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I recently got back from a fantastic few weeks in Asia – many thanks again to everyone who offered tips and suggestions on what to see and do!!!. There are lots of things I want to share about the trip, particularly some short practical guides on how you can use points/miles to enjoy similar experiences without spending £10,000s, but first here’s something I meant to write about before I went.
Back in September, Nick over at the (always excellent) US-based FrequentMiler blog crunched the numbers on a weird Hilton Honors phenomena that I’d come across a few times but never really looked into properly. I highly recommend reading Nick’s original piece for the full story, but here’s a summary to whet your appetite.
Why 5 nights can cost less than 4…
Hilton Honors offers the 5th night free when you book using Points (assuming you have Silver, Gold or Diamond status). That seems pretty easy to understand and is a nice perk – if a hotel normally requires 10,000 Hilton Honors Points per night, you should be able to book a 5 night stay for 40,000 Points rather than 50,000. This worked fine back in the days when Hilton had a ‘traditional’ loyalty programme with fixed redemption category pricing, but ever since award pricing became increasingly ‘dynamic’, things have got more complicated…
These days, when cash rates at Hilton hotels are relatively cheap (off peak, quiet nights, etc), Points rates are sometimes lower than the standard rate too. This is broadly a good thing, but it can also be confusing, because hotel cash pricing is often more complicated than most people think and the Points rates can end up mirroring that complexity. Add in the 5th night free calculation on Points stays and perhaps it shouldn’t really be surprising that some odd results get thrown up.
For example, let’s say you were going to book a Hilton hotel for 2 nights. You could either make 2 bookings for consecutive nights, or (more normally) just include both nights on one booking. Most people would probably expect the cost of the 2 nights to be the same, regardless of whether the nights were booked separately or not – but sometimes that’s wrong.
How much you pay a hotel (for exactly the same room and dates!!!) can change depending on how many nights you book – sometimes you’re better off booking each night separately, sometimes you’re better off just making one booking. This is something to watch out for when booking any hotel with cash, but since Hilton linked dynamic Points pricing to the cash rate, it can also have an impact when using Honors Points.
As an example, assume that a 4 night booking at a Hilton hotel for a given date requires 21,000 Points per night, so 84,000 in total. It would be completely reasonable to then expect that a 5 night stay would also require 84,000 Points in total, because the fifth night is free (and often that will be the case), but that’s not the whole story.
When it comes to ‘fifth night free’ Points redemptions, the key point is that the Hilton system uses the cost for each night as if you were making a 5 night booking (which to be fair, technically you are), rather than a 4 night booking and then just adding the fifth night as free. If the nightly cost is different for a 5 night booking than a 4 night booking (it can be higher or lower), then that changes the total amount of Points required. The fifth night does indeed get zeroed off, but the very fact it is a 5 night stay rather than a four night stay can impact the cost of the other 4 nights.
As you can see in Nick’s worked example,
“a 5-night stay costs 115,000 points, whereas a 4-night stay would have been 132,000 points…— a savings of 17,000 points by booking a 5-night stay rather than a 4-night stay!”
Is this confusing? Yes.
Is this useful? – Moderately. It’s definitely a little on the niche side, but if you use Hilton Points a lot, I think it’s well worth being aware of how the Honors system actually prices awards these days.
Even if you don’t use Hilton Points much, it’s still a useful reminder that hotel pricing can be strange, and that it can pay to spend a few minutes looking at breaking up your bookings (or even adding an extra night!) if you want to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal.
Have you noticed Hilton’s odd points pricing before?