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Apart from the name change, Honors are making a few other changes that could be positive, or might just be a well-disguised devaluation.
The most important change appears to relate to the way members redeem points for hotel stays. In principle, award categories are going to disappear!
Today’s promise is that no hotel is going to cost more points per night than it does now. A year or two into the future is another matter entirely… IHG Rewards Club for example found it quite easy to start charging 60,000 points per night for its nicest hotels (up from 50K), with no real need to announce an “reward chart devaluation”. So today’s 95,000 point-per-night maximum could easily become 120,000.
The current HHonors points redemption system involves standard rooms being charged a fixed number of points per night, with some seasonal variability, depending on the award category each hotel is allocated to. Members with elite status can receive the fifth night free. There is also a redemption option called Points & Money, which is capacity controlled and involves paying 40% of the points requirement + a cash element. (I always found this to be an excellent option, unless my stay was bang on 5 nights long)
Going forward, Honors members will be able to choose the number of points and the amount of cash for every single standard room reward. Redemptions will operate on a sliding scale – more points = less money.
This has the potential to be positive – 365 day-a-year Points & Money availability – or quite negative – low or confusing valuation of an Honors point more in line with what Hilton HHonors currently charges for its Premium Room Rewards options. At this stage, we can only hope for the best as few details have been provided.
In theory, letting low-volume members redeem their points easily is a good thing that increases the general public’s incentive to book direct with Hilton. For a travel hacker, the easier redemption becomes for the masses, the less valuable those redemptions almost surely become…
European readers might recognise that Melia Rewards operates a similar scheme and it hurts my head whenever I try to figure out what Melia is doing…
Hilton is also planning to introduce points pooling. This will allow members to share points with up to 10 family members or friends at no cost. Previously this would cost 0.25 U.S. cents per point, as I mentioned in this post on pooling hotel points. Each member can share up to 500,000 points per year, and receive up to two million points per year.
This is a minor change, and brings Hilton into line with SPG and others.
Diamond Status Extension
Hilton Honors will let members extend their Diamond status by one year. This will be a one-time only benefit and will only be available to members who have earned Diamond status for three years and have accumulated either 250 elite qualifying nights or 500,000 base points.
This is an interesting opportunity for Honors members with elite status who subsequently change jobs, go on maternity leave, etc. It also reflects the fact that Hilton are happy with expanded ranks of Diamond members – reflected in the many status match opportunities – but also leads me to wonder “if everybody’s elite, then is anybody elite?” as many more guests fight over upgrades, fill up the lounges, etc.
Members based in the U.S. will be able to spend their Honors points on shopping at amazon.com. This is unlikely to be a good use of points, but certainly might appeal to the casual Honors member.
I undoubtedly will make many typing errors as I get used to the new Hilton Honors programme. These changes have the potential for being quite positive for members. They could also be setting the stage for a depreciation in the value of an Honors point, which is currently in the vicinity of 0.5 U.S. cents / 0.4p. After all, Hilton have also been running a series of quite attractive promotions, handing out triple points, 5000 points-per-stay, etc. Fingers crossed…