Hilton Honors is introducing changes to its program in 2017, starting with dropping one of the H letters from the name.
Hilton Honors will introduce new Points & Money awards (all the award categories are gone), members can use their points for shopping on Amazon.com, members can pool points together from 11 accounts, and Diamond members will be eligible for a one time status extension.
You can access Hilton HHonors web page for the change here.
Points & Money
Hilton Honors is introducing new Points & Money awards where members can (on a sliding scale) mix points and cash. This can be applied towards Best Flexible and Member Only Rates, but certain sale rates are excluded such as those sales in Europe and Asia. This feature will be launched late February.
The fixed Points and Money awards will be discontinued when this sliding scale option is launched. Members will earn points and airline miles based on the paid portion of the rate.
Members can still redeem for full points awards and get their fifth night free.
Here’s video from Hilton how this pricing will work:
Award Categories Gone
This is actually quite a drastic change. Hilton Honors will discontinue award categories for all hotels. They will, however, introduce a Standard Rewards Pricing Tool that you can use to see the high/low number of points required for an award and the former maximum.
Hilton Honors assured during the call that the maximum number of points required for any given property is not changing. Hilton is using the maximum point requirement from the old method as the maximum price under this new Points + Money.
The illustration uses higher category properties so not sure how this will affect those category 1 and 2 that only require 5,000 to 10,000 points per night.
You have to keep in mind that Hilton Honors made a change back in 2013 (read more here) where they introduced more variability within categories 4 to 10 per the table above.
Using Hilton HHonors Points For Amazon Purchases
Members can use their points for Amazon purchases later this year and enjoy Amazon Prime benefits.
It is unclear what value is assigned to a Hilton Honors point when used for purchases. My educated guess is one third to one quarter of a cent each.
Member can start a pool with up to ten other members who then can transfer anywhere from 1,000 to 500,000 points. The member starting the pool can then use the points any way she or he wants. Exactly the same way the points from a single member are used.
Diamond Status Extension
Diamond members can extend their status one-time if they don’t qualify based on the base points or number of nights/stays.
This feature is available for those members that have been Diamond members more than three years and accumulated 250 nights or 500,000 base points since joining the program. This feature will be launched in March.
These certainly are interesting changes, and the only thing that may create some ambiguity is the new Points + Money awards due to the fact that the award categories are discontinued.
The new Points + Money awards, however, make using smaller amounts of points more feasible than before and some airlines already offer this in their programs.
Merchandise rewards are popular among members that earn way more points from their stays than they can ever use. I have always wondered why these programs don’t just use someone like Amazon to do the fulfillment. Now they use other third party providers that likely pay more for the merchandise than Amazon. The selection when using Amazon is almost limitless.
Points Pooling makes it easier to pool points from member accounts that may only have a few thousand points or those that no longer have any use for them. It is good that there is no fee to pool points.
The Diamond status extension can come handy in a year when travel drops. You must have been a Diamond member for a minimum of three years and qualify based on the spend or nights as well.
Hilton HHonors points have been the most valuable for me both at the lower end categories, and at the high end like the Category 10 Conrad Maldives or when the paid rates are throughout the roof.
I have often felt that the award prices for many properties have been out of sync. When I was booking the Hilton hotel in Rio de Janeiro, I had the option of paying $79 ($99 was the flexible rate) or 60,000 points. I hope that this new Points + Money help in a situation such as this.
I still feel bit uneasy about abolishing the award categories altogether. I prefer knowing the maximum price for any given property. You can use the soon to be launched new tool to find this out, but I am not sure how often these ranges will be changed.