this is taking into account HHonors’ new Seasonal Hotel
Reward Pricing. In basic terms, hotels in these categories will have variable
rates depending on the season (High/Low)

One thing I didn’t notice on many of the other Frequent Flyer and
Loyalty Blogs
is that the Category 1-3 hotels have actually gone down in the amount
of points
required but the reasons it is not mentioned is that there are a
little over
500 properties in these categories out of Hilton’s 3,900+ hotels
so they make up a small portion of the pot and most people, like
myself, save
up points to redeem for aspirational awards, like stays at the 5 star
on the
beach locations, which never fall into the low categories. Also going
down is the lowest rate possible for categories 5-7, obviously for stays
during the lowest of low seasons.

The final change is 5th Night Free, where members with Silver, Gold or Diamond
elite status will get a free night when they book a Standard Room Reward stay
of five or more consecutive nights. This ‘new’ enhancement will actually remove
the current VIP Awards from HHonors which provided 20% off standard award rates
for stay of 5 nights (so the equivalent of 5th night free) but also provided
15% off for 4 nights or even better 25% off of 6 nights. So the loss of the
VIP Awards and the introduction of the 5th Night Free for elite members can
also be considered a devaluation of the HHonors program.

As always, for some good analysis please visit Ric Garrido’s Loyalty Traveler blog where he puts up some sample reward bookings under the current HHonors
program and the program after March 28th. It doesn’t look good.

Screen shot from Ric Garrido’s post on the HHonors changes

Are you a big time user of the Hilton HHonors program? I’m not so much so I’d
love to hear comments from those of you who are going to be majorily affected
by these changes!

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