Hilton has been on a mission to revamp its loyalty program recently. They made a number of huge changes to their loyalty program in 2017, continued to step up their promotions throughout the year, and now they are at it once again with more big changes coming in April 2018. Here’s a breakdown of the current Hilton Honors landscape.
The 2017 changes to Hilton Honors
In 2017, Hilton implemented a number of new changes to the Hilton Honors program including:
- Abolishing award categories
- Points + Cash Slider
- Points pooling was introduced
- Amazon redemptions were introduced
- Diamond member pause
- “Hilton HHonors” changed to “Hilton Honors”
The responses to these changes were mixed. Most hated to see the award chart go (although Hilton already had a form of dynamic pricing) but some of the changes like points pooling and the points + cash slider were welcomed by many Honors customers.
During 2017, Hilton also continued to be one of the most rewarding programs in terms of ongoing promotions. For example, at one point they offered triple the points to Hilton Honors Diamond members, allowing for returns of 16% or more (which was fantastic).
Hilton also reached an exclusive card agreement with American Express and dropped Citi in the process. This resulted in new American Express Hilton credit cards that will be officially released this month and probably had a lot do with the fact that American Express improved the transfer ratio to Hilton.
Hilton’s new changes for 2018
Hilton just announced a number of pretty big changes to its Hilton Honors program for 2018.
These new changes will be positive or at least neutral for their most elite customers while those “at the bottom” of the elite totem pole will feel the pain.
Here’s a summary of the new changes that will come into effect April 2018:
- No more “Points and Miles” option
- Increased elite bonus earning rates
- Milestone Bonuses
- Elite Rollover Nights
- Gifting Elite Status
No more “Points and Miles”
Hilton was unique in that it allowed its guests to choose between “Points + Points” and “Points + Miles.” Basically, you could choose if you wanted to earn 5 extra Hilton points per dollar spent or one airline mile with select airlines. (Apparently, a lot of customers never even knew about this option and only a small percentage (around 14%) actually used it according to VFTW.)
Points + Points was essentially a built in 50% bonus on base points that will no longer be available. But while Hilton is taking this opportunity away, they are increasing the elite bonus earning rates to make up for it (at least for some people).
Increased elite bonus earning rates
When you stay at a major chain hotel you earn a standard rate of base points and if you hold elite status with that hotel you’re typically given a bonus rate on top of that. So for example, a Hilton member earns 10X on every dollar spent but a Diamond member will receive a 50% bonus on top of those Hilton points for a total of 15X.
Hilton is increasing the bonus earning rates for all elite levels. Starting April 2018, elite tier bonuses will increase as seen below:
- Silver: 15% to 20%
- Gold: 25% to 80%
- Diamond: 50% to 100%
Since Hilton is dropping its Points + Points feature, the practical effect of these changes will result in the following point earning rates per dollar spent:
- Non-elites: 15 to 10
- Silver: 16.5 to 12
- Gold: 17.5 to 18
- Diamond: 20 to 20
As you can see, now that Hilton is doing away with Points + Points, this means those at the lower tiers of elite status (or those without elite status) will be hurt by the changes, while those at the top (Gold and Diamond) will benefit or at least remain unaffected.
So Hilton offers us a more simplified elite earning structure but it comes at the cost of earnings for non-Gold and non-Diamond members. With the new changes, Hilton still remains among the lowest earning mid-tier and top-tier loyalty programs ay a valuation of .4 cents per Hilton Honors point. However, as shown, those Hilton promos can result in returns of 16% or greater which can often propel Hilton above the competition.
Hilton is also introducing “Milestone Bonuses.” These will allow Honors members to earn additional points when they hit certain milestones. But you’ve got to stay a lot of nights.
Here’s how it breaks down:
- Hilton Honors members will earn 10,000 Bonus Points on every 10th night, once you reach at least 40 nights in a calendar year.
- On your 60th night per year, you will receive an additional 30,000 Bonus Points.
It’s not a limited time offer, no registration is required and there is no cap.
This means that if you stay 60 nights in a year, you will reach Diamond status and you’ll also earn 60,000 bonus points. So it’s like earning an extra 1,000 points per stay but only if you can physically get yourself in a hotel for 60 nights.
Elite Rollover Nights
Silver, Gold and Diamond members will be able to rollover nights earned beyond their current elite tier requirements to count towards their elite tier status the following year. Note that this applies to nights and not stays.
Also, the rollover “ends” after the second calendar year. So whatever night you accumulate in 2018, none of them will carry into 2020.
Gifting Elite Status
- Stay 60 or more nights in a calendar year and you can gift Gold status to your favorite travel partner.
- Stay 100+ nights and upgrade that gift to Diamond.
You’ll be able to choose one person a year to gift status to and then they will be upgraded according to your own progress. So if you gift Gold, they’ll be Gold but will eventually get upgraded to Diamond if you get make it to Diamond.
Overall, the new perks are pretty cool but only if you make a lot of actual stays at Hilton properties — if you gain Hilton Gold or Diamond status via a credit card, you probably won’t be too excited over the new benefits because you’ll be largely unaffected. The big loss though is for Silver and non-elites who take a hit in their earning structure. While the simplicity of the new system is welcomed, it’s a bummer many will be let down. At least Hilton offers great promotions throughout the year that can help out some.
And lastly, Gary from VFTW had a discussion with Mark Weinstein, Hilton’s Senior Vice President & Global Head of Customer Engagement, Loyalty and Partnerships and he confirmed that there is “no plan on the books to devalue or change the value of points across the system” so it looks like we might be in the clear for a while when it comes to Hilton devaluations? Great to hear.