Hilton program changes: a net win

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This morning, Greg wrote a post about whether or not you should cancel your Hilton card ahead of the big changes coming to the credit card lineup (See: Should you cancel your Hilton card before January 18th?). The credit cards aren’t the only big change coming for Hilton Honors — Hilton has announced some changes to the Hilton Honors loyalty program. When programs announce changes, they almost always present poor value. In this case, Hilton has defied the norm and introduced some really positive changes for those who have at least Gold status (and most readers likely do since Hilton has been pretty generous about matching status and Gold Status also comes as a benefit of the Hilton Surpass card, the Citi Hilton Reserve card (being converted to a new Amex card soon), or the many flavors of Amex Platinum card). While Hilton points aren’t increasing in value, I’m pretty excited about these changes.

Changes for 2018

The following things are changing in 2018

More info on each change

Here’s a little more information on each of the above changes:

Breakfast at Waldorf-Astoria Hotels & Resorts

 

This is a net positive change that we previously covered, as linked above. You can see how this benefit will apply in the chart above (found on this page of frequently asked questions about the new program). As you can see, some properties are offering a true “Continental Breakfast”, some are offering a full breakfast, and most Waldorf-Astoria hotels are only offering a $15 voucher credit. That probably won’t buy much of a breakfast at most Waldorf-Astoria hotels. That said, something is better than nothing and full breakfast at some of those hotels will surely be pretty nice. This is a net win – especially since it includes resort locations.

One earning style for everyone: points

In my opinion, one of the most confusing parts of Hilton Honors has long been the different “earning styles”, whereby you could choose to earn Points & Miles for your stay or Points & Points (Points & Points means earning extra Hilton Honors points instead of earning airline miles on your stay). It has long been possible to choose to earn Hilton points and airline miles on your stay or to earn extra Hilton points. Despite the relative strength of miles over hotel points, the earning rate was usually only 1x miles versus 5x extra Hilton points if you took Points & Points. As a result, most people I knew took Points & Points. There were a few times when a promotion caused me to choose miles for a paid stay or two, but I’ve mostly kept it at Points & Points for years. The option to change this is/was buried within your account profile. It will still be possible to change this preference and earn airline miles until April 2018.

Starting in April, all users will continue to earn 10x base points at most properties (5x at True and Home2) and Silver, Gold, and Diamond members will earn bonuses on those base points at the following rates at properties other than True and Home2 Suites (old rates in parentheses).

  • Blue Members (no status) will earn 10x Hilton Points (previously 15x with Points & Points)
  • Silver Members will earn 12x Hilton Points (previously 16.5x with Points & Points)
  • Gold Members will earn 18x Hilton Points (previously 17.5x with Points & Points)
  • Diamond Members will earn 20x Hilton Points (previously 20x with Points & Points)

At first glance, this looks like a devaluation as Blue Members and Silver Members will earn fewer points than before. However, since Hilton Gold status is so easy to get as a benefit included with several credit cards or via status match, most readers likely have at least Gold status. Gold Members will actually earn an extra half a point per dollar on paid stays and Diamond members will earn the same as they have previously with Points & Points. Those hit the hardest will be folks who are trying to earn status from scratch — the new earning structure will further incentivize picking up a credit card for status.

10,000 bonus points every 10 nights starting at 40

Hilton loyalists will be earning quite a few bonus points this year. Starting at 40 nights, members will earn an additional 10,000 points every 10 nights. At 60 nights, they will earn an additional 30,000 points — for a total bonus of 60,000 points for 60 nights in a year. That’s on top of your normal earnings and any promotions that Hilton runs (such as the current first-quarter promotion, which is offering 10,000 bonus points after ever 5 stays — see Hilton Points Unlimited in the post: SPG, Marriott, Hilton 2018 Q1 promotions open for registrations).

While 40-60 nights is a lot of nights, I’m glad to see an incentive for the most loyal customers to keep coming back. The bonus isn’t quite enough for a free night at a top-tier Hilton, but it will get a night or two at most properties within the portfolio (and could add up to enough for an overwater bungalow in the Maldives with the points from the first quarter promotion). On top of the great benefits of the new Hilton Credit Cards coming out next week, this is a nice look for Hilton.

Gift status to a friend

On top of point earnings, Hilton Honors members will be able to gift status to a friend after staying enough nights. At 60 nights in 2018, Gold status can be gifted to a friend. At 100 nights, that status can be upgraded to Diamond. That’s certainly not a bad benefit, especially considering the ability to also pool points with up to 10 other people.

You will not be able to gift status to more than one member. You can give Gold at 60 nights and upgrade that same member to Diamond at 100 nights or you can simply hold off on gifting status until you hit 100 nights and then give Diamond status from the start (though I’m not sure why you would hold off on gifting Gold status).

Elite Rollover Nights

If you stay a number of nights beyond tier qualification requirements, excess nights can rollover to the next year’s status requirements. As per the Hilton terms, the following nights can roll over to the following year for qualification:

  • • Nights 11-39 for Silver members
    • Nights 41-59 for Gold members
    • Nights 61+ for Diamond members

This benefit is probably most helpful for someone like my father, who travels only enough times per year to earn Silver status and refuses to get a credit card with an annual fee. Over the course of two years, he may earn Gold status. For example, if he stays 25 nights during 2018, he would earn Silver status (which requires 10 nights) and then roll over 15 nights for 2019 qualification. If he stays another 25 nights in 2019, he will achieve Gold status for 2020 (15 rollover nights + 25 new nights = Gold status). That’s a nice deal for people like him — though it probably doesn’t apply to most readers here.

Bottom line

I’d say that these changes are an easy net positive, both for casual members who get Hilton Gold status through a credit card and will now earn an extra half a point per dollar and for those who are regularly loyal to Hilton and put in the nights to pull out a lot of extra points this year. I considered a mattress run for SPG Platinum this past year (See: Should Nick mattress run for SPG Platinum), but I ultimately held off. Between the new credit card lineup coming late next week and the many great Hilton stays I’ve had over the past couple of years, I might just stick with Hilton.

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